Before you get started on the reviews, it’s always a good idea to arm yourself with a bit of knowledge first. This is so you understand what it is you need to be looking out for.
Bear in mind the following kayak features and factors:
The type of kayak – hardshell vs inflatable. Sit-on-top vs sit-inside. Tandem vs solo.
Seating and storage options.
Fishing features – what makes it suitable for angling?
Your skill level – be honest with yourself!
Cost – stick within your budget.
Of course, there are other factors that come into play, such as performance on the water, size, and aesthetic, but when it comes to fishing kayaks at the lower end of the price scale, your choices can be limited.
But in order to further point you in the right direction, I’ve chosen my top three budget-friendly fishing kayaks from this review. See if you agree with my choices after you’ve read the article.
And not only that, it offers a nice balance of performance and practicality which you don’t often see on a sub $500 kayak.
Very close behind is the Lifetime Teton Angler, which – aside from a great selection of useful fishing features – offers a fully adjustable stadium-style seat for budget-friendly comfort on the water.
Finally, for an inflatable option (and the cheapest fishing kayak on the market), the Intex Excursion Pro is legendary. For affordable portability with an impressive amount of features, this tandem choice is hard to beat.
Keep reading to discover more of the best budget fishing kayaks in 2023 – and see if you can find your favorite.
Disclosure: At BonfireBob, we recommend products based on unbiased research, however, BonfireBob.com is reader-supported and as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases if you shop through the links on this page. For more information, see disclosure here.
Let’s get the ball rolling with this awesome little kayak from Pelican, which – for a budget-friendly model – I think happens to be one of the best river fishing kayaks on the market. Follow that link for more.
This is probably because it has a multi-chine bottom for added stability, and is a nice compact size at just over nine feet in length.
And at 44 lbs in weight, it’s easily one of the lightest kayaks out there, helping you get to and from the water in no time.
A convenient center console and rod holders help you keep organized, and it comes with the ExoPack removable storage solution for extra tackle and gear.
Durable, stable construction.
Large stern tank well with bungee.
Front storage section.
Adjustable foot braces.
Low weight capacity.
Might be a little short for some.
I think this is simply the best fishing kayak under $500 out there. A compact and highly portable recreational craft that will give hours of fun on the water – even if you don’t get a bite.
Lifetime’s Teton Angler Kayak is one of the most impressive products available in this category – not least because you’re getting a smart looking vessel packed with features that won’t break the bank.
In fact, it’s one of the only (if not the only) kayak that offers lawn chair style seating at this price point – which is a real boon considering this is where the money usually goes.
Made from a single piece of roto-molded polyethylene, it includes two sections of universal track, two flush mounted rod holders, front and rear tank storage with bungee, and easy-to-use carry handles.
And not only that, but it’s available in a really smart selection of colors, each of which gives this budget-friendly kayak the aesthetic of a much more expensive one.
Excellent price for what you get.
Solid, durable construction.
Lots of storage space.
Fully adjustable frame seating.
Choice of attractive designs.
Not the best tracking.
I’m a big fan of the Teton Angler from Lifetime’s extensive range, and it always makes me turn my head when I see one in real life. Packed with features for a jaw-dropping price, you’ll struggle to find this level of comfort for under $1000.
Another Lifetime option, the Muskie Angler is a slight step up from the Triton, and offers a few more useful fishing features for a bit more of your hard-earned cash.
At 52 lbs it’s easy to store and transport, and made from one-piece, high-density polyethylene. It offers a gunwale-mounted rod holder and two flush-mounted rod holders, as well as a central and stern storage hatch.
Two paddle cradles with shock cords keep your hands free for fishing, and bow and stern tank wells have bungee webbing to hold extra gear.
Multiple, molded footrests accommodate all sizes of paddlers, and the stable flat bottom will give larger users peace-of-mind.
Padded backrest and seat.
Stability chine rails.
T-handles for transport.
The hatch storage isn’t the best.
A significant improvement on the Triton, this is a good cheap fishing kayak that certainly offers plenty of fun for recreational water adventures. And while it’s UV protected, so should you be, with one of these cool fishing hats to keep the sun at bay.
The Emotion Stealth Angler is probably the best Lifetime fishing kayak out there, a one-piece molded polyethylene craft, with improved tracking and performance thanks to its 11-foot length and sleek design.
Right in the center you have a handy storage hatch for extra gear and valuables, as well as a deck-mounted rod holder which is conveniently located for quick access.
Two flush rod holders are found to the rear, as well as bow and stern tank wells with bungee cord and cargo net.
Self bailing scupper holes keep you dry if you do take on some water, and multiple foot wells are molded in to accommodate paddlers of all shapes and sizes.
Four carry handles.
Very stable hull design.
Not the fastest craft on the water.
A solid kayak fishing option at a great price, this is definitely the best Lifetime model in its class, and you should even be able to store one of these awesome fishing coolers in the rear tank well. Not bad for under $500.
With the Excursion it looks like they’ve taken the Aruba model, colored it olive green and added a fishing rod holder to it – but hey – that works for me, and it saves you doing it yourself.
In a pinch – this is a versatile little kayak that will get the job done – if you can find one.
Super compact and lightweight.
Rear storage compartment.
Side paddle bungee.
Rear and cockpit rod holders.
Comfort leg braces.
Very short on space.
You’ll want to upgrade the seat.
You get what you pay for, and this little kayak is a great price, but you might want to make several modifications to improve overall comfort. Still, for getting out onto the water without breaking the bank – you could do much worse than this.
The Ascend 12R Sport kayak is a new sit-on-top fishing craft that has been developed to offer a budget-friendly option that still provides excellent performance.
The result is this attractively designed vessel, with a custom-crafted hull that is stable in a variety of conditions, and improves on the tracking and maneuverability from other craft in a similar class.
Molded foot braces and adjustable seating offer the paddler a comfortable experience, while the giant rear storage tank well could easily accommodate one of the larger tackle bags for saltwater in that review.
Good all-round performance.
Spacious, roomy cockpit.
Watertight storage hatch.
Threaded, sealed drain plug and scupper drains.
Tackle storage trays and drinks holders.
No rod holders to speak of?
A choice of colors would have been nice.
A high-performance kayak at an affordable price, this is a great option if you’re not happy with the performance of “budget” kayaks, yet you’re not quite ready to splurge. It’s probably one of the best cheap fishing kayaks out there, to be honest.
The Sevylor Tahiti is another inflatable option which also happens to be a tandem kayak.
Made with a rugged PVC for calmer lakes and rivers, the multiple air-chamber design helps you get back to shore in the unlikely event that you do get a puncture.
The AirTight system is guaranteed not to leak, and bow and stern spray covers block unwanted splashes as you paddle.
NMMA certified to hold up to 360 lbs, it’s a rugged and durable inflatable that’s versatile enough for any adventure. But you might want to check out this article on the best fishing rain gear if you are going out in wet weather.
Excellent price point.
Lightweight and portable.
Adjustable seats with backrests.
Carry bag included.
Limited fishing features.
Small storage space.
Another great option for on-the-go kayaking at a budget-friendly price, the Tahiti is a versatile inflatable ready for your next spontaneous excursion on the water. You’ll likely need to add your own rod holders, though.
Here we have another sit-in kayak option, this time from Old Town – the oldest canoe company in the world, and one of the best kayak fishing brands to boot.
The Trip 10 is a charming little kayak with a super-stable hull that offers excellent tracking and turning in the water.
Made of single-layer polyethylene, it has Old Town’s trademark quality throughout, with a comfort-flex seat, foot bracing system, and thigh pads added for all-day-long use.
Flush-mounted rod holders give you a place to store your poles, and the large storage hatch to the stern is ideal for extra tackle and gear.
Name to trust in kayaking.
Deck bungee webbing.
Anchor trolley system.
Solid carry handles.
Molded cockpit tray and cup holder.
None to speak of.
Aside from the usual disadvantages of sit-in fishing kayaks, I can’t find fault with this excellent little kayak that’s suitable for use by just about anyone and with any skill set. And for more information on sit-in versus sit-on-top kayaks for fishing – follow that link.
Now, I like the look of this kayak a lot. It’s got the feel of a much more expensive craft, with an improved and enhanced seating system that certainly offers the most comfortable set up we’ve seen so far.
Then it just keeps getting better, with a custom-crafted tunnel hull that offers the ability for standing casts and retrievals, gunwale and center accessory rails, adjustable foot braces, and dual flush-mounted rod holders with rod leash eyelets.
A practical center console with storage hatch is within easy reach, and two large tank wells are found at the bow and stern for holding even more tackle and gear.
Amazing price for what you get.
Non-skid foam mat.
Six scupper drains with plugs.
Powder-coated steel D-rings.
Not for heavier users or weighty loads.
I can’t quite get my head around how affordable this kayak is considering the design, features, and comfort frame seating.
It could well be the best fishing kayak under $700 as a result. You’re seriously not going to get much better for this kind of money – that’s for sure – so get it while you can.
Here we have another BKC sit-on-top kayak, this time a tandem version that comes in at 12.5 feet in length.
It’s fitted with two soft padded seats, two watertight storage hatches, two articulated rod holders in the center console position for each paddler, as well as flush mounted rod holders and paddle parks.
A bungee cargo tie-down is to be found to the rear, and the durable, roto-molded hull has been designed to tackle a variety of water conditions with ease.
It can also be paddled solo, which is ideal if you want more space for your gear, or maybe even bring a furry friend along for the ride.
Solid, durable construction.
Two paddles included.
High weight capacity.
Choice of colors.
Strong chance of getting wet.
Another great option from the BKC that is packed with quality features and won’t break the bank. You should check out this review for more of the best tandem fishing kayaks – if two’s company is for you.
At 11 feet long with a toe-controlled rudder system, it’s perfectly suited to a variety of conditions, and it tracks and turns well in the water.
Designed to be fishing-friendly, it’s packed with features, including the ability to do standing casts, super-comfort seat, multiple rod holders and paddle parks, and plenty of storage options.
But the center console is probably the most notable feature, dual hinged to stay dry, and offering the ability to mount fish finders, GPS, or any other accessory you could possibly want while on the hunt.
Name to trust.
Outstanding design and build quality.
Great price for what you get.
Magnetic tackle tray.
Six accessory gear racks.
Watertight storage hatches.
A legendary fishing kayak all round, I can’t quite believe that the Sea Ghost is offered at this price point. Pick up these premium features while you still can.
We finish with another Old Town entry, the revered Sportsman 120 – which is, admittedly, pushing our “budget” fishing kayak criteria at just under $1000.
But I simply had to squeeze it in, as what a piece of gear this is. Super spacious and comfortable, it can accommodate standing casts and retrievals with ease, and has a removable, multi-position seat for all day long fishing.
A huge rear tank well with bungee and watertight bow hatch offer excellent storage solutions, while there’s even more room with side pockets and dry section under the seat for extra tackle.
Adjustable foot braces cater for paddlers of all sizes, and a side paddle clip mount keeps your hands free to catch more fish.
It doesn’t get much better than this at this price point.
Name to trust.
Durable, solid construction.
Very stable in the water.
Non-slip foam deck pads.
Custom tackle box included.
It’s on the more expensive side.
I simply don’t have enough room to wax lyrical about this immense fishing kayak from Old Town – there’s so much more here we could talk about. Suffice to say, it’s easily the best fishing kayak under $1000 – and you should pick one up before the price goes any higher.
How to Choose the Best Budget-Friendly Kayak
Just because you’re not spending a fortune doesn’t mean that a cheap (or cheaper) kayak doesn’t have a bunch of cool features you need to consider.
Take a look at our buyer’s guide below for some handy tips, tricks, and advice for choosing the right craft for you.
Hardshell vs Inflatable
A debate as old as time (or at least since inflatable technology improved) is the old hardshell vs inflatable dust up.
While I could write a very in-depth article exploring the pros and cons of each, it can actually be boiled down to a few key factors.
Inflatables are much more portable than hardshells – which is a huge plus point. They’re also less prone to dings, dents, and other damage. Check out this review for even more inflatable fishing kayaks.
Hardshells offer better performance in the water, and when it comes to speed and tracking, will leave inflatables in their wake.
A good hardshell fishing kayak will nearly always offer more storage room than an inflatable, all things being equal, with more opportunity for mounting accessories and customization.
Tandem vs Solo
Do you have a loving partner or dear friend you could happily spend a couple of hours with – literally in the same boat?
If so, perhaps a tandem fishing kayak is the way to go? They’re generally larger than solo kayaks, which means they’re also useful if you want to go out alone and take more gear.
And in many tandem boats, you can even take a furry-friend in place of a human if you so choose.
Just make sure if you are doubling up – the kayak has a high weight capacity that’s going to accommodate anyone and anything you want to put on board.
But for true freedom and fewer arguments, surely solo kayak fishing is the way to go?
Sit-In vs Sit-On-Top
Sit-on-top kayaks tend to be the preferred option for fishing, given the fact they have more “primary stability” and a wider, flatter hull.
Standing casts and retrievals aren’t really possible in kayaks with V-shaped or rounded hulls – which accounts for the vast majority of sit-in options.
But there are sit-in angling kayaks out there, and they can be fun when fishing in choppier conditions, or if you think you’ll encounter a bit of whitewater.
And they tend to be much smaller and more compact than their sit-on-top counterparts, which makes them ideal for transport and storage.
Seating and Storage
When it comes to budget-friendly fishing kayaks, certain features might need to take a back seat in order to keep costs down.
Two examples are seating and storage.
A lot of money goes into premium seating for high-end kayaks, and you’ll clearly see the difference when it comes to cheaper models.
That’s not to say you can’t find adequate seating on an inexpensive kayak, and you can always upgrade it with a bit of DIY at a later date.
Likewise, premium storage hatches might not be so common in cheaper kayaks, and smaller craft won’t have the room for large tank wells you can fit some of these kayak fishing tackle boxes and crates in.
But you can still find room for all your gear, especially if you’re looking at the “more expensive” budget options.
Fishing kayaks need fishing features – otherwise, it’s not a fishing kayak.
While you can customize almost any kayak for fishing, it’s much better if you have a good basis to start from.
Budget fishing kayaks tend to be a little light on fishing-friendly-features, but you should look out for rod holders and paddle parks at the very least.
Accessory mounting rails are an excellent addition.
And if your kayak is stable enough for standing casts and retrieval with a non-slip deck – then you’re onto a real winner for the money.
More than any other kayak fishing article, I think it’s important to mention skill level when it comes to budget craft.
While cheap kayaks make the sport more accessible than ever, it’s not an automatic pass for having the ability to use one safely.
This is why some folks want to see a “kayak license” brought in, which doesn’t make it fair for people who are already perfectly competent with paddle sports.
Before making a purchase of a cheap(er) kayak – make sure you’re capable of using it, and you have at least a modicum of water safety knowledge.
Stuart is passionate about travel, kayaking, camping and the great outdoors in general. He's not quite as enthusiastic about angling as his father was, but out of the two of them, he's yet to hook his ear lobe while fly-fishing, which he sees as an absolute win.