Best Fishing Kayaks: Definite Guide & In-Depth Reviews (2020)

Kayak fishing, an outdoor activity that’s experienced quite a revival in the last few years, is an excellent way to combine the exhilarating aspects of kayaking with the excitement of catching your meal. 

Whether you’ve been fishing for years or only recently dipped your toes into the kayak fishing world for the first time, the chances are that you’re more than ready to get one of the best fishing kayaks

If you’re not sure where to start – the one-size-fits-all strategy doesn’t apply here – I’ll help you make that choice! 

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In A Rush? The Winner After 40 Hours Of Research:

Hobie 2020 Mirage Outback

Hobie 2020 Mirage Outback

Our Rating: 5/5 Stars
★★★★★

Why is it better?

  • Stable and spacious fishing platform with EVA deck pads for standing 
  • Comfortable, four-way adjustable, extra-wide Vantage CTW seat 
  • Mirage Drive 180 hands-free pedal propulsion system
  • Dual-controlled kick-up rudder 
  • Onboard storage space includes two hatches, multiple accessory tracks and mounting points, storage pockets, and rear bungee tie-down cargo area
  • Four molded-in fishing rod holders 
  • Compatible with the Lowrance fishing system and the Mirage Sail Kit  

Anglers Guide to Kayak Fishing: How To Choose A Fishing Kayak?

Man in fishing kayak at sea

Would you appreciate a light and nimble hull, or does the stability of a broader kayak matter more to you? Will you go fishing in small ponds and lakes, open seas – or both? 

Are you ready to paddle all the way, or would you like to switch to pedaling at one point? 

Would you prefer a sit-on-top or a sit-inside kayak? What about an inflatable one? 

There are hundreds of kayaks explicitly made for fishing – and you can’t pick the best one following the one-size-fits-all approach. 

Rather, your focus here should be on finding the right combination of size, speed, stability, and fishing-oriented features and accessories that meet your needs. 

Here’s how to do it! 

Types Of Angling Kayaks Explained 

man kayak fishing in lily pads in yellow kayak

Whether you’re here to choose your first or your third kayak for fishing, one of the fastest ways to narrow down your choices is to think about the type of kayak you want

Despite a wide variety of models, features, and perks available on the market, you can usually split angling kayaks into two distinct categories – sit-on-top kayaks (SOKs) and sit-inside kayaks (SIK)

Most anglers prefer sit-on-top kayaks because they provide extra stability and a bit more room to move around – or even roll over when needed – without the risk of filling the kayak with water. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, sure, but it makes a world of difference when you’re dealing with a big catch. 

They typically feel safer, too – especially for a beginner – because capsizing isn’t that big of a concern. 

Sit-inside kayaks are a much better choice if you plan on taking your fishing to streams and rivers. The added maneuverability, lighter weight, lower center of gravity, and protection from the elements might come in handy in moving waters. 

Also, have you thought about getting an inflatable kayak

I get that they don’t inspire a lot of confidence at first glance – I, myself, used to call them pop-up kayaks – but you’d be pretty amazed by the sturdiness and toughness that they bring to the table. 

The inflatable is the way to go if you want a kayak that’s budget-friendly, space-efficient, easy-to-use, and highly portable. 

I mean, do you know of any hard-shells that can transform from a 20-pound duffel bag into a fully functional kayak in minutes? 

A Word About Construction & Stability 

Caucasian Men in His 30s Fishing From a Kayak.

You won’t find many surprises or mind-blowing innovations when it comes to the materials used for fishing kayaks. Polyethylene, composite materials, ABS – and, in the case of inflatable kayaks, PVC – are the standard go-to options, much like with any other “regular” recreational kayaks out there. 

My point is that there’s not much to discuss here. 

The kayak’s actual dimensions, on the other hand – and its overall stability – are what matters, especially when we’re talking construction. 

Sure, balance is something that you would generally consider when choosing a kayak. But when the main reason you’re getting one is fishing expeditions, stability pretty much becomes the single most crucial factor to consider. 

You’ll be casting – quite possibly while standing – retrieving gear, leaning over, and fighting fish. You know the drill. 

Fishing demands a lot from your kayak, which is why you need a stable platform to handle all that movement. 

And in that sense, broader hulls are almost always better

A longer and narrower kayak will travel faster – and that’s more than welcome for long paddling expeditions. But when it comes to angling, a wider one will offer improved stability – and, more often than not, better load capacity. 

You’ll have to pick your battles here. 

Onboard Storage Space (You’ll Need It)

Man Fishing in Kayak

If you’re relatively new to kayak fishing – or fishing in general – you might underestimate the amount of gear you’ll have to pack for every fishing trip. 

Food, water, fishing rods, spare clothes, fish finders, sunscreen, life jackets, lines, lures, GPS, batteries – and the list goes on. My point is: 

When it comes to onboard storage space, more is almost always better

I mean, where else do you plan on keeping all your fishing gear?

So, you must think about the type and amount of storage options you need when you start looking into angling kayaks. Front and rear bungee deck rigging, accessible hatches, waterproof compartments, mesh pockets, tie-downs for accessories; you get the picture. 

Don’t Overlook The Kayak’s Weight Capacity 

It’s easy to get carried away – especially when you come across a kayak for fishing that features tons of onboard storage options. 

However, you still need to note how much weight the kayak can hold, as recommended by the manufacturer. 

The kayak’s maximum load capacity can range anywhere from 200 to 1000 pounds. 

Since we’re dealing with angling kayaks here, which one you’ll get should depend on the amount of gear you typically bring on a fishing trip: 

You need to factor in your weight – and your partner if you’re going tandem kayaking – food and water, camping equipment if you’re going on an overnight trip, and, of course, all your fishing gear. 

Accessories & Extras Will Make Your Fishing Kayak Even Better 

Kayak fisherman on the shore of the sea

When you think about accessories, your mind probably jumps straight to those unnecessary bells and whistles that only add to the kayak’s price. 

But in this case, where you’ll likely spend quite some time on your kayak, you’ll appreciate the added convenience and comfort of these little extras – even if they do end up costing you a bit more. 

A kayak that’s outfitted with essential fishing accessories – think rod holders, an anchor system, storage compartments, shock cords, a fish finder, trolling motor mounts, and the like – will be a much better option for anglers than a no-frills, stripped-down one. 

If you find a kayak that meets your needs in every other aspect of its construction and performance, the lack of accessories doesn’t necessarily have to be a deal-breaker. 

More often than not, you’ll be able to customize the kayak to your liking – and transform it into a proper fish-catching machine – with aftermarket add-ons. 

Its also worth pointing out that the fishing kayak market has become super competitive. As a result, there some well equipment cheap fishing kayaks out there – you can grab a real bargain, if you are willing to do a little bit of research.

While we are on the topic of things to make kayak fishing better, knowing where the best fishing spots can make the difference between being a fishing hero or going home home empty-handed. So make sure you check our free interface map of the best fishing spot near you.

What Color Kayak Is Best For Fishing? 

Man paddling down river in yellow fishingkayak for a fishing excursion

For a recreational kayaker, color is mostly a matter of preferences – but anglers might not feel the same about it. There’s an on-going debate about whether or not the kayak’s color matters in the world of fishing kayaks

Some would say that it doesn’t make much of a difference – if any – while others argue that slightly subdued color choices can potentially spook fewer fish. 

If you have some concerns about the fish spotting your kayak, light-colored, natural tones are good options camouflage-wise. 

The color choices become even more critical if you plan on using the kayak for something other than fishing, such as wildlife photography, hunting, and bird watching. A camouflage-colored kayak might lessen the chances of critters picking up on your presence. 

Keep one thing in mind, though: 

A brightly-colored kayak is more visible to both fellow kayakers and rescue teams, which is an advantage in terms of safety. 

What About Pedal Kayaks? 

Most off-the-shelf kayaks rely on paddle power for propulsion – but pedal-driven kayaks are an option, too. 

Although they don’t typically come cheap, pedal kayaks do offer a few notable benefits for anglers: 

  • Using your leg muscles to power your kayak across the water typically requires less effort than paddling. Don’t be too surprised to find that you’re going further and faster with a pedal drive. 
  • If you’re not exactly known for your paddling skills, you’ll appreciate the ease of use of leg-powered pedal systems. 
  • Trying to juggle a fishing rod and a paddle at the same time can be downright frustrating. Don’t underestimate the advantage of being able to put your paddle down and go hands-free whenever you need to focus on fishing. 

There’s no right or wrong choice here – as I explained already, pedals can be quite useful in fishing scenarios – but you should still have a paddle whenever you go out on the water. 

Pedals are nice and all, but for a kayaker, the good, old paddle is an indispensable tool.

On that note, if you’re not much of a paddler, take the time to work on your paddling technique. 

Best Fishing Kayaks Of 2020: Reviews & Recommendations 

1. Perception Pescador Pilot 12 

Perception Pescador Pilot 12
  • Award: Best Sit-on-Top Fishing Kayak
  • Rating: 5/5 Stars 
  • Price: 4.5/5 Stars 

The Pescador Pilot 12 is a kayak designed for long fishing sessions, with stability, comfort, maneuverability, and two different propulsion methods at its core. 

You can rely on the pedal propeller system – Pilot Drive – whenever you want to go hands-free! Plus, it features a one-hand controlled rudder with a 360-degree turning radius. 

The 95-pound kayak itself is a hefty one, especially for a single-person kayak, but considering everything it packs within the polyethylene hull, I’m not complaining. 

You get an ergonomic, lawn-chair-style adjustable seat with zonal mesh for improved breathability, under-seat storage, spacious front and rear open storage with bungee lashing, small dry hatches, integrated accessory rails, four molded-in rod holders, fishfinder consoles, and more. 

Better yet, it has a 475-pound capacity to handle it all!

Technical Specs 
  • Sit-on-top one-person hard-shell kayak 
  • Measures 12.5 x 2.8 feet 
  • Weighs 95 pounds 
  • Polyethylene construction 
  • 475-pound weight capacity
Pros: 
  • Adjustable seat with zonal mesh and ergonomic support 
  • Ample onboard storage space and integrated accessory rails 
  • Four molded-in rod holders
  • Pedal-propelled Pilot Drive system
  • Excellent tracking with 360-degree, one-hand-controlled rudder 
Cons: 
  • It’s relatively heavy for a single-person kayak 
  • There’s a limited amount of dry storage 
  • The bolts holding the Pedal Drive tend to go loose

If you want a comfortable, maneuverable, feature-rich sit-on-top kayak for fishing with an optional hands-free propeller system, you can’t go wrong with the Perception Pescador Pilot 12!

2. Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak

Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak

If you don’t have that big of a budget to invest in your fishing hobby, don’t think that you’ll be land-locked or stuck with rental boats. There are plenty of budget-friendly angling kayaks out there – and the Lifetime’s Tamarack Angler 100 is one of my favorites. 

The high-density polyethylene hull of this 10-foot flat-bottom kayak weighs a mere 52 pounds, making the Tamarack one of lighter kayaks on my list. The light construction comes with limited 275-pound load capacity, but you can still make it work: 

The kayak comes with front and rear shock cord straps for storage, one top-mounted and two flush-mounted rod holders, and two 6-inch hatches. 

Technical Specs 
  • Sit-on-top one-person hard-shell kayak 
  • Measures 10 x 2.6 feet 
  • Weighs 52 pounds 
  • Polyethylene construction 
  • 275-pound weight capacity
Pros: 
  • Flat-bottom hull for better stability 
  • Reliable tracking with sharp bow and skeg
  • Lightweight and portable 
  • Two hatches and front and rear shock cord straps 
  • Features three fishing rod holders 
Cons: 
  • The included seat gets uncomfortable after a few hours 
  • You have to purchase plugs for scupper holes 
  • Somewhat limited weight capacity 
  • Not very fast

The Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 is an excellent choice for anglers on a budget, as it leaves out the unnecessary – and cost-inflating – features without compromising performance! Unquestionably one of the best value 10 ft fishing kayaks available to buy today.

3. Elkton Outdoors Steelhead Fishing Kayak

Elkton Outdoors Steelhead Fishing Kayak
  • Award: Best Inflatable Fishing Kayak
  • Rating: 4.5/5 Stars 
  • Price: 4.5/5 Stars 

If you want an alternative to traditional hard-shell kayaks, either due to the lack of space or a limited budget, the Elkton Outdoors’ Steelhead inflatable kayak is worth considering. 

The solid drop-stitch floor and 1000-denier, layered reinforced PVC construction, with reinforced front and rear plastic cone tips, make this 40-pound kayak surprisingly sturdy on the water. It’s no wonder that it’s rated for Class III rapids

Also, don’t assume that you’ll miss out on the conveniences of hard-shell kayaks: 

The Steelhead features five hard-mounting points for rod holders and other fishing accessories, bow and stern onboard storage, and a large bungee cargo area in the front. 

Additionally, it comes with a 400-pound carrying capacity! 

Technical Specs 
  • Sit-on-top one-person inflatable kayak 
  • Measures 10.8 x 3.3 feet 
  • Weighs 40 pounds 
  • 1000-denier layered PVC construction 
  • 400-pound weight capacity
Pros: 
  • Rated for Class III rapids 
  • Bow and stern storage and bungee cargo area 
  • Five mounting points for rod holders and accessories 
  • High-back, EVA-padded adjustable seat 
  • Complete kayaking kit included
Cons: 
  • The included paddle’s quality isn’t the best 
  • First-time users may find the initial setup confusing 
  • The manual doesn’t explain how to setup hard-mounting points

Portable, dependable, affordable – and designed with anglers in mind – the Elkton Outdoors Steelhead can be an excellent alternative to a hard-shell kayak for fishing!

4. Hobie 2020 Mirage Outback 

Hobie 2020 Mirage Outback
  • Award: Overall Best Fishing Kayak 
  • Rating: 5/5 Stars 
  • Price: 5/5 Stars 

If you don’t feel like compromising speed for the sake of stability, the Hobie Mirage Outback’s 12.8-foot long, 2.9-foot wide polyethylene hull is proof that you can have both. 

Weighing a staggering 103 pounds, it’s far from a light kayak. It’s a war horse of a fishing kayak.

But once it’s in the water, you start to notice all the features it packs with a straightforward goal of keeping you comfy while you wait for your next big catch. 

Besides the oh-so-comfortable Vantage CTW seat, EVA deck pads for standing, Mirage Drive 180 pedal propulsion system, Lowrance-system compatibility, and dual rudder controls, this beast of a kayak has a 425-pound capacity – and onboard storage to match: 

Two hatches, including a large bow one, four molded-in rod holders, multiple accessory tracks and mounting points, storage pockets, and rear cargo area – and more! 

Technical Specs 
  • Sit-on-top one-person hard-shell kayak 
  • Measures 12.8 x 2.9 feet 
  • Weighs 103 pounds 
  • Polyethylene construction 
  • 425-pound weight capacity
Pros: 
  • Extra-wide Vantage CTW seat and EVA-padded standing platform 
  • Amazing level of stability, both when moving and when static
  • Excellent level of storage and gear mounts
  • Maximized options for storage and accessory setup  
  • Lowrance system compatibility 
  • Pedal propulsion system and dual rudder controls
Cons: 
  • It costs way too much for occasional hobbyists 
  • The 103-pound weight can be an issue in terms of portability
  • The hatches aren’t entirely waterproof

Hobie Mirage Outback is a mean fishing machine and an outstandingly engineered kayak that excels in every area imaginable. It doesn’t get better than this, folks!

5. Wilderness Systems ATAK 120 

Wilderness Systems ATAK 120
  • Award: Best Fishing Kayak for Big Guys / Best Fishing Kayak for Tall Guys
  • Rating: 4.5/5 Stars 
  • Price: 4.5/5 Stars 

A.T.A.K. 120 is Wilderness Systems’ answer to Hobie’s expensive, high-end kayaks – and one that’s purpose-built as the ultimate angling platform. It’s right there in the name: 

“A.T.A.K.” stands for “advanced tactical angling kayak.” 

The 12 feet long polyethylene hull clocks in at 86 pounds, which isn’t exactly lightweight. It’s loaded with features and has a roomy deck, with adjustable foot plate, and a 400-pound capacity to justify the extra weight. Its easy to see why it wins our awards for best fishing kayak for big guys and best fishing kayak for tall guys.

It features multiple SlideTrax accessory rails throughout, spacious rear cargo area, self-draining bow storage area, stern hatch, utility pod cover, and a removable, modular pod for mounting electronics. 

The fully-adjustable AirPro MAX seat is insanely comfortable – a must for all-day comfort on the water, especially if you’re a big guy – and even has a stand-up assist strap for added safety. 

Technical Specs 
  • Sit-on-top one-person hard-shell kayak 
  • Measures 12.3 x 2.9 feet 
  • Weighs 86 pounds 
  • Polyethylene construction 
  • 400-pound weight capacity
Pros: 
  • Accessory rails, cargo areas, modular electronics pod, and stern hatch 
  • AirPro MAX seat provides all-day comfort 
  • Features stand-up assist strap 
  • Exceptional stability, tracking, and speed
  • Compatible with Helix MD motor drive 
Cons: 
  • It’s a bit heavy for a single-person fishing kayak 
  • Doesn’t come with dedicated rod holders 
  • You have to buy the paddle and rudder separately

A.T.A.K. 120 packs everything the award-winning 140 does – but in a compact, nimble frame. It’s one of the most feature-rich, highly-customizable fishing platforms for big guys!

6. Hobie Mirage Oasis Tandem Kayak 

Hobie Mirage Oasis Tandem Kayak
  • Award: Best Pedal Tandem Fishing Kayak
  • Rating: 5/5 Stars 
  • Price: 4/5 Stars 

Those among you who know their kayaks – recreational and angling-specific ones – won’t be surprised to see that Hobie appeared more than once in my round-up of best fishing kayaks. 

The Mirage Oasis’ 14.5-foot long rotomolded polyethylene hull is, by no means, a lightweight one – its starting 93-pound weight can go up to 127 pounds when it’s fully rigged. Then again, this is a tandem fishing kayak with a 550-pound capacity – and one that swims in onboard storage options, too: 

It sports three twist-and-seal 8-inch hatches, a large bow hatch, multiple mesh storage pockets, and rear bungee tie-downs. You also get two molded-in rod holders behind the back seat. 

Moreover, the Mirage Oasis comes with a retractable rudder system – and has a dedicated sail mount –  adjustable foot rests to dial in that perfect kayaking position.  The Mirage Oasis is an excellent fishing kayak for any type of water, whether that’s; river, lake or sea kayak fishing.

Technical Specs 
  • Sit-on-top tandem hard-shell kayak 
  • Measures 14.5 x 2.8 feet 
  • Weighs 93 pounds 
  • Rotomolded polyethylene construction 
  • 550-pound capacity
Pros: 
  • Four storage hatches, mesh pockets, and bungee tie-downs 
  • A retractable rudder system and dual steering 
  • Pedal-drive system for hands-free propulsion
  • A reasonable amount of legroom 
Cons: 
  • It’s a rather expensive kayak for fishing 
  • Only comes with two fishing rod holders 
  • It weighs as much as 127 pounds when fully rigged 

Mirage Oasis is an excellent option for anglers looking for a well-made tandem-style fishing kayak. The price tag is a premium one – but it’s worth it!

7. Old Town Loon 126 Angler Fishing Kayak 

Old Town Loon 126 Angler Fishing Kayak
  • Award: Best Sit-In Fishing Kayak
  • Rating: 4.5/5 Stars 
  • Price: 4.5/5 Stars 

Most anglers prefer a sit-on-top kayak for fishing – but some enjoy the traditional design and drier ride of sit-in kayaks. If that sounds like you, give the Old Town Loon 126 a chance. 

Old Town calls it the most advanced sit-inside kayak of its kind. While that sounds a bit pretentious, it’s true that this 12.5-foot, 65-pound kayak packs quite a list of features within its triple-layer polyethylene hull. 

The spacious cockpit – complete with a comfortable seat, easy-grip thigh pads, and foot brace system – and 450-pound weight limit offer lots of benefits for fishers. 

Moreover, it features bow and stern bungee rigging, a click-seal hatch, a removable work deck with a USB port, flush-mount rod holders, and an anchor system. 

Technical Specs 
  • Sit-inside one-person hard-shell kayak 
  • Measures 12.5 x 2.6 feet 
  • Weighs 65 pounds 
  • Polyethylene construction 
  • 450-pound weight capacity
Pros: 
  • Spacious cockpit and comfortable, back-supporting seat
  • Flush-mounted rod holders 
  • A removable work deck with an accessory track and USB port 
  • Bungee deck rigging and click-seal hatch 
Cons: 
  • You will have to purchase a paddle separately 
  • More storage room behind the seat would’ve been nice 
  • The front carry handle comes apart easily

Loon 126 offers comfort, versatility, and spaciousness – even with the enclosed cockpit – that anglers would surely appreciate. It’s the best 12 ft fishing kayak of its kind, I’m told!

Final Thoughts & Recommendations  

I started by saying that you can’t go choosing the best fishing kayaks following the one-size-fits-all approach. 

How can I highlight the Hobie 2020 Mirage Outback as the best kayak for fishing, then? 

Easy: 

This marvelous piece of engineering packs everything – and I do mean everything – fishers might need when heading out on the water. 

It boasts an ultra-comfortable seat, a roomy deck and stable standing platform, a combination of fishing-specific features that would make your head spin, and a load capacity of 425 pounds – with plenty of onboard storage options to boot. 

It’s not that the other fishing kayaks don’t have things going for them: 

For example, Lifetime Tamarack is the budget-conscious angler’s dream, and the Steelhead rules the inflatable market.  

But even in direct comparison to these advantages, the Mirage Outback still stands out as the lean, mean, fishing machine!