Many fishermen prefer to use kayaks instead of powered boats for fishing on the water. There are some excellent reasons, such as the ability to quietly approach the fishing area, plus, of course, it’s more of a challenge. Add to that the much lower cost of a kayak than a motorboat, and it’s easy to see the attraction. So it got me wondering what are the best fishing kayaks for $500 or less.
For the sheer amount of storage space and number of rod holders, the Sevylor gets our vote as the best sub $500 fishing kayak in this review.
- The 5 Best Fishing Kayaks Under $500:
- Buying guide
- Size and Size
- Types of Fishing Kayaks
The 5 Best Fishing Kayaks Under $500:
1. Lifetime Hydros Angler Kayak with Paddle
- Tunnel hull for tracking and stability
- Three-rod holders
- No paddle clips
The Lifetime Hydros Angler is a sit-on style hardshell kayak made from UV-protected polyethylene. Onboard is a single adjustable rod holder, plus two flush rod holders behind the seat. One thing that is missing is a paddle clip, so you’ll need to find another way of securing the paddle.
Front and rear are bungee cord straps for stowing your gear, plus a wide central well between your feet for bait and tackle, etc.
At under $300, the Lifetime offers an inexpensive way to try out kayak fishing for the first time.
2. Intex Excursion Pro Kayak, Professional Series Inflatable Fishing Kayak
- Two fixed rod holders
- Plenty of storage space
- No adjustable rod holders
If you are looking for space, then the Intex could be ideal for you. There is plenty of room for your gear with storage in both the bow and stern, plus between the paddler’s seats. The generous 400-pound weight capacity means you should need to leave anything behind.
Next to the rear paddler, each side is a fixed rod holder, allowing you to put a line out and then paddle along, towing your line.
In front of the rear paddler is a multi-position accessories bar, perfect for attaching a GPS or fishfinder.
3. Emotion Stealth Angler Fishing Kayak
- Plentiful storage
- Three-rod holders
- Hull designed for stability and tracking
At over $450, the Emotion Stealth Angler is one of the more expensive fishing kayaks on review. But with a generous weight capacity of 300 pounds, two flush and one adjustable rod holder, plus plenty of storage, it offers everything an angler needs.
Behind the seat is a vast open area with bungee cord straps. On the bow is another bungee cord storage area, and in the center of the boat is a hatch for beneath deck storage.
The hull has been designed for stability and tracking, with a tracking skeg at the hull’s rear.
4. Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak
- Paddle keeper
- Three-rod holders
- Two storage compartments
Similarly priced as the Emotion, the Lifetime Tamarack will set you back almost $500 but offers similar features. The most significant difference between the two is the length. The Emotion is 11 feet long, whereas the Tamarack is just eight feet. This is seen in the reduced rear storage area. Instead, the Tamarack has two sealed storage compartments, one in the center and one in the rear. Bungee cord storage front and rear add to the carrying capacity.
Two flush rod holders behind the seat and a single adjustable holder on the right side cater for your rods.
5. Sevylor Coleman Colorado 2-Person Fishing Kayak
- Six-rod holders
- Two paddle holding clips
- A vast amount of storage
- Nothing to mention
The Sevylor is simply huge! It has large storage areas, both front, and rear, with plenty of space between the paddlers. This is a kayak that is ideal for a fishing and camping expedition. On the kayak’s sides are two adjustable rod holders and four fixed rod holders. You’ll also find two sets of paddle holding clips and storage pockets down both sides of the kayak.
Although an inflatable, the Sevylor is constructed from super-tough 1000 denier PVC along the underside, making punctures very unlikely. You can even fit a trolling motor on the fittings provided should you wish.
While you could buy any fishing kayak and get out on the water, it would make sense first to analyze the type of fishing you want to do. Fishing kayaks are designed for particular types of fishing, so let’s consider that first.
Freshwater Fishing on Stillwater
This covers small ponds to giant lakes and anything in between. On small lakes, stability is more important than speed, so a short wide kayak is favored. It would help if you had a narrow, fast kayak on larger bodies of water so you can cover the water quickly.
Freshwater Fishing on Moving Water
Moving water creates specific challenges, with the current taking you downstream. Good stability and a short wide kayak are useful here.
Whether on inlets and estuaries or offshore, your kayak has a lot to deal with in open waters. Possible strong winds, currents, and waves. Narrow long kayaks are useful here for pushing through the chop, although sit-on kayaks are popular as they are virtually unsinkable!
For a kayak explicitly aimed at the angler, certain features are worth looking out for when looking for a fishing kayak.
- Rod Holders. Allowing hands-free fishing, rod holders will enable you to concentrate on controlling your kayak and preparing bait, etc, while still fishing. There are two main types of rod holders found on kayaks; the adjustable type allows you to set the angle and the fixed type. The number of rod holders varies widely, so make sure the kayak you choose caters to your needs.
- Rod Racks. While rod holders allow you to set up a rod for fishing, a rod rack gives you storage space to carry more rods. This is useful for pre-prepping rods with different lengths and lines before getting out on the water.
- Bait Holders. Some manufacturers design bait holders into the kayak floor, or you can buy coolers designed for the purpose. Just remember that a cooler full of water will make the kayak unstable in choppy or windy conditions.
You need your hands free once you start fishing, and losing your paddle over the side by accident is not good! Paddle parks or clips on the side of the kayak are a convenient way of securing your paddles.
Getting out on the water for an extended period of fishing requires a few supplies. Apart from bait for the fish, you need food and water for yourself, storage space for all your fishing gear and spares, plus somewhere to catch the fish you catch. Plentiful storage space or the ability to easily strap gear to the kayak is a must-have.
Sponsons or Outriggers
Keeping a kayak stable while you prepare your rods or pull in a fish takes good balance. Some people prefer to add sponsons or outriggers to their kayak to give added stability. Outriggers can be of the folding kind, so they don’t interfere or slow you down when paddling to the fishing area.
While dealing with bait, the fish you’ve caught, and other tasks, you may end up using a knife. While inflatable kayaks are very puncture resistant, sold plastic kayaks may be better for some people. Be honest with yourself. How many times do you think you’ll drop your knife while bouncing around in the kayak? This may help you decide between kayak types and build.
Spray skirts are only used for sit-in kayaks, and even then, they are only needed when the sea is rough. Sit-in kayaks that can take a spray skirt tend to offer much less in the way of rod holders and storage space, so they are not ideal for the committed angler.
Bracing yourself while moving rods about or hauling a fish in helps to keep the kayak stable. Having a variety of different footrest positions enables you to get in a perfect position whatever the situation.
The skeg is only useful when there is water flowing over it. If you are on a large lake and need to paddle a fair way to get to the fishing ground, a skeg will help with straight-line stability and reduce fatigue. A skeg can also help if you are fishing in moving water by keeping the kayak pointing in the direction you want.
Anchor or Drogue
Once you’ve found the ideal fishing spot, you may want to stop yourself from drifting. Lightweight folding anchors, specifically for kayaks, are available from several manufacturers. On the other hand, a drogue is designed to work as a sea anchor, slowing the movement of the kayak so that it slowly drifts.
Size and Size
As discussed earlier, when talking about the type of water you will be using the kayak on, your kayak’s shape and size will depend on the sea conditions you expect. Short wide kayaks are ideal for flatwater conditions, where they will provide plenty of stability. Long narrow kayaks are better for rougher sea conditions, as they can cut through the waves.
The flip side of size is that you probably want to carry quite a bit of gear, so long, narrow kayaks may not be ideal.
Specialist fishing kayaks under $500 are few and far between. This is because manufacturers add extra features aimed explicitly at anglers. But, as you can see from this short review, there are some great kayaks out there in this price bracket. It’s a good starting point to test the water, so to speak, and check if kayak fishing is really for you before spending a lot more.
Types of Fishing Kayaks
As the name suggests, you sit inside a sit-in kayak, and this is the style of boat many associates with a kayak. Sit-in kayaks are better in rough weather; they offer a modicum of protection against the elements and are quicker through the water. You also tend to have more control in a sit-in kayak.
Sit-on kayaks are very popular with anglers:
- They are virtually unsinkable and don’t capsize easily.
- They usually offer plenty of space for all your fishing and camping gear.
- Sit-on kayaks are generally wider than sit-ins, giving a very stable platform, even when you’re wrestling that championship-winning catch!
Inflatable kayaks come in both sit-in and sit-on styles, and with modern materials and design, they can perform just as well as the hard shell alternatives.
Inflatables have some significant advantages;
- Generally cheaper than hardshell types
- They can be deflated and folded, saving both transport and storage space
- They are light and easy to move around
What type of fishing can you do from a kayak?
Any type of fishing is possible from a kayak, such as spin, fly and bait fishing. So long as you can keep the kayak steady, you can fish from it.
Will I capsize more when I’m fishing?
It’s true to say that while concentrating on your rods, it can be easy to capsize your kayak accidentally. However, as you gain experience and skill, capsizing will become an infrequent occurrence. If you have a problem with balance, consider a sit-on kayak, which offers a very stable platform.
What should I do if I capsize?
Before you get to the stage of capsizing, get in the habit of securing as much of your gear as possible to the kayak. At least then, it won’t sink or float away. If you are new to kayaking, take some lessons on how to get back in or on your kayak. It will be money well spent when the inevitable happens and you capsize! Remember, always wear a personal flotation device (PFD) when out on the water.
Where do I put my catch?
There are two primary choices here. Either in a cooler behind your seat or an insulated bag on the deck in front of you. It depends on the available space.
Can I use a trolling motor?
Some kayaks are designed to have trolling motors fitted. In this review, the Sevylor has built-in mountings for a motor. For other kayaks, you may be able to buy a mounting kit. If a trolling motor is essential for you, confirm that one can be fitted before buying.
There are some great affordable sub $500 kayaks available, allowing you to get out on the water without breaking the bank.
This article was last updated on August 30, 2021 .
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