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.
The Best Budget-Friendly Fishing Kayaks under $500 – At-a-Glance
There are a few things you should bear in mind before diving on into the reviews, so be sure to look out for these features and factors that will help you make the right decision.
Cost – Perhaps the most important consideration when looking at fishing kayaks under $500 – is it actually under $500?! All the kayaks in this review have made the cut.
Type of kayak – choose between sit-inside, sit-on-top, hardshell, inflatable, tandem, and solo versions.
Size and weight – make sure it fits in with your needs.
Cockpit and seating – budget fishing kayaks don’t always offer the highest levels of comfort, so be prepared for that. There are, however, notable exceptions, as you’ll see, below.
Stability and performance – again, you’re not going to get a world-beater here, but you can still find something that is up to the task.
Fishing-friendly features – cheaper fishing kayaks won’t come with all the mod cons, but remember – you can always pimp your ride with aftermarket accessories and a spot of DIY.
Storage options – how much gear do you want to bring, and how would you like it organized?
Skill level – always be honest with your kayaking ability when choosing the best craft for your needs.
That’s just scratching the surface of each point, and we’ll explore them all in more detail in the complete buyer’s guide following the reviews – so stay tuned.
For now, here’s our top three choices for the very best fishing kayaks under $500.
That’s largely thanks to the lawn-chair seating, which you would usually only come to expect in a kayak that’s twice the price; and it’s also packed with other premium features that will keep most anglers happy.
And you can check out our full review of the Lifetime Teton 100 at that link. The only problem is I wonder how long it’s going to stay under $500?!
Again, at this price point, this is one of the best angling inflatables around, and comes with some excellent fishing friendly features considering it’s also one of the cheapest fishing kayaks on the market.
Alas, we couldn’t quite include the Pelican Basscreek given that it’s just over $500, but the Pelican Sentinel 100X Angler is still worthy of the third place spot.
It’s a fun, accessible fishing kayak that is highly portable, versatile, and customizable, and will suit beginners and more experienced kayak anglers alike.
Somebody pinch me, because I really can’t believe what I’m seeing with this kayak.
Anyone who has ever ventured into a Walmart, Home Depot, or similar big box store in the summer will surely be aware of Lifetime – a popular manufacturer of basic, but budget-friendly kayaks. And then there’s the Teton 100 Angler, which actually manages to offer adjustable frame seating at this price point.
Made from UV-protected high-density polyethylene, this is a smart, stylish, and functional craft that certainly doesn’t look as cheap as other models in its class, largely thanks to the attractive scheme and that seating setup.
Two flush-mounted rod holders are included, as are two, 12-inch gear tracks for accessory mounting – which is rare for fishing kayaks under $500. I genuinely can’t believe my eyes, but hopefully the only catch is the fish.
Excellent price point for what you get.
Choice of attractive color schemes.
Large stern and bow tank wells with bungee cord.
Self-bailing scupper holes.
Multiple molded foot braces.
Highly portable and lightweight.
Are you kidding? At this price, I’m not going to find faults.
For me, this is hands down the best sit-on-top fishing kayak under $500 on the market, unless you’re counting the Lifetime Yukon when it’s on sale.
This kind of seating usually drives the price sky-high, so if you want a super-comfortable, spacious, and relaxed day on the water, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better bargain than this. For the love of the fishing gods, get it while you can.
When it comes to making affordable inflatables, Intex is a go-to, extremely popular, and reliable brand. And this is one of those rare beasts, a dedicated, budget-friendly, practical, inflatable fishing kayak.
The Excursion Pro features regularly in these reviews, not least because it’s very highly rated, but also because it just works.
Made from a super-tough vinyl PVC, it’s resistant to damage, abrasion, and sunlight, and is unaffected by gasoline, oil, and saltwater.
It’s a tandem kayak – but can be piloted alone – and comes with two removable skegs for tracking, two inflatable seats, two paddles, two sets of floor-mounted foot rests, and two recessed fishing rod holders.
But perhaps the best part, is the awesome adjustable mounting bracket for adding accessories, such as sports cameras, fish finders, and GPS.
Outstanding price point for what you get.
Rugged and durable construction.
Paddles and pump included.
Carry bag and repair kit.
Rigid, high-pressure inflation.
D-rings for holding gear.
Bow and stern storage.
Not the most comfortable seating out there.
The Excursion Pro is one of the best tandem fishing kayaks under $500, one of the best budget kayaks, and one of the best inflatable kayaks on the market.
Available in a choice of colors, the Pelican Sentinel is a fun, sit-on-top craft that also made our list of the best river fishing kayaks.
If you’re looking for the fishing kayak, however, make sure that you’re choosing the Pelican Sentinel 100X Angler, as otherwise, it’s just the plain recreational version.
The Angler offers additional storage space with bungee webbing, a center console, adjustable foot braces, a more comfortable seat, and flush mounted rod holders.
Suitable for calm lakes and rivers, as well as inlets and bays, the Sentinel is a highly portable fishing kayak that’s super easy to use, and will have you out on the water in no time.
It also lends itself to customizations, and is a great starting option if you want to upgrade it into a more serious fishing machine.
Lightweight and portable.
Molded carry handles.
Not the best performance.
I think the Pelican Sentinel 100X angler is a great little kayak that fits perfectly between the cheaper play boats and when you’re starting to encroach on mid-range models. Simple, affordable, and with some decent features, for under $500 you really can’t go wrong here.
It’s not the best looking fishing kayak on the market.
Still doing the business after all this time, the Lifetime Tamarack would probably survive the apocalypse. It’s not going to win any awards for aesthetics, but it more than gets the job done in a pinch.
An attractive, fun kayak that offers a nice balance of performance, features, and practicality. It’s surprisingly comfortable to sit inside, and the wacky choice of colors ensures it’s great for beginners or younger paddlers looking for a versatile, cheap fishing kayak.
Another Lifetime entry, the Muskie Angler is a no-nonsense, rugged, sit-on-top kayak that weights just 52 lbs, ensuring it’s easy to transport with its front and rear T-handles.
Made from UV-resistant high density polyethylene, it features multiple molded foot rests to accommodate paddlers of all sizes.
Designed with a flat hull to be super-stable on calm waters, it boasts two large tank wells with bungee cord webbing, two six-inch storage hatches in the center and to the stern, and two flush mounted rod holders.
A third, articulating rod holder is in a convenient location on the gunwale, close to the padded, adjustable seat with backrest. It might not be the prettiest boat on the water, but this will certainly get the job done.
Great price point.
Tough, durable construction.
Deep hull tracking channels.
Lightweight and portable.
Stability chine rails.
Easy to customize.
Not particularly attractive.
The paddle isn’t the best.
A super-stable, tough, and durable angling kayak that won’t win prizes for looks, but will help you catch a lot of fish.
The Blade 97 Elite is a fun and functional sit-inside kayak from Field and Stream. A versatile craft, it’s super-compact at just 9.5 feet, and weighs 45 lbs.
The cockpit is roomy for easy access, with adjustable footrests, a padded seat and backrest, and thigh braces to protect thighs and knees from those longer paddles.
For storage, you have a choice of a stern tank well with bungee cord, a built-in mesh bag for smaller tackle and gear, and a six-inch, watertight hatch to keep valuables dry while on the water.
Two, flush-mounted rod holders are conveniently located for trolling and hands-free fishing, while the dual paddle parks provide options to keep your paddle out of the way.
And there’s even two action-camera mounts on the front deck, so you can capture your best fishing moments – and your worst.
Bow and stern carry handles.
Scupper holes and drain plugs.
Easy to transport.
Choice of funky colors.
The seat isn’t the most comfortable.
Low weight capacity.
Altogether a smart, versatile, and lightweight kayak that offers a surprising amount of practical features.
I’m particularly impressed with how much storage they’ve managed to cram in, including a watertight mesh bag, and tank well that will accommodate a five gallon bucket. And the sport camera mounts are a nice touch, too. Great stuff.
I couldn’t resist adding one more Lifetime kayak before we sign off, and so last but not least, we have the Payette Angler.
Another sit-inside design, it’s just under ten feet in length, and offers a nice marriage of speed, maneuverability, and stability with its sleek, compact design, and hard chine.
An articulated rod holder is located on the dashboard, and you’ll find two flush-mounted holders just behind the cockpit. Multiple footrests allow comfortable paddling no matter your height, and the generously-spacious cockpit has a padded backrest.
To the stern, there’s an enclosed hatch with shock-cords for storage, and easy-carry T-handles for transportation. A ledge-lock paddle keeper can help you fish hands-free, and a front bungee offers extra space to lash useful gear, like one of these practical fishing jackets.
Deep hull channels.
Chine rails for stability.
Sharp keel to improve tracking.
Lightweight and portable.
Low weight capacity.
You might need to add a cushion in the cockpit.
With plenty of useful fishing features and a satisfying balance of stability and performance, you’ve got to say this is an impressive fishing kayak from Lifetime – considering the price.
Just another option to give you a selection headache, but keep reading for additional help in our buyer’s guide.
As popular as it is sturdy, this tandem fishing kayak from Sevylor Coleman is another one of those tried and tested kayaks for the ages.
Aside from the fact that you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck, it’s absolutely packed with premium fishing features that will cater for all anglers.
Berkley Quick Set rod holders are adjustable for enhanced hands-free fishing, while it’s fully compatible with a Sevylor trolling motor to really make your day as effortless as possible.
Made with a highly durable, 18-gauge PVC construction with a 1000 Denier tarpaulin bottom and 840 Denier nylon cover, this is a fully NMMA certified inflatable that always manages to make it onto the list of the best inflatable fishing kayaks on the market. Check out that link for more.
Tough and durable construction.
Mesh storage pockets.
D-rings for attaching gear.
Multiple air chambers.
The abundance of hardware can be a bit restrictive.
Not the most comfortable seats.
This inflatable fishing kayak has been around the block and has the stories to prove it. As tough and durable as they come, but as one reviewer put it – you should still wear some quality fishing gloves when paddling. You should be doing that with any kayak, really.
Sun Dolphin are generally known for their budget-friendly sit-on-top recreational kayaks, and if you’ve ever been anywhere near a beach or lake, there’s a chance you’ll have seen someone splashing about on one of their craft.
Occasionally, they like to add some fishing features to one of their models, and the Journey 10 SS is the result.
Compact at just 10 feet in length, it still manages to include an impressive array of features, including a removable storage pod, bow and stern bungees, adjustable foot pegs, and an articulated rod holder located at midships.
Two, flush-mounted rod holders are also available, and with a carry weight of just 44 pounds, you can certainly take many journeys with the Sun Dolphin Journey.
Easy to transport.
Three rod holders.
Protective thigh pads.
Water bottle holder.
Not for serious anglers.
You might need to upgrade the seating.
This is the ideal play boat for light, recreational paddling, where you might also want to bring a fishing rod along if the mood takes you. But more serious anglers who like to spend a long time on the water might want to look elsewhere.
How to Choose the Best Budget Fishing Kayak
Cost and Quality
Normally, in compiling a kayak review, I save the cost factor until the end. However, when we’re considering the budget fishing kayaks – I think it should come to the forefront.
What kind of quality can you expect in a kayak for under $500?
Well, let’s not be under any delusions of grandeur – you’re going to get the most basic, no-frills craft on the market at this price point.
Aside from the fishing friendly features (or lack thereof – more on this below), you can expect a dip in performance when comparing these craft to higher end models.
And with one or two exceptions, they’re not going to be nearly as comfortable, particularly when up against kayaks that have fully adjustable, lawn-style seating on board.
But that’s not to say they don’t have a place in the world, and will let you down when you’re out on the water.
Kayaks under $500 tend to be on the smaller side, and for the most part, you’re looking at craft that are not much more than 10 feet in length.
However, the benefits of a more compact kayak are numerous, including improved maneuverability on the water, as well as being lightweight, easy to carry and store.
And pay attention to the kayak’s maximum weight capacity – how much weight you can load it up with (including yourself) before it might get into difficulty.
For the most part, kayaks at this price point tend to have lower weight capacities than more expensive models, so be sure it’s going to accommodate you, all your gear, and any potential catches before adding to cart.
Cockpit and Seating
As mentioned, fishing kayaks in this price range will have the most basic seating, usually with the bare minimum of padding – if any at all.
Cockpits are likely to be on the small side – comparatively speaking – particularly if it’s a sit-inside model.
However, you can always upgrade your seating, or add waterproof cushions and padding to create a more comfortable experience.
All good kayaks should come with adequate on-board storage, particularly if you’re going to use them for fishing.
You need somewhere to safely stash extra tackle and gear, as well as a place to put a potential catch – if you’re not releasing.
Look for fishing kayaks with watertight storage hatches, as well as bow and stern tank wells with bungee tie-downs.
Sit-inside kayaks might be limited in this department, which is generally why sit-on-top models are preferred for angling. They have more space to carry one of these kayak fishing tackle boxes or crates, for example.
When considering budget recreational kayaks, for fishing or otherwise, I always like to add a word of caution.
While I think it’s awesome that kayaks are becoming more affordable, it doesn’t mean that everyone is suddenly going to be an expert out on the water.
In recent years, avoidable accidents and fatalities have occurred because cheap kayaks were purchased for beginners or youngsters with no knowledge or awareness on how to use them.
As such, please make sure you have a modicum of skill and common sense before purchasing, or ensure you take them out on shallow, calm waters to gain practice and experience.
Check your local swimming pool which might offer kayak lessons in a controlled environment. Your local paddle sports club can also point you in the right direction if you’re a beginner.