Founded in 2009, the Brooklyn Kayak Company has an ethos of creating affordable kayaks that offer the best possible features and durability for the price.
They’re also known for their range of quality tandem kayaks, as two’s company when paddling around the waterways of New York!
In this review, we take a look at the popular Brooklyn Kayak Company TK181 Tandem Fishing Kayak.
Does it deserve our overall score of 4.1?
How does it compare to other fishing kayaks?
Read on to find out, and to find out if it’s the right craft for you.
Our Verdict on the BKC TK181 Tandem Fishing Kayak
It’s not BKC’s flagship tandem kayak, nor is it the most luxurious one, but it is a great budget-friendly option that will still get the job done. It offers a nice balance of features, performance, and affordability.
- The BKC TK181 Tandem Fishing Kayak Review
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The BKC TK181 Tandem Fishing Kayak – What is It?
First released in 2017, the BKC TK181 is one of the best tandem fishing kayaks on the market – and you can follow that link for more.
12.8 feet in length and weighing in at 68 lbs, it’s a sit-on-top hardshell that offers an abundance of features that you would expect with a kayak twice the price.
It’s not BKC’s flagship tandem kayak, nor is it the most luxurious one, but it is a great budget-friendly option that will still get the job done.
Two aluminum paddles are included, so you can get right out on the water in one handy kayak fishing package.
What’s it For?
Designed to be durable, the TK181 is marketed as being able to handle anything from lazy rivers to ocean chop.
In fact, I included it as one of the best ocean fishing kayaks out there, given its balance of primary and secondary stability.
But I would still advise only going out in calmer waters, particularly when you’re fishing offshore.
As a tandem craft, the TK181 makes a good option for the family to enjoy, and you can share the fishing experience with younger paddlers if you have children or grandchildren.
There’s even space for a smaller human in one of the storage areas, so you can bring a toddler or young child along for the ride.
Check out this article on kayak fishing with kids for a complete guide to having a safe and enjoyable day on the water.
Furthermore, the TK181 shallow learning curve makes it ideal as a recreational play boat for simply exploring and enjoying the water – whether you’re fishing or otherwise.
But fishing is the TK181’s first love, proven by the abundance of rod holders available as standard.
The BKC TK181 Tandem Fishing Kayak Review
Just looking at the hull of the TK181 offers reassurance in the durability department. You know that this kayak has been built to last.
Made from a single piece of rotomolded, high-density polyethylene, it’s as rugged as they come, and won’t let you down when it comes to putting it through its paces.
It has also been treated for UV protection, so it shouldn’t fade, warp, or crack in the sun.
That doesn’t mean to say you leave it out there uncovered for days on end baking through the summer!
Like all kayaks, you need to take care of it properly, and it should last you a lifetime.
The Brooklyn Kayak Company is all about affordable, accessible watercraft with plenty of features right out of the box.
As a result, they’re not going to be the first kayak company you think of when it comes to high performance.
Still, the TK181 has got it where it counts, so let’s take a look at how it measures up.
There are numerous reports that the TK181 tracks quite well, even through windy conditions, given the pronounced keel skeg and tracking channels under the hull.
You should be able to get from A to B with relative ease, and it might even be suitable for longer kayak camping trips where you’re traveling greater distances as a result.
You’re not going to win any races with the TK181. Like most fishing kayaks, it hasn’t exactly been designed for speed, and the extra weight of paddling with a partner will slow you down.
That said, its relatively streamlined hull ensures you can still reach a fair pace, and with the two of you working together, and in the right conditions, a moderately respectable knottage might still be achieved.
And it is compatible with a transom motor, so you might want to check out this review of the best kayak trolling motors and kick it up a gear!
The TK181 offers good primary stability, as having two people on board it would need to feel rock solid in the water.
The most important question, however, is can you stand up in it?
Yes, is perhaps the surprising answer, particularly when you take the kayak’s relatively slim width into consideration. Users have reported that both paddlers have been able to stand with relative ease.
A word of caution, however. The TK181 certainly won’t offer the same stability as something that was genuinely designed for standing casts and reels, such as the Bonafide SS127.
If that’s the case, take a look at this review of the best stand-up fishing kayaks.
Given the length and width of this kayak, and the fact that it’s a tandem craft, it hasn’t really been designed to turn on a dime.
That said, it can still move when it wants to, providing you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to your paddle stroke.
If you want something that’s more nimble, check out the Pelican Mustang, for example.
Features and Accessories
As previously mentioned, the Brooklyn Kayak Company is famous for cramming in as many useful and practical features into their creations as possible.
All while keeping costs to an absolute minimum.
As such, the TK 181 doesn’t miss out with this ethos, and there’s plenty to like here. Be aware that storage options are discussed in more depth further into the review.
- There are no less than seven built-in rod holders, including four flush-mounted holders, and three articulated versions.
- Rod holder covers.
- Paddle parks.
- Drainage plug.
- Molded foot rests.
- 8 Scupper plugs.
- T-carry handles.
- Molded cup holders.
- Transom motor compatible.
- Paddles included.
Some points to note:
The rod holders are the real winners here, and it’s a great selection, so you shouldn’t feel the need to add any extras aftermarket.
Having said that, I would have foregone a couple of rod holders to add in an accessory track or two, instead. Still, you can always DIY one if that’s important to you.
And you can check out this review of the best kayak fishing rod holders if you’d like to add even more pole-storing options.
There’s a good chance you’ll want to upgrade the paddles, as the basic aluminum versions the kayak comes with are great for a quick-start, but not if you want to paddle with any regularity.
This review of the top kayak fishing paddles seriously ups the ante.
With the TK 181, the Brooklyn Kayak Company has decided to offer a stripped-down version of creature comforts – certainly compared to other models in their range, such as the pedal drive PK14.
As such, you don’t get the lawn-chair seating with the TK181, but with the adjustable padded seating, it’s certainly a step up from sitting directly on the plastic of the hull.
The molded footrests should accommodate most paddlers, and overall the cockpits feel spacious and roomy. You’re not going to feel restricted when paddling this kayak, especially if you take it out solo.
Plus, there’s always the possibility that you can upgrade the seating at a later date, although the kayak itself hasn’t been designed for that, and you’d need to use a spot of DIY to do so.
But all-in-all, if you’re an angler with back problems of any kind, I would suggest that this isn’t the best option for you.
Try something like the Old Town Sportsman PDL 106 instead – but with that kind of day-long comfort, be prepared for a serious jump in price.
At 12.8 feet in length, and 34 inches at its widest point, the TK181 has some useful storage space and options.
It’s certainly not the best fishing kayak for storage on the market, but it’s not the worst either.
Both paddlers have a watertight storage hatch located conveniently within easy reach, right in the middle of the deck in front of each seat.
To the stern of the kayak, you’ll find a tank well with bungee cord tie-down for securing extra gear.
Check out the products at those links, and see if you can find one that can fit into the TK181’s rather restrictive tank well.
Because failing that, if you are paddling with a partner, there isn’t going to be any space for bringing much more than the bare bones of your fishing tackle and gear.
But if you’re paddling solo, then it’s a different matter entirely. You can remove the front seat and have plenty of room for all the extras you need.
Given the fact that this is a tandem kayak, it offers an impressive load capacity of 595 lbs.
That’s more than enough for most anglers, and is particularly enticing for anyone who wants to paddle solo with a lot of gear, and/or take a furry friend along for the adventure.
This kayak can accommodate a maximum of three paddlers – providing the third is on the smaller side.
But I have included the TK181 in a list of the best fishing kayaks for larger guys and gals, thanks to its weight capacity, overall stability, and roomy cockpit space.
Tandem kayaks are often much larger and heavier than solo craft, and they often score lower marks in the portability stakes as a result.
However, the BKC TK181 weighs 68 lbs, which actually isn’t too bad – especially compared to pedal drive craft and other solid fishing platforms, such as the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler.
You still won’t be able to carry it on your own, which is fine if you’re bringing along a buddy. If not, I would suggest using one of these awesome kayak carts to help you out.
One negative I will always point out is I don’t like kayaks with T-handles at the bow and stern.
Sure, they’re sturdy enough for carrying, but the kayak can also move and sway when you’re transporting it, which can make it difficult to handle depending on the conditions and situation.
Either way, a hardshell is never going to be as portable as an inflatable, and I would highly recommend checking out the Intex Excursion Pro as a great alternative.
Ease of Use
With its simple, straightforward design, basic seating, and molded footrests; it’s not going to take a member of Mensa to figure this kayak out.
But the fact that it isn’t the most comfortable fishing kayak on the market might make it a bit more of a challenge to some paddlers – particularly older users.
It also sits low in the water, and there are reports that it can be an effort to get, especially compared with a fishing kayak with a high seating position, like the excellent Perception Outlaw 11.5.
At the end of the day, though, there’s barely any learning curve to the BKC TK181, and even beginners will find it a breeze to use.
It’s also a great choice for teaching a novice paddler the ropes, given that an experienced adult can sit in the stern and offer instruction.
That’s why I’ve also included it in this review of the best fishing kayaks for beginners.
Tandem fishing kayaks have a habit of looking bulky, cumbersome, and not particularly attractive.
And while the TK181 isn’t the most beautiful fishing kayak you’ve ever seen (an award that I think goes to the Vibe Shearwater 125), it’s still fairly easy on the eye.
It offers a pleasing, contoured shape, and the internal design features molded lines that are practical and well-rounded. There’s no sharp angles here – which might be a preference for some.
The TK181 is available in six different color schemes. Army Green, Green Camo, Blue Camo, Gray Camo, Red/Yellow, and Desert.
Of these, the Desert is often sold out, and the camouflage patterns appear to loosely follow a lizard or DPM style (Disruptive Pattern Material).
Again, I’ve seen better camo on a kayak, and I’ve seen worse.
The logos appear to be stickers, which isn’t a favorite method of mine, but they look reasonably durable and capable of lasting longer than one season.
Solid and sturdy, the TK181 feels safe on the water, and the high weight capacity breeds confidence that it’s not going to give out on you if you’re bringing a lot of gear.
That said, there are reports that some users feel it sits a little low, and they wish that the sides of the kayak were higher.
I think that might just be down to personal preference, but as with all sit-on-top kayaks that are low in the waterline, be prepared to get a little wet, anyway.
If you’re concerned about being visible, I would choose the brighter versions of the kayak, like the yellow/red color scheme.
And regardless of a kayak’s safety features, you should always make sure you’re wearing an accredited life preserver or PFD.
Take a look at this review of the best fishing PFDs currently available.
If there’s one thing you can say about the kayaks from the BKC, is that they pack in a lot of bang for your buck.
They set their stall out in offering products that are the best quality they can afford to make, that you can afford to buy.
As such, you get solid kayaks that are feature-rich, and include premium additions like lawn-chair seats and pedal drives, but won’t break the bank when it comes to parting with your hard-earned cash.
And while the TK181 is a more stripped-down model without such luxury inclusions, it still offers a nice balance of performance, durability, features, and price.
First, I have to say I like the Brooklyn Kayak Company. I appreciate what they’re trying to do, and anyone who tries to introduce the great outdoors, fishing, and exercise to more people has my vote.
Particularly if they’re a small business.
And their customer service is also outstanding – which is a huge plus point for any size business, small or otherwise.
Just be aware that the kayaks they produce aren’t going to light the world up and be the best of the best when it comes to the likes of Hobie, Old Town, Native Watercraft, Jackson, Vibe, and Bonafide, et al.
But you knew that already, didn’t you?
There’s always a correlation between high-end fishing machines and eye-watering price points.
And the same can be said for budget-friendly fishing craft that often fall short on comfort, performance, and features.
The BKC TK181 manages to make a decent fist of it, and providing you’re aware of its limitations, it can still make a solid, successful fishing and recreational kayak for you and your family for many years to come.
But if you need all the bells and whistles, and/or you’re not getting any younger, I would highly recommend a fishing kayak with lawn-chair seating – at the very least.
For another $400 or so, you could check out the BKC TK122U, for example, or the Vibe Yellowfin Tandem is also a good option – especially as it offers a lot more fishing-friendly features for not much more cash.
The Brooklyn Kayak Company TK181 Tandem Fishing Kayak offers a nice balance of features, performance, and affordability.
I hope this review has helped you make a decision if it’s the kayak that meets your needs, or at least pointed you in the right direction.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Do you own a BKC kayak? How does it handle? Is there another model you prefer?
Stay safe out there, tight lines, and happy kayak fishing!