Best Fishing Kayak – The Complete Guide and Reviews 2018

best fishing kayak

Do you live close to water? Do you like fishing and adventures? Do you enjoy spending your weekends outdoors? If you answer yes to any of these questions, you should consider getting a kayak.

A  kayak is great option for adventures and today kayak fishing is becoming more and more popular. They are a lot less expensive than boats, easier to transport, and storing them isn't an issue in most cases. Easily maneuverable they are able to get you to your favorite fishing spots so you can catch some fresh fish, as well as enjoy a day out on the water. You can paddle from one place to another, see new places that aren't visible from shore, explore new fishing spots, and catch a different type of fish everytime you go out. 

So, how do you select the best fishing kayak that suits your needs? There are many different types of kayaks for sale, and it can make the choice difficult and confusing. We put together a guide that will help you make the best decision - a kayak with the features that YOU need in YOUR price range. You can quickly find the information you need in the table of contents below.

What Type of Kayak Should I Buy For Fishing?

There are several types of fishing kayaks each suited to certain types of fishing, certain locations where you will be fishing, etc. Don't worry if a particular kayak is not labeled "fishing kayak". You may buy a regular kayak and then outfit it with add-ons to make it a suitable fishing kayak. The most popular ones that you will find on the market are  inflatable kayaks, sit-in kayaks, and sit-on-top kayaks. There are also tandem kayaks built for two or more people however their practicality for fishing is usally not optimal. For remote fishing areas there are even collapsible fishing kayaks which allow you to transport them more easily and save room while in storage.  

The most  popular type of fishing kayak would be a sit-on-top kayak - that is usually the choice for most people. Look at our best selling fishing kayaks on this page

 Benefits of Sit On Top fishing kayaks:

  • Tend to be more stable on water 
  • Offer more storage space
  • Optional leg-powered pedals

There has also been a lot of advancement lately with kayak construction, so we encourage you to look at the latest models available for sale as they will typically have the most options.

Before making a decision about which type of kayak you want, you should consider your needs.

  • Do you fish in shallow water or do you like deep sea fishing?
  • Are you planning on fishing in fast moving water?
  • Is you car big enough to transport kayak that is 14-16ft long?
  • Do you need to get from one location to another location quickly?
  • Do you prefer a smaller inflatable kayak to take it with you more often?
  • Do you like to go out on your own or do you think you might need a tandem kayak?
  • What is your budget?

Answering these questions will help you make a good decision when purchasing your kayak. So let's go over some of these questions you should ask yourself in more detail before buying a fishing kayak.

Short vs Long Fishing Kayaks?

Most fishing kayaks that you find on the market today are between 9ft - 14ft long. Generally speaking short kayaks are much more maneuverable but they are also slower. Long kayaks are much faster but less maneuverable. If you are going to be fishing in bigger lakes or oceans, or if you need to get from one spot to another quickly, you want to get a longer fishing kayak, since they will make it easier for you to cover longer distances. For most people though, a kayak that's between 10-12 ft. would be an optimal length, a good balance between speed and maneuverability. A couples of the more popular kayaks in this size range are the Trident 15 and Mirage Pro Angler 12.

Wide vs Narrow Fishing Kayak?

In addition to length you will also need to look at, wide vs narrow as another balance factor that you need to consider when choosing your fishing kayak. Wider fishing kayaks are much more stable than narrow fishing kayaks. You should choose a wide sit on top fishing kayak if you are going to be fishing in shallow water, since you might want to stand up occasionally. There are some fishing kayaks that have a Stand-And-Fish capability, meaning they are stable enough for you to fish and not worry too much about tipping over. Keep in mind though that wider kayaks are heavier and harder to maneuver.

What Should My Fishing Kayak's Capacity Be?

You probably saw lbs indication on some kayaks. What does that mean? Well, most kayaks that you find on the market have a weight capacity between 200 lbs and 600 lbs. Does that mean that a kayak with weight capacity of 200 lbs can take a person that weighs 200 lbs? No! The weight capacity would indicate total weight that kayak can handle and stay afloat. That brings up another good point - if you and your gear total weight is 200 lbs, trust me it will be very difficult for you to paddle a kayak that has max weight capacity of 200lbs. As a general rule of thumb, choose a kayak that will be twice the weight capacity of you and your gear combined and don't forget about the extra weight from all the fish that you will catch as well :).

Best Kayak Brands - Who Makes The Best Fishing Kayaks?

Like with every product out there, you should know the industry leaders. Top kayak brands invest a lot of money into research and development of their product. Speaking of which, sit on top kayaks are a fairly new product on the market, and there are some industry disrupters who saw the opportunity and came up with high quality kayaks at reasonable prices. So what are the best kayak brands? Let's review a few:

  • HOBIE - founded in 1950 they are well known as manufacturers of cats, surfboards and also making some of the best fishing kayaks. Their innovative Mirage Pedal drive makes them stand out among all other brands.
  • NATIVE WATERCRAFT - very well known among professionals, they constantly innovate and build kayaks using the best materials and designs out there.
  • OCEAN KAYAK - check out their great line of fishing kayaks especially the Trident and Prowler Series. 
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    SUNDOLPHIN - inexpensive yet high quality.

Sit on Top Fishing Kayak vs Sit in Fishing Kayak - Which Is Best?

If you are looking for a kayak that you can take out for fishing, then you should know your choices. There are basically two types of kayaks; sit-in kayaks (known as SIK) and sit-on-top kayaks (also known as SOT). As we mentioned earlier, most people prefer sit-on top kayaks for fishing. They can hold more gear, they are easier to get in and out of; and you can even stand-and-fish comfortably on some of them. Sit-in kayaks are warmer if you are located in colder climates, but can really fry you during the summer. Sit-in kayaks aren't as effected by winds, since you are sitting lower; however they are harder to get into and out of. Still, most fishing kayaks that you find will be sit-on-top. Below are two of the more popular SIK and SOT fishing kayaks.

 Best Sit On Top Fishing Kayak

Sit-on-top kayaks are more popular among fisherman since they allow more movement and provide greater stability. You can swing your legs, turn around, etc. Another benefit to sit on top kayak is that it is a much easier to get in and out of them. In a sit-in kayak, you are usually more restricted have less usable space and getting in and out requires certain practice. Nevertheless, most sit-on-top fishing kayaks are wider and heavier, therefore they won't be as fast as a sit-in kayak. Below are our picks for the best SOT fishing kayaks currently.

BEST VALUE

Ocean Kayak Prowler 13 Angler

Ocean Kayak Prowler fishing kayak
  • Original proven design
  • Fast and stable hull
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    Oversizes tank well
  • Large 6" front hatch with easy access
  • Comfort Plus seat
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    Molded-in seat well
  • Two paddle keeps
  • Two flush mounter rod holders
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    Skid plate
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    Rear oversized tank
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    Angler graphics
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    13'4" x 28"
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    Weight: 56lbs
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    Seat width: 17"
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    Leg length: 52"
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    Max capacity: 325 lbs

BEST HIGH-END

Hobie Pro Angler 12 Kayak Review 

Mirage Outback fishing kayak
  • New ARC Mirage Drive 180 with Reverse
  • Sail mount
  • 4 Molded-in rod holders
  • Covered bow hatch​​​​
  • XL Padeyes​​​​
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    Rear Cargo Area with bungee tie downs
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    8" twist and seal hatches with gear bucket
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    Vantage CT seating
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    2-piece paddle with on-hull storage
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    12'1" x 33"
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    Weight: 78lbs
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    Max capacity: 400 lbs

BEST BUDGET

Sun Dolphin Journey Sit-on-top Kayak 10-Ft

Sun Dolphin Journey fishing kayak
  • Great for lakes and rivers
  • Lightweight
  • 2 flush mount and 1 swivel fishing rod holders
  • Large seating area with protective thigh pads
  • Adjustable foot braces
  • Paddle holders
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    Retractable carrying handles
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    Rugged UV-stabilized High Density Polyethylene 
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    Available in 10ft and 12ft versions
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    10' x 30"
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    Weight: 44lbs
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    Max capacity: 250 lbs

 Best Sit In Fishing Kayak

Sit-in kayaks have a long and narrow body with a hollow cockpit and a dry seat. Getting into a sit-in kayak is not as effortless as SOT kayak, you have to climb inside a hull of the kayak. The dry seat is the reason why you will stay protected from splashing water as well as stay warm while your fishing. Those who have used sit-in kayaks have also used spray skirt -  added protection. Sit-in kayaks are popular in colder climates and places with shorter summer. If you don't flip it, you will stay dry and warm for hours. If you do flip it, you will need to know how to flip it back, something you should know before it happens. We want to add that it does not happen often and most of the kayaks that we recommend for fishing have a hull that provides stability.

BEST UNDER $1,000

Sun Dolphin Excursion 12 Sit-in Kayak

Sun Dolphin Aruba fishing kayak
  • Great for lakes and rivers
  • Lightweight
  • Rugged UV-stabilized high density polyethylene 
  • Adjustable foot braces
  • Covered console
  • Retractable carrying handles 
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    Large seating area with protective thigh pads
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    Portable Accessory Carrier 
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    Storage compartments
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    Flush mount fishing rod holders
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    Paddle holder
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    12' x 29 1/2"
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    Weight: 47lbs
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    Cockpit size: W19" x 39"
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    Max capacity: 395 lbs

BEST VALUE

Sun Dolphin Excursion 10 SS Kayak

Sun Dolphin Aruba fishing kayak
  • Great for rivers and lakes
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    Lightweight
  • Rugged UV-stabilized high density polyethylene 
  • Adjustable foot braces
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    Padded and adjustable seat
  • Large open cockpit design
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    Water bottle holder
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    Storage compartment
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    Paddle holder
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    Protective thigh pads
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    10' x 30"
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    Weight: 40lbs
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    Cockpit size: W17" X 35"
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    Max capacity: 250 lbs

BEST BUDGET

Sun Dolphin Excursion Sit-in Kayak 10-Ft

Sun Dolphin Excursion fishing kayak
  • Great for lakes and rivers
  • Lightweight
  • Rugged UV-stabilized high density polyethylene 
  • Adjustable foot braces
  • Padded and adjustable seat
  • Large open cockpit design
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    Water bottle holder
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    Storage compartment
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    Paddle holder
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    Protective thigh pads
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    One swivel rod holder
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    2 flush mount rod holders
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    10' x 30"
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    Cockpit size: W17" X 35"
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    Weight: 41lbs
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    Max capacity: 250 lbs

Should I get an Inflatable Fishing Kayak?

Everyone loves to travel and explore new places; in order to do that they need to find the right mode of transportation that will get them there. Sometimes, you might be able to access that new location by water, but what if you want to explore remote locations or take take a drive to the next country or neighboring state and fish in your kayak over there? While kayaks are fairly easy to transport you usually will need an SUV, pickup truck, or larger vehicle; with an inflatable kayak you can transport them in almost any vehicle.

The main advantage of an inflatable fishing kayak is the ability to pack it and just throw it in the trunk. You won't struggle getting it on top of your car roof, it barely takes any room for storage and unlike a hardshell kayak, if you want to get to a remote location, you can just take it with you, hike to a desired spot and then drop it into water. So the ease of transportation is probably the main reason people decide to get an inflatable kayak.

 Best Inflatable Fishing Kayak 

Even though inflatable kayaks may not be as fast as hardshell kayaks, they still offer decent speed and maneuverability. Generally speaking, you want an inflatable kayak for calmer waters. As we said before, transporting and storing inflatable kayaks is super easy, and it only takes a few minutes to inflate them. So what should you be looking for choosing the best inflatable kayak? Well, first of all - inflatable kayaks are generally less expensive than hardshell kayaks, so we encourage you to buy one as a second kayak that you can take with you anywhere. As far as price range goes, you can buy a cheap inflatable kayak for just under $100 (like the Intex Challenger K1 kayak, which is one of the most popular inflatable kayaks on the market), a mid range kayak are going for around $200 (like the Intex Explorer K2 2 seater kayak), and the high end ones are usually $400+ (Sea Eagle SE370 is a popular choice). A lot of times, the higher priced kayaks will also include additional accessories/packages that can come very handy. We decided to included two tandem kayaks in out top three favorite inflatable kayaks:

BEST OVERALL

Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Kayak

Advanced Elements fishing kayak
  • Built-in aluminum ribs in the bow and stern for improved tracking
  • 3-layer construction, puncture resistance
  • Adjustable padded seat
  • Integrated Pressure Relief Valve In Floor
  • Carrying handles 
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    Bungee deck lacing
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    Hard edge bow and stern
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    Welded seam
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    Portable Accessory Carrier 
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    10'5" x 32"
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    Weight: 36lbs
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    Folded size: 30" x 17" x 10"
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    Max capacity: 300 lbs

BEST BUDGET

Intex Explorer K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak

Intex Explorer K2 Kayak review
  • Great for rivers and lakes
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    Constructed with 30 gauge PVC vinyl 
  • Holds two people
  • Includes aluminum oars
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    High output double hand pump
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    Includes adjustable inflatable seat with backrest
  • Removable skeg for stability
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    2 separate air chambers
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    Repair kit included
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    Handles on both sides
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    10'3" x 36"
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    Weight: 31.1lbs
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    Max capacity: 400 lbs

BEST VALUE

Sevylor Coleman Colorado 2-Person Fishing Kayak

Sevylor Coleman Colorado 2-Person Fishing Kayak review
  • Great for lakes
  • Constructed with 18 gauge PVC
  • Extra puncture protection with 1000D tarpaulin bottom and 840D nylon cover
  • Quick Set Rod Holders
  • Paddle  holders
  • Sevylor trolling motor  fittings
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    Mesh storage pockets
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    Adjustable seats
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    D-rings for attaching additional equipment
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    Carrying handles
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    Holds two people
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    10'9" x 39"
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    Weight: 41lbs
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    Max capacity: 470 lbs

 Tandem Fishing Kayak - What To Look For:

Some anglers prefer tandem fishing kayaks. There are a couple of reasons why someone would choose a tandem fishing kayak:

1). You prefer company. Let's face it, fishing can be a lonely activity. I know a few people that would not go out on a kayak or fishing if their friend or significant other will not join them. With a tandem fishing kayak, you are enjoying kayaking, fishing and companionship. So for a lot of you people, this can be a great option.

2). It is easier. Fishing and paddling at the same time can be tricky, you might have to move the kayak or the rod, but you only have two hands. Tandem kayaks help you solve that problem. Concentrate on fishing and let your friend maneuver the kayak when needed.

If you are set on getting a tandem kayak, you should consider the following models as they are popular and well built:

BEST SELLERBKC 12ft Sit on top Tandem Fishing Kayak (paddles and seats included)

BEST VALUEVibe Kayaks 120T 12' Tandem Sit on top Fishing Kayak (paddles and seats included)

BEST PREMIUM TANDEM - Pro Angler 17T Tandem Fishing Kayak. This one has all the bells and whistles you can think of: MirageDrive with Glide Technology, aluminum rail for adding gear, adjustable super high quality comfortable seats, and much more.

Paddle vs Pedal Kayaks for fishing?

Paddle only kayaks are simple in construction, lighter and you don't risk tangling your fishing line in rudders and pedal drive. On the other hand, you won't be able to maneuver and fish at the same time, if you like to take pictures or videos - paddle kayaks won't be a good option for you. A lot of times if there is a current or wind, you will need to use anchor for your paddle only kayak.

So what about a pedal kayak? They give you tons of flexibility while fishing, you can keep your target by pedaling to the right direction, etc. The downsides that they are usually heavier, more complex and parts may fail during operation.


How to transport a kayak?

Moving kayak isn't too complicated but you should know the basics. You should get a car roof rack for your car (there are several models available, look into your car manual to decide which ones fit your model, get some foam blocks for the roof rack (they will minimize damage to your kayak during transportation), a few straps to secure it and your are good to go.

moving a kayak on top of a car

Loading a kayak with two people is a lot easier than doing it alone since some kayaks may weigh 60 pounds plus. It is possible to load it on your own, and we suggest that you watch a few videos on Youtube, so you have some visual training on how to do it. Again, it is not hard, just need to know some basics and don't rush 🙂

Kayak fishing gear - what do I need?

If you just purchased a kayak and did not get any nesecarry accessories for it, you are not going to be prepared to go out fishing. You do need to get at least some basic kayak fishing gear and accessories. Some of the kayak fishing accessories include:

  • Fishing Rod Holders
  • Good quality paddles
  • Kayak Paddle Leach
  • Waterproof bag
  • Fishing vest with storage compartments
  • Fishing net
  • Fish bags
  • Cooler
  • Kayak fish finder and fish finder mount
  • Anchor
  • Rulers and scales
  • Fishing knives
  • List Element
  • Pliers
  • List ElementTrolling motors and mounts

Properly outfitting your kayak with kayak accessories will make your time on a water that much more enjoyable and can simplify your fishing.

Kayak Fish Finder - should you get one?

For those of you who tend to be more tech savvy or would like to fish as a sport, this might be a nice add-on for your kayak. The higher end kayaks have built in GPS, so if you are out in open water, need some guidance, this is a nice feature to have. Once you are out a mile or so from the shore, it is easy to get disoriented, therefore we strongly recommend to get a kayak fish finder with built in GPS. If you usually fish and kayak near a shoreline that you are familiar with, then lower end models might do just fine for you. The sonar only fish finders usually come with a color 3.5" - 5" and provide vital information like depth, temperature, and can provide near-photographic images with detailed representations of objects. If you are fishing in deep waters, look for the high power output sonars with dual beam, since they can get a reading of up to 2,300ft. Here are the top 3 best kayak fish finders on the market:

BEST UNDER $1,000

Garmin  Striker 4 GPS Fish Finder

garmin fish finder with GPS
  • CLEARVU Scanning Sonar
  • Waypoint map
  • Chirp sonar
  • Buit in flasher
  • GPS
  • Real time display of fish passing
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    Boat speed information
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    200 W transmit power
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    Up to 1,600ft depth in freshwater and up to 750ft depth in saltwater
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    3'5" color display

BEST VALUE

Humminbird  HELIX 5 GPS G2 Fish finder

Humminbird HELIX 5 Fish finder
  • CHIRP sonar with 3 frequency ranges
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    SwitchFire Sonar
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    DualBeam Plus Sonar
  • Up to 1,500ft depth in
  • GPS​​​
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    Bult in speedometer and water temperature information
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    4000 watts PTP power output
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    Store up to 2,500 waypoints, 45 routes, 50 tracks and 20,000 track points
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    5" color screen

BEST BUDGET

Wireless Portable Fish Finder with Sonar Sensor 

Wireless Portable Fish Finder Fishfinder with Sonar
  • Inexpensive​​​​
  • Depths reading put o 135ft
  • Wireless 2.4GHZ operation of up to 328ft
  • IP67 waterproof rating
  • Handheld design
  • Rugged construction
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    Water temperature information
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    Recargable built-in lithium battery
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    2'8" color display

Kayak seats - how to choose one?

A lot of kayaks that we review here usually come with a seat included. The better ones will have adjustable seat that you can regulate for your height and body type as well as an adjustable lumbar support. That is going to be an important factor for anyone who is going to go out fishing for a few hours or so. You could also look for additional pads or even swap a seat for a better one. But first, we encourage you to take the time and properly adjust the seat that is included with your newly purchased kayak. Think of it like seating in a car - you need to properly adjust your seat and find the most comfortable position before you go on a long ride.

Can you stand on a fishing kayak?

Yes. Most of you are wandering how can you stand on a kayak? Well, besides choosing a wide fishing kayak that provides a greater stability, there are also systems that you can add to make your kayak more stable. Stand-n-fish system is basically a pontoon system that reacts from the cockpit. It can be added to almost any sit on top kayak on the market. Be careful with the kayaks that are 10ft or smaller, because they might present a problem. 

Final thoughts

As a closing, we should add that you should think about your needs, where will you be using a fishing kayak, how often you will be taking out the kayak, will you be going alone or should you get a tandem kayak? All of these things will help you choose YOUR best fishing kayak!

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