Best Fishing Kayaks For Ocean and Flatwater Angling: 2019 Buyer’s Guide

a man in a boat

Over the past five or six years, kayak fishing has exploded. In fact, the best fishing kayak can take you where a traditional fishing boat just can’t. With one of these fishing vessels, you’ll be able to reach those out of the way fishing hot spots that weren’t accessible with a fishing boat. Additionally, inflatable kayaks are highly portable and easy to launch.  The newest generation of fishing kayaks not only offer the best in versatility and fishability, they also provide the type of angling efficiency that you wouldn’t expect from an inflatable fishing vessel.  Whether you’re tired of hauling your fishing boat or you’re looking for a more convenient way to fish, an inflatable kayak can be a perfect solution.

A Better, More Affordable Option for the Avid Angler

A fully-rigged inflatable kayak is more affordable than a standard fishing boat. Aside from the lower initial cost, a kayak angler will spend much less on launch fees, insurance, and fuel costs. If you’re on a tight budget, then a fishing kayak can be an excellent fishing platform.  But since their rise in popularity, weeding through lower-quality kayaks to find the models that have what it takes to handle choppy water and flatwater is not exactly easy. Without proper research, you can easily end up with a low-quality kayak that must be replaced at the beginning of each season.  Fortunately, there are many new models of fishing kayaks that are designed with a durable construction that can handle whatever mother nature throws at it. We spent countless hours researching several of the leading models until we were able to narrow down our choices to the best five inflatable fishing kayaks on the market.

So, how did we choose? First, we looked at each model’s durability, portability, design, and tracking capability. We found that many lower-priced kayaks simply couldn’t deliver, whether their construction made them a poor choice for choppy water, or their tracking ability was non-existent.  The five kayaks we chose passed each of our tests with flying colors. In fact, many of them are versatile enough to be used in both flatwater and whitewater conditions.  Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that lists each model’s length, seating style, cost, rating, and weight capacity.

Top Fishing Kayaks Comparison Chart

Product Weight capacity Style Cost Rating
Vibe Kayaks Sea Ghost
550 pounds single $$$
Lifetime Tamarack Angler
275 pounds single $$$
Elkton Outdoors Cormorant
450 pounds tandem $$$$$
Driftsun Voyager
450 pounds tandem $$$$
Sevylor Coleman Colorado
470 pounds tandem $$$

Angling in Style

Our top five fishing kayaks are all class. Below, we’ve included summaries of each model, showcasing their best features. You’ll also find their rating and what makes each kayak so special, whether it’s the best tandem kayak or the best sit on top model, or a kayak that can give you the most bang for your buck.

Best Sit-On-Top-Vibe Kayaks Sea Ghost 130 Fishing Kayak


Our Rating: (5/5)

This Vibe inflatable fishing kayak has got it all. Measuring in at thirteen feet in length, not only is it easy to maneuver, but it also offers the best tracking capability out of any other model in this price range. The narrower design also allows you to quickly slice through the water, whether you’re ocean angling or paddling across a fast-moving river. It also comes loaded with some great extras including plenty of storage space, a rudder system, and a bungee system that allows you to easily secure all your important fishing gear.

Best Under $500-Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak

Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This Lifetime inflatable kayak measures in at ten feet in length. While it may not be fast, it definitely has a reputation for stability, which means the angler will be able to stand as they cast. Aside from stability, it’s also considered one of the most durable lightweight kayaks on the market. Weighing in at just fifty-two pounds, this highly portable kayak is designed to withstand both whitewater and flatwater conditions like a champ. Its versatility makes it a perfect choice if you’re just learning how to fish a crankbait, or traveling to out of the way underfished areas that are not accessible by land or a traditional fishing boat.

Best Under $1000-Elkton Outdoors Cormorant 2 Person Tandem Inflatable Fishing Kayak

Our Rating: (4.5/5)

The Cormorant is a fun, durable, easy to use fishing kayak that’s perfect for flatwater and whitewater, but doesn’t quite possess the same speed you’ll enjoy with a longer fishing kayak. However, most anglers can agree that the kayak’s improved stability is a fair tradeoff. The kayak’s ability to track well even when navigating through tight channels is nothing short of impressive. One of the best kayak fishing tips you can follow is buying a kayak that’s durable. Clearly, the manufacturer has been paying attention to what its customers need and want. The kayak’s durable construction, complete with three separate air chambers makes this model a steal for the price and a great choice for both the beginner and avid angler in need of a kayak that will last season after season.

Best Inflatable Fishing Kayak-Driftsun Voyager 2 Person Tandem Inflatable Kayak

Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This ten foot long Driftsun inflatable kayak doesn’t come with many bells and whistles, but its durable construction and tracking ability make it a great choice if you’re simply looking for a kayak that can handle heavy-duty use. The highly adjustable design also allows users to remove one of the two seats and reposition the remaining seat in order to enjoy a solo day on the river with plenty of space for all their angling gear.

Best Tandem Fishing Kayak-Sevylor Coleman Colorado 2-Person Fishing Kayak

Our Rating: (4.5/5)

The Coleman Colorado by Sevylor is a tandem inflatable fishing kayak that measures in at just ten feet long. The shorter length will slow it down in the water, however, it also does wonders for the kayak’s handling and stability in choppy water. This model features a slightly higher than average max user weight, which will allow you to bring along a buddy and all your essential angling gear, for a relaxing day out on the lake.

Fishing Kayaks Buyer’s Guide

The best fishing kayaks can offer a variety of unique benefits that you won’t get from a standard hard-shelled kayak, such as portability, a lightweight design, and easy storage. If you enjoy hiking and camping, but you don’t have a lot of cargo space or a large SUV to haul a traditional kayak, then these inflatable models can be a perfect solution.  These kayaks don’t need nearly as much space as their hard-shelled counterparts. The standard hard-bodied kayaks are eight to sixteen feet long and usually must be stored out of direct sunlight because the harmful UV rays can damage the structure over time.

Most models of inflatable kayaks are made out of special materials that are designed with UV protection in mind. Additionally, when deflated, the kayak can easily be folded down into a small, compact package that can fit in your trunk.  By far, portability is one of the main reasons many anglers turn to inflatable kayaks. With a hard-bodied model, a special rack or trailer is needed to transport it. As we mentioned, with an inflatable model, it can easily fold down to the size of a suitcase and can be stored pretty much anywhere. But a big issue in the past with these now popular fishing vessels was their stability or lack thereof. Just a few years ago, standing up in an inflatable kayak to cast was impossible.

Improved Stability

Improved Stability

These days, the inflatable fishing kayak is more stable than ever before. Their newfound rigidity, combined with their portable design makes them perfect for anglers who don’t have a large SUV, or much storage space at home to accommodate a hard-bodied model.  Price is another reason. If you can’t afford to spend thousands of dollars on a new fishing boat, then an inflatable kayak can be a great solution and one that won’t break the bank.  As you can see, inflatable angling kayaks can be a great alternative to the angler who’s short on space, on a tight budget, and in need of a highly portable, durable fishing vessel that’s versatile, stable, and beginner-friendly.  But before you dive in and hit that buy now button, learning how these kayaks work, what features to look for, and finding out exactly what can make a good fishing kayak great, will help you narrow down your choices so you can find a model that will meet your angling needs, storage needs, and one that will work with your budget.

Durability

Of course, the inflatable kayak isn’t quite as durable as a rigid model, but over the years, as technology has advanced, the inflatable kayak is more durable than ever before. With modern inflatable kayaks, in the water, if you come across sharp rocks or large sticks, these dangerous obstacles will simply slip off the kayak’s rubbery surface. In the past, many anglers passed these inflatable models by because of their fear of puncturing the kayak in choppy waters. But many newer models are made out of the same type of puncture-resistant materials that rafts are, which makes them incredibly durable and difficult to damage. But it can happen, which is why many kayaks will come with their own brand-specific puncture kits. These kayaks are easier to repair than rigid kayaks and can stand up to plenty of use and abuse out on the water. Patching one of these vessels doesn’t require any special skills. The manufacturers will also often include repairs guides that will easily walk you through the process of patching your kayak and what to do in the event of serious damage.

Construction

Most inflatable kayaks that are designed for recreational purposes are made out of PVC and polyester or nylon. The tougher or thicker the fabric, the more durable the kayak. Most manufacturers don’t typically market what types of materials their inflatable kayaks are made out of, so be sure to keep an eye out for certain specs that can clue you into exactly how durable each model is.  These specs will include the gauge of the material and denier.  The gauge of the material is presented in numbers. The lower the gauge, the thicker the material.  In terms of the denier, or the density of the core fabric, a higher denier number will equal a more durable kayak.  Some lower priced kayaks will not come with a core fabric, which significantly lowers the kayak’s durability. However, if you’re simply looking for a model for recreational purposes, such as paddling around on a calm lake, then these lower priced models can be a great alternative.  In terms of what to look for, the most durable models will be made out of synthetic rubber, not PCV. The extra labor required and the material costs for this type of kayak are what makes them so expensive compared to inflatable PVC kayaks. Rubber kayaks are usually overkill for recreational use, but if you’re looking for an angling kayak you can take out on the open water, then these incredibly durable kayaks are the perfect solution.

Warranty

Many product warranties will cover the kayak for a period of one to three years. Often, this will include manufacturing defects and damage that can occur when you’re out on the water. Before you buy, make sure you check out each model’s warranty and learn what type of coverage the manufacturer offers.

Environment

grounded vessel

There are many styles of inflatable kayaks to choose from, based on paddling needs. Some models are better suited for ocean angling, while others perform well on slow-moving rivers and lakes.

Lake and River Angling

This type of environment is not quite as demanding as fast open water. Because of this, you should be able to purchase a pretty basic model, or you can opt for a kayak that can cover longer distances, based on the length of time you normally spend on the water traveling to your destination.

Coastal Waters

A standard angling kayak isn’t designed to handle rougher water or high wind conditions that you’ll come across in coastal waters. If you’re an ocean angler, then look for an inflatable model that sits lower in the water and comes equipped with a rigid frame or defined hull. A skeg will come in handy when it comes to accuracy, allowing for improved tracking. The addition of self-bailing scupper holes or a spray skirt will also help in choppy water conditions.

Rapid Waters

If you prefer fishing in class lll rapids, then you’ll need a kayak that excels at tracking and has a reputation for durability. You should also ensure that the kayak you choose is equipped with self-bailing scupper holes. Kayaks that are designed to handle whitewater conditions will usually have a stern and bow that curve upward. This design allows the kayak to easily climb over waves.

Weight Capacity

Following a kayak’s weight restriction is important, otherwise, should you go over the vessel’s weight capacity, you may end up out on the water in a kayak that you’ll struggle to paddle, track, and guide. If a kayak is filled beyond capacity, it can also cause you to sit too low in the water. Unfortunately, most manufacturers don’t have a standard way to calculate the weight capacity for these kayaks, so their estimates aren’t always very accurate.  A good rule to follow is to get a model that features approximately fifty percent more weight capacity than what you think you’ll need. As an example, if you feel that a two hundred pounds weight capacity will work well for you and all your gear, go with a model that has a four hundred pound weight limit.

Kayak Length

A longer kayak will provide more leg room and more storage space. It can also help improve the kayak’s ability to track in a straight line. A shorter kayak will veer off to the side and will have difficulty navigating through rougher water. However, the long kayak is usually more prone to struggling to track in windy conditions and because of this, can be difficult to paddle, especially if you’re dealing with crosswinds.

Kayak Width

The width of a kayak will also play an important role in terms of stability. Generally, a wider kayak is considered more stable compared to a narrow model. But the biggest downside of a wide kayak is that its larger surface area tends to create drag in the water, which can make the kayak’s performance somewhat sluggish.

Tandem and Single Kayaks

two people rowing

An inflatable kayak is available in both tandem and single designs. Many anglers struggle to pick between these two options. A tandem will be a great choice if you plan on fishing with a buddy, or you often bring along a lot of fishing gear. However, if you do fish alone in a tandem you may find it difficult to paddle and navigate, especially if you’re fishing in rougher waters.  On the other handle, a single style tandem will give you more freedom, allowing you to paddle to far off locations that aren’t easily accessible with larger kayaks are a small fishing boat.  Convertible Kayaks

Convertible kayaks can be a great option if you want the enjoy the best of both worlds. With a convertible, you can remove one of the kayak’s seats, reposition the existing seat, and turn a tandem into a single. However, turning a tandem into a single is still not as efficient as paddling around in a dedicated single, but by ditching the weight of the second seat and repositioning the first, you’ll definitely have more control over the kayak and enjoy improved tracking.

Storage Needs

While an inflatable kayak is usually quite a bit wider than a hard-shell kayak the air chambers in inflatable kayaks typically take up quite a bit of space and don’t leave a whole lot of room for fishing gear. If you only plan on fishing for an hour or two, then this may not even be an issue. However, if you enjoy spending hours in the ocean or out on the lake, then you’ll need a model that’s equipped with plenty of dry storage compartments, rigging, and enough floor space to accommodate all of your gear.

What is a Skeg?

Obviously, an inflatable kayak will be unable to track as well as a hard-shelled kayak, which can cause it to swerve through the water, making it difficult to paddle. The skeg is a type of fin located on the bottom of a kayak and it’s designed to reduce swerving and improve tracking.  Frame

Some high end, high-performance kayaks come equipped with a rigid frame. This type of frame will give the kayak a more defined structure, improving the hull’s durability, speed, and tracking. These kayaks are basically the closest you’ll get to a hard-shelled kayak.

Self-Bailing

A self-bailing kayak means that it has holes located in the bottom that is designed to let water out. On the other hand, these same holes will also allow water to get in, which means you can plan on getting plenty wet if you take this type of kayak out in choppy water conditions.  This type of kayak isn’t exactly something you would want if you’re mainly sticking to calm bodies of water. However, for open seas and whitewater conditions, in which you can already expect to get wet, it can actually help to prevent your kayak from taking on too much water.

Sea Eagle 350fx Fishing Explorer Inflatable Fishing Boat

Investigate More Fishing Locations with this Tough As Nails Fishing Kayak! The Sea Eagle 350fx Fishing Explorer is a powerful, amplified, completely embellished adaptation of the tough Explorer Series. Structured by and for devoted anglers. Including: twofold layered, almost indestructible, intense as crocodile stow away, 2000 Denier strengthened defensive layers, 6 worked in pole holders, forward and aft splash skirts with Sea Eagle elite frill belts to hold your apparatuses, snares, and draws, a completely movable foot support : the FlexBrace™, 40″ FishRuler™, stay trolley D-rings, a tremendous max load limit of 575 lbs., and is totally self-bailing with 16 High Capacity Self-bailing Drain Valves.

 

Final Thoughts

The biggest advantage of the best fishing kayak is that it allows you to access areas that a traditional fishing boat can’t. Their lightweight design also allows you to launch from pretty much anywhere. This means you can hike out to remote areas and fish in hard to reach fishing hotspots, or take on challenging channels and do a little exploring. Basically, aside from their convenience, the inflatable kayak offers limitless possibilities in terms of where you can fish. We hope our guide on what to look for in your next kayak, and our in-depth reviews of the top-selling models will help you narrow down your choices so you can find the perfect kayak that will meet your angling needs, work with your budget, and get you where you want to go.