A Comprehensive Buyer’s Guide
When most people think of kayaking, they picture someone sitting down as they paddle through the water. I have to admit, that’s the image that popped into my head. However more and more kayakers are trying out wider, flatter kayaks. This style has a greater ability to maintain stability, allowing you to stand up on top of it. This is an absolute necessary for anyone looking to fish from a kayak, where the low seated position often cannot offer the leverage required to pull in the catch of the day.
There is however a great deal of variety on the market today when it comes to kayaks designed specifically for angling, both in terms of construction materials and in-the-water performance. That’s why we’re rounding up five of the best stand up fishing kayaks, as well as taking a look at some of the factors that come into play when trying to decide on the best one for you.
Choosing the Best Kayak for Stand Up Kayak Fishing
When it comes to stand up kayaking, it’s all about stability. That’s because standing up on a kayak isn’t always easy, and the last thing you want is to lose the fish on the other end of your line because you couldn’t keep your legs beneath you.
Here are the factors to consider when looking at a new kayak:
The length of a kayak has little to do with how well it will resist flipping; however it has a great effect on speed. Because of the way water is displaced around the sides of a boat, narrower boats have less water to ‘push’ out of the way, and therefore requires less effort to accomplish. For this reason the reduced effort is often equated with greater speed.
The overall weight of your boat has a large effect on how stable it is going to be. The heavier a boat’s carry weight (total weight) the greater percentage of hull will be underwater. Because if this, less displacement is needed to cause tipping and thus, overloaded boats are far more vulnerable to tipping.
Generally, stand up fishing kayaks are anywhere between 60 and 90 pounds, though both lighter and heavier models exist.
Keep in mind however that heavier boats will require more effort to pilot and maneuver, not to mention get on top of the SUV if you’re traveling by yourself.
Though it can get quite technical in some discussions, for kayaking purposes, tracking simply refers to how well the boat maintains its course in the water, in order words, how well it steers and controls. The shape and dimensions of a kayak will determine how well it tracks.
For many, the installations of rudders or skegs can greatly increase a boat’s tracking and steering capabilities.
More so than traditional kayakers or water sports enthusiasts, anglers have a need for as much storage space as possible on board. This is because any fisherman worth his weight is going to be bringing with him a good supply of line, hooks, bobbers, and bait, not to mention water and snacks.
Fishing kayaks today are designed with internal storage compartments to cater to the gear-headed fisherman. Some models, like the STEALTH 12 from Malibu Kayaks, even feature an internally mounted bait tank that allows you to keep a separate waterproof storage area for live bait.
Some stand up kayaks have areas designed for strap op storage, such as inside a crate or float box. This allows you to take your whole tackle box on board if need be. Just make sure that it’s secure. Otherwise it’s an awfully quick way to watch all of your lures go sinking to the bottom of the lake.
Top 5 Best Angler Kayaks
Feelfree LURE 10 Kayak
|Feelfree LURE 10 Kayak|
|Length: 10’ Width: 36” Capacity: 375lbs Weight: 75lbs|
Ever since we first tried out one of Feelfree’s signature kayaks, we were pretty much sold. That’s because they have dedicated themselves to making the most comfortable angling kayaks on the market, and their efforts have paid off nicely. To put it simply, there is just no other kayak we’ve found that is this comfortable in the seated position.
This is largely due to the seat design. The Feelfree Gravity Seat allows quick readjustment of seat height. Not only is this a great feature if you are sharing boats with friends and family, but it also allows for a significantly higher seat height that most factory installed kayak seats. The additional height can reduce stability but can be a godsend for cramped legs and shoulders. Not only is the seat included in the purchase price, but it’s also completely (& easily) removable, allowing you to install whatever custom chair back that you like.
The LURE 10’s real strength is going to be short distances and small bodies of water. That’s because she’s significantly heavier than other fishing kayaks in this class, and wider to some extent. While this makes for a sturdy kayak that is not prone to flipping, it is also somewhat tiring to take this thing more than a few miles out to sea. But hey, if you’re looking for a good workout anyway, then you’ve certainly found one.
Also, we recommend taking a look at the optional assist bar for anyone looking for an even sturdier fishing experience.
- Gravity Seat is both adjustable & comfortable
- Wide & heavy kayak means added stability
- Even better fishing with the optional assist bar
- Too heavy for longer distances
- Only 2 storage compartments on board
Pelican Sport THE CATCH 100 Kayak
|Pelican Sport THE CATCH 100 Kayak|
|Length: 10’ Width: 34” Capacity: 350lbs Weight: 58lbs|
The CATCH 100 Kayak from Pelican sport comes in at a breezy 58 pounds. This is certainly on the smaller end of the spectrum when it comes to angling kayaks, however for outdoor enthusiasts like ourselves, this is exactly what we’re looking for. That’s because anything over 60 pounds really feels too heavy to paddle more than a few miles with all of your fishing gear loaded up, and as any experienced kayak fisher knows, sometimes you need to let the water lead you to where the fish are. And then you’ve got to paddle back upstream!
The quad pole mounts are a particularly nice touch. Sure, there are plenty of boats with four or more pole mounts included, but few on a boat of this size and weight. The primary pole mounts are right where they need to be within easy reach, however, the second two are a bit behind the seat which can make for some uncomfortable reaches if you need to need to get to the pole quick. Our recommendation: stretch your back beforehand.
Storage compartments are adequate, though we’d trade one of them for a real bait tank, which is the one feature that we wish we had with the CATCH 100.
There are not a lot of additional features here, however, the CATCH 100 has plenty of surface space for additional modifications if you add just a bit of extra tracking. Overall a great little boat that won’t break the bank.
Pelican Sport THE CATCH 100 Kayak
- Lightweight construction
- Quad pole mounts
- Customizable configurations
- Rear pole mounts awkwardly placed
- No bait tank
Lifetime Products EMOTION STEALTH PRO Angler 118 Fishing Kayak
|Lifetime Products EMOTION STEALTH PRO Angler 118 Fishing Kayak|
|Length: 11.6’ Width: 32” Capacity: 500lbs Weight: 86lbs|
When we found out that we were going to be rounding up the best stand up fishing kayaks, our immediate question was whether or not we would be able to find a model that offered the same great tracking that we enjoyed with our more traditional fishing kayaks. Indeed the problem with may stand up kayaks is that they are unable to hold course against strong bay winds, which ends up taking us way off course while we are paying attention to the fishing rods.
Fortunately, the EMOTION STEALTH PRO by Lifetime Products gave us a taste of just that. As far as tracking is concerned, this one probably takes the cake over all the boats on our list.
And that’s a good thing too, because if the tracking was any worse, this boat would be somewhat difficult to manage. It’s a whopping 86 pounds, which is burly by any definition, and a respectable 11.6 feet long. For such a big boat it might not come as a surprise to hear that the EMOTION STEALTH PRO is certainly not the fasts kayak in the water. Because most anglers are less concerned with speed than they are with stability, we are hesitant to even call this a flaw.
The included adjustable seat is a nice touch. There are three different seat-back positions for paddling, fishing, and relaxing respectively, though there is no option to adjust the height of the seat itself, which is why we might consider investing in a higher-end kayak seat if we were to keep paddling on this one.
Lifetime Products EMOTION STEALTH PRO Angler 118 Fishing Kayak
- Great tracking
- 3-position adjustable seat
- Heavy; not suitable for distance travel
- Slow paddling
LIFETIME 10 Foot Tandem Fishing Kayak
|LIFETIME 10 Foot Tandem Fishing Kayak|
|Length: 10’ Width: 36” Capacity: 500lbs Weight: 82lbs|
Don’t let the name fool you, the 10’ tandem fishing kayak by Lifetime is not only couples and duos. Yes, it’s certainly big enough for two. In fact it can seat three, as long as you mind the 500lb weight capacity. However it still manages to be a perfectly acceptable vessel for the solo kayak angler, so we decided to include it on our list.
The increased seating capacity and startlingly high number of possible footrest positions makes this a really comfortable kayak for even one person. You have so much space to stand and/or sit, as opposed to fancier models that often provide only a small standing space.
Of course the comfort comes with sacrifice. This kayak is short on storage space and special features, making it pale in comparison to some of the other models on this list which come standard with far more bells and whistles. It all depends on what you’re looking for I suppose, but for my money, this kayak is everything you need to drop a line in your favorite lake with none of the frills that hardcore enthusiasts demand. For this reason we think it’s a great starter boat, and a good choice if you are looking for a stand up fishing kayak that allows you to bring a friend along.
The Achilles heel of the Lifetime tandem kayak is the stock seat. It comes with two padded backrests but they do little to provide any real kind of lower back support. Our strong recommendation is to invest in a nicer seat if you are going with this one.
LIFETIME 10 Foot Tandem Fishing Kayak
- Can comfortably fit 2 people
- Lots of space to stand and sit
- Only two pole mounts
- Uncomfortable backrests need to be upgraded
Malibu Kayaks STEALTH 12 Kayak
|Malibu Kayaks STEALTH 12 Kayak|
|Length: 12’ Width: 33” Capacity: 450lbs Depth: 12”|
The STEALTH 12 from Malibu Kayaks might be familiar to Kayak anglers who have used their more common 14’ model that has been on the market for years. The 12’ features a bit more maneuverability and reduced overall weight, making it a bit more suitable to smaller bodies of water than the 12’.
All the features of the 14’ model are here. Our favorites are the numerous storage compartments. We tend to fill up our storage compartments pretty quickly with gear, snacks, and bait, so it’s nice to see a kayak that has decided to implement more storage than is average. Speaking of bait and storage, the STEALTH 12 has one of the best center bait tanks that we have seen on a kayak in its. In fact, this model is loaded with great angling features; a real specialist’s delight.
Stability is certainly one of the most important factors in being able to stand comfortably on your kayak. The STEALTH 12 has no problems in this department; it is simply one of the steadiest fishing kayaks out there. This means that you’re not only able to put a little extra elbow grease into pulling in that prize fish, but you are also more likely to stay right-side-up in big waves next to smaller kayaks like the ones Hobie makes.
The additional storage compartments do come at a price, as there is hardly any room on the surface of the STEALTH 12 to mount additional accessories. Malibu Kayaks does sell an ‘X-Wing’ extension which can increase mounting space (for kayak lights, cameras, etc.). However it comes at an additional cost and is currently on back order at several outlets.
Also, be sure to purchase a good kayak seat as well, because the STEALTH 12 doesn’t come with one.
Malibu Kayaks STEALTH 12 Kayak
- Extra Stable
- Increased Compartment Storage
- No space for additional mounting
- Doesn’t come with a good seat
Tips for Fishing From a Kayak
It is important to know that fishing kayaks aren’t just for fishing. There are plenty of reasons that an outdoor enthusiast would want a stable and sturdy kayak with increased storage and extra features.
For those of you who are looking to get your line wet, we’ve put together a few tips on kayak fishing.
Tip 1: Use an Anchor
There’s no use in finding the perfect fishing spot if you can’t keep your kayak in place. The only way to maintain your position long enough to make the catch is to use a kayak anchor.
Claw anchors are the standard design and can penetrate into soft-bottom lakes.
Folding anchors are popular among kayakers because they are usually more compact and lightweight.
Tip 2: Get a Paddle Leash
When you notice one of your poles bending sharply towards the water, your boat pulling suddenly in the direction of the fish, the last thing you want to worry about is losing your gear. A paddle can easily float away while you are battling the fish, so do yourself a favor and invest in a coiled paddle leash and you’ll never have to worry about it again
Tip 3: Plan Your Trip; Pack Accordingly
Having an idea of what kind of weather you will encounter is important in planning your route. It’s also important to know at what time the sun will be going down, and how long it will take you to get back to dock.
Kayakers who are paddling in low visibility and / or night conditions should invest in a kayak light for night paddling.
Tip 4: Read up On Kayak Fishing Etiquette
Check out Captain Mike Kogan’s excellent primer on Kayak Fishing Etiquette to make sure you aren’t chasing off anyone else’s catch.
Kayaks vs. Paddleboards: An Angler’s Debate
While there are a number if big differences between kayaking and paddleboarding that make them entirely different activities, there remains a lively debate about which one is better for stand up fishing.
The Benefits of Paddleboard Fishing
Look, we get it. Paddleboards are cool. They have become more and more popular in recent years for more reasons than one, and it is certainly possible to drop a few lures from the surface of one. Fishing from a paddleboard is:
- Portable – Paddleboards are significantly lighter than kayaks and travel easier
- Lots of standing area – Paddleboards are designed with more surface area, and if you’re out for an evening of fishing, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have the extra space.
The Benefits of Kayak Fishing
While paddleboards are fun, they don’t match the stability, durability, & storage of a kayak.
- Added Stability – With kayaks your center of gravity is closer to the water than with a paddleboard.
- Increased Storage – Even entry level kayaks offer enough secure (& sometimes waterproof) storage for your fishing gear.
- Stronger / More Durable – Kayaks are made of hard plastic as opposed to lighter foam and air, and therefore can take more of a beating.
If you’re interested in other watercraft that can be used for fishing, check out our article comparing kayak and canoe fishing!
Most Reliable Stand Up Fishing Kayak Brands
California based Malibu Kayaks will be celebrating 20 years in the kayaking industry. Today they’re known for making high capacity roto-molded kayaks that are far lighter than their competitors. Our favorite thing about Malibu is their interchangeable set of accessories. They have designed their entire line of kayaks and watersports products to function with the same accessories, so there is a high degree of customization possible.
Here is a manufacturer that has its hands in a few different industries, but in each of them prides itself on high quality American construction. Lifetime Products claims that they are the makers of the most stable kayaks in the world, and from what we can tell so far it’s hard to disagree with them. They have a good range of kayaks for all ages and sizes, so they are a good company to choose for entry level kayaks.
Canadian based Pelican Sport has made waves in the kayak supply industry with their proprietary RAM-X™ multi-layer material. It’s probably what makes their kayaks so durable and able to retain their shape even after hard impacts. They’re also users of Twin Sheet Themoforming (TST) technology, so it looks to us like they’re the real innovators to watch.
North Carolina based Feelfree Kayaks is a small team of dedicated professionals turning out some of the coolest new fishing kayaks. We are particularly interested to have a look at their Overdrive line of pedal powered kayaks, which have been all the buzz at the outdoor expos the last few seasons.
Q: What’s the difference between a stand up kayak and a stand up paddleboard?
A: The difference between a kayak and a paddleboard has to do with how they handle in the water and what kind of mobility they offer.
Kayaks are small boats, designed with a tapered floor so that they can penetrate the water to some degree. This gives them the ability to move with the water and handle bigger waves. When it comes to fishing on a kayak, special features like bait boxes, pole holders, and gear storage give kayaks the upper hand.
Paddle Boards are designed to sit flat atop the water with a greater surface area. This makes them more stable than kayaks for standing and less prone to flipping over. However paddle boards are not as easy to steer and pilot than a kayak, which makes them unsuitable for longer trips in in more turbulent waters.
Q: Is standing on a kayak better than sitting for fishing?
A: This is largely a matter of preference, but it is generally accepted that the standing position offers greater control of the fishing pole both in casting and reeling, making it both easier and more likely to bring in that striped bass you’ve been eyeballing through the water.
Another reason standing is superior is that it offers a 360 degree mobility that a traditional kayak cannot offer.
Q: How heavy are angling kayaks?
A: Although it can vary significantly, most fishing kayaks are between 55 and 85 pounds. There are certainly heavier models on the market, but in general this is the sweet spot if you are looking for a decent blend of stability and speed.
Q: Are pedal kayaks good for kayak fishing?
A: Pedal kayaks have become more and more popular over the last few years because of the speed and comfort that they bring to kayak travel. However, unless the kayak also offers a standing platform, then it will not be ideal for kayak fishing as your legs will be unnecessarily crammed into the pedals; you won’t be able to move around well enough.
Q: What do you do if you tip over while standing up on a kayak?
A: Tip overs are going to happen, one way or another. When kayak fishing you want to make sure all your gear is securely attached and the storage compartments are closed & latched.
If you are kayaking along it is very important that you know how to do a self-rescue. The last thing you want is to be stranded in distant waters and not be able to get back into your kayak! It is also very important that you wear a life jacket to keep you afloat in the event that your kayak does capsize. If you need assistance in selecting the best life vest for kayaking, you can check out our guide here.
Our Favorite Stand Up Fishing Kayaks
After taking these puppies out to the lake for some thorough product testing, our team could agree on one thing: the quality of construction on this new class of fishing kayaks has only improved with time. New manufacturers fueled by passion are bringing stylish and innovative new boats to the world of kayaking. We couldn’t be more excited about it.
For our money, the PELICAN SPORT CATCH 100 was perhaps the best all-around angling kayak that we had the pleasure of trying out. It’s a good balance of speed, maneuverability, and features designed specifically for angling. Because for us, dinner is just as important as exercise!
However, the Feelfree LURE 10 was an absolute delight to sit in, and that’s a feature that we just can’t get over. That’s why we’re making it our official pick for the most comfortable kayak of the lot. Further yet, from here on out it is the go-to fishing kayak for longer expeditions.
Now that you’ve seen what the new class of fishing kayaks has to offer, maybe it’s time to buy a fishing kayak.
We’ll see you in the water!