Best River Fishing Kayaks: Reviews and Buying Guide [2019]

Welcome to our best river fishing kayaks review.

River fishing is one of life’s greatest pleasures. There’s nothing quite like taking your kayak out on a slow-moving river, casting your line out and waiting for the fish to nibble as you enjoy a cold beer or a hot cup of coffee.

Unfortunately, with all the different kayaks available on the market today, selecting the right kayak for your needs becomes an exceedingly difficult task. To save you the trouble, we’ve listed our top seven picks for the best river fishing kayaks available along with a buyer’s guide to help you make your decision.

 

 

Our Top Choice

Our favorite is the BKC UH-TK181 fishing kayak because of its expansive cargo capacity and large number of rod holders. As a sit-on-top type kayak, it provides you with the stability you need to stand up if you need the extra leverage.

 

 

Best River Fishing Kayaks of 2019 Reviewed

BKC UH-TK181 Fishing Kayak

The Brooklyn Kayak Company (BKC) starts our list with this lightweight entry capable of handling an impressive 450 pounds. It can carry two people along with any cargo you want to bring along.

 

Key Features

  • Length: 12.5 feet
  • Weight: 68 pounds
  • Maximum capacity: 450 pounds
  • Type: Sit-on-top kayak
  • Includes seven fishing rod holders and paddles

 

What We Like About It

As with most tandem kayaks, this one comes standard with two paddles and has holders where you can rest your oars while you fish. Personally, the three adjustable rod holders are our favorite touch, though. You can use them for trolling or keeping all three lines active all at once.

There are also four flush-mounted rod holders that you can use for storage. We think this is another great element that helps the expert angler make the most of their fishing experience.

The BKC has a wide beam that spans 34 inches, which makes for excellent stability. The width is especially useful if you need to stand up while you are fishing. With a large weight capacity, you also get plenty of storage space. It’s a good option if you and a friend want to go on longer fishing adventures.

 

What We Don’t Like About It

The adjustable seats are the weak point of this kayak as they can be uncomfortable, but you can replace them.

 

 

Pros

  • Stable fishing platform
  • Large carrying capacity
  • Excellent stability

 

Cons

  • Number of fishing rods might make it feel over-crowded
  • Seats are not as comfortable as we would have liked

 

Although it is a fishing kayak, the BKC can also make for a great river kayak because of its stability and secure handling. It was an easy choice for our top pick.

 

Overall Rating – 4.5 of 5

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

 

Ocean Kayak Prowler Angler Fishing Kayak

This sleek ocean kayak is designed to be stable and quiet. It is made for a variety of water conditions and is surprisingly effective for river-use.

 

Key Features

  • Length: 13 feet
  • Weight: 56 pounds
  • Maximum weight capacity: 475 pounds
  • Two-rod holders, 6-inch hatch with storage bucket, transducer compatibility

 

What We Like About It

We are thrilled by the large front hatch on this kayak and the rear gear storage, which is flexible with a shock cord lashing designed to fit any gear or tackle box. The Ocean Kayak Prowler has generous cargo space to make sure you can haul not just all your gear, but your fish too.

As part of its role as a fishing kayak, it comes with two rod holders, two cup holders, and two paddle holders so you can stow your paddles for the patient work of waiting for fish to bite.

Our favorite feature of the Ocean Kayak Prowler, though, is the capacity to mount a transducer or fishfinder. Talk about high-tech fishing gear. This device isn’t present in any of the other boats on this list, and it may be a critical feature that sets this model apart for some buyers.

A transducer is a type of sonar that can detect fish schools underwater. Having a transducer could make your fishing expeditions a lot more efficient. We think this add-on makes the Ocean Kayak Prowler one of the best river fishing kayaks.

 

What We Don’t Like

The absence of a moveable rod holder is probably the only downside to this beautiful kayak.

 

Pros

  • Transducer makes it easier to find fish
  • Generous cargo space
  • Flexible storage

 

Cons

  • No moveable rod holders

 

At 13-feet long and a relatively narrow 28 inches, this is a fast kayak that can maneuver well in rough waters. With its “Comfort Plus” seat, it is also suitable for extended fishing expeditions. The Prowler angler fishing kayak is an excellent choice for professional fishers thanks to its superb support options.

 

Overall Rating – 4 of 5

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

 

Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 90

The Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 90 is an agile sit-on-top-type fishing kayak with a length of just 9 feet. It is very maneuverable and has a wide beam of 32 inches for stabilization.

 

Key Features

  • Length: 9 feet
  • Weight: 46 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 300 pounds
  • Includes four rod holders and a paddle

 

What We Like

We are big fans of the double-sealed hatch design for waterproofing gear and small items that could end up floating away if they fell off your kayak. There is also lots of room in the rear storage compartment behind the cockpit with a flexible shock cord for larger items.

The seat is deluxe—its design allows you to fish all day comfortably. This model also comes with a free paddle, but if you are serious about kayaking, you might want to get yourself a lighter carbon fiber paddle.

As with the two previous picks, the Skipjack 90 is standard with four flush-mounted rod holders so you can set multiple fishing rods to increase your chances of getting fish. When it comes to stability, the Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 90 is top-notch.

 

What We Don’t Like

The free paddle is not as good as might be expected. Total cargo and carrying capacity are a little limited. The Skipjack has excellent tracking and stability for its size, but it can’t compare to larger kayaks.

 

Pros

  • Small and agile
  • Ultra-comfortable seat

 

Cons

  • The free paddle is not fiberglass
  • Low cargo space

 

The Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 90 heaps on a lot of features, so it’s a bit difficult to list them all. What we can tell you is it is definitely worth its price.

 

Overall Rating – 5 of 5

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

 

Old Town Vapor Predator MX Fishing Kayak

The Old Town Vapor Predator MX fishing kayak comes with adjustable footrests, an open cockpit, and plenty of storage. This kayak is great for anglers.

 

Key Features

  • Length: 12 feet
  • Weight: 80 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 375–400 pounds
  • Type: Sit on top
  • Includes six rod holders and an anchor trolley system

 

What We Like

We’re fans of the luxurious seat, which can be overlooked by other manufacturers. We like the thick thigh pads because they keep us comfortable after a day out kayaking. The sealed bow hatch has plenty of room to store items, and there is also room behind the seat for tackle boxes and other fishing gear.

The Predator comes with a whopping six adjustable rod holders and an anchor with a trolley system that can be used to set up a camping spot. Like most fishing kayaks on this list, the Predator’s design provides increased stability so that you can stand up while fishing.

This kayak even comes with fishing straps to help you retain balance when you struggle against the big ones.

 

What We Don’t Like

The large size can make for tricky maneuvering.

 

Pros

  • A comfortable ride with good padding
  • Plenty of rod holders
  • Anchor with trolley system

 

Cons

  • Large size makes turning difficult
  • Number of rod holders can be challenging to manage

 

All in all, we think the Predator offers a lot of features that we might take for granted. For instance, the built-in anchor system is something most would likely add to other kayaks later on.

 

Overall Rating – 4 .5 of 5

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

 

Lifetime Muskie Angler Kayak -Best Budget

The Lifetime Muskie Angler single-person fishing kayak features a sit-on-top design and a lot of flexibility and options.

 

Key Features

  • Length: 10 feet
  • Weight: 46 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 250–300 pounds
  • Includes two fixed rod holders, one adjustable, and a paddle

 

What We Like

We are fans of the minimalist approach with the rod holders. It has just two flush-mounted and one adjustable rod holder. Any more might be overkill.

The Lifetime Muskie has two dry hatches, both six inches for small gear or items that you can’t afford to get wet. It also has a flat bottom and is a stable platform so you can stand up when the angling gets rough.

Perhaps the best quality of the Muskie Angler is its price. It is a top-notch kayak for something that retails at just under $400.

 

What We Don’t Like

Lifetime could have done a better job designing the seat. It isn’t very comfortable.

 

 

Pros

  • Affordable price
  • Dry hatches for storing items
  • Minimalist design

 

Cons

  • A rather uncomfortable ride

 

If you’re just getting started on your fishing career, the Muskie Angler could be an excellent choice for an affordable kayak. It’s our budget pick.

 

Overall Rating – 4 of 5

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

 

Sun Dolphin Journey 10-Foot Fishing Kayak

This single-person kayak is another affordable choice for those who are on a budget. It has two vertical-mount rod holders and one swivel rod holder.

 

Key Features

  • Length: 10 feet
  • Weight: 44 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 250 pounds
  • Type: Sit on top
  • Includes two fixed rod holders, one adjustable, and a portable accessory carrier

 

What We Like

We like the knee pads on the edge of the boat and the adjustable footrest, both of which improve comfort for long voyages. Our favorite part of this kayak, though, is the PAC or Portable Accessory Carrier system, which can be used as storage, a tow-behind, or even a backpack.

 

What We Don’t Like

The Sun Dolphin is a bit limited in the size department, but it does manage to squeeze in two dry storage wells, a paddle holder, and a PAC system. It also tends to take on water easily—which can make for a soggy ride.

 

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Kneepads make for a comfortable ride
  • Portable Accessory Carrier

 

Cons

  • Limited size
  • Prone to taking on water

 

If you are looking to save some money, the Sun Dolphin Journey is an acceptable choice. It provides a good deal of bang for your buck.

 

Overall Rating – 4.5 of 5

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

 

Sun Dolphin Excursion Sit-In Fishing Kayak

The Sun Dolphin Excursion has the same number of fishing rod holders, and the same overall length as the Sun Dolphin Journey reviewed above—but don’t assume that they are the same. They have some considerable differences.

 

Key Features

  • Length: 10 feet
  • Weight: 41 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 280 pounds
  • Includes two fixed rod holders, one adjustable, and a Portable Accessory Carrier (PAC)

 

What We Like

The Sun Dolphin Excursion has a closed cockpit design that can be upgraded to include a spray skirt to make things a bit less wet for the person inside. This means that the Sun Dolphin Excursion is ideal for rough rivers. It can be used as an all-weather kayak since, even if it rains, you can stay dry. Of course, there is also the Sun Dolphin signature PAC or Portable Accessory Carrier, which is a great add-on.

 

What We Don’t Like

Since it is small, the Excursion does not have much cargo space or room for upgrades, but for light trips on the river, it does just fine.

 

 

Pros

  • Can be used in any weather or climate
  • Portable Accessory Carrier provides flexibility
  • You stay dry even in rough weather

 

Cons

  • The limited number of rod holders
  • Low carrying capacity

 

The Sun Dolphin Excursion offers all the perks of its Journey cousin at a slightly higher price, but the splash guard is sure to keep you a bit drier.

 

Overall Rating – 4 of 5

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

 

River Fishing Kayak Buying Guide

Now that you have a fair sampling of the river kayaks on the market, let’s have a look at what makes a kayak “good.” You can also check out this post where we list the top life jackets for kayaking you can get that will suit your safety needs. The first thing you want to do is ask yourself a few defining questions:

 

  • Sit-in or sit-on-top?Would you rather have the protection of the default sit-in, or do you prefer the open adventure of a sit-on-top? If you are okay with both, that opens your options.

 

  • Budget and kayak weight: Your budget will dictate the weight of your kayak. Generally, heavier kayaks are more durable but also cost more.

 

  • Shape and size considerations:These affect cargo space and the handling of your kayak.

 

Sit-on-tops are mostly recreational boats for lakes and smooth, flowing rivers. They are also a common sight in warm coastal waters. Some of the longer sit-on-tops even have enough storage for overnight trips.

If you don’t like cramped cockpits or you don’t want to learn about “wet exits” when you capsize, you will want a sit-on-top. If you are still confused, here are a few things to consider:

  • Sit-on-tops are easy to get on (even if you are in deep water), so they are suitable for casual kayakers, like if you are using it near a lakeside cabin, as a kids’ boat, or even in a swimming pool.

 

  • They are comfy when the water and the air are warm since you will always get wet.

 

  • Scupper holes make them self-draining, so you don’t need to bail out water manually.

 

  • They usually have deck storage spaces, although these might be hard to access because they are inside the hollow hull.

 

  • They are generally heavier than comparable sit-in-kayaks.

 

 

Sit-in kayaks can be either recreational boats or touring models. They are fast-moving with a tendency to move straight. They also have a covered cargo compartment, so they are great for when you want to travel and go camping somewhere. Here are some other things to think about when it comes to sit-in kayaks.

  • They are better in colder climates since the inside can remain reasonably dry.

 

  • You can even add a spray skirt to prevent water from accumulating inside, but you also should pack a bilge pump to make sure the inside compartment does not fill with water.

 

  • The position of your body inside the boat means that you will have a more comfortable ride, especially since most kayaks come with padding where your body touches the kayak.

 

  • They are easier to paddle than a sit-on-top.

 

If you still have trouble deciding, why not ask the store for some help? They are likely experienced kayakers, and they can give you additional advice about the local kayak scene and any special considerations you may have. If these models aren’t quite what you’re looking for, you can check out our picks for kayaks below $1000.

 

Final Thoughts

That’s our list of the best river fishing kayaks. We hope you enjoyed reading through it and found some value in what you read. Remember though, at the end of the day, the best kayak option for you is going depend on you—your preferences and needs are the primary factors.

If we had to point you in a direction to start, we’d suggest the BKC UH-TK181 Fishing Kayak. It’s going to be a good fit for most river fishers. Want to see other kayaking models? We’ve also written a roundup post of the best paddles for kayak fishing.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
Share on whatsapp
top