If you're curious about how to get out into deeper water without having to invest thousands into a traditional boat, you've likely considered a kayak for a while now.
Kayaks are a great choice for fishermen because they are traditionally one of the most stable vessels outside of a full-fledged fishing boat. Once you try to start landing bigger fish, stability becomes a big factor.
Here's the bottom line:
Kayaks can be expensive, and finding one that is good for fishing isn't an easy task. That's why we put together this all-inclusive list of the best fishing kayaks for under $500.
At this price point, you can still get a quality kayak, it will just be missing a few features that more expensive models have.
In this buyer's guide, you'll learn how to shop on a budget, what brands to trust and which ones to say away from, and what to look for in a fishing kayak. With all of this information, you can make an educated decision and purchase the fishing kayak of your dreams without draining your bank account in the process.
(If you have a larger budget and want to check out some more expensive fishing kayaks, head over to our post about the best options under $1000)
Here's a quick summary of the products we will cover in this guide. Just click on "Jump To More Details" to learn more about any specific model:
Sun Dolphin Journey
Overall Rating - 5/5
The Sun Dolphin Journey is arguably the best of the best when it comes to fishing kayaks in this price range. It is comfortable, durable, lightweight and has plenty of storage. Our editor's choice.
Sea Eagle SE370
Overall Rating - 4/5
This inflatable kayak is great for people who need a ton of space, and are open to an inflatable. It inflates in only a few minutes and can hold up to 3 people and 650 lbs.
Lifetime Tamarack Angler
Overall Rating - 4.5/5
Best for shorter fishing trips. Has room to store a cooler and tackle box. Comes with a paddle and is reasonably comfortable. A good entry-level option.
Sun Dolphin Excursion
Overall Rating - 4/5
This sit-in fishing kayak is a great option for colder environments. It is very comfortable, but lacks the storage you'll find with sit-on style kayaks.
What To Look For In A Fishing Kayak
When you start your journey to find the perfect kayak under $500, you need to know what to pay attention to. There is a lot more that goes into deciding on a kayak than may go into other water sports like wakesurfing, so take the time to consider everything you'll need.
Here's what you need to consider when choosing a fishing kayak:
There are a lot of things you can sacrifice to save money on your kayak, but your seat definitely shouldn't be one of them. Your seat should be well padded and provide you with plenty of back support. You may find yourself out on the water for hours at a time, and you don't want to injure yourself or ruin the fun because of a bad seat. Generally, you can buy a kayak, and if you need better seats, you can purchase them separately.
Remember, if you're trying to save money and you have a budget of $500, you can't buy a kayak for $500 that doesn't come with paddles. Most options come with at least one paddle, but it's just something to keep in mind during your search. Otherwise, you're up sh*ts creek...without a paddle.
While fishing, you're not only going to need to store your tackle and rod gear, you will also need to store safety equipment such as a life jacket and compass. More often than not, you'll need space for food and water as well. So, make sure the kayak you choose has plenty of storage space.
Sit-in or Sit-on:
There are two very different styles of kayaks you can purchase: ones you sit on top of, and the ones you sit inside. The style of kayak you choose comes down to preference and region. Sit-In kayaks are generally better for colder environments, as it helps keep you drier, whereas sit-on kayaks will do well in warmer climates where getting a little wet could be refreshing.
Generally speaking, the longer your kayak is, the swifter it will travel. The broader it is, the more stable it will be. If you are planning on catching large fish, a broad, stubby kayak may be a better choice. Whereas if you will traveling long distances in search of smaller fish, a long one may be better.
Now that you know what you're looking for let's dig into the good stuff!
Sun Dolphin is a favorite brand when it comes to kayaks, and for a good reason. They are known for pushing out quality products at prices much lower than comparable brands.
The Journey 10-Foot Sit-on-top Fishing Kayak is composed of high-density polyethylene. This material is very resistant to the effects of UV rays and is also very lightweight. This 10-foot kayak weighs only 40lbs. You can expect this kayak to last you for years without deteriorating no matter how frequently you use it in direct sunlight.
The seat is a "sit-on" style, with a cockpit-type design that cradles you. It also includes foot braces and protective thigh pads, making it a very comfortable ride even for hours at a time.
The seating area is large and will fit one person plus a decent amount of supplies. You should be able to carry everything you'll need for a day trip without any issues.
It also comes with space to hold your rod and a bungee area in the front where you can store frequently accessed items like bait and tackle equipment. There is a rear compartment for storing additional items.
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If you're open to the idea of an inflatable kayak, this one tops the list. While at first the thought of fishing from an inflatable kayak may seem taboo, they are more durable than you're probably thinking. This isn't a kayak-shaped Walmart intertube.
The Sea Eagle SE370 Inflatable Sport Kayak inflates to 12’6” x 34” and can hold up to a whopping 650 lbs and 3 passengers. It is made of 38 Mil K-80 PolyKrylar (K80 PVC). This means that the kayak is extremely durable, and won't puncture when it comes into contact with rocks or logs. It is also resistant to UV rays and salt water.
Each seat is removable, so you can change between paddling along with your family, or going on a solo-fishing trip and bringing along all your gear.
Despite being about to carry 3 people, this kayak is very light, weighing in at only 32 lbs. You should be able to transport it without any issues, and you can inflate it with the included pump in a matter of minutes.
The seats are an average comfort level. They will do for short trips, but could get uncomfortable after a while. There isn't much wiggle room in terms of how much they recline, so some people may not like the default position for long periods.
Because it is inflatable, there aren't actual storage compartments on this kayak. However, it's huge. If you are planning a single person trip, you will have plenty of space to store all of your gear with you in the boat.
The Lifetime Tamarack Angler is a High-Density Polyethylene is UV Protected kayak explicitly designed for the needs of fishermen.
This sit-on High-Density Polyethylene kayak is designed to be versatile, hardy, and last for years. It is 10 feet long and weighs just over 57 lbs. While this is the heaviest model so far in this review, it is still light enough to be handled by a single person.
Being honest here for a second, this isn't the most comfortable kayak you're going to find. This is especially true if you are over 6 ft tall. It will be a tight squeeze, and the seats aren't very comfortable for longer than a few hours at a time.
If you'd like, you can purchase 3rd party seat pads which will make a big difference but may put you over your $500 mark.
Overall, if you're planning short fishing trips on the lake in your backyard, this kayak will do just fine. However, if you're planning a full day or multi-day fishing trip, you may want to consider an option that has more of a focus on long-term comfort.
The Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak comes with an area in the front and back of the kayak that use bungees to secure things like a cooler or tackle box. You should have enough space for most day trips, but it lacks sufficient storage for anything substantial for longer kayak camping trips.
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Another strong contender from Sun Dolphin, The Excursion is a sit-in style kayak that will be great for solo-ocean fishing.
This sit-in kayak comes in a 10-foot and 12-foot version, meaning it should be a comfortable fit for just about everyone. Although this is a sit-in kayak, it is not restrictive. If you are looking for this style in this price range, this is the best you're going to find.
Similar to the Journey model, the Excursion comes with thigh pads and foot support. The seat is also adjustable and padded, which held up for hours without much discomfort.
As far as comfort goes, Sun Dolphin is known for prioritizing this, and the Excursion is no different than any of their other models in this regard. As long as you get the correct kayak length, you should have no complains when it comes to comfort.
The Excursion does pretty well on storage for the size and type of kayak that it is. Not only can you store items in the cockpit, but there is also a designated storage bin in the rear of the kayak that can hold a fair amount of gear. You also have two bungee sections in the front and back of the vessel where you can store additional items.
Generally speaking, sit-in kayaks have less storage space than sit-on kayaks have. So if storage is something you are keen on, the Journey sit-on model may be a better choice.
Choosing a Kayak on a budget
Some people may tell you that $500 can't get you a quality kayak. Those people are probably trying to sell you something.
You can ABSOLUTELY get a quality kayak in that price range, you just have to know what you're looking for. If you are willing to pass up a few expensive features, you can get yourself a top-notch kayak for fishing that will suit your needs.
Depending on the style of kayak you go with will determine the option that is best for you. Sit-in kayaks are better for ocean fishing and cold areas, whereas sit-on kayaks are better options for warm, calm waters.
Make sure you prioritize comfort and storage if you're planning on taking trips that will last longer than a few hours. Also, remember storage. If you don't have a garage, an inflatable kayak may be a great option because you can blow it up when you need it, and deflate it when you don't.
All in all, the best fishing kayak under $500 is up to what you're looking for.
Now it's your turn!
Which type of kayak are you considering? Let us know in the comments section below!