Kayak fishing isn’t just all about calm lakes, slow rivers, and still, meandering waterways.
The real thrill and excitement is out there in the ocean.
But that doesn’t mean getting lost at sea.
Bays, coves, beaches, inlets, mangroves and any inland or protected water courses will still be tidal – and you’ll need the right kind of craft to tackle them.
That’s why we’ve put together this review of the best ocean fishing kayaks in 2023.
Let’s go on an adventure.
Table of Contents
- A Quick Guide to Ocean Fishing Kayaks & Our Top 3 Picks for 2023
- TOP 11 Best Kayaks for Ocean Fishing
- Old Town Sportsman Salty PDL 120 Fishing Kayak
- Hobie Mirage Pro Angler Kayak
- Jackson Coosa FD Fishing Kayak
- Old Town Sportsman Bigwater PDL 132 Fishing Kayak
- Bonafide SS127 Fishing Kayak
- Vibe Kayaks Sea Ghost Fishing Kayak
- Wilderness Systems Radar 135 Fishing Kayak
- Sea Eagle 385fta FastTrack Inflatable Kayak
- Perception Pescador Pro 10 Fishing Kayak
- BKC TK181 Tandem Fishing Kayak
- Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak
- How to Choose the Best Kayak for Ocean Fishing
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.
A Quick Guide to Ocean Fishing Kayaks & Our Top 3 Picks for 2023
Before we get started with the reviews, let’s take a look at some of the factors that are going to be important when choosing the right ocean-going fishing kayak for your needs.
- Kayak type – hardshell or inflatable, sit-on-top, or sit inside?
- Hull design/performance – arguably more important with a big water kayak than any other type.
- Seating – very important for long days out on the water.
- Storage – if you’re traveling further for longer, you’ll need more storage space.
- Fishing features – always important on dedicated fishing kayaks.
- Propulsion and rudder – pedals, paddles, or power?
- Safety features – does it come with any, and will you have to add your own?
We’ll explore all these factors and more in the buyer’s guide following the reviews, so stay tuned for more info.
|Old Town Sportsman Salty PDL 120 Kayak||The Best Inshore Fishing Kayak|
|Hobie Mirage Pro Angler Kayak||The Best Pedal Fishing Kayak|
|Jackson Coosa FD Fishing Kayak||Super Stable and Comfortable|
For us, the Old Town Sportsman Salty takes the top prize, and just edges out the Hobie Mirage Pro.
That might be because it’s a good couple of grand cheaper, but as an all-around, versatile fishing platform that has been designed with one-eye clearly focused on inshore fishing, the Salty can’t be beat.
An honorable mention should go to the Sportsman Bigwater – which is more suitable for offshore.
A very close second is the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler, which, simply put, is probably the best pedal drive fishing kayak ever made.
It’s the closest a kayak is going to get to an actual boat, and if you’re looking for a super-sturdy fishing platform for comfort and confidence on big water, Hobie most definitely has your back.
Last, but by no means least, in a tight battle, I’ve gone for the new Jackson Kayak Coosa FD.
Another super-stable option, Jackson is known for making uncluttered kayaks that feel roomy and liberating to pilot, and I think that lends itself to kayak fishing on the ocean.
Do you agree with our picks?
Read on for our complete review, and see if you can pick out your favorite.
How We Choose
We spent around 54 hours pouring over some 37 fishing kayaks on the market, exploring the latest and greatest fishing machines, and sorting the wheat from the chaff.
We’ve done the hard work, so you don’t have to.
Where possible, we sample the goods ourselves, and get out on as many kayaks as we can.
Failing that, regular visits to local paddle sports stores ensures we can get up close and personal with these fishing machines, sit in them, fiddle with the hatches, and try to break off the hardware.
If we’re not thrown out of the store, we can grill local kayak fishing experts as to what’s currently making waves in the market, and listen to other professional opinions aside from our own.
So, the selection you find here are not just taken from attractive images on a webpage, or the first “fishing kayak” that happens to come up on an Amazon search.
For the best ocean fishing kayaks, we’ve extensively researched what makes a good kayak for inshore and offshore fishing, and all the picks you see here are suitable for this purpose.
TOP 11 Best Kayaks for Ocean Fishing
How to Choose the Best Kayak for Ocean Fishing
It’s not easy choosing the right fishing kayak, let alone one that’s right for fishing in the ocean.
Below, you’ll find a handy guide to help you navigate the jargon, and select the best craft for your needs.
We like to keep things simple at Bonfire Bob, and so we’ve broken down the six main factors when it comes to assessing types of kayak.
After that, you can choose from several more variants, including touring kayaks, fishing kayaks, whitewater kayaks, recreational kayaks, and so on.
Obviously, for this article, we’re exploring the fishing variety, and as you can probably tell from the reviews above, you’re best suited to a sit-on-top version when you’re out in the ocean.
That said, sit-inside fishing kayaks do offer more of a challenge, and they can be more suitable for navigating rough water.
You also need to make the choice between an inflatable or a hardshell – which would take up a whole article itself just to explore.
So, check out this piece on hardshells vs inflatable kayaks, and find out which one is right for you. For the ocean, hardshells are overwhelmingly the more popular choice, but a good inflatable still has its place.
Finally, it’s up to you to decide if you want a single or tandem craft – depending on if you like piloting a craft solo, or feel you would enjoy having a buddy around/there’s safety in numbers.
What makes a kayak good for fishing in the ocean?
Your first port of call should be in the hull design.
You might think that the wider and flatter a kayak’s hull, the more stable it is? Well, that’s only true in calmer waters.
That’s known as primary stability – how stable the kayak is when you first step into it.
Secondary stability is how “tippy” the kayak is in rougher waters. This is where a more V-shaped hull is actually more stable.
However, V-shaped hulls aren’t usually the best for fishing – as it would be tricky to reel in a fish without capsizing.
A sort of compromise has to be reached – a hybrid, if you will.
When it comes to fishing kayaks, most of them are designed with a flat hull, so finding a good hybrid for fishing in potentially choppier waters – aka the ocean – can be a bit more challenging.
Most of the kayaks in this review are versatile for multiple conditions, and I’ve tried to include craft that have been specifically designed for fishing coastal waters, and are capable of handling a bit of chop.
Look for kayaks with a distinctive, prominent bow, which will help cut through the waves.
A fishing kayak with a “rocker” – the curve from bow to stern – will be more suitable for handling choppy conditions.
Remember though, unless you’re “rocking” a professional, ocean-going kayak, you shouldn’t be fishing in really rough conditions, or going further out to sea than is comfortable.
Either way, regardless what type of craft you’re using, you should always be wearing an approved fishing PFD. Follow that link for more information.
And if you’re interested, check out the video below for a visual guide to how kayak hulls perform in rough conditions.
A very important part of your kayak is the seating. Again, this is where sit-on-top kayaks come into their own for fishing purposes.
Most fishing kayaks worth their (sea)salt will have fully adjustable comfort seating, but the quality can vary.
Some seats will be simple padding with backrest mesh, while others will have practically taken a lawn chair and put it on board.
The seating position of a sit-on-top kayak will also give you a better field of view of the surrounding water – especially if you’re in an elevated position.
You get what you pay for, and this is especially true with fishing kayak seating. A lot of money goes into this part of the craft, because it’s important you get the most comfortable and practical fishing experience possible.
But what makes for a good seating system for ocean kayak fishing?
While there are no “ocean specific” seating designs (yet), you should still be looking for a seat that’s super-comfortable, secure, quick-to-dry, and breathable.
On-board storage is another important consideration – especially when it comes to ocean fishing kayaks. It’s likely that you’ll be carrying a lot of gear and equipment – so you’ll need somewhere to put it.
This is particularly true when venturing further offshore, as you’re not going to have the chance to nip back for something you might have forgotten!
Look for kayaks with storage tank wells. They can be at the bow or stern, and often come with bungee cord webbing to hold their contents in place.
Water-tight hatches are very useful, particularly if you want somewhere to stash valuables, or anything you don’t want getting wet.
Inshore and offshore water can get choppy, and having dry storage options is a very good idea.
Storage areas with bungee tie-downs are also highly recommended to keep your gear and equipment safe and secure if the waves get a little rough.
And if you’re not practicing catch and release, you’ll also need somewhere to store your catch, so check out this review of the best kayak fishing coolers for a place to keep your quarry on ice.
Good fishing kayaks are going to come with an abundance of “fishing-friendly features” – practical touches that set the craft apart from recreational kayaks.
Look for kayaks that feature some or all of the following features:
- Flush mount rod holders – great for trolling in open water.
- Articulating rod holders.
- Horizontal rod holders.
- Gear accessory tracks – ideal for adding a kayak GPS for navigating offshore, or a fish finder for locating your prey.
- Tackle trays.
- Staging areas.
- Transducer scupper holes.
- EVA deck pads for standing casts and reels.
- Paddle parks.
- Fish ruler.
- Anchor points.
And for some expert advice on how to set up for offshore kayak fishing, check out the video, below.
Propulsion and Rudder
How a kayak is powered is key – especially if you’re in the ocean.
While owning a good quality paddle is essential, for ocean-going kayaks, you could do with a bit more ‘oomph’ under the hood.
Having a kayak that offers pedal power is highly recommended when you’re in open bodies of water, or anywhere you’re likely to experience stronger currents than you would on a lake or lazy river.
Aside from giving your arms a rest and allowing hands-free fishing, a pedal drive and rudder system can be a life-saver if your paddle somehow happens to float off.
Rudders are not common in kayaks, but they can be extremely useful for anyone venturing out in tidal or choppy waters with stronger currents.
The best pedal kayaks for ocean fishing will also help you track fish, cover distances faster, and get you out of tight spots if required.
Because we’ve all seen those kayak versus shark encounter videos on YouTube…
It certainly can be – and you can follow that link to find out more.
And while you can still drown in a puddle of water, fishing in the ocean presents some additional challenges to that of still lakes and rivers.
It’s a good idea for your craft to have some extra safety features as standard.
Look for kayaks with good carrying handle options – or with grab points along the edges of the boat. Apart from helping you with transportation, they can be life-saving to cling on to should you tip over.
Don’t completely dismiss the color of a kayak either. Apart from looking cool, bright colors can aid location in low-light or poor visibility conditions.
If a kayak doesn’t have a particular safety feature, you could always add it yourself at a later date.
Either way, regardless what type of craft you’re using or where, you should always be wearing an approved fishing PFD. Follow that link for more information.
Also, if you are choosing a kayak with pedal drive (or even if you’re not) be fully aware of your own physical limitations. You need to be in pretty decent shape to use these craft in anything more than calm waters.
And don’t forget about sun damage when you’re out exposed under those harmful UV rays. You could always try installing a kayak canopy, but a good-quality fishing hat will do just as well – and for a fraction of the cost.
Regardless of the safety features a kayak may or may not have, it’s vitally important you adhere to safe kayak fishing practice before and during your adventure – no matter where you’re fishing.
Check out our complete guide to kayak fishing safety at that link for more information.
Unfortunately, fishing kayaks aren’t cheap – and ocean-going fishing kayaks will push the price point up that little bit higher.
Especially when you start to factor in hybrid hull designs, advanced seating, and pedal power drives.
You’re not going to be getting much change out of 1-3K.
There are two things you should consider here.
Personal budget is the first – you should always buy the best you can afford without breaking the bank or getting into a row with your other half.
But, perhaps more important, is suiting the craft to your own skill level, relative to how often you’re going to take it out in the first place.
It’s unwise to throw thousands of dollars at something you’ve never tried, you’re not ready for, and/or you’re only going to use it once in a blue moon.
You should have at least a modicum of experience before purchasing the best offshore fishing kayaks in the first place.
What is the best kayak for ocean fishing?
It might be a subjective question, but if I were backed into a corner and had to give my honest answer, I would say the Old Town Sportsman Salty, the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler, and the Jackson Kayak Coosa.
The Old Town Bigwater is also a great option if you like to go further offshore.
Which, coincidentally, happens to be the first three yaks in this review! There’s an honorary mention to all the others listed here, too.
Joking aside, the best kayaks for ocean fishing are going to be stable, sit-on-top boats with comfortable seating and a hybrid hull shape.
Are sit on top kayaks good for the ocean?
For fishing kayaks, yes. However, if you’re looking to travel and explore, then sit-in kayaks are much better for venturing out onto the ocean.
For staying closer to shore, in calmer waters, then sit-on-top fishing kayaks are the best option. Check out the video below for a comparison between sit-on and sit-on-top kayaks.
Can you stand up in an ocean fishing kayak?
Most ocean fishing kayaks are designed to allow for standing casts and reels, but check with the individual product to make sure.
Look for fishing kayaks that have a special deck/foot section for standing. EVA padding on the deck and/or a standing strap are sure signs that the kayak is suitable for getting to your feet.
When in doubt, ask the manufacturer directly, or read reviews where successful standing casts have been made. I certainly don’t want to be responsible for you falling in.
Aside from that, you can always try a good stand up paddle board for fishing – which by their nature are designed for just that purpose.
Just be cautious when taking them out on the ocean, as they’re certainly not designed to handle rough waters and big swells.
What size kayak for ocean fishing?
A good size for an ocean fishing kayak is 12-15 feet. Anything shorter than that, and you might get into difficulty with tracking and attempting to get anywhere.
Longer kayaks are designed for touring, not turning. As with most fishing kayaks, having a happy medium is the way to go when it comes to their overall length.
Do you need a special kayak for the ocean?
It’s highly advisable, yes. You need a kayak that is going to handle the waves – which means something that has a more V-shaped hull, with a pronounced bow, and an evident rocker (the curve from bow to stern).
As mentioned, when it comes to fishing kayaks, V-shaped hulls aren’t that common. A hybrid design is preferable.
Of course, if you’re not fishing, and you just want to get out there and explore, then a sit-in touring sea kayak would be more suitable.
Are pedal kayaks worth it?
Yes. Pedal kayaks give you a huge advantage when it comes to power and control, but aside from that, you don’t have to constantly be picking up and putting your paddle down, and you can enjoy hands-free fishing.
Sure, they might cost a bit more, but trust me – it’s so worth it. Especially if you’re fishing larger bodies of water, where fatigue can set in quickly.
There you have it, fellow fishers – the best ocean fishing kayaks in 2023. I hope this article has helped point you in the right direction for choosing a craft suitable for your needs.
Let me know in the comments which model you’ve gone for and why, or if I missed your favorite.
Stay safe out there, tight lines, and happy kayak fishing!