A successful journalist and news reporter in the past, George is now focused on freelance work to be able to dedicate more time to the most important things in his life: family, friends, his dogs, and fishing.
John is an avid traveler, hiker, and RVer. Moreover, it seems like he knows everything when it comes to fishing and hunting: his father started sharing all the tips and tricks he knew when John was a kid. No wonder we trust his opinion every time a new article is being created.
Last updated: May 17, 2021
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For any serious angler or fishing enthusiast a fishing kayak is a necessity. Fishing kayaks are appreciated for their versatility and agility in water. But this doesn’t always mean you must buy the most expensive model on the market to enjoy these attributes. There are many brands with models under $500 that perform just as well as their high-end counterparts. Granted, they might not have all the extras featured on the expensive models. And they may generally have a lower carrying capacity but that’s not always the case. You can definitely find a high-quality kayak at a lower price. And we can prove it.
We’ve outlined the eight best fishing kayaks under $500 in this article. All models were reviewed based on features such as the type, weight capacity, length and weight of the kayak—including if it has rod holders. These factors will affect performance, speed and durability of the kayak as well as other factors that we’ll highlight later. Based on the above features, a model that stood out for us is the Emotion 90259 Renegade XT Fishing Kayak which we’ve voted our Editor’s choice.
Many hours went into this research. We’ve spent over 160 hours comparing different product features with information we gathered from manufacturers’ websites and reviews. We’ve highlighted the major specs of each model in the comparison table and also included detailed product reviews of each. To round off the article is an in-depth buying guide aimed at educating you on what to look for before making your final purchase. Your only task after going through the aforementioned factors is to pick your favourite fishing kayak from our list.
Topping our list is this fishing kayak from Emotion which we’ve voted as our Editor’s choice. We’re impressed by its solid construction. So if a long-lasting and durable kayak is what you’re after, pick this model made of high-density polyethylene. It’s designed to handle a few bumps during the ride.
Weighing only 49lb, it’s clear how light it is. You won’t have any problems carrying it around. Carrying it is further made easy by the side handles. The same handles also allow for easier securing of the boat during transportation.
This fishing kayak is pretty wide making it a stable unit. You won’t be going off course if you decide to go fishing in this kayak.
The kayak has ample room to accommodate you—and your storage.
Paddle in comfort while seating on the removable seat, which features a strong backrest to provide you with ample support.
The manufacturer included two-rod holders on this unit to make your fishing experience easier and more enjoyable.
You’ll appreciate that the model is covered by a three-year warranty.
Some users feel it doesn’t track well—especially when it’s windy. But in our opinion, that’s not entirely a deal-breaker. Simply buy a skeg to resolve the problem.
We do wish the tank wasn’t too close to the sitting area. But overall, the general build of the kayak is impressive.
Anglers looking to get value for their money must pick this versatile kayak which is one of the best kayaks for fishing under $500. For those days you’re not fishing, it’s the ideal recreational boat.
The sit-in design allows you to paddle in comfort without the risk of getting wet.
Pick this model if you want to explore calm waters.
The unit is wide enough to allow for stable kayaking. You’ll find the boat easy to maneuver thanks to the smooth steering. This also makes it ideal to use for beginners.
Your comfort concerns are pretty much taken care off if you pick this model. The padded seats coupled with the adjustable backrest will provide you with optimal comfort during kayaking. Still on the subject of comfort, the adjustable footrests allow you to easily adjust to your desired seating position.
A few extra features you’ll find useful on this kayak include the rod holders and dashboard which has mounting points. You can mount all your accessories with ease. And the large rear storage can accommodate all your fishing gear.
This model is designed to last you long. This is thanks to the durable material, which is not only impact but abrasion and UV resistant. The boat will survive harsh conditions.
Like the Emotion kayak reviewed above, this unit also doesn’t track well. But this is nothing a skeg can’t fix.
Also, note that it’s not very fast if high speeds are your preference.
You certainly can’t discuss kayaks without mentioning the Sun Dolphin brand. Sun Dolphin is known to manufacture high-quality but affordable kayaks, and this model is no exception.
This is the model to pick if you’re planning on a one-man fishing adventure. With a 250lb weight capacity, it’s a kayak designed for one.
Since it weighs only 39lb, we’re certain you’ll manage to carry it to and from your vehicle with utmost ease.
It’s only 10ft long, which makes it easy to navigate those exclusive fishing spots.
The rugged construction adds on to its list of impressive features. It’s made using high-density polyethylene which makes it strong.
Being a sit-in kayak, you’ll appreciate the wide cockpit design that allows you the freedom to maneuver.
The seats are padded to provide you with maximum comfort during paddling.
You’ll appreciate the extra features included by the manufacturer, including the fishing rod holders and protective thigh pads.
Overall this is an ideal entry-level kayak for someone not looking to spend lots of money.
Our only concern is the design of the carry handles. They are made of low-quality cables which are known to snap prematurely. Also, in some cases, the boat may leak. But applying a little silicon will fix the problem.
If you prefer traveling light pick this kayak from Elkton which we’ve voted the best inflatable kayak on our list. It’s also one of the best sit-on-top fishing kayaks under $500 on our list.
Pick this model if you’re bringing a buddy along because it features two padded seats. And with a weight capacity of 450lb, it can definitely accommodate you both. The seats are also adjustable to take care of your comfort concerns.
It weighs only 27lb, making it one of the lightest models on our list. Transporting the unit will be hassle-free thanks to its compact storage size. Throw it into the trunk of your car and you’re ready to go.
Inflating the kayak is quick and easy. It’ll be ready for use in just a matter of minutes.
For an inflatable kayak it’s among one of the most durable models on our list. Made of 1000D PVC you’ll have a tough and resilient fishing kayak on your hands. The material is rip and hook resistant. You don’t have to worry about any damage to your product while you’re out at sea or on shore.
The product comes with many handy accessories such as rod holders, pump and a skeg. The manufacturer even included a carry bag for convenient transporting. A few users have noted that packing it into the bag isn’t the easiest of tasks. Nonetheless, it still rolls enough to fit into your vehicle. It’s one of the few models on our list that comes with paddles. But a few users feel that the paddles are too short for the boat. Depending on your preference you can always purchase longer ones.
Beginners will particularly find this fishing kayak handy. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles present on the high-end kayaks, but it’s still a decent boat that’ll stay afloat.
The kayak weighs 52lb, so it’s heavier than some others. It’s designed for one person and we’re certain you’ll manage to transport it to shore by yourself.
The seat is padded but some people may feel it’s not as comfortable. By adding an extra cushion you’ll significantly improve your comfort levels.
You’ll be impressed by how well it tracks.
The manufacturers could do a better job with the packaging. In some cases, the unit may arrive damaged. If that’s the case, simply notify the seller because the product is covered by a five year limited warranty.
Generally, it’s a durable unit. It’s made of high-density polyethylene which is impact resistant.
You’ll have adequate space to store your gear. Make use of the two storage compartments provided.
The kayak has front and rear carry handles that allow for easy handling.
If green is your color pick this Sevylor fishing kayak that’s visually appealing. It’s designed to accommodate two people. This model comes with two adjustable seats and footrests so you can adjust your seating position accordingly. The kayak is NMMA certified to allay your safety concerns. It features a nylon cover with an 840 denier rating. The unit is mostly protected against punctures.
You’ll find adjustable rod holders to allow for hands-free fishing. You can store your gear in the mesh pockets provided. Alternatively, you can attach it to the D-rings.
The kayak doesn’t track very well but you can always add the Sevylor trolling motor to ensure the boat stays on track. But note this motor is purchased separately.
Though it features an airtight system designed to minimize leaks, a few users have noted that you’ll experience a few leakages.
It’s easy to pack, which makes transportation effortless. You’ll also be impressed that it trolls quietly. Fish won’t hear it coming.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to make a separate purchase of the paddles because they’re not included. Also, the manufacturer didn’t include a pump to inflate the unit.
If a super tough kayak is what you’re after, pick this Intex Excursion model that’s constructed using durable material. The unit is made of rugged PVC with a polyester core making it highly resistant to any forms of abrasion or impact while adrift. This same material is also designed to survive in hot weather because it’s UV resistant.
The inflatable kayak is designed for high pressure inflation which contributes to the product’s rigidity. Plus, you’ll be happy to know that this pressure will add to the unit’s stability.
Inflating and deflating the kayak will be easy enough. The unit weighs only 39lb so you can tell it’s reasonably easy to handle. You’ll find it easy to carry around.
With a weight capacity of 400lb it can adequately accommodate two people.
You can use this kayak in both deep and shallow waters thanks to the two removable skews.
Extra accessories included with this model are fishing rod holders, floor mounted footrests and adjustable bucket seats. You’ll be happy to know that the manufacturer also included a carry bag for your carrying convenience.
The model has ample storage room to store your gear. You can also make use of the D-rings provided to attach some of your gear such as dry bags.
The only drawbacks associated with this unit include the limited legroom. Also though it comes with paddles some people may find them too short. But you can always make an additional purchase.
Here is yet another fishing kayak from the Sun Dolphin brand. With a weight capacity of 250lb and a single seat you can tell that it’s designed for one person. But if you’re more than 6ft tall you’ll find it a little small for you.
It’s the ideal kayak to use on a one-man adventure for exploring lakes, rivers and secluded fishing spots.
You’ll find it easy to carry because it’s relatively light. But note that it’s not as light as the other models on our list.
The unit comes with one flush mount rod holder to place your fish rods for hassle-free paddling.
For your comfort concerns, the unit comes with adjustable foot braces, protective thigh pads and padded seats.
The manufacturer also included a bottle holder to place your drink during your fishing expedition.
It doesn’t track particularly well but you can always place a rudder for better tracking. Also, stability is questionable especially during casting so practice extra caution. Some users feel that the scupper holes take in water but simply plug them to rectify the problem.
Overall this is an impressive kayak for the money. It floats well and has ample storage.
And now for our budget pick. We have yet another kayak from Sevylor. It’s designed to accommodate two people. But note that the 360lb weight capacity is slightly lower compared to other two-person kayaks on our list. So depending on the combined weight of both adults, you may find the boat difficult to maneuver. Keeping the kayak in a straight line may also be difficult.
But you’ll appreciate how it’s the lightest model on our list with a 19lb weight. Carrying it from your vehicle to shore will be an absolute breeze.
Though it’s very light, you’ll appreciate how the kayak is made of heavy duty PVC material.
The kayak features multiple chambers, so even if one area is punctured, the boat will still stay afloat.
This model also has adjustable seats for your comfort concerns as well as backrests to provide you with a comfortable paddling experience.
You’ll find the unit easy to inflate and deflate thanks to the double lock valves as well as two locking points.
The kayak features spray covers that are designed to block splashes to keep you nice and dry during paddling.
What stands out?
Easy to inflate
Keeps you dry
What cons did we manage to find?
Difficult to maneuver
Things to Consider
Remember our job is to make your selection process as effortless as possible and to ultimately help you pick the right fishing kayak for your needs. But you can only do so if you have a basic knowledge regarding the product in question. Go through this buying guide which gives you all the information you need to know about fishing kayaks.
Why choose a kayak for fishing?
When deciding to go fishing, you have options regarding the type of watercraft to pick. You can either decide to purchase a canoe or regular boat. So why opt for a kayak over the rest? The answer is best explained by stating the advantages of a kayak:
Lightweight: Your mind may be focused on the actual fishing task. But let’s not forget the logistics regarding transporting that kayak from your vehicle to shore. And you’ll certainly agree that the idea of lugging a heavy boat around isn’t appealing. That’s something you don’t have to really worry about if you pick a kayak. Kayaks are generally light, compared to other boats. This not only makes launching it easy but you’ll find it easy to carry around. Most kayaks can even be carried by one person.
Flexible: Most kayaks are flexible—especially the inflatable type. This makes storage, transportation and carrying the unit easy. When deflated, it can fit into almost any car which will come in handy if you have a small vehicle. You can even throw it in the boot of your car and be on your way. Inflating the unit is quick and easy. You can decide to use a hand pump or make the task even faster by using an electric one.
Stable: Most kayaks feature two buoyancy tubes which make them very stable. Thanks to this design, the risk of capsizing is significantly minimized because buoyancy works by making sure there’s a low center of gravity.
Durable: Depending on the brand you pick, most kayaks feature a solid construction. They are made of high-quality material designed to withstand impact and knocks which causes premature wear & tear.
What to expect from a fishing kayak under $500
Because a kayak is under $500 doesn’t mean it’s compromised with regards to performance. For this price you can buy a fishing kayak that’s durable, has adequate storage and designed to last long. But this will obviously depend on the brand in question. Kayaks under $500 offer the basic minimum features and standards which include:
Decent and comfortable seats
A wide enough cockpit to comfortably accommodate you
Adequate carrying capacity
Ample storage compartments
Features to consider when choosing a fishing kayak
As highlighted earlier, all the models reviewed above have one thing in common—affordability. But of course, there are other factors you need to consider before picking one. To help make your decision easier, compare the following items on each model before buying.
Type of kayak: sit-on-top vs. sit-in
When going kayak shopping, you have two types of kayaks to pick from; sit-on-top or sit-in. In case you’re wondering which one of the two is better, we’ll explain that by highlighting the differences below:
Sit-on-top: This type features an open cockpit design which allows for easier access. Getting in and out of the boat will be pretty easy. In addition, you’ll have more legroom and space to maneuver. You’ll also find this type easier to navigate in water. Because you’re seated on top of the hull, it makes fishing easier since you’ll have better access to the water. For this reason many people consider this type to be better for fishing. The only major drawbacks associated with SOTs are you may find it difficult to access your gear and storage space is rather limited.
Sit-in: This is the type to consider if you’re a fan of speed. With this type of kayak you’ll be sitting inside because the cockpit is closed. As a result you’ll be closer to the water and you’ll be kept dry throughout your fishing adventure. This makes sit-ins the ideal pick to venture with in cold waters. Sit-ins are generally considered to be more stable than their sit-on-top counterparts. Also, most of them offer plenty of storage space. The only catch is they’re the most expensive model of the two.
Seats and weight capacity
Before you pick a kayak you need to consider the number of people that will be boarding the kayak. This will determine the number of seats the kayak you pick must have including the weight capacity.
If you’re planning on embarking on a solo fishing adventure, a single person kayak will suffice. However, if you’re inviting a few buddies along, then you want a kayak with more seats and adequate carrying capacity. A model with capacity for at least 500lb will suffice for more than one person—including gear.
The Ekton and Sevylor brands are examples of kayaks with sizeable weight capacity of 450lb and 470lb respectively.
Length and width
The length and width of the kayak you pick is important because this affects speed, stability & maneuverability. Long and narrow kayaks are generally more difficult to maneuver. On the up side, they tend to travel faster than the shorter and narrower types.
Short and narrow kayaks are more stable making them the perfect pick for novice anglers.
Generally, fishing kayaks are much more stable compared to the other types of boats. They’re wider compared to other watercraft plus they’re designed to remain sturdy during casting reducing the risk of capsizing.
Their length range from anything between 8ft and 18ft and they can be 30”- 42” wide.
Consider the type of water you’re venturing into first before picking a kayak size.
If you’ll be kayaking in calm waters and small lakes, a kayak that’s between 8 and 13ft is recommended. For large rivers and volatile waters, a longer kayak is recommended: between 14 to 18ft.
Fishing requires a lot of patience as you wait for fish to catch the bait. And while you wait you need to be as comfortable as possible. So the kind of seats the kayak has is important because it affects your comfort levels.
Opt for a kayak with padded and adjustable seats to allay your comfort concerns. Some kayaks have contoured seats. And this ergonomic design is aimed at providing you with maximum comfort. You want a seat that you can adjust to your desired seating position. In addition, consider if the seat has a backrest to provide you with that much needed support during fishing.
How many fishing hold rod holders are on the kayak? Your requirements will depend on how many people you plan on kayaking with. Aside from the number you also need to consider the type. Are the holders integrated? Do they require flush mounting? Both factors will make your fishing expedition more comfortable.
Structure and build
When it comes to fishing kayaks you can either pick an inflatable or hard shell design depending on your needs and preferences. As we mentioned earlier, inflatable kayaks are much more portable and allow for easier handling. However, before you pick an inflatable kayak, be sure to look out for the number of air chambers. It’s not uncommon for chambers to be punctured by rocks or stone while floating. You want one with multiple air chambers to ensure you stay afloat even if one area is damaged. Just remember to factor in time to inflate and deflate the boat.
On the other hand, you can opt for a solid hard shell design if you want a more durable, stable and easier to control unit. Plus, it’s ready for use—no need to inflate. Just bear in mind that the drawbacks include the fact that they aren’t the lightest or most portable. Storing them or carrying them around won’t be easy.
Closely related to the structure and build is the material used in the construction of the unit. The durability and performance of the unit is largely dependent on the material the kayak is made off. We list the most common types below:
Polyethylene plastic: Most kayaks are made of polyethylene plastic which is the cheapest of all the materials. But regardless of its low price, the material is quite strong. It’s both abrasion and UV resistant. Because kayaks made with this material are designed to withstand harsh environmental and weather elements, you’re guaranteed a long-lasting unit. However, the disadvantage of this material is that it’s heavier compared to other materials meaning the kayak won’t be light in weight.
ABS plastic: If the overall weight of the kayak is your biggest concern, then opt for kayaks made of ABS plastic. Though it’s considerably lighter than polyethylene the trade-off is the material is not as rugged.
Composite material: Some kayaks are made of a combination of fiberglass and carbon fiber. This is arguably the most reliable and durable material of the three, but it’s also the most expensive. As a result, it’s commonly found in the high-end models.
Weight and portability
Consider the weight of the unit as it affects portability. If you are carrying it alone, you need a lightweight unit that’s easy to carry around. This means avoiding a heavy and bulky kayak.
You want a kayak that will stay on its intended course and not go off track—even after you’ve stopped paddling. The only drawback with kayaks that have good tracking is they tend to be difficult to maneuver. Alternatively, you can purchase a skeg, paddle keeper or bungee cords that’ll keep your kayak on track.
Some manufacturers take it a step further by including extra features to make your fishing adventure easier and more enjoyable. Features you can look out for that’ll come in handy include whether the kayak has carry handles. This will make transporting the unit much easier.
If you don’t particularly travel light, you need to opt for a kayak with extra storage to accommodate all your gear apart from yourself.
Does it come with paddles? Buying a model that does come with paddles will save you the hassle of making an additional purchase.
In addition, buying a kayak with mounting brackets will make installation easier.
Different manufacturers offer varying warranty periods for their products. But note that some aren’t covered by a guarantee at all. Opt for one that has warranty coverage. Usually, the timeframe will range from one to five years. If you’re lucky, you can get one that comes with a limited lifetime warranty. The Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak is one of the models with the longest warranty period on our list; it’s covered by five years, which proves its value.
Aside from your kayak, you also need other items which include a life jacket, water, fishing poles and sunglasses. These will make your ride safe and comfortable. You’ll be prepared for all eventualities, even emergencies.
The wider the kayak the more stable it is. Opting for one which is between 30” and 42” is ideal.
We’ll conclude our article with our top three picks to further simplify your decision making process. First up is the Emotion kayak which promises to offer stability, durability and affordability. The unit is considerably light so you’ll find it easy to carry around.
In second place with a 9.7 rating is the Perception Sound 10.5 Sit Inside Kayak which is one of the best fishing kayaks under $500 on our list. You can paddle in comfort thanks to the adjustable footrests and padded seats. Plus, you’ll appreciate how the boat has ample storage space to store your gear.
Lastly, we have the Sun Dolphin kayak which you’ll find exceptionally lightweight. Carrying it around will be hassle-free. In addition, it’s wide enough to give you enough room to move around in for a comfortable fishing experience.
Now, make sure you pick the one that matches your fishing requirements and specific needs. From our list of recommendations, which model would that be?