Inshore fishing from a kayak is some of the most exciting angling you’ll ever find. And whether that’s standing tall while hunting reds in a salt marsh or fighting a shark beyond the breakers, big water will put your ‘yak to the test.
You’ll need unmatched stability and seaworthiness, the best storage options, and you may even opt for a pedal drive or electric motor.
After all, long paddles, sudden storms, and big fish are the norm out there!
Are you ready? We’re here to help, and below, you’ll find a complete buying guide and reviews of some of our favorite sea fishing kayaks.
Quick glance at the best ocean fishing kayaks:
Table of Contents (clickable)
Length: 13’ 2”
Weight: 117 lbs.
Maximum capacity: 500 lbs.
Old Town built its reputation one awesome canoe at a time, and nothing has changed about that now that they manufacture kayaks, too. The Predator PDL is a capable, confidence-inspiring, angling-centric kayak that really demonstrates Old Town’s enviable real-world experience on the water.
The Predator PDL’s stability is exceptional, and while seated, it would take pretty rough surf or a massive wake to cause any trouble at all. For anglers who sight fish in bays, estuaries, and mudflats, this kayak is an awesome choice. Standing is no sweat, and there’s plenty of room to maneuver your feet and get into the right position.
This is complemented by a non-slip surface that improves traction under foot, even when wet, slimy, or bloody.
Storage is generous, though not nearly as user-friendly as I’d like it to be. Expect a small water-tight compartment immediately in front of the chair, an integrated electronics pod, and a larger hatch at the bow. Each of these features is well-thought-out, but if hatch storage is your thing, Wilderness Systems gets the highest marks.
You’ll find a transducer scupper ready to accept Humminbird electronics, which is a really nice touch, and two built-in rod holders to the rear of the chair. The rear well is spacious, offering plenty of tackle options, and the raised seating lets you slide a tackle box or two out of the way there.
Old Town equips the Predator with a comfortable seat, and you can expect no trouble on this front.
The PDL drive that Old Town equips this ‘yak with is powerful and dependable, and it’ll get you where you need to be in a hurry. Providing more than enough oomph to fight the current and wind, the Predator cuts the water pretty well, tracks straight, and comes with an effective, easy-to-use rudder.
Overall, this is a winning combination of elegant design and careful engineering that won’t disappoint.
Length: 13’ 6”
Weight: 95 lbs. (without drives)
Maximum capacity: 475 lbs.
The engineers at Wilderness Systems have probably forgotten more about kayak design than most people will ever know, and their robust experience and eye for detail really show in the Radar 135.
Stability is excellent, as you’d expect, and I’d trust this ‘yak to stay upright in really terrible conditions. In normal swells, it’s confidence-inspiring and feels like you’re sitting over a deep, heavy keel. Surely stable enough for sight fishing from your feet, I think the ATAK 140 is a better option for anglers who are dedicated to standing.
That’s just a question of deck design and space.
One place the Radar 135 really shines is hatch placement and design. Immediately in front of the seat, you’ll find a large rectangular hatch that’s easy to access and plenty secure. Ideal for things like a cell phone or radio, you can count on the gasket and design to keep your stuff dry, even when you take water from a wave.
Farther forward, there’s another hatch near the bow.
Two pod systems offer lots of possibilities. Both can take electronics like fish finders, and for paddle-minded anglers, they make a lot of sense. But each can also be swapped out with a drive system; the smaller switches out for the Helix PD; the other swaps out for the Helix MD.
With either drive system installed, the other pod offers electronics mounting options, making this a very versatile system that’s clearly thought out.
The Helix PD is a propeller-driven pedal drive delivering plenty of power and ease-of-use. It’ll turn the Radar 135 into a rocket, and it’s almost an essential if you’re making long trips fighting the current and wind. Paired with an excellent rudder system, actuated via a hand lever on the left, the Radar 135 is very easy to keep tracking straight in all but the worst conditions.
The Helix MD is a propeller-driven motor with an onboard battery. Developing power equivalent to a 1 HP outboard, to say this thing really scoots is an understatement! Capable of nearly 6 mph and maximum running times of more than 8 hours, the Helix MD is impressive.
Let’s take a closer look.
The Helix MD drops in place of the forward pod. Drawing juice from a lithium-ion rechargeable battery, you can expect charging from nothing to full in about 12 hours. With reasonable throttle settings, all-day power is pretty much guaranteed, but as the engineers warn, wind, current, and the tide can affect battery life by making that motor work harder than your speed might reveal.
Quiet enough for big water, though slightly louder than a quality trolling motor, you can count me as a big fan of the Helix MD.
But--and this is huge--this motor costs way more than the kayak itself, about 40% more! Even the Helix PD is roughly the price of this boat.
Now, that’s a big sticker shock, but the basic price of this ‘yak plus these options still places it neck and neck with the Old Town, Jackson Kayak, and Hobie price points. The bottom line: if you want a pedal drive, you’ll be looking at roughly the same money across the board. Step up to an electric motor, and the price soars from there.
The seat on the Radar 135 is very comfortable, offering all-day pampering and no issues. Multiple seating positions and easy adjustability are hallmarks of this system.
The rear well is big, offering plenty of storage options, too.
Overall, I really like the Radar 135. It’s well-thought-out, carefully designed, and packed with features that matter in the real world. Both the pedal and motor drives perform well, and other than the price of these additions, there’s nothing to complain about.
Length: 13’ 3”
Weight: 145 lbs.
Maximum capacity: 550 lbs.
Jackson Kayaks is a premier manufacturer of high-end boats, and you can count on quality from stem to stern. Their Big Rig FD was designed specifically for anglers, and whether you tackle the salt or a massive lake, it’s outfitted to make the most of your fishing opportunities.
Stability is simply ridiculous in this ‘yak, and you’d need to try to flip it to even have a chance at that. Clearly, the engineers at Jackson Kayaks spent some time on hull design, and given the massive beam, I’d trust this boat for sight fishing without a second question. It’s equally confidence-inspiring in bad swells, and I think you’d be fine rocking really hard to the side.
Details like two rod guards on each side really tell, and for launching in surf where a roll might mean broken tackle, this is a nod to real-world experience that you don’t often see. They make for a great “docking system” for holding and changing rods, too.
Two excellent hatches, one fore and one aft, offer plenty of access below deck, keeping your gear dry pretty much no matter what happens. The front hatch includes a removable bin that’s ideal for storing things like phones, radios, or lunch, where they’ll stay high and dry.
The Flex Drive system that powers this ‘yak is a pedal drive that’s very hard to beat. Like the rest of the Big Rig, it’s cleverly designed and reflects real-world experience. Powerful and effective, it swivels upward to allow for shallow draughts and bumps, keeping the prop out of harm’s way and letting you access tight spots.
Steering happens through a rudder control on the right, and this combo makes tracking in currents and winds essentially effortless.
And like the Wilderness Systems Radar 135, there’s a motor option called the Flex Drive E. Be warned: it’s very expensive and getting even more so recently.
Unlike the Radar 135, however, you must pick either the pedal or motor, as they fill the same slot in the hull. To my mind, that’s an inferior option, but you may not agree, and plenty of people won’t.
The Flex Drive E draws power from any standard 12 or 24 V lithium marine battery, not included in the cost of the drive. If you’re not familiar with battery tech, that’s going to add a hefty additional cost on top of an already expensive addition. It’ll also require you to find space for that battery and run the cables to the motor.
In contrast to the Helix MD, that means less space, more weight, higher cost, and added hassle.
Recharging times and discharge rates depend on factors that are too various for me to analyze, and this is definitely a case where your mileage will vary. For instance, which battery you choose to run this motor matters as much as it would with a trolling motor, and as usual, your battery will run down more quickly at higher throttle settings and with more wind, current, and tide to fight.
Finally, the seating system on the Big Rig is simply awesome, feeling very much like you’re in a comfy chair on dry land.
It should be clear that I like this kayak a lot, and it’s among the best of the bunch without question. Like the Wilderness Systems’s competitor, the motor option comes at a premium many anglers simply won’t pay, but the pedal drive-equipped standard model is nothing to sneeze at. Fast, easy to steer, and packed with features, it’s an awesome choice for big water.
Length: 13’ 8”
Weight: 144.5 lbs.
Maximum capacity: 600 lbs.
Hobie’s Mirage Pro Angler offers an exciting combination of innovative design and real-world performance, helping to justify its high price tag. Expect a few hundred more for this ‘yak than even the already pricey Big Rig from Jackson Kayaks.
For sight fishing on your feet, I’d give the Mirage Pro Angler pretty high marks. A wide beam and stable hull contour yield remarkable stability, and casting and fighting while standing are no sweat. The deck immediately forward of the chair is coated in a non-slip matting that improves traction, and there’s plenty of space to reposition your feet.
For these reasons, I’d say the Hobie is the best option for sight fishing among these big water kayaks, while the Big Rig is probably the most stable overall. And there’s simply no question that the Hobie can handle big swells.
Hobie’s MirageDrive 180 may be the best pedal drive money can buy--it’s that good. Providing better torque and speed--in my opinion--than the competitors, it also offers a folding design that handles shallows and obstacles with aplomb. Seriously--this is a powerful pedal drive, and if you’re making long trips to get to where you plan to fish, it might be worth investing in this ‘yak.
Storage is exceptional, with hatches fore and aft that are easy to use and water-tight. You’ll even find a built-in tackle organizer in the hatch immediately adjacent to your seat.
Accessory rails run down the cockpit to either side, offering plenty of places for electronics, rod holders, and other accessories, and there’s plenty of space at the stern for a cooler, tackle, or anything else you might have in mind.
The seat on this ‘yak is plenty comfortable, and all-day excursions aren’t going to leave you needing a chiropractor!
Overall, the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 is a fantastic big water kayak, ideal for fighting the current, tide, and wind. It’s stable, well-appointed, and eminently capable in salt or freshwater.
Weight: 92 lbs.
Maximum capacity: 550 lbs.
A pedal drive or motor aren’t essential for big water, and plenty of anglers just can’t afford a kayak with these options. Vibe knows this, and the Sea Ghost 130 is a great option for fishermen who can’t take out a second mortgage to buy a nice ‘yak.
Vibe has thought through the design of this angling-centric boat, and without a doubt, you’ll find what you need for your next adventure.
Stability is great, though probably not on par with the Hobie or Big Rig. That’s ok in my book because you’ll be paddling this ‘yak, and widening the beam any further would really make that a chore.
But though this boat has less total space than many others on our list, storage options are excellent. There’s a hinged dry-storage console with electronics mounting options directly in front of the seat. It’s simply awesome--a feature I really like. You’ll find mounting rails for your fish finder, space for a phone or radio, a cup holder, and accessory spots for essentials like a knife or pliers.
It’s even got a magnetic tackle holder that allows you to open the lid with a lure or two on top!
This console is something every fishing kayak should have, and the first time you see it, you’ll wonder why it’s not a common feature. It’s almost game-changing.
There’s a larger watertight hatch fore and a smaller one aft, just behind the seat. They give you plenty of access to the below decks for dry storage, but I really love the bungee-secured tackle box slots on either side of the chair.
You’ll also find accessory rail slots running down both sides of the cockpit, providing plenty of mounting options. Two, rearward leaning rod holders are built-in behind the seat as well.
The Sea Ghost’s seat is really well designed, making it easy to adjust and ensuring all-day comfort. No complaints here at all.
And the included rudder system, controlled via the foot braces, works really well, keeping you on course in wind, current, and tide.
There’s a lot to love about this kayak, especially if you’re a strong paddler. And no question, the Sea Ghost 13 is a stable, effective fishing platform whether you chase reds inshore or hunt bass on your local lake.
While stability is always something to consider when choosing a kayak, for angling, it’s pretty much the place to start. Fishing demands a lot from you and your ‘yak, whether you’re casting, standing, or struggling with a real monster! And if you happen to break your line, or the fish spits out your lure during a hard fight, you’ll put that stability to the test.
Purpose-designed angling kayaks tend to be a bit paunchy, but embrace the bulge!
Comfort matters, and you’ll want a kayak seat that can keep you ache-free all day. Opinions vary, and it’s a good idea to try before you buy. If you can, settle yourself into a few cockpits to see how well they fit you. If the back or seat lacks padding in the right places, or if you can feel a sore spot pretty much immediately, you’ll want to give that model a pass.
The good news is that many fishing kayaks now come equipped with very comfortable, albeit heavy, seating systems. Often multi-position, they can be adjusted for paddling or casting and offer all-day comfort. The bad news is that by holding you higher off the water, they demand greater stability--another reason this consideration is king.
More is almost always better! If you’re new to fishing, you may underestimate how much gear you’ll be packing. Line, lures, rods, fishfinders, batteries, coolers, livewells, sunscreen...you get the idea!
Look for kayaks that have ample stern wells, easily accessible hatches, and plenty of space for accessories. Some even come with removable trays and other cool features that allow you to stow and organize your gear.
While any angler might have a long paddle to and from their fishing spot, on big water, that’s all but guaranteed. Moreover, when things turn to the worse--say, in with bad weather--speed can be essential.
Three propulsion options are common for kayaks, and each has strengths and weaknesses:
But they have downsides, too. In the wind or current, prepare to juggle your rod and
paddle as needed. It’s happened to me on breezy days, and it’ll happen to you, too.
And unless you’re strong and fit, sustained hard paddling to escape a storm or fight the tide can get really, really tough.
Don’t ask me how I know!
Keep in mind that whatever your propulsion system, a paddle is essential equipment. Pedal drives and motors fail; paddles don’t.
Be safe and bring a paddle.
You’ll be lifting and loading your ‘yak every time you take to the water, and for most of us, that can be a pretty intense overhead lift! Make sure you can handle the weight.
The salt will quickly get into your blood, especially once you catch your first fish from a kayak.
I love salt water fishing from mine, and I’m sure you will, too. That’s why I hope this article has helped you narrow your choice and pick the right boat for your adventures.
As always, I’d love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below.