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A Quick Guide to Sit On Top Fishing Kayaks & TOP 3 Picks for 2023
Before we get stuck into the reviews, it’s useful to outline the criteria we’re looking for when we choose our shortlist of the best sit-on-top fishing kayaks.
And when you’re looking through the reviews yourself, you can bear these factors in mind.
The type of kayak – is it a hardshell or an inflatable?
Pedal, paddle, or power? How does the kayak get from A to B?
Billed as the “most complete” fishing machine ever to grace the water, it’s absolutely packed with a crazy amount of features, and is one of the finest-looking kayaks in the history of the sport.
Next up, the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 is an absolute monster of a fishing kayak, featuring the best pedal drive technology in the world.
It’s also one of the best ocean fishing kayaks out there, as it’s as close to an actual boat as a kayak is ever going to get.
Our third spot goes to the awesome Old Town Sportsman Autopilot, but it could just have easily gone to any sit-on-top kayak in the Sportsman range.
We thought we’d give you a bit of variety and choose one of the best motorized kayaks on the market, ideal for anyone who wants to explore the waterways with a minimum of effort.
An honorable mention must also go to the Perception Outlaw 11.5, which offers loads of attractive features for the price, and has really been making waves in the fishing kayak community since its release.
But without further ado, let’s take a look at our shortlist, and rest assured you’re in good hands.
How We Choose
Have you ever noticed that certain review websites will try to shoehorn in any old product, just so long as it’s easy to purchase online?
That’s not what you get with us.
We’ve spent hours researching each and every product that makes the cut on these pages – approximately 23 hours, 17 minutes, and 48 seconds.
But who’s counting?
We’ve had just about every sit-on-top fishing kayak from every brand under the microscope.
Not literally, of course, because they’re far too big for that and it would be silly.
Using our tried-and-tested method, we take all the important features and factors for choosing the best fishing kayaks (listed above), hold them up to each product, and make sensible, professional, and experienced judgements as to which kayak is going to be included.
Furthermore, we examine user reviews, videos, interviews, and more on each model, to get an unbiased view from kayak anglers and industry professionals.
And where we can, we get out in the boats themselves, or at least see them in the flesh at local paddle sports stores.
Either way, you won’t find any fluff here, and when we say “the best…” we mean the best!
Are there better fishing kayaks? Maybe. Are there more expensive fishing kayaks? For sure. But Vibe claims that this is the most “complete” fishing kayak ever created, and I’m inclined to agree with them.
Simply outstanding, and when it comes to features, this could be the best fishing kayak there is.
Hobie has been making water craft since the 1950s, so they know a thing or two about this business. And in that time, they’ve perfected the fishing kayak.
The Mirage Pro series is the pinnacle of that expertise, of which the Angler 14 with 360 drive technology is arguably the flagship.
Built for superior comfort, this is the Rolls-Royce of fishing kayaks. Powered by their famed Mirage 360 Drive for multi-directional control, speed, and stealth.
Available in a 12 and 14 foot versions, the larger model is more suitable for offshore fishing and bringing more gear, and there’s plenty of customizable space and storage options for you to fine-tune your loadout.
Although you could buy a decent second-hand car for this price, the Mirage Pro Angler 14 is probably the best fishing kayak ever made. And if it’s not in most top fishing kayak reviews, then someone’s not doing their job right.
Regular readers will know I’m an Old Town fanboy, and the Sportsman Autopilot 120 is yet another addition to their premium-quality catalog.
It features a Minn Kota trolling motor as standard, so you can reach the best fishing spots effortlessly, complete with autopilot navigation.
The adjustable seat is fully removable, complete with comfortable lumbar support; while EVA foam deck pads provide a non-slip grip for when you want to get to your feet.
Multiple rod holders give you plenty of options for pole organization, and a shallow water anchor mount is compatible with your choice of anchor.
And when the motor is removed for normal paddling, the console floor adds a practical addition while preventing water from coming onto the deck.
Replacing the old Predator models, the Old Town Sportsman range is up there with the finest fishing kayaks in the world. And you can check out our review of the pedal drive version at that link.
World-class build quality.
Very highly rated.
Spacious, open deck.
Adjustable foot braces.
Four accessory tracks.
Old Town tackle box included.
Plenty of storage capacity.
Kill switch key.
One of the best fishing kayaks there is, the Old Town Sportsman has been improved with the addition of a trolling motor, as well as the eclectic selection of fishing features it already boasts. Only serious anglers need apply for this impressive fishing machine.
Perception makes some fantastic craft for recreational paddlers, and they’ve recently produced one of the best fishing kayaks on the market with the Outlaw 11.5.
Never too far away from fishing kayak reviews, the Outlaw is the perfect intermediate fishing machine, with premium features for a more budget-friendly price.
The two rod holders are double-barreled and can hold up to four fishing rods, and there are three solo mount recesses for adding accessories like fish finders.
Molded trays keep tools and equipment safe and close to hand, so you can stash one of these awesome fishing knives right where you need it.
This is one of those fishing kayaks you look at, and you can’t quite believe what they’ve managed to include for the price, all wrapped up in an attractive, easy-to-use fishing platform that’s perfect for beginners and pros alike.
Possibly the best sit on top fishing kayak under $1000, Perception has struck gold with the Outlaw, a feature-rich, super-stable kayak that’s much more affordable than many fishing kayaks in this class.
However, it’s not built for speed, and some folks might find it a bit “clunky.”
The first thing you notice about the Jackson Bite is how roomy and spacious it is.
The deck is completely clutter-free, and across its generous proportions you have a lot of scope for bringing along a mountain of gear.
Or, if you’re anything like me, keeping things streamlined and simple with a skeleton rod and tackle selection.
Either way, the Bite has been designed for no-fuss fishing, with the open cockpit design allowing for unrestricted movement, and the improved seating system providing excellent support for long days out on the water.
And that’s just what the Bite wants you to do, as it’s the perfect fishing kayak for spending hours in nature without a care in the world.
Another excellent fishing kayak from Jackson, the Bite is the ideal fishing platform for anglers who like to keep things simple but effective. There’s nothing here you don’t need, and everything that you do. Top marks.
At 10.5 feet in length, the Titan is one of the more compact sit on top kayaks with a pedal drive, and gives off more of a solid bass boat vibe.
Offering instant forward and reverse to give you more control no matter the conditions, the pedal system is intuitive to use, and all from a comfortable cockpit that features the company’s famous hand-sewn seating on a sliding track.
Surprisingly roomy, the Titan provides you with all the room you need to bring a mountain of fishing gear, and that generous stern tank well is ideal for larger kayak fishing coolers.
Then there’s the super-stable deck for standing casts and reels, integrated horizontal rod holders, unlimited customization options, and a commanding field-of-view from the fully adjustable seating position.
It’s also available with a transom motor mounting plate, so you can convert to power if you so choose.
Considering NW are one of the best fishing kayak brands out there, this kind of product certainly doesn’t hurt their reputation in the community – especially if you like hunting bass.
Grove accessory tracks.
Ideal for bass fishing.
Anchor and trolling motor compatible.
Choice of colors.
High weight capacity.
Huge storage area.
Transducer mounting plate.
The drive system isn’t retractable.
A beautiful fishing kayak with all the trimmings, the compact size and lightweight design makes this a real winner – especially considering it has a pedal drive.
However, that’s also a bit of a downside for faster rivers, and you might want to consider the NW Slayer line instead.
Since its release in 2021, Bonafide’s SS127 has attracted a lot of attention in the kayak fishing world. And for good reason, as it’s a beautifully designed and functional fishing kayak that ticks a lot of boxes.
For a start, it’s one of the most solid craft you’re ever likely to pilot, with a hybrid catamaran-style hull that doesn’t sacrifice performance for stability.
Then there’s the crazy list of features that it manages to pack into its relatively compact size, including an adjustable seat, transducer hole, built in rod holders, and plenty of storage capacity.
I’ve sat in the SS127 recently, and it was super comfortable, with a durable, clutter-free feel.
I felt right at home, and desperate to get it out on the water, but as we’ve barely scratched the surface on what this outstanding fishing kayak offers, I highly recommend checking it out yourself in more detail.
Perfect for fly fishing.
Deck traction pads.
Stern skid plates.
Excellent, balanced performance.
Gunwale perch pads.
YakAttack gear tracks.
Choice of colors.
If you find one, let me know!
One of the most stable fishing kayaks on the market, the SS127 is built for the apprehensive kayak angler looking for extra peace-of-mind on the water. And anyone who’s looking for the best fishing kayak when it comes to features, in general.
The popular inflatables brand might be more commonly associated with mattresses and beach play boats, but their Pro series is well worth considering, not least because of what you get for the price.
Made with a super tough laminate PVC with polyester core, it’s lightweight, portable, and yet highly durable, and has some practical fishing features that you usually don’t get in kayaks in this class, such as the removable mounting bracket for extra kayak rod holders, or a GPS.
Spring-loaded valves provide fast inflation and deflation, and it comes with everything you need to get onto the water fast, for the ultimate in grab-and-go kayak fishing.
Sure, it might not be the best fishing kayak of all time, but as a budget-friendly option that’s packed with features, this is a great choice, and given the fact that it’s one of the most portable and lightweight fishing kayaks out there, it’s perfect for solo anglers who like to grab any opportunity to get out there and fish.
Famous for manufacturing affordable, durable, polyethylene -based products, Lifetime have a number of budget-friendly kayaks on the market.
For the money, the best of these is their Teton 100 fishing kayak, as it’s rare you’ll find a lawn-chair style padded seat at such an affordable price.
It also offers plenty of storage space, with large front and rear tank wells, and bungee cords to secure your fishing gear.
Two, 12-inch gear tracks allow customization, and there’s two flush mount rod holders conveniently located for easy use.
And the lightweight design and compact size ensures it’s much easier to transport than a pedal kayak. As an entry-level kayak that’s a step up from the most basic craft, the Teton 100 is a great option, so much so that experienced kayak anglers will surely get a kick out of turning this boat into a more advanced machine.
For the price, this is surely one of the best fishing kayaks out there – as you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck with the Teton 100 from Lifetime.
And it’s probably the best DIY fishing kayak out there, perfect for anyone looking to pimp their ride without spending a fortune, and starting with an affordable chassis with excellent potential. Performance wise, however, don’t expect a world beater.
Here we have a smart-looking inflatable from Aquaglide – the Blackfoot Angler 130 fishing kayak.
Offering a high weight capacity of 650 lbs, this is a great craft for packing all your fishing gear, and throwing it in the back of your pickup truck.
It comes with a fishing cooler located behind the seat, which also incorporates rod holders, and a map case.
The seat itself is of the framed, lawn-chair variety, fully adjustable, with under-seat storage. Offering plenty of space for all your fishing gear, a drop-stitch floor increases rigidity, and the Duratex, reinforced PVC construction is built to take a beating.
I would say that the best fishing kayaks are generally found to be between 10 and 14 feet in length.
Anything longer and you’re looking at a touring kayak, anything much smaller, and it’s a more recreational play boat – although there are exceptions.
With a good fishing kayak, you want a balanced marriage of speed and maneuverability, but as stability is also important, you’re looking for kayaks with wider hulls.
Unfortunately, the trade-off is going to be in weight. Sit on top fishing kayaks tend to be heavier than any other kind – especially with the addition of pedal drives and other power systems.
You need to make sure you’re prepared for that, or choose an inflatable model as an alternative. And even with lighter kayaks, it’s a good idea to use one of these awesome kayak carts to help take a load off!
And don’t forget about the fishing kayak weight capacity. Make sure you know how much it can take – including yourself – so you don’t overload with fishing tackle and gear.
Fishing kayak companies put a lot of time, effort, and money into designing the most comfortable seating options possible.
Outside of performance on the water, for many fishing kayaks, it’s this feature that truly sets apart the best of the best. And we’ve come a long way from simply having a padded seat on board.
Look for fully adjustable, lawn-chair style seating for day-long comfort during your fishing adventure. Not only will they provide adequate support, but they’ll offer a great field-of-view for sight fishing.
Likewise, having adjustable foot braces or multiple footrest positions will improve your fishing experience, and can cater for anglers of all sizes.
Finding the right fishing kayak means finding the right fishing kayak seating.
Even the best fishing kayaks are not designed to win races.
When it comes to kayak performance, remember to keep these simple pointers in mind:
The wider a fishing kayak is, the more stable it will be.
The shorter a fishing kayak is, the more effective it will be in negotiating obstacles and hazards.
The longer and thinner a fishing kayak is, the faster it will go, and the better it will track (keep straight when moving through the water).
Hardshells will outperform inflatables 99.9% of the time.
If you’re fishing in breaking surf, look for a kayak with a multi chine hull, which will help dissipate the waves – but at the cost of speed.
Again, most kayak anglers don’t need to set any speed records, and are looking for a happy medium between speed, maneuverability, and tracking.
But a kayak that offers a balanced performance is going to be more comfortable and efficient to pilot, and help to prevent fatigue during long days on the water.
On board dry storage options are essential for keeping valuables out of the wet. Both paddling and fighting fish can get you and the kayak deck soaked, so dry storage hatches are a great addition.
Look for fishing kayaks with cup holders – having a place to keep a water bottle (or cold beer) is very useful. And speaking of cold beers, why not take along a fishing cooler to keep them super chilled?
The best fishing kayak for storage will have stern and bow tank wells, capable of holding a fair amount of extra fishing gear – or even to have a four-legged friend along for the ride.
And fishing kayaks that maximize and use the space well are going to stand out, so look for clever storage solutions that keep things close to hand – but out of the way and organized. Under seat storage is a good example.
Fishing Friendly Features
As I always say, a fishing kayak without dedicated fishing features is just a kayak. And the very best fishing kayaks offer as many of the following details as possible:
Flush mounted rod holders, and/or articulating rod holders, to keep your poles organized.
Gear tracks to attach accessories – such as extra rod holders, a fish finder, and sports cameras.
Paddle holders will help with hands-free fishing.
Trolling motor compatibility, to give you the extra zip to get to where the fish are biting.
Fly fishermen will enjoy a standing strap and ample deck space for standing casts and reels.
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.