Fishing kayaks these days come with a lot of bells and whistles. Many of these feature-laden kayaks can get pretty expensive and create a barrier to entry for many novice kayak anglers.
But fishing kayaks don’t have to be super expensive. As long as you have a stable platform to fish from, you’ll be able to reach locations that are impossible to reach by boat or from land.
There are a number of benefits of purchasing an affordable fishing kayak. Among those benefits is the ability to save money so that you can use it on other fishing gear, tackle, and accessories.
Even the most inexpensive fishing kayaks come with the basic features you’ll need to be successful on the water. It’s not like you’ll be getting a kayak that’s made for a purpose other than kayak fishing.
The bottom line is that you don’t have to choose a fishing kayak that’s going to make a huge dent in your bottom line. There are plenty of options for affordable fishing kayaks that’ll still serve you exceptionally well.
In this article, we’re going to review the 10 best fishing kayaks under $500 and provide key information on each. We’ll also define some common fishing kayak jargon and offer useful tips for selecting a fishing kayak that fits your needs.
- Jargon Buster
- Buying Guide
- Fishing Kayaks Under $500 – Reviews
- Our Pick – Intex Excursion Pro
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Kayak fishing is a unique sport and even the avid recreational kayaker might not be familiar with the terms anglers frequently use. In this section, we’ll define some common terms associated with fishing kayaks.
A skeg is a fin-like accessory that extends into the water below your kayak. Much like the fins on a surfboard or stand-up paddleboard, the skeg on a kayak allows you to steer more effectively.
Articulating Fishing Rod Holder
Articulating fishing rod holders typically attach to the gunwales (sides) of a kayak and hold your fishing rod. They allow you to keep your hands free as you troll a line behind or to the side of your kayak.
Many kayaks build footwells in the cockpit. These footwells offer paddlers of many different heights options for securing their feet and finding a comfortable, ergonomic paddling position.
A kayak’s gunwales are its sides. Higher gunwales usually result in a drier kayaking experience. In a fishing kayak, the gunwales are typically where you’ll find features like rod holders, paddle holders, and carry handles.
From saltwater bays to freshwater streams, there are many different environments where you might enjoy kayak fishing. In this section, we’ll help you narrow down your choices to find a kayak that’s perfect for the way YOU intend to use it.
Inflatable Versus Hard Kayaks
Many people wonder if inflatable kayaks are really safe. Fortunately, improvements in inflatable materials and seam welding have not only made inflatable kayaks safer, but they’ve also made them perform better as well.
Pros and Cons of Hard Kayaks
Hard kayaks are generally much more durable than inflatable kayaks. They’re commonly made of high-density polyethylene, which offers greater durability against scrapes, punctures, and UV damage.
Hard kayaks also tend to perform better than inflatables, which means you’ll prefer this type of kayak if you plan to change fishing locations a lot, including paddling in faster moving rivers or streams.
The main downside of a hard kayak is the fact that you’ll need extra storage space at home. Hard kayaks are also generally heavier and require a little more effort and consideration to transport safely.
Also Read: Best Kayaks For Camping
Pros and Cons of Inflatable Kayaks
Inflatable kayaks are preferred by almost anyone who does a lot of traveling or lacks the amount of storage space necessary for a hard kayak. Because they deflate quickly when you’re done fishing, inflatable kayaks easily store in a compact space in your car, truck, van, or RV.
Because of their design, inflatable kayaks also tend to have much larger cockpits than their hard counterparts. This means you’ll be able to bring fit more supplies on your trip, so long as you have a few solid dry bags to keep things from getting soaked.
On the other hand, some folks shy away from inflatable kayaks because they don’t quite steer or track as well as a hard kayak. Many anglers have also had problems with inflatable kayaks because of the many hooks and other sharp accessories that go along with fishing.
How Many Rod Holders Is “Enough”?
As you might imagine, the true answer to this question always lies in the eyes of the beholder. There is no right number of fishing rod holders for a fishing kayak to contain, as each angler will have their own preference.
But there is a significant benefit of having at least two fishing rod holders on your kayak. As you gain experience, you’ll probably learn that the fish you’re going for tend to feed on different things at varying times of the day, not to mention season-to-season.
The major benefit of fishing rod holders is the ability to maximize your time on the water actually fishing. Otherwise, you’ll spend half your time changing bait, restringing lines, and otherwise messing with your setup.
Fishing rod holders can also give you the ability to have multiple lines in the water at one time. And all that this is going to do is double your odds of coming home with a fish or landing that record-breaking trout!
The Seat and Foot Braces
The fact of the matter is that most kayaking anglers spend more time on the water than the average recreational kayaker. Because of this, a comfortable seat is even more important when kayak fishing.
When you’re spending multiple hours sitting in your kayak, you’re going to start to notice that little bit of extra padding in your kayak seat, not to mention in the seat back itself.
And speaking of the seatback, you’ll really want a seatback that can be easily adjusted from the seated position. As you spend more time in a kayak, you’ll find that making micro-adjustments to your position will make a huge difference in your sustained comfort level.
This is also true when it comes to your feet. A kayak with multiple molded-in footwells or adjustable foot braces will allow you to make adjustments to how your feet are positioned.
This will give you the freedom to sit up straighter or recline further while still keeping your knees slightly bent and your feet supported for comfort and stability.
Fishing Kayaks Under $500 – Reviews
The Lifetime Triton Angler is a 10-foot sit on top kayak that boasts a maximum weight capacity of 275 pounds. It weighs a total of 49 pounds and measures 31 inches across.
This fishing kayak offers a slim, simple design with molded-in footwells and a quick-release seatback that make it easier for paddlers of varied heights and weights to find a comfortable position for a full day of fishing.
It also has a large storage area in the stern of the kayak that is secured with a bungee cord. This area is perfect for bringing a large dry bag, multiple tackle boxes or a medium-sized cooler on your day trip.
The Lifetime Triton Angler is designed with an integrated skeg in the hull that greatly improves this kayak’s tracking ability. It also boasts two flush-mounted fishing rod holders and an adjustable, articulating rod holder located on the gunwale to the right of the seat.
Also Read: Pelican vs Lifetime Kayak – Which Is Better?
The Sundolphin Journey is another 10-foot fishing kayak, but this one has somewhat of a hybrid cockpit design. It offers high gunwales to reduce water splashing into the cockpit, but still features an open design that makes it easy to handle gear and fish from multiple angles.
This fishing kayak has a maximum weight capacity of 250 pounds and weighs a total of 44 pounds. This kayak measures 30 inches from gunwale-to-gunwale.
With two flush-mounted fishing rod holders and one articulating rod holder, this kayak allows you to carry multiple rod and reel setups so you don’t have to spend your time on the water rigging new lines and bait.
The Sundolphin Journey also has a large, covered storage compartment in the stern for storing dry gear. Additional bungee cord rigging on the bow and stern decks allow you to secure additional gear and accessories to your kayak.
The Lifetime Tamarack Angler is a 10-foot, sit on top kayak that weighs 52 pounds and measures 31 inches across. It is rated for a maximum weight capacity of 275 pounds.
Open storage areas in the bow and stern of this kayak are secured with bungee cord rigging for larger items. It also features two enclosed storage compartments with six-inch hatches in the bow and stern areas of the kayak.
This kayak offers a padded seat and a quick-release seat back that makes it easy to clip the seat in place and be ready to go without dealing with a bunch of extra buckles and straps.
The Lifetime Tamarack Angler is designed with a stable, flat bottom with deep tracking channels that add stability and tracking ability. It also comes with two flush-mounted fishing rod holders and an articulating rod holder mounted on the gunwale to the right of the seat.
The Sea Eagle SE370 Inflatable Sport kayak comes with a fishing package that adapts this kayak from a recreational kayak to a true, inflatable fishing kayak. It’s a 12-foot, six-inch kayak that measures 34 inches across.
While this kayak offers plenty of space for a single paddler, it is actually rated to a total capacity of three paddlers. The maximum weight capacity of this inflatable fishing kayak is 650 pounds.
If you get a little antsy and you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, this kayak is even rated for Class III whitewater. It boasts a total of three air chambers on the port and starboard sides of the kayak, as well as on the floor.
The Sea Eagle SE370 takes just eight minutes to fully inflate and is constructed with high-frequency seam welds for added durability. At a weight of just 32 pounds, this kayak is also super light and easy to transport from your vehicle to the water and back again.
The Airhead Montana inflatable fishing kayak is a super-compact, 9-foot kayak designed for a single paddler. It’s the best to use on calm, flat water, but it is rated to withstand moderate whitewater as well.
A total of four fins on the bottom of this kayak help it track with ease. At just under 28 pounds, this kayak is also super light and compact for portages or simply easy transport from your vehicle to the water.
This kayak is constructed with 840-denier nylon that’s finished with a water-resistant coating. That coating also reduces damage to the kayak that can result from prolonged UV exposure.
The Airhead Montana inflatable kayak comes with spray covers for the bow and stern areas so you can create space for dry storage. It also boasts a threaded drain hole with plug that allows you to easily drain water out of the cockpit.
The Sevylor Coleman Colorado is a two-person inflatable fishing kayak that measures just under 11 feet long and 39 inches across. It weighs just over 40 pounds, making it one of the lighter tandem fishing kayaks on the market.
This fishing kayak boasts a total of four mounted fishing rod holders and two articulating rod holders for hands-free fishing. It also has convenient mesh pockets in front of both seats to keep small gear items or snacks handy.
Made with a 1000-denier tarpaulin bottom that’s reinforced with an 840-denier nylon cover, this kayak is extra-resistant to punctures and other damage that could cause leaks. Separate air chambers will keep this kayak afloat even if one chamber becomes compromised.
The Sevylor Coleman Colorado features multiple D-rings that give you a secure place to attach all of your fishing equipment. It also offers two convenient paddle holders to keep your choice of kayak paddle secure while you’re fishing.
The best bargain on our list, the Lifetime Lotus actually comes as a kayak two-pack! This is the perfect solution if you and your partner love kayak fishing, but you don’t necessarily love doing it from the same kayak.
These kayaks are eight feet long and they boast a maximum weight capacity of 250 pounds. The kayaks themselves weigh just 38 pounds, so they’ll be easy for even smaller paddlers to transport.
Multiple footrest positions allow paddlers of many heights and weights to find a comfortable position in these kayaks. They also feature self-bailing scupper holes that quickly and efficiently drain water from the cockpit and the storage compartments.
And speaking of storage, the Lifetime Lotus has a large, open storage area in the stern. This area is secured with bungee cord rigging and provides a perfect place for keeping larger gear and supplies in place while you’re fishing and paddling.
The Sundolphin Bali SS is a 12-foot, single person kayak that’s a great option for larger paddlers. The extra length and total weight capacity of 395 pounds make this a great fishing kayak for larger anglers.
Like its Journey counterpart, this kayak features a hybrid cockpit design that’s made to keep you drier while still offering plenty of mobility while you’re in the cockpit. Adjustable foot braces allow you to customize your paddling position for comfort.
This fishing kayak offers a large, enclosed storage compartment in the stern that gives you a space for dry storage. You’ll also be able to secure items that don’t have to stay dry with the bungee deck rigging in the bow and stern areas of the kayak.
The Sundolphin Bali SS fishing kayak also comes with protective thigh pads so that your legs aren’t rubbing against uncomfortable polyethylene all day. It also boasts another small, hatch-secured storage compartment that’s located just in front of the cockpit.
The Intex Excursion Pro is an inflatable fishing kayak designed for two paddlers. However, the adjustable bucket seats in this kayak can be removed so that this kayak can adapt to a single paddler if desired.
Two removable skegs on the bottom of this kayak help with better tracking in deep water. But those skegs can easily be removed when paddling in shallow water to avoid constantly running aground.
This kayak boasts a maximum weight capacity of 400 pounds and weighs just 39 pounds. At 12-feet, seven inches long and 37 inches across, it’s one of the most stable inflatable fishing kayaks on our list.
The Intex Excursion Pro offers a total of two fishing rod holders so you can keep extra bait and tackle combinations at the ready. It also comes with an integrated drain plug that allows you to quickly drain water out of the cockpit as needed.
Our Pick – Intex Excursion Pro
The Intex Excursion Pro is our choice for the best fishing kayak under $500. The first reason we chose this kayak is its stability.
This kayak’s combination of length and width make it extra stable on the water. This is even true if you put two relatively inexperienced paddlers inside and allow them to get comfortable balancing each other’s shifting weights.
We also love the fact that this inflatable kayak is adjustable to fit one or two paddlers. We know that your paddle partner might not always feel like heading out when you do, so this level of versatility is important in a fishing kayak.
The fact that this kayak is manufactured with three-ply, laminate PVC material makes us rest easy knowing that it can withstand the elements. The construction of this kayak makes it highly resistant to impacts, abrasions, and UV damage.
The Excursion Pro also features an internal, three-chamber construction. This means that, even if one chamber is punctured or compromised, the remaining two chambers will keep you afloat long enough for you to reach the shore and think up a patch solution.
This kayak comes with two paddles, a high output pump, a convenient carry bag, and a pressure gauge to help you ensure that you don’t over-inflate it. That said, this kayak is designed to be inflated to a high pressure.
Because the material of this kayak is designed to withstand high pressures, this kayak will retain extra rigidity and structure. This allows it to perform much better on the water and helps to ensure no air leaks while you’re out.
Finally, the Intex Excursion Pro comes with adjustable footrests that keep you in an ergonomic paddle position and it even comes with a seat booster that allows you to get an elevated vantage point when observing fish behavior in the water below your kayak.