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Best Stand Up Fishing Kayak

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Whether you look for the tell-tale fins of reds on a salt flat or like to spot big largemouth waiting to ambush prey, sight fishing increases your odds dramatically. No longer guessing about where the fish are, you spend more time catching and less time casting.

Long the purview of big boat owners, there’s now a range of kayaks offering the stability and performance needed to stand, cast, and fight big fish. Improvements in hull design, innovative evolutions in kayak layout, and lots of real-world experience have produced small boats that are any angler’s dream.

If you’re in the market for a kayak that you can fish from while standing, we’re here to help! Below, you’ll find a complete buying guide, as well as reviews of some of our favorites.

Quick glance at the best stand up fishing kayaks:

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Best StandUp Fishing Kayaks Reviewed

Jackson Kayak MayFly - Best Kayak for Fly Angling while Standing

Length: 12’ 8”

Weight: 94 lbs. 

Beam: 35”

Capacity: 450 lbs.

Anglers who want to stand while fishing need a ‘yak with uncompromising stability--that’s obvious. But a second feature that really helps is a clean, clear deck with nothing to trip over. The designers at Jackson Kayak clearly understood this, and the MayFly is a hard boat to beat for this reason.

Experienced fly anglers know the hassles of hang-ups caused by long lengths of line ready for their casts, and while not as devilishly snag-prone as standard fishing line, fly line still seems to have a perverse attraction to cannon-style mounts and protrusions.

The MayFly sports an ultra-clean deck with plenty of space. Not only does this give you room to move your feet during a fight, but it also practically guarantees slick casting. Add to that a non-stick coating, and you’ve got pretty much a perfect set up for sight fishing.

Stability is excellent, as you’d expect given Jackson Kayak’s clear nod toward standing. Good hull design and a wide beam provide plenty of primary stability and confidence-inspiring steadiness. Secondary stability is excellent as well, and without a wave to help you over, I think you’d find rolling this ‘yak a challenge.

That said, expect slightly more sluggish handling than you’d get from trimmer, tippier designs. Hydrodynamics are all about trade-offs, and to get stability, you sacrifice speed.

Storage is ample and easy to access, including a large bow hatch with a removable tray and two fly-box storage panels to either side of the cockpit. Jackson Kayak heard the complaints about water leaks on the hatch seals and has improved that system and beefed-up the gaskets.

On each side of the cockpit, you’ll find long gear rails allowing you to customize your layout and add pretty much whatever you’d like to the mix.

The MayFly has an excellent seat that provides all-day comfort while staying reasonably cool. It also allows Molle mounted accessories on its back, adding that much more potential storage to the mix.

One YakAttack Omega rod holder comes standard, and a large stern hatch lets you store more safely below deck. The stern well could be larger, but it’s big enough for a cooler or live well.

Overall, I really like this kayak, and with the front cannon-mount stowed away, I find it to be the best of the bunch for fly casting.

Pros:

  • Exceptionally stable
  • Non-slip deck
  • Clean deck with no snag risks for fly casting
  • Lots of storage
  • Plenty of customizable options
  • Comfortable seat

Cons:

  • Earlier versions had hatch seal issues

Wilderness Systems A.T.A.K. 140 - Best Stand-Up Kayak for Fishing Big Water

Length: 14’ 1”

Weight: 95 lbs.

Beam: 34”

Capacity: 550 lbs.

I have to admit that I’ve been a Wilderness Systems fan since my first Tarpon 120. Had the ATAK 140 been available, I’d have been mighty tempted.

Right off the bat, it’s clear that this ‘yak doesn’t have angling as a secondary design feature. While perhaps not quite the equal of the MayFly in terms of stability, the ATAK is admirably solid underfoot. Forward of the seat, you’ll find a more or less typical kayak deck that provides ample space for standing and repositioning your feet. Non-slip pads improve your footing, especially when wet, slimy, or bloody.

My only complaint? You’ll find the typical adjustable foot pegs to either side, and they’re just waiting to grab and hold fly line during casting.

To the fore, you’ll find a modular, removable pod to which your fishfinder, GPS, or other electronics can be attached. This feature makes rigging these accessories a snap, and customizable mounting rails come standard as well. 

The bow hatch is spacious and easy to reach, and while the stern well could be larger, behind it, the ATAK offers a large rectangular hatch to stow your poles and gear. Wilderness Systems gets hatches right, and these are perhaps the best in the business in terms of usability and water-tightness.

The ATAK 140’s seat is comfortable and all-day ready. Adjustable to three positions, it can move over quite a long distance, creating more deck space when you need it.

That’s a smart feature that elevates the utility of all that deck space even more.

Wilderness Systems’s ATAK 140 is an excellent fishing kayak that just begs you to stand and cast. The MayFly is probably slightly better for fly anglers given just how clean its deck is, but the ATAK is no slouch in that department. And for big water and high surf, I think the ATAK is superior in its hull and hatch design.

Pros:

  • Exceptionally stable
  • Non-slip deck
  • Lots of storage
  • Removable, modular electronics pod
  • Excellent hatch design and placement
  • Comfortable seat that extends usable deck space

Cons:

  • Deck not quite as clear as the MayFly for fly casting

Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12

Length: 12’

Weight: 132.5 lbs.

Beam: 36”

Capacity: 500 lbs.

Hobie’s Mirage Pro Angler offers an exciting combination of innovative design and real-world performance, helping to justify its stratospheric price tag.

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 on your feet 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.

Here’s the rub.

Much of what makes the Mirage Pro Angler attractive is the 360 pedal drive. It’s a powerful fin system that ensures this Hobie will be among the fastest kayaks you’ll find. Really--it’s that good at fighting currents and wind, and just a few minutes will make you a believer.

But that drive, while easy to remove, is sitting front and center on the deck, right where it should be to pedal. For conventional anglers, that’s easy enough to work around, as you’ll see in Hobie’s promotional video below.

But for casting flies, the pedal drive is right in the way, and I can guarantee that it’s going to cause issues until you remove it and stow it away. That’s not deal-breaking by any means, but it really does create a hassle if you need to move quickly.

Storage is exceptional on this ‘yak, 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!

Hobie’s attention to detail really shows, and I’m impressed by what this kayak has to offer. That said, note the weight. At 132.5 pounds, you won’t be throwing this ‘yak onto the roof of your car or SUV, and it’ll be a real handful for one person. No question about it; you’ll want a trolly for this boat, even for short walks to launch.

For smaller or less fit anglers, that’s something to really consider.

Overall, I like the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler a lot, especially if you have easy access to the water. For longer hauls and fly angling, there are probably better options on this list.

But--and this is a big but--if you have long paddles to make, especially in calm estuaries and other tidal environments, a powerful pedal drive is going to make the trip much, much easier.

Pros:

  • Exceptionally stable
  • Non-slip deck
  • Lots of storage
  • Excellent hatch design and placement
  • Comfortable seat 
  • Awesome pedal drive

Cons:

  • Heavy!
  • Expensive!
  • The pedal drive will need to be removed and stowed for fly casting

Hobie Mirage ITrek 11 - Best Inflatable Stand-Up Fishing Kayak

Length: 10’ 8”

Weight: 44 lbs.

Beam: 40”

Capacity: 400 lbs.

Perhaps more paddle board than kayak, what’s certain is that Hobie’s Mirage ITrek 11 is a very hard contender to beat if you’re looking for a stand-up option. Fast, stable, sturdy, and comfortable, there’s a lot to recommend about the ITrek 11 for serious anglers.

Hobie uses 550 denier PVC on the hull. Don’t confuse this with pool toys: very, very little will threaten this Hobie with a puncture, and you can be confident taking this ‘yak into challenging situations.

By design, the ITrek 11 is ridiculously stable. Standing is almost as easy as it is on dry land, in part due to positive buoyancy at the edges. I’d probably rate this as the most stable option on my list.

Deck space is huge, flat, and clean--easily the best of the bunch if the pedal drive is removed.

This Hobie comes standard with MirageDrive GT, a pedal-powered fin system that generates ridiculous torque and speed. Easily much faster than a paddle, it’s great for getting where you need to be and surprisingly capable at fighting current and wind. Paired with the included rudder, this is really an effortless inflatable to “paddle,” coming close to the performance of the other products we’re reviewing.

With that pedal drive in place, you’re going to risk snags when casting flies. And while your mileage may vary, I’d bet you’ll need to remove it and stow it, as on the Mirage Pro Angler.

Deck space is plentiful, but storage options really aren’t. Think of this as a suped-up paddle board: space, but without organization. There are no hatches or accessory rails, so you’ll need to get creative about how you organize your tackle under the included tie-downs. That’s not a deal-breaker in any sense, and a bit of forethought will have most anglers well supplied while fishing.

Hobie certainly spent plenty of time on the seat. Rigid, comfortable, and high, it’s ideal for all-day adventures and provides a commanding view of the water. For many, it’s already high enough to allow side arm fly casting, and despite the raised center of gravity, the ITrek 11 feels like it’s nailed down.

For anglers who don’t have the ability to store or transport a hardshell, this is an ideal platform for sight fishing.

Pros:

  • Light!
  • Easy to store and transport
  • Exceptionally stable
  • Non-slip deck
  • Lots of deck space
  • Comfortable seat 
  • Awesome pedal drive

Cons:

  • Not many storage options
  • The pedal drive will need to be removed and stowed for fly casting

Old Town Predator 13 - Best Budget Stand-Up Fishing Kayak

Length: 13’ 2”

Weight: 86 lbs.

Beam: 33.5”

Capacity: 425 lbs.

Known primarily for their legendary canoes, Old Town has used that world-class experience to design kayaks with impressive results.

The Old Town Predator 13 is an excellent choice for anglers looking for a sight fishing platform, and in truth, it’s just a great kayak in general.

Stability is exceptional, and while there may be a tad of wiggle under foot when standing, the Predator’s secondary stability is amazing. You can stand on one side of this ‘yak, tilting it up onto its edge a bit, and it’s just glued to the water. 

Deck space is great, essentially on par with Wilderness Systems’s ATAK 140. The deck sports non-slip ridges and is reasonably clear forward of the chair, but you’ll encounter the usual foot pegs and the problems they offer for fly casting. To my mind, that brings it below the MayFly for dedicated fly anglers, but conventional fishermen won’t find those footpegs an issue at all.

Storage is generous, though not nearly as user-friendly as the ATAK. 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.

And for anglers who want to upgrade to a pedal drive, the predator can accommodate Old Town’s drop-in system, turning this ‘yak into a true speed demon.

This kayak may be the least expensive on our list, but it really doesn’t feel that way. I’d say it’s a worthy rival for the slightly pricier ATAK 140, sharing many of its strengths.

Pros:

  • Exceptionally stable
  • Non-slip deck
  • Lots of storage
  • Removable, modular electronics pod
  • Good hatch design and placement
  • Comfortable seat that increases storage
  • Easy to upgrade to a pedal drive

Cons:

  • Deck not quite as clear as the MayFly for fly casting

Buying Guide: What to Consider When Shopping for a Stand-Up Fishing Kayak

Stability

While stability is always something to consider when choosing a kayak, for angling, it’s pretty much the place to start. And if you plan to sight fish, it’s even more critical.

Fishing demands a lot from you and your ‘yak, whether you’re casting or fighting 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.

  • Stability is critical- While the demands angling places on stability are generally pretty high, standing to cast and fight takes things to the next level. With all that movement and a really high center of gravity, you can see that you’ll be placing exceptional demands on your kayak.
    I look for kayaks with excellent primary and secondary stability. I want them rock solid or as close as I can get.
  • Primary stability describes how tippy a kayak is, that is, how easy it is to get it rocking uncomfortably or “up on and edge.” Low primary stability makes a kayak wobbly, and by contrast, high primary stability makes it feel more like you’re standing on dry land.
  • Secondary stability describes how hard it is to actually flip your ‘yak once you have it up on edge. Low secondary stability means that once you’ve got your kayak at a steep angle--defeating the primary stability--it’s easy to get it to keep going, spilling you and your gear.
  • Broaden your expectations - Sea kayaks are long and sleek--an ideal shape for long paddling expeditions because they’re hydrodynamically efficient. But for fishing while standing, wider is absolutely better. While that may make your kayak a bit slower and demand more from you as a paddler, that extra beam translates into greater stability. 

Purpose-designed angling kayaks tend to be a bit paunchy, but embrace the bulge!

Design

You have an incredible range of designs to choose from, but most fishing-specific kayaks are single-seated sit-on-tops. While your needs dictate your choice, for most people, most of the time, sit-on-tops are the way to go.

Sit-on-tops - dominate the angling market, and the reasons are pretty simple. 

  • Open deck space - They provide plenty of room for tying lures and working with line, reels, rods, and fish. 
  • Accessible storage - You need lots of storage that’s easily accessible from the cockpit, and SOTs have you covered.
  • Self-bailing - Scuppers allow fishermen worry-free paddling. These drains make a SOT unswampable.
  • Easy to right and re-enter - If the worst does happen and you flip your ‘yak, sit-on-tops are much easier to re-enter from the water.

Inflatables - Not everyone has a way to transport a kayak to the water, and if you want to chase the fish but don’t have a realistic way to haul a ‘yak, an inflatable may be the best choice for you. 

  • Portability - Because these kayaks can be deflated and packed away easily, they offer the ultimate in portability. 
  • Poor tracking and paddling - Inflatables tend not to have hulls shaped for efficiency, handling, or tracking, even when compared to regular fishing designs. As a result, they’re a bit more sluggish than even the paunchiest alternatives.
    That’s not a hard and fast rule, however, and the Hobie inflatable on our list handles almost as well as its competition.
  • Durability issues - To make these tough enough to withstand hooks, knives, and other sharp objects, they’re made from high-end materials that don’t come cheap.

Comfort

If you’re in the market for a kayak that’ll let you stand up to fish, you may think comfort’s not that big a deal.

You’d be wrong.

Unless you’re fishing a tiny pond, you’ll be paddling that ‘yak quite a bit, and plenty of anglers need to make long trips to and from a launch to where they plan to fish. An hour or two of paddling in a seat designed for the Spanish Inquisition isn’t going to endear you to your ‘yak!

Look for comfortable seats that provide all-day, pain-free performance.

Trust me; you’ll be glad you did.

Storage

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.

Propulsion: Paddle vs. Pedal

While there are aftermarket options for battery-powered trolling motors, off-the-shelf, you’ll generally have two overlapping options: pedal or paddle.

Paddle - Paddles have a lot of benefits. 

  • Inexpensive - Paddles range in price, but inexpensive, effective options aren’t hard to find.
  • Low- to no-maintenance - They’re pretty much grab and go.
  • Indispensable - As any experienced kayak angler can tell you, they’re more than just a way to get a kayak going. From push pole to lure retriever to makeshift anchor, a paddle is indispensable in the hands of someone who knows how to use one.
  • Stealthy - While not everyone agrees, many fishermen find that a paddle is the ultimate stealth option for creeping up on the fish.

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. 

Pedal drives - These are an option on some premium kayaks, and unsurprisingly, they don’t come cheap. 

  • Expensive - Expect to pay a premium for a pedal-driven kayak. This is a top-shelf option that’s going to come with a top-shelf price tag. If you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive way to start fishing your local lake, river, or estuary, you may balk at the prices of pedal-driven ‘yaks.
  • Powerful and effective - Using a basic rotary pedal system powered by your legs, a pedal drive transfers power either to a prop or a pair of fins that propels your kayak forward (and some offer reverse, too!). Because they take advantage of your powerful leg muscles, more than a few kayakers find that they can go farther, faster with a pedal drive than with a paddle.
  • Hands-free - Don’t underestimate this advantage. This is a real godsend in the wind, and it can mean the difference between casting and paddling.
  • Reduced draught - Not everything about pedal drives is good news, though. Because they extend below your hull, they reduce your draught and demand deeper water. If you regularly fish extreme shallows or rocky rivers, you might want to stick with a paddle. 
  • Minimal routine maintenance - You’ll need to take care of your drive, even if that only means giving it a quick rinse after every fishing trip. 

You can’t go wrong with either option, but we recommend that you never go out on the water without a paddle. Take the time to learn to use one properly.

Portability, Weight, and Encumbrance

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.

  • Transporting - You won’t feel those pounds on the water, but when you’re lifting and handling a kayak during transport, you’ll feel every ounce. Keep in mind, too, that the longer your ‘yak is, the more unwieldy it’ll be at a given weight. 
  • Portaging - Sometimes, you’ll need to exit your ‘yak and carry it over solid ground or significant shallows. This process is called portaging, and with a heavily-loaded kayak, it can put your whole body to the test. Keep the extra pounds you’ll be adding to your boat from gear in mind if this is something you anticipate.
  • Try before you buy - If possible, we recommend that you try lifting and loading a few kayaks to get a feel for how you manage a given weight and length. Experimenting now can give you a good sense of what’s too much for you and your level of fitness.

Final Thoughts

Whether an inflatable like the Hobie ITrek11 or a hardshell like the Old Town Predator 13 is your pick, one thing is certain: you won’t be disappointed when you take to the water, get to your feet, and start fishing.

Every ‘yak on this list is a capable sight fishing platform that’ll serve you for years if you treat it right.

We hope that these reviews have helped you make the right decision for your need and budget, and as always, we’d love to hear from you!

Please leave a comment below.

About The Author
Pete D
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.
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