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Best Tandem Fishing Kayaks: Fishing With Friends in 2021

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If you regularly hit the water with a buddy, a tandem fishing kayak may be the perfect investment in shared excitement. And if you’re a solo fisherman who needs more space for your tackle, a tandem stripped of the front seat is simply ideal.

Unfortunately, the popularity of tandems seems to be waning, and they’re now a lot harder to find than a standard kayak. Our research revealed that fewer retailers carry tandems than just a few years ago--and many popular models are no longer available as manufacturers appear to be turning away from these designs as well.

But if you’re in the market for a tandem fishing kayak and don’t know where to start, we’re here to help! Below, you’ll find a complete buying guide as well as reviews of some of our favorite tandem fishing kayaks.

Quick glance at the best tandem fishing kayaks:

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Best Tandem Fishing Kayaks Reviewed

Hobie Mirage Oasis - Best High-End Tandem Fishing Kayak

Length: 14’ 6”

Width: 33”

Weight: 89 lbs. (127 lbs. fully loaded)

Maximum capacity: 550 lbs.

Hobie has built a reputation in the kayak world for high-end designs and powerful pedal drives, and their enviable experience as a catamaran company really translates into kayak design. From tiny details to improve performance to attention to seating comfort, tandems like the Mirage Oasis set the standard other companies aim for.

The Mirage Oasis is the longest ‘yak on our list, measuring a full 14’ 5”. Amazingly, Hobie has kept its weight down, and this big kayak’s hull only weighs in at 89 pounds. If you’re used to a solo, that’s insane, and when combined with that length, it would be too much to handle. But for two, this kayak is a relative breeze to load, unload, and carry.

That said, if long walks to the water are the norm, I’d invest in a trolly of some sort. Fully loaded, with seats and drive, expect about 127 pounds!

Let’s start with the strong suit of the Mirage Oasis: the drive system. This Hobie comes standard with two MirageDrive 180 systems, peddle-powered fins that produce incredible thrust without overtaxing the legs. Most kayakers find that drive systems like Hobie’s deliver more power and speed with far less fatigue than even the best paddles, and in my experience, I’d have to agree.

I’m a pretty strong paddler, but the MirageDrive 180 is simply amazing.

Pair this with dual rudder controls, and you get a sleek, fast ‘yak that’s ideal for long trips to and from your honey hole.

Of course, whether installed or removed, this drive system doesn’t prevent you from paddling, but you’ll immediately notice the loss in performance when you do!

The Mirage Oasis is pretty stable, offering decent beam to length, but I wouldn’t say that it’s designed specifically for standing to cast. That said, for seated angling, it’s a rock-solid platform.

This ‘yak offers plenty of enclosed storage, allowing you to keep sensitive items below deck where they should remain dry and protected from bumps, sun, and spray. Deck space, however, is going to be limited with two anglers--that’s just something all tandem kayakers know going in.

There’s enough room for some tackle at the bow and stern, but not much else.

The Oasis Mirage’s seats are excellent, offering plenty of support. All-day fishing expeditions shouldn’t be uncomfortable at all, and that’s something you’ll probably really appreciate about this Hobie.

For anglers looking for a tandem to paddle solo, the Oasis Mirage is a solid option. With the front seat removed--a simple process--deck space is enormous but far from flat. The seats are situated in a deep, molded well, and while that area can double as storage space with the front one removed, flat deck space is still at a premium.

Overall, this is a very capable kayak for anglers who make long paddles and a mighty fishing machine for solo anglers who prefer a powerful drive system.

While fishing accessories are minimal--just a few molded rod holders--after-market additions are easy to fit, making this a very good choice if you’re willing to pay a premium.

Pros:

  • Incredible drive system
  • Very comfortable seating
  • Plenty of below-deck storage

Cons:

  • Expensive!
  • Deck space is limited with two paddlers
  • Minimal fishing accessories are included

Ocean Kayak Malibu 2XL - Best Overall Tandem Fishing Kayak

Length: 13’ 4”

Width: 34”

Weight: 74 lbs.

Maximum capacity: 500 lbs.

Ocean Kayak’s Malibu 2XL is as mean and lean as tandem angling kayaks come. A traditional sit-on-top design, what it lacks in extra features it more than makes up for in portability and solo-maneuverability.

At 13’ 4” and just 74 pounds, this is a tandem that a solo paddler can load, unload, and transport. While smaller, less fit anglers may find this a bit of a struggle, most should be able to handle the encumbrance this weight and length offer.

Beam to width is generous, and this kayak is pretty stable. With practice, you might stand and cast, making this an excellent fly fishing kayak for solo anglers.

Tracking is pretty good, and this ‘yak handles better than you’d imagine given its looks.

But don’t come to the Malibu looking for a fancy drive system: it’s designed around paddling and is a no-frills hull that looks to get the job done with minimal fuss. The tandem seating positions are good, especially if you run this kayak solo for the added deck space.

The seats are well-made, hooking securely into eyes in the hull for support. In no sense the equal of the Hobie’s awesome seating, the Malibu’s seats still work well, though all-day comfort suffers. Easy to remove in seconds and very lightweight, they do what they’re intended for without complicating matters or adding pounds.

Storage is scanty with two paddlers, though there’s space at the bow and stern. Access to dry storage is near the center of the ‘yak and accomplished via a wide, easy access hatch. Two molded rod holders and two cannon-style mounts are included.

With the front seat removed, the sky’s the limit for gear, and there’s no question that Ocean Kayak thought through this possibility in its rear seating position and hull design.

Pros:

  • Very light 
  • Ideal for solo anglers who need lots of deck space
  • Good seating design
  • Very stable

Cons:

  • Deck space is limited with two paddlers
  • Dry storage access is minimal
  • Seat comfort isn’t ideal for all-day angling

Feelfree Corona - Best Budget Tandem Fishing Kayak

Length: 13’ 1”

Width: 34”

Weight: 79 lbs.

Maximum capacity: 617 lbs.

Fellfree’s Corona isn’t designed for fishing, but that won’t stop savvy anglers from using it for just that! Less expensive than most solos, the Corona is an exceptional buy for fishermen looking to bring a buddy or a lot of tackle.

At just an inch over 13 feet, the Corona weighs in at a svelte 79 pounds. That’s doable alone and easy to load, unload, and transport for two. For slightly-built anglers concerned about the weight of other tandems, this is a good option.

There’s even a built-in wheel in the keel to help you roll this kayak across hard surfaces!

On the water, the generous beam to length and careful hull design provide admirable stability, and I’d have to say this is the most confidence-inspiring of the ‘yaks on our list. Standing to cast along with a fly rod is more than doable, and for small kids along for the adventure, this kayak certainly gets the nod.

As you’d expect of a short tandem, two adults limit deck space to just a bit fore and aft of the seating positions. Dry storage is accessible via two small, round hatches, but the front seating position doesn’t allow that paddler to reach either of them. That’s not a deal-breaker, but it’s something to be aware of.

The seats are the standard lightweight affairs that hook into eyes in the hull. All-day comfort is iffy, and some aftermarket research is definitely on the must-do list for serious anglers.

That said, with the front seat removed, deck space is enormous, stability is excellent, and paddling isn’t too bad. Tracking is acceptable, and this ‘yak is generally mild-mannered, as you’d expect from a rec hull design. It’s very easy to change the seat position to adjust trim, something that’s not simple at all on the Malibu or Hobie.

While not built around fishing, for anglers on a tight budget, Feelfree’s Corona is worth a close look. 

Pros:

  • Very light 
  • Ideal for solo anglers who need lots of deck space
  • Good seating design
  • Extremely stable
  • Relatively inexpensive!

Cons:

  • Deck space is limited with two paddlers
  • Dry storage access is minimal
  • Seat comfort isn’t ideal for all-day angling
  • No fishing accessories come standard

Buying Guide: What to Consider When Shopping for a Tandem Fishing Kayak

Stability

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.

  • Stability is critical- Think of a fishing kayak as a platform to do a lot more than paddling. You’ll be retrieving gear from hatches, casting, fighting fish, leaning over the gunnels, and maybe even dropping your catch in a live well in the stern. Some anglers, especially fly fishermen, prefer to sight fish or need to stand while casting.
    With all that movement, and much of it with a high center of gravity, you can see that you’ll be placing exceptional demands on your kayak.
  • Broaden your expectations - Sea kayaks are long and sleek--an ideal shape for long paddling expeditions because they’re hydrodynamically efficient. But for fishing, wider is generally 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!

Repositionable Seats Add Versatility and Increase Comfort

Many people opt for a tandem because they know that there’s no better way to enjoy their time on the water than with friends or family. One thing to keep in mind when selecting a kayak is versatility: models with adjustable (and removable) seats that can be repositioned are generally the best choice.

  • Legroom - Taller paddlers may have trouble in fixed seats, and nothing’s worse than feeling cramped and confined while kayaking. Repositionable seats allow you to create more or less legroom, customizing the fit for even the longest-legged kayakers.
  • Trim - Trim describes whether a kayak is floating as it should, properly balanced between fore and aft. Too much weight in either direction isn’t good, and adjustable seats can help you get the trim of your ‘yak right. This is especially tricky when you have paddlers of very different weights and sizes, like an adult and a child. But by moving the seats, you can shift weight toward the bow or stern, leveling your ‘yak for optimal tracking and handling.
  • Rigging a tandem for a single paddler - Sometimes, you may want to rig a tandem for a single paddler, allowing quite a bit more space for your tackle. Again, repositionable seats allow you to create space near the bow for more storage and enable you to adjust the trim to maximize performance.

Comfort

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.

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

Despite apparently flagging popularity, tandem kayaks are capable angling platforms that help you make memories with friends and family. And for solo paddlers who need plenty of room for tackle, a tandem makes a lot of sense.

While options are currently limited, these three ‘yaks are excellent choices that cover a wide range of budgets and needs. And though we can’t say which is the best for you, each of them is more than capable of getting the job done!

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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