Best Fishing Kayak Under $500 - How to Pick One?
Fishing kayaks are great fishing platforms - they enable the fisherman to be very close to the water itself and hooked game fish, much closer than larger vessels. Also, fishing kayak can access fishing areas which are inaccessible by larger boats, and they help the fisherman to blend with the nature. Good and fully equipped ocean fishing kayaks cost great deal of money, but affordable, lower cost kayaks can provide great experience for any angler, too. And when the hooked fish is the size of the kayak, party starts :)
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Finding the best affordable kayak can be daunting task with so many similar models on the market. However, there are several kayaks that have stood the test of time and have passed trial and error tests in real life by both advanced and beginner fishermen. So, here they are:
Sun Dolphin Journey 10-Foot Sit-on-top Fishing Kayak
Sun Dolphin Journey 10-Foot Sit-on-top Fishing Kayak is one of the best, if not the best fishing kayaks under $500.
It is great for both lakes and rivers, but it can be used on calm sea water.
It is made using UV-stabilized Fortiflex® high density polyethylene, making the kayak lightweight and easy to carry, but also strong to withstand mechanical stress and impacts. Nonetheless, be sure to avoid hitting rock and similar sharp objects with the hull.
Hull design enables the fisherman to control the boat easily - it is maneuverable on the water, but also steady when paddling.
Portable Accessory Carrier (PAC or P.A.C.) can be used as extra storage, it can be towed behind or carried as backpack.
Note: Throwing P.A.C. in the water usually stabilizes kayak enough so that it can be used as drifting fishing platform. This goes for most kayaks, not only for Sun Dolphin Journey model.
This kayak comes with two flush mount and one swivel fishing rod holders, which is enough for a single man boat.
Seat is relatively large and comfortable, with protective thigh pads. Good seat and additional protection is very important for sitting kayaks (both sit-in or sit-on-top), especially when going for a longer fishing trips.
Adjustable foot braces help the fisherman sit firmly in his/her seat.
Other important features include storage and shock cord deck rigging, retractable carrying handles, paddle holder etc.
Sun Dolphin Journey 10-Foot Sit-on-top Fishing Kayak Specifications
Length: 10' (305cm) - this is 10 ft, one-person kayak. 10 ft is good compromise between capacity, stability, weight, ease of use etc. Shorter kayaks have better maneuverability, but course keeping and capacity could be better, while larger kayaks tend to be heavier and more expensive.
Width: 30" (76cm) - 30 inches provides good stability, even for sit-on-top kayak.
Height: 11" (28cm) - enough for calm water, more advanced fishermen and more experience paddlers can take this unit on smaller waves, too, but they will get wet quickly.
Weight: 44 lbs. (20kg) - light enough to be manipulated by one adult person, although two are preferred.
Capacity: 250 lbs. (113kg) - enough for most people. If more gear is carried, put it into the P.A.C. and tow behind. Note: 250 pounds capacity is the maximum weight of the fisherman and of all the required fishing gear, combined!
For more reviews and recommendations, check Sun Dolphin Journey Sit-on-top Fishing Kayak Amazon link (link opens in the new window).
Sevylor Coleman Colorado 2-Person Fishing Kayak
Sevylor Coleman Colorado 2-Person Fishing Kayak is inflatable fishing kayak. Although I personally like rigid fishing vessels, regardless of the size, this kayak deserves our attention.
Unit is made using 18-gauge PVC and is rugged enough for lake use - if you need inflatable sea fishing kayak for calm water, it is good enough, just don't expect it to behave on waves and wind like rigid boat!
Bottom is made using 1000D tarpaulin, while 840D nylon cover provides durable protection from punctures.
Just to be safe, unit comes with multiple air chambers - such system allows another chamber to stay inflated if one gets punctured. However, if something like that happens, go to the shore, immediately.
Kayak is equipped with Berkley® Quick Set Rod Holders, which are adjustable for enhanced hands-free fishing - important for people who like trolling while paddling, for example.
A pair of paddle holders on both sides secure paddles out of the way when not in use.
For people who like little bit more freedom without paddling all the time, Sevylor trolling motor fittings expand fishing capabilities. IMHO, Sevylor trolling motor could be stronger and the offered battery should be larger. This is highly personal note regarding trolling motor and trolling motor battery - larger trolling motor would require improvised mount and larger battery would decrease useful capacity of the kayak.
Mesh storage pockets along the kayak are designed to keep required gear safely stored close at hand.
To attach other equipment, kayak is equipped with additional D-rings.
Seats are comfortable and adjustable to fit most of the potential paddlers.
Carry handles on bow and stern make it easy to carry the kayak in and out of the water. However, there are many other things one can grab to pick the kayak off the ground or out of the water - of course, carry handles are recommended pulling points.
Sevylor Coleman Colorado 2-Person Fishing Kayak is NMMA® certified to hold up to 470 pounds (~213 kg) - depending on the carried gear, 470 pounds is usually enough for two persons. However, if you are a larger guy who carries more gear, this kayak will fit you perfectly - but only you :)
Inflated unit dimensions: 10 ft. 9 in. x 3 ft. 3 in.
Kayak includes carry bag and pressure gauge and it comes with 1-year limited warranty.
For more reviews and recommendations, check Sevylor Coleman Colorado 2-Person Fishing Kayak Amazon link (link opens in the new window).
Sun Dolphin Excursion 10-Foot Sit-in Fishing Kayak
Sun Dolphin Excursion is 10-foot sit-in fishing kayak. Hull design is a good balance of tracking and turning, while providing good stability.
Kayak is made using strong and durable UV-stabilized Fortiflex® high density polyethylene. Unit is lightweight and easy to carry.
Sun Dolphin Excursion is great for lakes and rivers, but it can be used for sea fishing, too, just be aware of limitations of smaller kayaks regarding waves and winds.
Unit comes with two flush mount rod holders and one swivel rod holder.
Large open cockpit comes with an adjustable padded seat, which is suitable and comfortable, even for longer fishing trips.
Storage compartment has an O-ring and is watertight, at least in theory.
Other important features include shock cord deck rigging, adjustable foot braces, water bottle holder, protective thigh pads, carry handles, paddle holder etc.
Sun Dolphin Excursion 10-Foot Sit-in Fishing Kayak Specifications
Length: 10' (305 cm) - standard length for one person fishing kayaks, balancing well between size, weight, price and other features
Width: 30" (76 cm) - wide sit-in hull design, stable on the water
Height: 13" (33 cm) - enough for calm water. Note that this is sit-in kayak, with no cockpit drainage holes.
Weight: 41 lbs. (19 kg) - it can be carried around by one adult person, although two persons are recommended
Capacity: 250 lbs. (113 kg) - enough for kids and most people without plenty of fishing gear
Cockpit Size: 17" W x 35" L (43 cm x 89 cm) - large enough for most of the people, although taller people might find it too small.
For more reviews and recommendations, check Sun Dolphin Excursion Sit-in Fishing Kayak Amazon link (link opens in the new window).
Sun Dolphin Aruba SS 12-Foot Sit-in Kayak
Although Sun Dolphin Aruba SS 12-Foot Sit-in Kayak sits on our 4th place, this is so far, my favorite fishing kayak.
Main reason: I am a large guy and my wieight with my fishing gear is 250+ pounds. But, this list of kayaks under $500 is for general population, including kids and elderly people, too. So, read carefully our opinions about this and other kayaks and choose according to your personal preferences and habits.
Sun Dolphin Aruba SS is excellent kayak for lakes and rivers. It can be used for sea fishing, too, just be sure to avoid waves and bad weather. And since this is sit-in kayak, with nice with, it is rather stable unit on water.
Out of the water, it is still lightweight, and easy to carry by adults.
This is 'typical' Sun Dolphin kayak - it tracks and paddles with ease while offering good stability.
Hull is made using UV-stabilized Fortiflex® high density polyethylene, which is strong, durable and require almost no maintenance.
Portable Accessory Carrier (PAC or P.A.C.) can be used as extra storage, can be towed behind or even carried as backpack. Or it can be used as 'stabilizer' when drift fishing.
Seat area is large and generally comfortable, with protective thigh pads and adjustable foot braces.
This model has 'only' two flush mount fishing rod holders , but people often improvise one or two swivel rod holders.
Personally, I prefer to use flush mounts while paddling and trolling with live bait. When drift fishing or fishing using anchor, I like to have my rod in my hand all the time. Second (or even third) rod(s) can be in flush holders, but the main rod is in my hands, all the time! :)
Other important features include: shock cord deck rigging, covered console, retractable carrying handles, storage compartment, paddle holder etc.
Sun Dolphin Aruba SS 12-Foot Sit-in Kayak Specifications
Length: 12' (366 cm) - 2 extra feet (when compared with 10 ft kayaks) means that this kayak keep course better and is actually easier to paddle. Maneuverability is still very good.
Width: 29 1/2" (75 cm) - good width and excellent length/width ratio, for very good stability.
Height: 13 1/2" (34 cm) - enough for lakes and rivers, but it has more prominent bow and moderately protected cockpit. Small waves and wind will make fisherman wet quickly, but the kayak, as the vessel, can handle it. This of course, highly depends on the previous fisherman's experience.
Weight: 47 pounds (21 kg) - it is still light enough to be handled by a single adult, although two adults are recommended.
Capacity: 395 pounds (179 kg) - capacity is enough to support larger people and their gear combined. If 395 pounds are not enough, tow your P.A.C. and put even more gear in the kayak.
Cockpit Size: 19" W x 39" L (48 cm x 99 cm) - enough room for taller people, too!
For more reviews and recommendations, check Sun Dolphin Aruba SS Sit-in Kayak Amazon link (link opens in the new window).
Lifetime Muskie Angler Sit-On-Top Kayak
The Lifetime Muskie Angler Sit-On-Top Kayak is relatively lightweight and rather durable fishing kayak. Unit comes with a contoured seat back that folds down for easier storage and transportation. Seat is comfortable for long paddling and fishing. Although some kayaks come with adjustable foot rests, Lifetime Muski comes with multiple footrest positions, keeping the design as simple as possible, but still very comfortable regardless of the size of the paddler/fisherman.
Front and rear shock cords secure two storage spaces. Also, unit comes with two 6 inch storage hatches in the rear and center.
Two flush-mounted fishing pole holders are just behind the seat. Also, there is also one top mount swivel rod holder, on the right side, in front of the angler. Some fishermen improvise fourth rod holder (second swivel holder) on the left side.
Carry t-handles are positioned on the front and on the rear of the kayak, but there are also two side handles suitable for carrying the unit.
Hull is made of UV-protected high-density polyethylene, which is very resistant to mechanical stress and cracks, and is rather light. It is designed to provide best balance between stability, maneuverability and other performances required by a good fishing kayak.
Lifetime Muskie Angler Sit-On-Top Kayak Specifications
Draft: 5 in. (12,7 cm) - like many similar units, this kayak too can be used in a really shallow water, where common fishing vessels simply can't access. Although the hull is strong, when going to such shallows, sandy bottom is preferred to avoid any possible damage to the kayak.
Height: 14.1 in. (35,7 cm) - enough for lakes and rivers and for calm waters in general. Obviously, it can be used for sea fishing too, just be aware that bow is not prominent and that it has open cockpit with four drainage holes.
Length: 120 in. (304,8 cm) - this is 10 ft. sit-on-top fishing kayak and one of the best in its class.
Width: 31 in. (78.7 cm) - unit is wide enough to provide very good stability even for the sit-on-top unit.
Maximum Weight Capacity: 275 lb. (125 kg) - very good carrying capacity for a single person and fishing gear. Unit doesn't have P.A.C. storage that can be towed, but there is enough room for plenty of gear.
Weight: 52 lb. (23.5 kg) - respectable weight for a 10 ft. fishing kayak, but still withing carrying range of a single, stronger adult. Obviously, two adults are recommended.
For more reviews and recommendations, check Lifetime Muskie Angler Sit-On-Top Kayak with Paddle Amazon link (link opens in the new window).
Lifetime 10 Foot Sit-On-Top Sport Fisher Tandem Kayak
First of all, Lifetime 10 Foot Sit-On-Top Sport Fisher Tandem Kayak costs slightly over $500, except when found on a good sale, when it can be found under $500.
We have decided to include this model in our list due to many interesting features which this model has.
The hull is made using molded high-density polyethylene for very good strength and durability and resistance to fading, cracking and peeling, while keeping the weight low. Hull design provides good stability and great tracking - and it should, since this is not only sit-on-top fishing kayak, this is also stand-up fishing tandem kayak.
This kayak is designed to seat up to 3 people, with 500 lb. (~227 kg) weight capacity in 10 ft (305 cm) hull.
Personally, I think that '3 people' is overoptimistic for 10 ft fishing kayak, but two adults and their fishing gear can comfortable fit onto this unit.
This kayak doesn't have adjustable footrests, but it uses multiple footrest positions molded into the hull, for different size fishermen.
Also note that the unit includes 2 double-sided paddles, paddle clips, 2 padded backrests, 3 fishing pole holders, and a 6’ storage hatch.
Lifetime 10 Foot Sit-On-Top Sport Fisher Tandem Specifications
Draft: 6 in. (15.2 cm) - low draft to access shallow areas where common fishing vessels can't.
Length: 120 in. (304.8 cm) - 12 ft fishing kayak, good balance between size and performances.
Width: 36 in. (91,4 cm) - very wide fishing kayak. Such width is required for increased weight capacity and for stand-up fishing.
Weight: 60 lb. (27 kg) - although it has significantly increased maximum capacity, weight of the empty kayak is still acceptable. One stronger adult can handle the unit, but really, if you have someone to help you, it is highly recommended.
Maximum Weight Capacity: 500 lb. (226.8 kg) - respect to the designers. 500 pounds capacity from 10 ft unit is not something to ignore. However, it is claimed that this unit offer seating for 3 persons. Yes, if they are kids. All IMHO, of course :) But, two adults with their fishing gear can fit easily.
For more reviews and recommendations, check Lifetime Sport Fisher Single or Tandem Kayak Amazon link (link opens in the new window).
Sit-In vs Sit-On Kayak
The main difference between the sit-in and sit-on kayak is the position of the seat.
Sit-in kayak has the seat very low in the hull, where paddler actually 'sits-in' the water, of more correctly below water surface. This way any water that enters the cockpit must be removed (mostly) manually out of the cockpit.
Sit-on kayak has the seat higher in the hull, where paddler 'sits-on' the water, or more correctly above the water surface. Because of this fact, 'sit-on' kayaks have drainage holes to help the water freely drain away from the cockpit. To prevent water to enter the cockpit via drainage holes, such holes often have one-way valves.
Stand Up Fishing Kayak
Stand-up kayaks allow the fisherman to freely stand up during fishing. They are generally wider than sit-only kayaks, to provide better stability during such fishing.
When standing, fisherman has better control and longer and wider reach with his/her rod and reel. Also, surface control is much better when standing.
Tandem Fishing Kayak
Tandem fishing kayaks support two or more fishermen and are great for people who like company when fishing.
Tandem kayaks are generally larger and wider than single person kayaks, in order to support additional weight.
Inflatable Fishing Kayak
Inflatable kayaks don't use rigid hulls. They are very easy to store and transport, and before use, one simply must inflate them using manual or electric air pump.
Their hull shape depends on their design and internal air pressure. To increase safety, they are made using several air chambers, so that if one gets punctured, kayak still floats enabling the paddlers reach the shore.
Inflatable kayaks use very tough and durable flexible materials that are improved over time. They are very resistant to UV rays and sharp objects, bottom, shore, rocks, hooks and similar, but don't abuse this 'toughness' :)
Fishing Kayak Accessories
List of fishing kayak accessories is long and it depends on the personal habits of its users.
Most common accessories are:
- lightweight trolling motor and its mount - fishing kayaks are light vessels and they rarely need trolling motors stronger than 30 pounds of thrust. Even such smallish motors require 10-12 Ah each hour of operation and 75Ah or stronger batteries can weigh significantly. In any case, when considering such propulsion for your kayak, include trolling motor and battery weight in total weight calculation. For short - paddling is fun and not so hard :)
- good flashlight is very important even if planning on returning home before night. Modern batteries are powered using strong and lightweight lithium batteries and use LEDs as light source. So, be sure to have a good flashlight as standard part of your fishing gear.
- fishing and camping knives help fishermen with preparing the fish, or for self-defense, as a tool and have many other uses. Since the size, shape and material of the knife depend on its intended use, such knives come in various sizes and shapes. But, a good pocket knife is simply a must-have tool for any fisherman.
- lightweight fishfinder GPS combo with corresponding battery can make the difference between failed and successful fishing trip. Electronic devices are getting smaller and smaller every day, while requiring less and less power for operation. Such units don't require much space and are relatively lightweight, but can cost more than kayak itself.
Of course, there are other accessories like compasses(!), ropes, anchors, thermo water bottles, rods, reels, spare paddles etc. which can be very important part of the fishing or kayak gear...
Whatever you do, enjoy it and stay safe!