Is it possible to buy a decent fishing kayak under $500? The short answer: Yes! Kayak fishing is a great way to get on the water without spending big money on a traditional boat. I prefer it for most of my fishing. It gets me close into those tight spaces, and it is a much more intimate way to fish. There are a few things that I think any person who is planning to buy cheap fishing kayak should know.
What Does Really Matter?
The way a kayak is constructed depends on its purpose. Some are narrow generally speaking, the narrower a kayak, the less primary stability it has. Primary stability is stability at rest in calm water. However, kayaks also have have a secondary stability that refers to stability in motion, in moving water such as waves or rapids. Adversely, the narrower a kayak is, the more secondary stability it has.
Sit-in and sit-on refer to the two different ways the paddler can be positioned in the kayak. When it comes to stability, sit-ons are wider and shorter which gives it more primary stability than sit-ins. Which one you decide to buy will depend on what kind of water your primary fishing is done in.
Some sit-on kayaks are stable enough to stand and fish, which many anglers like. Primary stability is usually a trade off for secondary stability, speed, and ease of turning. This is important depending on how far you may have to travel to get to your spots. The fishing kayaks for under $500 don’t have to hide here. Stability is easy to achieve and shouldn’t be related to price.
Speed is another factor that has to do with where you fish. If I had to travel across water long distances, or in windy/wavy conditions, I would look for a narrower, sit-in kayak. On the other hand, if I my fishing spots are easy to get to, and on relatively calm water, I would look into a sit-on kayak that is wider.
Many Kayak fisherman prefer the primary stability of the sit-on kayaks. This option, however, isn’t optimal if you have very long distances to cover. The amount of curve on the underside of a kayak is referred to as rocker. The higher the rocker, the more speed the kayak will have. Kayaks with a lower rocker are slower.
Durability is an important consideration, and like all considerations with kayak fishing, what you choose is going to be determined by where you will be fishing. Fishing in calm, open waters will require less durability, while fishing in rocky lakes or anyplace your kayak might take a beating will require more durability.
The trade off with more durability is usually an increase in weight. An increase in weight can make it hard for a single person to move the kayak around, or down to the water from his/her vehicle. Another thing to consider is if this kayak is going to be used specifically for fishing, or for other water activities also.
Polyethylene is the material that most kayaks are made of in the market today. Single-layer polyethylene is the most durable because it is struck in one mold. Triple-layered polyethylene has a layer of foam between which makes it a little lighter, and more buoyant. Fiberglass is another option, but is not going to hold up against logs or rocks that you might hit in some fishing spots, and is a bit more expensive. The most expensive option is carbon-composite, which snaps rather easily, although it is easier to repair, and lighter than fiberglass and polyethylene. Wood is the last material on this list, and provides poor durability but the lightest weight.
With maneuverability there are a few things to consider, like tracking and turning. Here again the length and width play an important role, as well as the rocker mentioned above. Higher rocker translates to ease of turning but poor tracking. Lower rocker is the opposite, with ease of tracking, but poor turning.
Most kayaks have a combination of both, instead of being at one end of the extreme or the other. That does not mean they are similar, because even slight adjustments can have bigger impacts than might be seen at first.
Sit-on top kayaks usually have better tracking abilities than sit-in kayaks. The opposite is true for turning. Although sit-on top kayaks might not be the best for turning, the fact that you are on top makes it relatively easy to cast to those hard to reach spots from where ever you are positioned. This isn’t always the case though, so make sure you know the terrain of your fishing spots to pick the best style for your intended purpose.
Many kayaks that are specifically designed for fishing have special storage areas for bait, tackle, rods, paddles, and even fish you catch. The first thing I would look for is rod holders. If you are like me, and change bait and lures often, it is wise to have at least two rod holders. One stationary, and one swivel to hold your rod in any position if you are trolling and need to paddle.
Storage hatches are indispensable. They are often water-proof with lock tight lids. This will keep things like your cell phone or other emergency items dry, along with bait and tackle, and snacks. Many fishing kayaks have an open storage space with bungees. The size you want depends on what kind of fishing you do. Here again, it comes down to intended use.
One thing that is often overlooked is whether there is a paddle holder nice and close to the cockpit. If you are trolling along and suddenly hook that wall hanger, you don’t want to be fussing around with that paddle trying to get it secure while the fish is on the line. I would say to always make sure the kayak has a paddle holder, or customize one yourself. Either way, you do not want to go out without this, unless all you fish for is sunfish.
The 4 Best Fishing Kayaks Under $500
Now that I have given some information about how to choose the right fishing kayak for your needs I would like to go over some of the best fishing kayaks under $500, that I think are a great bargain for any level fisherman. You do not need to spend a thousand or two, the ones I have outlined below are all around five hundred dollars and I definitely consider them the best value fishing kayaks on the market.
Sun Dolphin Excursion SS 10-Foot Sit-in
This affordable fishing kayak is great for any style of fishing and awesome for the price. Its design allows for a combination of turning and tracking which makes it incredibly agile on the water. The sit-in design is better if you want to stay dry and definitely preferred by most fishermen. It has a large cockpit with an adjustable seat and high back support system for taller individuals.
Storage for this little kayak is pretty good and quite big for its size. Two flush rod holders sit behind the seat, and one swivel holder mounted to the front. Rear storage hatch with shock cords. A small storage hatch by the seat for important things to keep dry. You really don’t need more.
The polyethylene construction will stand up to rocks and logs with no problem, almost impossible to break if you just going to fish with it. Its size keeps it light enough for one person to carry, and to easily transport on the roof of a small car. Adjustable foot braces accommodate people over six feet tall easily.
Although I didn’t plan on ranking them already, the Sun Dolphin Excursion really stands out of all the Kayaks I came across. You can’t really go wrong here.
- Large cockpit with padding for extra comfort
- Durable construction
- Made to get into tight spaces
- lightweight at only 40 lbs
- Its wide construction allows for great stability
- Three rod holders
- A console for electronics such fish finder or GPS
- 280lbs max carry weight
- Rear rod holders get in the way of paddling
- Paddle is sold separately
- No live well or extra storage for fish
Malibu Kayaks Sierra 10 Pro Series Fish And Dive Sit-in
This inexpensive kayak is set to go with a huge rear storage big enough to fit a five gallon bait bucket and pump kit.
It also has extra storage space inside the cockpit with bungees on rear and front to really give the fisherman a whole lot of storage.
Two flush rod holders with various other mounts for fish finders, GPS, and more. The extra space in cockpit makes this kayak especially good for tall people. It carries up to 325 lbs giving the fisherman extra stability even with additional weight.
The seat is adjustable, as are the foot braces. It has arm and leg rests to keep those muscles fresh when they get sore, and extra fasteners for all the extras that you may want to add.
- Large rear storage that can hold a crate, or 5 gallon bait bucket with pump kit.
- Arm and leg rests
- Polyethylene construction
- Extra spots for mounting just about anything
- Extra storage in cockpit
- Bungees in front and back to hold even more cargo
- Space for taller people
- built with stability in mind
- Less work to go further distances than with many other fishing kayaks
- No swivel rod holder
- paddle comes separately
- Rear storage is open
- No dry hatch storage
This kayak is two feet longer than the previous two at 12 ft. long. Although it is a sit-on top kayak, it is a great combination of speed and tracking and therefor a great design for calm or choppy waters. It can hold a surprising 350 lbs load.
It has tons of storage with a rear bungee tank well, and two front hatches with tight lids. It comes with the Perception Comfort Seating System that allows more adjustment than other seats. It also has one of the best foot brace systems of any kayak.
It has two flush rod holders and a Scotty holder for any kind of fishing. The anchor and trolley system allows for 360 degree fishing. It also has a paddle park for quick paddle placement when you hook that big one.
- Very comfortable seating system
- Three rod holders; two flush and one Scotty
- Anchor-trolley system
- Paddle park
- Keepers foot brace
- holds 350 lbs
- Two hatched storage spaces
- Rear tank well with bungees
- Built for speed
- Poor stability
- Choppy water gets seat wet
Pelican Strike 100x
This sit-on top kayak is another great bang for the buck. It has a 325 lbs capacity and is made of Ram-x material. This is way it is supposed to be tougher than any of the previous kayaks. Its construction allows for great tracking and maneuverability which brings it right behind the Sun Dolphin.
The Ergo-band seating system is pretty comfortable, especially if you plan on fishing long days without return to shore. The paddle tie downs give a nice spot for paddle storage while fishing.
Storage is immense on this little kayak with an 8” day hatch, and a larger quick lock hatch in front for quick entry and exit. It comes with two flush rod holders and one swivel rod holder, and a storage well with a bungee. Also has many accessory mounts for all your electronics and gear.
- Two hatches one being a quick-lock hatch for dry storage
- Made from toughest material on market, Ram-x
- Ergo-band seating system for ultimate comfort
- Great maneuverability and tracking
- Comes with many accessory mounts
- Adjustable foot rests
- Paddle tie-downs
- Plenty of space for taller fisherman
- Storage well with bungee
- Best value fishing kayak
- Heavier than other kayaks this size at 57 lbs
My Personal Choice For The Best Fishing Kayak Under $500
With all the things to consider when buying a fishing kayak it is a choice to be made with regards to where you will be fishing. I fish in many different environments, some of them are fairly rough like faster flowing rivers. My pick for the best inexpensive fishing kayak on the market is #4, the Sun Dolphin Excursion SS 10-Foot Sit-in. Its durable, has lots of storage, is comfortable, and has a great combination of speed and maneuverability. Before you buy a kayak I recommend going to a rental place and trying the ones out that intrigue you the most. As always, good luck and happy fishing.