Some people reading this already fish, and just want a change from standing at the water’s edge hoping they’ll catch something. Or maybe you want an exciting new hobby that caters to both your love of the open water and sports fishing?
Regardless of the root cause, you’ve probably thought about buying a boat. Then you instantly caved on the idea once you realized how ridiculously expensive it is to own a boat of any kind.
So, you need a way to get out on the water, but without having to sell one of your kidneys.
A fishing kayak is an ideal way for you to achieve that dream, and they’re not nearly as expensive as a boat. That’s why we put together a roundup of 9 of the best fishing kayaks for under $500.
Quick Answer – Best Fishing Kayak Under $500
- Emotion 90259 Renegade XT
- Sun Dolphin Journey 10 SS
- Sea Eagle SE370K
- Sevylor Coleman Colorado
- Airhead Montana
- Sun Dolphin Excursion
- Old Town Canoes Vapor 10
- Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100
- Pelican Sport Strike 100X
Fishing Kayak Reviews:
Best Overall Fishing Kayak Under $500
Emotion Kayaks set out with a very simple mission: Make buying a kayak simple.
Far too many manufacturers focus on adding bells and whistles where they’re not needed. With the Renegade XT you get a sit-on kayak that’s designed with pure functionality in mind.
For a kayak to be truly effective as a fishing platform it must have storage, and lots of it! Fishing is a gear intensive activity and if you don’t stay organized it can quickly spiral into a nightmarish experience.
Fortunately, the Renegade XT offers some great storage options. A built-in bungee net across the bow is a convenient place to secure often needed items. The waterproof Solace Storage Hatch right between your legs is another great place to stash your gear, and the 2 rugged rod holders molded into the kayak body will keep your hands free for paddling.
But what makes the Renegade XT stand out from the crowd is the huge rear tankwell. It’s covered by a bungee cargo net and is big enough for a dog or small child. I guarantee that having all this extra storage space available will make your fishing trips more enjoyable and productive.
Portability is another area where the Renegade XT excels. Two heavy duty molded-in carry handles in the sides, and 2 more in the rear make transporting the kayak to and from the water a breeze.
At 36 inches the Renegade XT is one of the widest kayaks on our list, and as a result it is an extremely stable kayak.
This makes it an excellent choice for fishermen who are new to kayaking and don’t want to worry about tipping over while trying to reel in a big catch. It also allows you to stand up on the kayak while fishing without fear of toppling over.
The Renegade XT is my top choice for an affordable fishing kayak that has exceptional stability on the water, is extremely comfortable, and is designed specifically with fishing (and fishing gear) in mind.
Best Bang For The Buck
If you are looking for a budget kayak that still has a ton of great features you can’t beat the Sun Dolphin Journey 10. This is a 10-foot, 1-person, sit-on kayak that’s extremely maneuverable in its target environments – lakes and rivers.
The shorter length means you get a kayak that can turn faster, and provides a very stable platform thanks to its 30-inch beam. The Journey also comes with a nice range of accessories such as two flush-mounted rod holders and an additional swivel mount holder.
There are no live wells for your catch, but that’s to be expected in this price range. But you do get a dry storage hatch for your cell phone and other important items.
The Sun Dolphin Journey 10 is a stable, portable, reliable sit-on (SOK) fishing kayak that’s ideal for beginners. Basically it’s one of the best fishing kayaks under $500 available today.
Best Inflatable Fishing Kayak Under $500
The first inflatable fishing kayak on our list is from Sea Eagle, a company with experience in manufacturing inflatable kayaks all the way back to 1968.
Yes, the SE370K is an inflatable kayak, but that actually comes with a major built-in advantage – it only weighs a little over 30 lbs. This makes it extremely portable in comparison to the heavier plastic models, often weighing in somewhere in the region of 70 to 100 lbs.
It takes less than 10 minutes to inflate the kayak and when deflated it can be easily packed in the trunk of any car, so there’s no need for a rack or trailer.
One of the best things about Sea Eagle kayaks is their durability, they are sturdy and extremely hard to puncture. Even though the SE370K is an entry level kayak and one of the cheaper models made by Sea Eagle, it is still a lot more solid than many other inflatable kayaks in this price range.
These kayaks can be dragged over just about anything and keep on floating.
The SE370K is rated to carry up to three people who weigh no more than 650lbs combined, although it is best suited to carrying two adults, and in Fishing configuration it only seats a single passenger.
In terms of performance it’s rated for up to Class III whitewater. Measuring 12-foot 6-inches in length and just under 3-feet wide, it’s a stable platform to fish from too.
The Sea Eagle 370K is available in four basic packages, but the only 2 I would recommend are the Pro Package and The Sport Fishing Package which is extremely popular with fishermen of all skill levels.
The Sport Fishing Package includes:
- 1 Single Paddle
- 1 single Deluxe inflatable chair,
- A Multi-Purpose Storage Box which comes complete with two fishing rod holders.
- Also included are a foot pump, carry bag, and repair kit.
Another great thing about the Sea Eagle 370K is its extreme versatility.
Because of its portability and vast storage space it can be used for just about any water-bound adventure you can think of. You can pack enough gear in the cockpit for a long weekend camping adventure, fishing trip, or ocean kayaking expedition.
And because it seats up to 3 people it is regarded as one of the most family friendly kayaks you can buy.
With all it has to offer, it’s no surprise that the SE370K is the second most popular inflatable kayak on the market today.
Best 2 Person Fishing Kayak Under $500
Anyone living in an apartment might really want to buy a fishing kayak, but not have the space to store it. The Colorado from Sevylor Coleman means that’s no longer an issue – you can store this inflatable model in your closet when it’s not in use.
The Colorado is a 2-person, tandem inflatable kayak from a company with a long history of manufacturing kayaks for both novices and experts. The rugged construction is designed to take punishment and minimize the risk of punctures thanks to double-wall construction and the quality of materials used.
If you’re looking for a kayak that’s as at home on the surf as it is on a lake, then the Colorado is happy in both environments. Some major perks include the built-in rod holders, paddle holders and lots of D-rings to attach the rest of your gear to.
A tough kayak that’s built to last, and without a case of sticker shock.
Most Portable Fishing Kayak Under $500
This 12-foot, NNMA approved, inflatable kayak from AirHead (Kwik Tek) has a maximum capacity of 500 lbs and is suitable for two adults. It’s a barebones kayak, but comes with a price to match.
It is also not purpose-built as a fishing kayak, but since it is used extensively as a fishing kayak I thought I should include it in this roundup.
The Montana inflates and deflates quickly, and is best suited to either lake or river fishing. It is limited to rivers with Class III whitewater – any more than that and you risk flipping over. The 12-foot length and four fins means it will make good time through all but the roughest waters.
You actually get a very sturdy kayak for what you pay, one capable of taking a lot of punishment while also offering a lot of stability.
The only real downsides are the fact that although it’s quite long it’s not really suitable for stand-up fishing, and it also lacks any tackle hatches, or other fixtures aimed at anglers.
If you’re looking for an affordable fishing kayak, without any real frills, then the Montana should be on your shopping list.
Best Sit-Inside Fishing Kayak Under $500
Next up is another fishing kayak from the team at Sun Dolphin, but this time it’s a sit-in (SIK) model.
The Excursion is a 10-foot kayak, so again will track and turn well on lakes or rivers, and offers a little extra splash protection because you’re sitting inside the shell.
This fishing kayak comes with a pair of flush-mounted rod holders and an additional swivel holder, which is much the same configuration as the Journey above.
This is also a 1-person kayak, so the maximum weight capacity is set at 250 lbs, as compared to the 300lb – 500lb range of the 2-man inflatable models above.
This fishing kayak is ideal for a beginner, because it offers stability, speed and just the right number of accessories to get you out of the gate fast.
Most Comfortable Sit In Fishing Kayak
The Vapor 10 from Old Town Canoes is a single-user, sit-in kayak ideal for use on lakes and calm rivers. As the name suggests this is a 10-foot kayak, molded from single layer polyethylene.
One of the many things we like about the Vapor 10 is that the cockpit is really spacious, so there’s ample room for you to fit a medium-sized dog in there with you, if you wish. Dogs love that kinda stuff though.
It’s worth noting that this kayak is aimed at the leisure market more than the sports, so it’s not suitable for anything about Class II whitewater river runs.
Can you fish from the Vapor 10?
It even comes with a small storage hatch, but it’s located at the rear of the kayak, so it’s not that easy to reach while you’re out on the water.
Best on a Tight Budget
This is the cheapest non-inflatable fishing kayak on the list, but don’t let the price fool you, the Angler 100 is a feature rich kayak that any serious fisherman would be happy with.
As the name suggests this is a kayak designed specifically for fishing, although you can also use it just for recreational fun.
Features to appreciate in a serious way include three fish pole holders, multiple footrest positions, a pair of storage hatches and a padded seat and adjustable padded backrest.
The Tamarack Angler 100 is also built to take punishment. In fact, the manufacturer is so confident in the durability of their products that they’re willing to back it up with a 5-year limited warranty.
You can also stand up to fish from this kayak, but you’ll need good balance to do that. That’s true of any sit-on kayak, by the way.
Most Versatile Fishing Kayak Under $500
If you’re looking for a budget sit on top kayak that can be used for more than just fishing, then you should put the Strike 100x Angler at the top of your list.
This really is a fantastic all-around kayak.
With incredible maneuverability and tractability, this kayak provides an enjoyable paddling experience whether you are fishing, bird watching or just exploring secluded coves or river forks.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Strike 100x is the finish – it has this kind of cool camo, organic paint scheme that makes it stand out from the crowd.
Does it add anything to your fishing experience? Probably not, but we’re suckers for kayaks that look cool.
So, what do you get for your money?
You get a 10-foot kayak designed with solo fishing in mind. It’s also perfect for the more budget conscious fishing enthusiast because it doesn’t cost a fortune.
Storage is impressive on this little kayak. It comes standard with an 8” day hatch, and a quick lock hatch behind the seat for easy access to frequently needed items.
The rear of the kayak has plenty of room for your fishing gear, or whatever else you want to bring along, and is secured with sturdy bungees.
The storage is so vast on this little Yak that I’ve even read about paddlers using it for multi-day kayak camping expeditions!
But make no mistake, as a purpose-built fishing kayak the Strike 100x Angler holds its own against the best of them. It comes standard with three rod holders; two are flush mounted and one is a swivel type. They all fit a variety of different rod grips.
The cockpit features a comfortable Ergo-band seating system, which you will appreciate after a long day of fishing. The Yak also has built in carry handles to make portage to and from the water a breeze.
How We Made Our Selection
You can spend thousands on a kayak, and find yourself regretting that decision.
That’s why we decided in this review roundup to focus on models that cost under $500.
There’s a few reasons for this and one of the key ones is that there’s a really good chance you’re going to put at least a few dings in your first ‘yak.
It’s going to get scratched, scuffed, marked and generally look 10 years old in about six months from the day you buy it. It’s also probably going to have dried blood and other goop on it – fish blood, not yours.
Another reason for focusing on budget kayaks is that owning an expensive kayak can discourage people from actually using it.
It’s like buying a Porsche 911 Carrera S…but never taking it out for a blast because you’re terrified a bird might poop on it. Or, worse again, some idiot keys it because they’re jealous.
Those thoughts never cross your mind if you’re chugging around town in a car worth less than $1,000. In fact, you might even welcome somebody damaging it because you’d then finally have an excuse to replace it.
The same mentality exists with sports equipment like fishing kayaks i.e. if it cost you a fortune you won’t want it scratched.
Or even look at it this way – what if you decide you don’t like kayaking?
Would it be easier to take that hit after spending $500…or $2,500?
You already know the answer to that question, but it’s important we highlight it anyway.
Fishing Kayak Buying Guide
There are a lot of things to take into consideration when purchasing a fishing kayak, and the first of these is to decide where you’ll actually go fishing.
It’s important to be very clear about this when you’re looking for the best budget fishing kayak for your money. You see, some kayaks are perfectly at home in the open sea and on a river, while others are designed purely for inland waterway usage.
So, the first step is to choose the right type of kayak for your nearest fishery.
Now let’s take a look at everything else you need to know.
The next consideration is the length of the kayak – should you go for a longer or shorter model?
Well, this all depends on what you need in terms of speed, maneuverability and stability. Shorter, wider kayaks turn faster but aren’t as easy to keep tracked in a straight line, and also tend to move more slowly through the water.
A longer kayak will give you a lot more speed, but won’t turn as fast in a hurry. Now, you’ll be fishing, so speed is rarely of the essence unless you spot some sea birds indicating there’s a shoal of something tasty nearby.
Where speed does become important is on tidal rivers, or when you’re fishing in open ocean. There are times when you’ll need to get from point A to B in a hurry, and this is where kayaks that are 12+ feet long come into their own.
Are you going to be happy sitting and fishing, or do you absolutely need to be able to stand to check your sight area?
Shorter and wider kayaks are more stable in that case – they create a stable platform, but you’ll still need to practice your balancing routine. If, for example, you’re naturally clumsy, then do your fishing while sitting down.
Do you need to stand up in a kayak to be able to fish properly?
Nope, it’s purely a personal preference.
Have you got enough storage space inside or outside your home to store a rigid-bodied kayak? If that’s the case then your shopping options are wide open.
If, on the other hand, you live in an apartment or shared building then the amount of storage space you have is probably quite limited. Inflatable kayaks are the perfect solutions to any storage space vs. desire dilemma.
It’s also worth mentioning that leaving a kayak outside year-round in the sun is a bad idea because prolonged exposure will make the plastic brittle. And the last place you want to realize that damage is present is when you’re in open water, even if it’s just on a river or lake.
Peddles vs. Paddles
You can buy certain types of kayaks that rely on peddle power rather than being pushed through the water with a paddle.
The first thing to note here is that peddle kayaks cost at least US$1,000, and that’s for a used model. Obviously that leaves you wide open to buying a kayak that doesn’t suit you, and it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get a refund.
But there are other reasons for not buying a peddle kayak, and these include that paddling is a great upper-body workout. But a really important reason is that you should always learn how to paddle a kayak first before resorting to peddles.
Because in the event of a mechanical failure in your peddles, you’ll have to resort to using a paddle instead. Your life could literally depend on it.
We know this is a sensitive subject for some, but there’s no getting around the fact that kayaks have an upper weight limit.
Yes, you can exceed that limit and take your chances, but the reality is that your kayak will fill with water at the first swell or wave.
That could leave you treading water or swimming back to shore, and your kayak is probably beyond recovery.
Single-user kayaks typically have a maximum weight limit of between 225lbs and 325lbs, whereas two-person kayaks usually have a 500lbs – 650lbs maximum capacity.
Don’t ignore this rating – you could literally be throwing money away if you do.
Sit-in vs. Sit-on-top vs. Inflatable
Now we come to the differences between the three main categories of kayaks:
Although we’ll highlight the key differences between each type, it’s important to remember that you’re not just shopping for a random kayak, but once designed specifically for fishing.
This type of kayak obviously must be inflated before use, and most of them are of the sit-in (SIK) variety. An inflatable kayak is usually far more affordable than a rigid kayak, and are designed to accommodate at least two passengers.
These types of kayaks are also ideal for anyone who doesn’t have a garage or exterior building to store their kayak in. When deflated and folded, they’re usually small enough to fit in the average closet.
A sit-in kayak is the one you most expect to find because they’re the same ones you see portrayed in movies. A sit in kayak is usually almost as light as in inflatable model because it’s a hollow plastic shell. Key benefits include being able to stay dryer because your legs and lower body are protected from the elements.
Where a sit-in kayak falls short is that they’re almost impossible to stand up in, something you generally don’t need to worry about with a sit-on-top type of kayak.
If a sit-in kayak floods then they tend to stay flooded, which means either getting back to shore in a hurry, or bailing water out manually until you figure out what went wrong.
These are a modern take on kayak design, but work particularly well when fishing. Some of the reasons why include that they’re self-bailing, which means they don’t flood with water, and that they provide a very stable platform to fish from.
Sit-on (SIK) kayaks are also popular with fishers because even if they do flip over they’re very easy to “right” and climb back aboard. But a major benefit is that a professionally manufactured sit-on-top kayak is almost unsinkable. That’s not to say that they don’t sink, but you really do have to smash them against something hard and sharp to make that happen.
Fans of open water fishing tend to prefer sit-on kayaks because they have a higher seating position, so you have a better view of the fishing around you, and they also tend to have better storage options, like live wells, tackle hatches, etc.
Getting Your Kayak Around
Here’s something that a worrying number of people don’t take into account when purchasing a kayak – how do you plan on getting it to the river, lake or ocean near you?
Sure, some kayaks only weigh 50lbs, but try carrying that for a couple hundred feet and let us know how your back feels.
Kayaks vary in weight from 40lbs all the way to well over 100lbs, so you will most likely need to strap the ‘yak to your car or attach it to a trailer.
That means buying a specialized rack or trailer for your new kayak, and that’s something you need to budget for.
Purchasing an inflatable fishing kayak does away with this issue though.
What To Look For In A Fishing Kayak?
Once you know where you plan on fishing, you then need to look at the features you’ll need. Comfort is one often overlooked factor – you could be on the water for several hours, so a padded seat, backrest and thigh pads can be invaluable.
After that you should look at features like built-in rod holders, tackle hatches, D-rings and bungee cords, and a live well if you plan on doing a lot of fishing.
Other things to look for include stability and whether or not you can stand up while fishing from a particular kayak. A simple rule to follow here is that a kayak with a beam (width) of at least 30-inches should be safe enough to stand up in.
Ultimately, the best fishing kayak is the one that’s best suited to your particular needs – regardless of what any buyer’s guide or review system says.
So, there you have it – our list of the best fishing kayaks for under $500. Let us know in the comments section which kayak you’d buy, and your reasons for that.