While kayak fishing has become more popular in recent years, not everyone can afford those high-end craft with all the bells and whistles.
But that shouldn’t prevent anyone from getting onto the water and trying the sport.
Thankfully, there are plenty of options at the lower end of the price range, because this awesome pastime should be accessible for all.
With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of the best fishing kayaks under $500, so you can find your very own vessel without breaking the bank.
Dream no more – it’s time for exploration, discovery, and kayak fishing!
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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.
Perception is famous for their range of affordable fishing and recreational kayaks, and of the kayak brands in this review, they’re up there with the best.
The Flash is a compact recreational kayak that comes in at 9.5 feet in length, with a sit-inside design that offers adjustable foot braces to accommodate paddlers of all sizes.
As with most kayaks this length, the Flash is highly maneuverable and ideal for choppier waters. However, it does feature dual tracking channels to help keep the boat on course in calmer conditions.
Two flush-mounted rod holders are molded in to ensure you stay organized, and there’s a paddle park close to hand should you need to use both hands to reel in a monster.
Name to trust.
Durable, one-piece construction.
Center dashboard with cup holder.
10-inch storage hatch.
Ergonomic carrying handles.
Drain plug to assist cleaning.
Choice of colors.
Not the best storage on a kayak.
As far as affordable, recreational kayaks go, this is one of the best, and the fact that it caters for anglers is a big plus point for this review. Lightweight, easy-to-store, and versatile, for under $500, you can’t go wrong with Perception.
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.
Here we have another entry from Lifetime, and I imagine it won’t be their last. This is the Stealth 11 Angler Kayak, a super-tough, 11-footer that just sneaks in under the $500 price point at the time of writing.
It has a weight capacity of 300 lbs, and a rotomolded, single-piece construction with sharp bow for tracking, and flat hull for stability on calm waters.
An adjustable padded backrest and seat are included for comfort, and there’s a generous selection of rod holders, with two flush-mounted, and one deck-mounted in a convenient, easy-to-reach location.
It might look as basic as they come, but the Stealth 11 has got it where it counts, and the skeg wheel is a great touch for easy transportation.
Rugged, durable construction.
Multiple molded foot braces.
Large stern and bow tank wells with bungee.
Central storage hatch.
Easy to transport.
A paddle park would have been nice.
When you’re in the market for a basic, budget-friendly kayak, Lifetime is sure to appear. It might be no-frills, but it gets the job done, and at this price, you can’t say fairer than that.
Try adding one of these chilly fishing coolers in that rear tank well, and if the kayak you choose doesn’t have the benefit of a skeg wheel for transport, you’ll probably want one of these handy kayak carts to help you out.
Now, this is a fun kayak. I actually got to sit inside one of these great little craft on a recent yakking adventure, and I was pleasantly surprised considering the price point.
You’re getting plenty of bang for your buck here, with a compact and super-lightweight play boat that will give you hours of fun.
A sit-inside design, it’s been made with something called RAM-X, a multi-layer polyethylene, with advanced resin, for a solid and durable construction.
The ErgoForm seat offers all-day comfort, and there’s ample storage on board for all your fishing tackle and gear.
Two, flush-mounted rod holders are present and correct, and the ergonomic carry handles allow almost effortless transportation to the water and back.
Great price point for what you get.
Bow storage hatch with bungee.
Removable stern storage container.
Center console with drink and phone holder.
Choice of fun, funky colors.
Very highly rated.
The stern storage bag isn’t waterproof.
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.
You can’t do a budget kayak article without the inclusion of at least one Sun Dolphin. Sure, they’re never going to offer the best performance on the water, but what they lack in high-end design, they more than make up for with affordable enthusiasm.
I barely need to write this review – you’ve probably been in one already. This is the Excursion, a 10-foot sit-inside fishing kayak that has two flush-mounted rod holders, and one articulating rod holder in easy-reach of your cockpit position.
Lightweight and easy-to-carry, this is the perfect craft for fishing lazy rivers or calm lakes, molded from a highly durable and UV resistant polyethylene.
It’s not going to win any races, but this is an awesome, entry-level fishing kayak that anyone can afford.
Great price point.
Large, watertight stern storage hatch.
Bungee paddle park.
Adjustable padded seating.
Protective thigh pads.
Often creeps over the $500 mark – when it’s available.
Sun Dolphin are a household name when it comes to entry-level, budget-friendly, first-time recreational kayaks, so it comes as no surprise that they make an appearance here.
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. And although it comes with a paddle, I would heartily recommend upgrading as soon as possible. Check out this article on the best kayak fishing paddles on the market.
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.
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.
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