The Best Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayaks
Fishing kayaks are a popular alternative to motorized boats for a few reasons. But not all kayaks are equal. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all option, especially considering different fishing scenarios and anglers’ preferences.
Selecting the best fishing kayak involves considering factors such as hull type, size (length and weight), stability during stand-up fishing and navigation, propulsion, safety, color, features, and budget. You also need to consider where you want to paddle and cast out, the size of the fish you’re targeting, and if you need space to store your catch.
In this guide, we’ll explore some of the top fishing kayaks on the market, categorizing them according to basic criteria to help you make an informed decision.
Our Picks: The Best Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayaks
While each angler has their own preferences, we prefer sit-on-top kayaks as they have more advantages overall. Plus, they’re available in inflatable, pedal and paddle models for even better fishing.
Best overall sit on top fishing kayak:
Hobie’s Mirage is a top-tier fishing kayak, particularly if you’re prioritizing hands-free operation. The defining feature of the is its MirageDrive pedal system, which allows for hands-free propulsion and maneuverability.
The Hobie Mirage excels in many aspects, including:
- Stability: This kayak has a wide hull and design, allowing for superb stability—even for stand-up angling. Its larger size makes it suitable for various climate and water conditions, including open waters and more challenging environments.
- Comfort: The comfortable seat offers lumbar support and adjustability to find the best position for fishing and navigating.
- Storage capacity: The Mirage has multiple storage hatches, built-in features, and accessory mounting options.
Best sit-on-top paddle kayak:
A standout choice for anglers who prefer traditional paddle kayaks, the Old Town Topwater 120 offers stability, maneuverability, and comfort. Here are some of its highlights:
- The well-designed hull makes it easy to stand up and cast without feeling unsteady.
- The adjustable and breathable ElementAir seat provides a customizable seating position for optimal comfort during extensive fishing trips.
- Regarding storage, the Topwater 120 offers ample open deck space and multiple mounting points for accessories.
- The Topwater 120 tracks well in various water conditions, allowing for maneuverability and precise navigation.
Best inflatable sit on top fishing kayak:
Aquaglide Chelan 120 (Inflatable, Paddle) – Shop for $1,133
An inflatable kayak suitable for a single angler with lots of fishing gear, the Aquaglide Chelan 120 is a 28-pound craft made from Duratex. It also has plentiful storage areas with cargo nets for securing equipment and integrated fishing rod holders.
The Chelan 120 has a hard bottom, ensuring the kayak doesn’t warp when standing in it. This sturdy kayak is comfortable and maneuverable enough for most anglers, including those over 6ft. A high-performance fin system and a comfortable and adjustable seat with a high backrest and backpack are included.
Jackson Kayak Big Rig HD/FD (Paddle and Pedal-Drive)
The Jackson Kayak Big Rig HD/FD is a highly versatile fishing kayak that suits pedal and paddle enthusiasts. The Flex Drive pedal system offers an efficient and powerful mode of propulsion. It also provides exceptional maneuverability with the option of controlling the rudders with your hands or feet.
The Big Rig HD/FD is exceptionally stable and comfortable, with generous deck space and storage options ideal for keeping your catch safe until you can cook it. Comfort is a priority in this impressive kayak, especially with the seat that resembles a camp chair on tracks. The non-slip standing platform offers an extra layer of safety for stand-up casting.
Fishing Kayak Designs for Different Needs
A quick internet search reveals an abundance of fishing kayak options, so deciding can be challenging. For instance, you can choose between paddling, pedaling, or a combo. Also, do you want to sit on top of the kayak or in it? And how easy is it to transport and store it?
Check out the pros and cons of the most common fishing kayak designs:
|Sit-on-Top||● Easy to get on and off
● Great for warm climates
● Many have a self-bailing design
|● Increased chances of getting wet (from paddling)|
|Sit-Inside||● More protection from the elements
● Often better suited for colder climates
|● It can be more challenging to enter and exit
● Less stability and harder to flip if capsized
|Inflatable||● Easier portability
● Easier to store and transport
● Often more affordable
|● Less rigid than hard-shell kayaks
● They may not perform as well in rough waters
|● Requires more manual effort.
● Must alternate between fishing and paddling
|Pedal-Drive||● Hands-free operation
● Allows for better maneuverability and fishing while moving
|● Typically more expensive
● May have a larger draft
Considerations for Choosing the Best Fishing Kayak
When selecting the best kayak for your fishing expeditions, be sure to consider the following factors:
- Stability: Consider the kayak’s stability, especially if you prefer standing while fishing. This also applies to how stable it is when getting in or out.
- Storage and deck space: Look for a kayak with ample storage for fishing gear and an ergonomic layout for easy access. For example, does it have tracks for adding equipment and rod holders?
- Propulsion: Decide how you want to propel yourself through water, i.e., paddle, pedal, or a combination.
- Portability and weight: Consider the weight and size of the kayak, especially if you plan frequent solo fishing trips. Many anglers prefer inflatable kayaks for easier portability.
- Color: Consider color from a visibility point of view. For example, bright colors like yellow and orange are easier to see for emergency rescues, and white kayaks on the open sea are less likely to be considered prey by sharks.
- Budget: Determine your budget and select a kayak with the best features within that price range. Remember to factor in additional costs for accessories so you stay within your budget.
- Fishing accessories: Look for kayaks with built-in accessories like rod holders, mounting options for fish finders, and other accessories. Check out Kayak Guru’s rod holders guide to learn more about pre-and-post-install options.
- Testimonials and reviews: Read reviews from other anglers to guide your decision when finding the best kayak for your needs.
Ready To Get Paddling?
Choosing a kayak that suits you is an important part of fishing. Not every angler wants the same thing, and some prefer to tackle tougher waterways than others.
However, once you’ve found the right kayak, those fish better watch out!