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For generations, kayaks have been the vessel of choice for fishermen, straight back to the Native peoples on the Bering Sea in Alaska. They even hunted seals from the light boats! So, as the fishing season ramps up, a kayak just might be next on your list for ways to fish your local waters, or even to take on the road to more distant locales.
If you’re new to kayak fishing though, the selection can be hellish, because everyone and their brother who uses one has an opinion about the best.
So, to narrow things down for you, I have put together a buyer’s guide of what I believe to be the most user-friendly, best sit-top fishing kayaks available on the market today. And, to boot, they also have the added benefit of affordability – this group won’t have you digging in the couch cushions for spare change.
For those of you who hate having to read an entire post to get to the info you want, just skip to the handy chart where I’ve included here that ranks each choice based on the factors which might most affect your purchasing.
However, if you came here for more information, not just a recommendation, stick around and I’ll take you to a more in-depth explanation of my choices and ranking system. Plus, throughout the article are additional gear recommendations you might not want to miss.
Keep in mind that I’ve listed these according to price, from low to high, but that doesn’t equal best to worse or vice versa as far as it concerns the kayaks on our list.
I have a favorite, but that might not be the one for you. I am neither normal nor representative of the kayak buying population. So, each of these has been selected to give a range of selections, styles and prices upon which you can make your own decisions. So, here we go.
Sit-on-top Fishing Kayak Selection Factors
Likely the factors most affecting your decisions are going to be pricing, sizing, capacity and specialized features. Some of these kayaks are made specifically with anglers in mind, others are merely multipurpose or have pros that could be more of a draw than transducer ports or places to leave your rod and reel.
Pricing – I have avoided the obscenely expensive and the cheapest possible options. To be honest, anything cheap isn’t likely to last or have the kind of maneuverability and storage space that can make all the difference when kayak fishing.
That being said, I do have a friend that has owned the same run-of-the-mill kayak from Walmart for years and loves it. So, if you want to go that route, there will be no judgment from me. For myself, I like my gear to have things like a decent warranty for when I inevitably tear it up doing something my mother would likely consider ill-advised.
Size – This might seem like an obvious one, but in many cases, you might need to be able to carry your kayak by yourself or with one other person. If you really want one which ends up a bit too heavy to handle, be sure to factor a carrier trolley or even a lightweight kayak trailer into your purchase price.
Also, part of this consideration is how easy one might be to transport via car or otherwise. For that reason, I’ve included some inflatable kayak options.
Capacity – Maybe you go fishing to be alone, but perhaps on occasion, your buddy, your child or your spouse might want to tag along. In light of that factor, most of these kayaks have single and tandem (fishing kayak for two) options. A few even include a smaller third child’s seat specifically for family outings.
Accessories – These are the things that might make the final decisions for you based on your preferences or needs. It might be a really comfortable seat or an easy carrying weight. Perhaps you need durability or even like a particular color, whatever it might be, your personal preferences are those things that make a kayak something you can enjoy.
The Top 10 Sit-on-Top Kayak Choices
Driftsun Rover 120
- Made from durable reinforced PVC
- Drop-stitch flooring & removable tracking fin add to stability and maneuverability
- Extremely easy to transport due to lightweight materials
- For this price, the inflatable kayak may not be able to take as much abuse as a more expensive or hard-hulled model. Basically, plan on buying a patch kit.
Here we have the first and most affordable sit-on-top fishing kayak option on the list. Coincidentally, it also happens to be the smallest and most lightweight. This is largely due to its status as an inflatable kayak, meaning that it can be deflated and packed in an extremely small space.
If you’re a weekend paddler with a distinct lack of car space, this can be a great option. With a removable tracking fin and a design fit for moving water, this is excellent for the fast-moving creek/stream angler needing maneuverability.
A NOTE ON INFLATABLE KAYAKS:
I was raised in inflatable kayaks on whitewater, and have a bias toward them, though I do realize their failings as an angling craft. However, they can be highly transportable and versatile with the addition of a few rings, straps and dry bags.
Most of all, 99% of repairs can be done yourself, and they are still my go-to for freshwater. Plus, I prefer the way they handle in the water to other sit-on-top styles of kayak.
Sun Dolphin Boss SS
- Exceptional stability provided by catamaran hull design
- Can also fish standing on top – comes with stand up strap
- Affordable, budget-friendly sit on top fishing kayak
- Lacks the accessories and mounting capabilities of others with similar specs
This kayak is a bit unique in that its hull is styled like a catamaran, meaning it’s sectioned on the bottom for less water friction and better stability. This is a great beginner’s model and would be ideal for lakeshore fishing.
Additionally, it has loads of open storage space, with room for bait buckets and kayak tackle boxes, which might make up for the lack of pre-mounted accessories. Perfect for someone who wants to find out if kayaking is right for them without a huge investment upfront.
Perception Tribe 11.5
- One-piece roto-molded construction for added strength and durability
- Comfortable, highly adjustable seating
- Good storage space front and rear
- Lack of mounting options for rod and paddle holders
This is a versatile option and a good bang-for-your-buck value. The seating is a definite plus, with great adjustability for most everyone. So, if you are looking for more back support with the ability to kick back and have plenty of legroom, this would be a model to check out. Also, very reasonable storage space means catch coolers and other bulky gear can come along for convenience.
Ocean Kayak Caper
- Tri-Form designed hull makes kayak stable and maneuverable (You wouldn’t believe how often those are mutually exclusive)
- 4-Way adjustable seating for all day on the water comfort
- Bow, stern and side carrying handles make transport easy
- Not a lot of space for the overall size
This sleek-profiled hard hull is a nice option for coastal and lake fishermen who want to maneuver easily without feeling the instability common in many slim-hulled ‘yaks. Anyone in the market for a reasonably priced boat to mess around in a variety of water should take a second look at this model.
Its only drawback is that for its length, it just doesn’t have much legroom or storage. The extra agility means some interior space had to be sacrificed. For a smaller person, this would be an outstanding choice.
AIRE Tributary Sawtooth
- Good size and comfortable w/inflatable and adjustable seats
- Quality 500-denier outer PVC tubes and 1000-denier PVC flooring
- Stability/ handling on the water are improved by V-hull design & removable skeg
- Lack of mounting abilities. Here is the other inflatable option that made the list, and it’s my personal favorite. It has separate baffled air bladders which zip into a heavy-duty PVC cover. This means that if one part becomes damaged beyond the warranty expiration, you can replace that without paying for an entirely new system.
The AIRE inflatable kayak sports a keel fin for stability and has typical thwart backrests included. Additionally, it’s self-bailing. Its big drawback is that it should probably have a couple more ways to clip gear to the side tubes, so getting some waterproof dry bags and a kit to add some rings might be in order.
Overall, it would be great for someone in need of plenty of space for a second person or who wants the ease of transport and extra space for gear.
Vibe Yellowfin 100
- Most sit on top fishing kayak accessories for the price
- Plenty of rod holders and storage for a kayak of this size
- Ease of transport (by one person) at just 10 ft. long and 57 lbs
- Lack of fins or rudder options
The Yellowfin is a nice smaller-sized option with more mountable options including 4-rod holders. At ten feet, it’s short compared to some others on this list, making it less of an awkward carry for one person, and it would fit more easily on a roof rack or in a truck bed.
For its price, it has a number of great customizable features including seating options and plenty of places to mount and store your gear though, partly because of its shorter size, it does not include any sort of fin, removable or otherwise to give it more stability and tracking ability in the water.
However, anyone in the market for an easy to handle ‘yak built with anglers specifically in mind would find this model able to fulfill all their needs. I have to rate it currently as one of the best sit on top fishing kayaks under $1000 on the market.
BKC 11.5 Riptide Angler
- Pedal-controlled rudder convenience and maximum control
- Flush rod holders and plenty of waterproof storage and cargo area (w/bungee tie-down)
- Standup capability made possible by stable 34-inch wide beam and overall design
- Long and heavy – could make for an awkward carrying or loading experience
If you read the previous description and were hoping for a good comparably priced option with the addition of a rudder, this is it. While it lacks the lightweight and short maneuverability of the Yellowfin, its pedal-controlled rudder and extra storage make up for its extra weight.
Lastly, since this is a single-person model, I would recommend the purchase of a canoe/kayak carrier dolly for transport, as loaded down it could be as much as eighty pounds. If storage, legroom and ease of steering are top of your list of preferences, this might be the perfect match for you.
BKC UH-TK29 13’1″ Tandem Kayak
- Very stable thanks to its 13ft.length/almost 3 ft. width footprint
- Accommodates multiple people – perfect for fishing with family or friends
- Flush-mounted rod holders and lots of storage/cargo capacity w/bungee tie-downs
- A bit on the heavy side at 90 pounds unloaded
For the angling family, this is the best option on the list, including two adult-sized seats and room to comfortably add a third smaller person. Because of its spaciousness and legroom, this is a great sit-on-top kayak for big guys. Weight-wise, while it is fairly hefty, the likelihood is that one would not be transporting it by one’s self.
For comfort and size, this is definitely the premier selection here. Any lake or ocean kayak fisherman who wants company on his or her outings will find this 2-person sit-on-top fishing kayak accommodates most if not all their needs.
Hobie 2019 Mirage Passport 10.5
- Hobie MirageDrive pedal drive system
- Steering system including convenient twist-and-stow rudder rudder
- 2 Rod holders and 2 accessory mounting tracks
- Front and rear cargo areas with bungee cord tie-downs
- Newer release, which could mean there are some undiscovered design issues
Of average size and length, this is a very reasonably priced pedal drive model. If you want more sophisticated steering without paying the six arms and a leg that style can go for, this would be a stellar choice.
As of 2019, it is a very recent release which means two things: it has the benefit of the most modern innovations in kayak construction, but a purchaser can run the risk of being the one to discover some of the design flaws that were missed in testing and construction.
This is unlikely, however, as Hobie has the reputation of a solid manufacturer, but it should be a consideration. If that is concerning to you, check back in a few months to see if an angry mob with metaphorical pitchforks has taken up residence in the review section.
Old Town Top Water 106
- DoubleU Hull design for maximum durability, handling and stability
- Maintenance-free pedal drive system for hands-free propulsion
- Tons of features including large stern tank well, tackle storage, 3-rod holders and more
- Transducer mounting for your fish finder
- Lifetime hull warranty – 5 years on the pedal drive system
- Bigger price tag
For the last item on this list of recommendations, we have the most expensive, and most accessorized selection yet. If the price is less of an issue for you, this would be ideal for multiday expedition-type fishing excursions. With a compact design still sporting spacious storage, it’s easy to envision this on a long trip on some of the extensive lake and river systems of, say, a destination like Alaska.
The PDL drive system can really save your shoulders. Additionally, it comes from a highly reputable manufacturer with a history of quality construction and customer service. So, if you have the budget, this would be a highly functional option for the serious kayak angler.
Which Sit-on-top Kayak for You?
Whatever your needs or wants in the way of this popular and easy-to-use kayak design, these are some of the best sit-on-top selections on the market today.
Let us know in the comments if any of these have caught your eye, or if you have first-hand experience (good or bad) with any of these models. If we haven’t included your favorite sit-on-top fishing kayak, give us a head’s up and tell us why you love it!
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