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Published Mar. 15, 2022

There are plenty of fishing kayaks under $1000 that have everything you need and more to have successful days on the water. A number of anglers are now pursuing just about every species that swims out of their kayaks. From sunfish to sailfish, fishermen are taking kayaks to places they’ve never been before; it’s truly incredible. However, a lot of purpose-made fishing kayaks, with cutting edge technology, cost in excess of $3000—and that’s without associated essential gear. For many anglers just starting out, this isn’t a feasible budget. The good news is, there are some incredible yaks for $1000 or less that cover just about every type of fishing. Here are my top picks for the best fishing kayaks under $1000.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Budget Fishing Kayak

Chances are, if you’re looking for the best fishing kayak under $1000, you are probably just starting out in the kayak angling world. The good thing is you don’t need anything fancy to get out and fish. As long as you’re not looking to cover long distances or fish in any kind of rough water, then just about any kayak will do. Here are some important considerations before buying a fishing kayak. 

Sit-in vs. Sit-on-top

The first question that will arise when considering a fishing kayak is whether you want a sit-on or sit-in kayak. Each has advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage of a sit-in kayak is it’s a much drier experience. Those who use sit-on-top kayaks typically accept they’re going to get a little (or a lot) wet. Also, with a few exceptions, sit-in kayaks tend to be more efficient when paddling than sit-on kayaks.

Sit-on-top kayaks are the primary choice for most anglers. The ability to store and easily access gear, plus the customizability cannot be matched by sit-in kayaks. Sit-on-tops are much more flexible with where you can mount rod holders and rails, electronics, and other accessories. The low side decks of sit-on-top kayaks make it easy to haul fish up into your lap, and because of their design, they’re almost always more stable overall which makes reaching for fish safer. Sit-on-top kayaks are also easier to get in and out of at the dock or launch, and I find them more comfortable overall. Whichever style you prefer, they make both sit-in and sit-on-top fishing kayaks for under $1000.

Hull Design

The hull design is a critical consideration when it comes to selecting a kayak. The hull is what determines speed, stability, tracking, and ease of paddling. There are trade-offs to all designs, and thinking about what you want your kayak to do will ultimately determine what hull you should be looking for. If you want a ’yak that is going to be fast, you’re likely going to have to trade some stability. If you want a kayak that is so stable you can stand in it, you’re going to compromise for this by having a much slower, harder to paddle kayak.

Hull stability—how tippy a kayak is—is often of highest concern to new anglers. Stability in kayaks comes down to two stages. First, primary stability is the hull’s stability when it’s just resting flat on the water. Hulls that are very flat or have a pontoon-like structure will have lots of primary stability and ride on top of the water. However, they often have very poor secondary stability—the stability when the kayak is leaned on its edge. Put another way, while it’s difficult to push them over, once these hulls reach a tipping point, it’s hard to stop them. Boats with rounder hulls tend to feel a bit more tippy at first but actually may have more stability overall because they have lots of secondary stability. Rounder or V-shaped hulls tend to have a lot more secondary stability, while also being faster and more agile, making them great for cutting through rougher water.

Length and Weight

The major advantages of longer kayaks are three-fold. First, they are typically faster; if the hull design is the same, a longer kayak will be more efficient. Second, everything else being equal, a longer kayak will be able to carry more weight. Third, longer kayaks have more deck space for accessories and storage. 

Shorter kayaks have advantages, too. First and foremost, they’re lighter. This means easier transportation, especially when you’re putting it on an SUV or crossover vehicle. They are also easier to store. Back in college, I kept my 8-footer in my dorm room; no way could I have done that with a 12-foot kayak. Shorter kayaks are also less expensive than longer kayaks, which can mean owning a nicer boat or more accessories for less money.

Given these factors, for most calm-water anglers who are paddling typical distances of less than 3-miles, a 10-foot kayak is going to be an excellent choice. It strikes a balance between shorter, recreational oriented kayaks, and longer, touring oriented models. However, many anglers like the added speed and load rating of a longer kayak, which is typically around 12-feet. There are many length options for fishing kayaks under $1000, you just need to do your homework.

Seat and Accessories

Kayak seat technology has come a long way since I started kayak fishing, especially for budget yaks like I’m discussing here. Your kayak seat is the biggest determinant of comfort in the boat. I suggest testing as many seats as you can. For fishermen, having a high seat that keeps you dry and gives you visibility of the water, and makes casting and retrieving more comfortable can be worth forgoing other accessories and luxuries. I like having a higher seat position as it gives me a better view of the water. However, this also decreases stability and makes it harder to paddle, which will decrease your speed.

Some fishing kayaks come with different accessories and add-ons. Often, these make things more convenient but aren’t always essential. I would urge you to choose a kayak based on the quality of craftsmanship, hull design, and seating position (which includes comfort) before you consider all the extra add-ons. For most anglers starting out or for those fishing calm waters, there are just two things I consider must-haves: some kind of rod holder and space behind the seat for gear storage. Both will make kayak fishing much more convenient.

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Best Ultra-Budget Fishing Machine: Pelican Catch Classic 100

Pelican

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Why It Made the Cut

The Catch Classic kayak is a true fishing machine specifically designed for anglers with an impressive set of features at an affordable price. For fishing kayaks under $1000, this one is hard to beat.

Key Features

  • Length & Width: 10 feet long, 34 inches wide
  • Weight: 58-pounds fully rigged
  • Price: $549

Pros

  • Specifically built for anglers
  • A super wide 34-inch hull offers excellent stability
  • High-sitting, removable and adjustable dual-position seat
  • Two-rod holders, accessory rails, and adjustable foot pegs

Cons

  • Slow and not particularly efficient or agile
  • There are more rugged hull materials available

The Catch Classic 100 is a brand new model from Pelican, which is known for making some really great kayaks at lower price points. The hull is based on The Catch 100, a popular model that, in its own right, is an excellent value and highly regarded. The Catch Classic is a purpose-built fishing machine with a nice wide hull that some anglers can even stand up in, though I wouldn’t plan on it. It boasts more than just the basics in terms of accessories, like both dual rod holders and paddle tie downs, an excellent multi-position seat that is nice and high, two four-inch rigging tracks, a spacious rear gear well with strapping, and a lockable front dry hatch. Frankly, it has as many quality features as some kayaks costing three-times as much. Despite Pelican marketing this for “smaller anglers”, it is rated at 350-pounds which should be plenty for most anglers even with their gear.

The major downside of this kayak is pretty clear: It’s built on the same hull as The Catch, which is really slow and not suited for paddling far distances or trolling. It’s built for stability, not speed, and I wouldn’t take this kayak out into big water. One alternative to the Catch Classic is the Catch, which is a more rigged-out version of the same hull, with extra features like four-rod holders, a nicer seat, a standing strap, and anti-slip decking. However, that kayak is $170 more, and I think most anglers in this segment would be just as happy with the Catch Classic. 

Best Sit-In Angling Kayak: Perception Sound 10.5

Perception Kayaks

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Why It Made the Cut

The Perception Sound 10.5 offers lots of performance and angling-specific features in a light, fast hull.

Key Features

  • Length & Width: 10.5 feet long, 29.5-inches wide
  • Weight: 46-pounds fully rigged
  • Price: $569

Pros

  • Much faster and more efficient than sit-on-top kayaks in this price range
  • Flush mounted rod holders behind the angler and accessory rails in front
  • Despite low boat weight, still retains excellent load rating of 335-pounds
  • Compatible with spray-skirts to keep your totally dry

Cons

  • Not self-bailing
  • Closed cock-pit leaves less space for mounting accessories

The Sound offers three major advantages over the other sit-on-top or hybrid offerings in this article: it’s lighter, it’s faster, and it’s much drier. At only 46-pounds, it’s very easy to move around and load onto the top of a vehicle. The narrow hull design is more efficient to paddle longer distances, and the closed design will cut through chop and waves easily. Being a sit-in kayak, it’s also much drier when you’re out on the water. Further, it’s compatible with spray skirts, which can keep you completely dry from the waist down when out in the rain or cutting through waves and choppy conditions. However, this is true of many sit-in kayaks when compared to specifically designed open-cockpit angling kayaks. The reasons I choose the Perception Sound 10.5 specifically is because it already has rod holders built-in, an open rear deck for a crate, or other tackle-management systems. If you’re looking for a traditional, sit-in kayak that’s ready to go fishing, there isn’t a better choice for less than $600.

Next Level Fishing Kayak Under $1000: Perception Outlaw 11.5

Perception Kayaks

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Why It Made the Cut

The Perception Outlaw 11.5 has incredible stability, high seat position, room for accessories in front and behind the seat. One of our top picks for best fishing kayaks under $1000.

Key Features

  • Length & Width: 11.5 feet-long, 35-inches wide
  • Weight: 77-pounds fully rigged
  • Price: $829

Pros

  • Incredible stability—you really can stand and fish in the Outlaw
  • One of the highest seating positions of any kayak, under or over $1000
  • Simplicity and flexibility for accessories in front and behind the seat
  • High load-rating of 425-pounds

Cons

  • Not the fastest or the lightest kayak
  • No dry storage or adjustable foot pegs

If you are looking for a serious, angler-oriented design but also still want to stick to a $1000 limit, the Perception Outlaw has no real rivals. This boat is designed to be a dedicated, hardcore fishing machine. The Outlaw hull is specifically constrcuted with the angler in mind. You can really stand up in this thing and fish. While other kayaks claim you can stand in them, I often find it pretty tricky, especially while fighting fish. The seating position in the Outlaw is very high, giving great visibility of the water. It also is designed for a pass-through transducer for fish finders, and the hull is self-bailing. It also has four built-in rod holders, the only kayak on this list with that feature. The seat is comfortable, has non-slip decking, and accessory rails built right in. Overall, it’s a clean and simple deck that welcomes modification and personalization. Finally, the construction of this kayak is super tough, and it will stand up to abuse better than some other budget-minded kayaks.

The downside to the Outlaw is speed and efficiency—it’s not designed to go fast, or far. Instead, it is made for the calm water angler looking to move along the shore and work slowly over structure. You don’t want to be fighting strong wind, waves, or current in this kayak. The Outlaw is also heavier than most of the boats on this list, but lighter than many pedal-drive kayaks. There is no dry storage in this boat, so best to purchase a dry bag or two. While it has no foot pegs, the high seat and very stable design make that less important. 

Best Fishing and Adventure Kayak: Wilderness Systems Tarpon

Wilderness Systems

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Why It Made the Cut

The Tarpon has a lower seat position and is an easy paddling adventure kayak to cover miles and tackle a variety of water.

Key Features

  • Length & Width: The Tarpon 105 is 10.5-feet long, and 32-inches wide. The Tarpon 120 is 12-feet long and 31-inches wide
  • Weight: The Tarpon 105 is 55-pounds, and the Tarpon 120 is 63-pounds
  • Price: The Tarpon 105 is $999, and the Tarpon 120 is $1099

Pros 

  • Very stable and efficient
  • Low, comfortable seating increases efficiency and speed
  • Both models are relatively lightweight and easy to handle
  • Great features like locking hatches, accessory rails, and a built in dry-box

Cons

  • No rod holders
  • The Tarpon 120 is slightly over-budget

The Tarpon is one of the most well-known and respected sit-on-top kayaks in the industry. The hull is half-way between a super speedy (and tippy) touring kayak and those ultra-wide (and slow) fishing hulls. It also has a low seating position, lacking the folding chair or stadium style seat. This means, as a fishing kayak, it is very efficient and capable of covering a lot of water in a single day. Despite the narrower hull, the low seat position gets you closer to the water, and as a result, the kayak is very stable.

I own both the Tarpon 105 and 120 and found that the 105 was easier to paddle. I could cover ground quickly with the shorter kayak and it is much more nimble. However, the 120 tracks better, has more deck space, and the waterproof hatch is much larger. The 120 also handles bigger waves, like ocean swell, and chop better than the 105. If you’re going to use the Tarpon for day trips on lakes, ponds, and rivers, the 105 is more than enough boat for most users. However, if you’re looking to add some touring and camping to your fishing trips, or going to be fishing big water, the 120 is the better option.

The Tarpon has one substantial downside; no flush mounted rod holders. This is a serious deterrent for a lot of anglers. It’s not a deal-breaker, as there are many different rack-mounted rod holders that can be placed behind your seat, and the Tarpon has forward mounted rails for additional rod holders. However, these accessories are going to cost you, and at $999 for the 105 and $1099 for the 120, these kayaks are at or over the budget limit. While I find the Tarpon to be relatively dry, there’s no denying it’s a bit wetter than other angling kayaks, too. 

Best Hybrid Fishing Kayak: Ascend H10 and H12

Ascend

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Why It Made the Cut

The Ascend H10 has ultra-stability, simplicity, and a high-weight rating. Two great fishing kayaks for under $1000.

Key Features

  • Length & Width: The H10 is 10 feet long and 31-inches wide, the H12 is 12-feet long and 32-inches wide
  • Weight: The H10 is 55-pounds and the H12 is 76-pounds
  • Price: $779 for the H10 and $879 for the H12

Pros

  • A cross between a canoe and a kayak, with advantages of both
  • Extremely stable fishing machines with high weight-ratings
  • Great value, super tough hulls

Cons

  • Not very efficient compared to other kayaks
  • Not self-bailing and no dry storage

If you want both a canoe and a kayak, but want to stay under $1000 total, the Ascend H10 or H12 might be the boat you’ve been looking for. They have a hull design that is somewhere between a traditional solo-kayak and an aluminum or fiberglass canoe. While this is technically not a sit-on-top kayak, the cockpit is large and open and functions very similarly on the water. There are gear rails on the left, right, and front of the cockpit, rear flush-mounted rod holders, and both boats include removable gear pouches that clip inside the boat in front of the angler. I can stand in the H10 to look around, though trying to fish standing up was a bit of a challenge. Both models are also lightweight for their very impressive load ratings, but the H10 in particular—at only 55-pounds fully rigged and a 400-pound load rating—is in a class of it’s own. 

The biggest downside is their efficiency and rough-water performance. They are not fast boats, though faster than some ultra-wide kayaks, and they won’t handle big waves well at all. I would not recommend them for big bodies of water. I was also surprised to find the H10 is a wet boat in chop because waves slap the high-hull and spray the angler. There is also no dry storage. Anything lying on the deck is going to get wet, so a dry bag becomes essential. 

Best Option for Two Anglers: Native Ultimate FX 15

Native Watercraft

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Why It Made the Cut

While this hybrid kayak comes in well over the $1000 limit, it easily accommodates two anglers making the need to buy multiple kayaks unnecessary.

Key Features

  • Length & Width: 15 feet long, 31 inches wide
  • Weight: 90-pounds fully rigged
  • Price: $1699

Pros

  • Accommodates one or two anglers easily
  • Updated seats and accessories are perfectly suited to the typical angler
  • Extremely stable

Cons

  • Not self-bailing and no dry storage makes it not well suited for rough water
  • It’s over the $1000 budget

The Native Ultimate has been around for many years, and it’s one of the most interesting and fun kayaks I’ve ever used. It’s another hybrid option and looks and functions somewhere between a kayak and a canoe. The reason I’m adding it to this list is that the Ultimate FX 15, though $700 over the $1000 limit, is designed to accommodate one or two anglers. So if you were considering getting a couple of $1000 kayaks, this could save you money. 

The Ultimate tracks really well—whether solo or with a partner—and is easy to paddle with a kayak paddle since it’s only 31-inches wide. Despite this meager width, it is very stable. Both the primary and secondary stability are very reliable, and I wouldn’t be worried about tackling white caps or boat wakes. I was able to stand in it and look around, while my wife sat in the front, but it was tough to cast and fight fish. I’m not sure most anglers will be able to stand at all. Despite the Ultimate FX 15 being 90-pounds fully rigged, it feels and performs on the water like a lighter kayak—agile and responsive. The Ultimate is also a dry kayak and open enough that air circulation is good. I really loved this boat, and have since convinced other anglers and couples to purchase it; not one has been disappointed.

The downsides of the Ultimate are the same as with other hybrids. It is not self-bailing, and if you flip, it’s going to fill with water. There’s also no dry storage, and while the Ultimate will hold a ton of gear, if it’s in the boat it’s almost certainly going to get wet from paddle spray or the elements. As a fishing kayak, it also doesn’t have dedicated rod holders built-in, so trolling requires holding the rod or buying an after-market clip-on rod holder. 

How I Made My Picks

My choice in the best fishing kayaks for under $1000 is based on nearly 30-years of angling experience, including 20-years of kayak angling in both fresh and saltwater. I have owned a bunch of kayaks over the years—from models costing $200 to upwards of $3000—and started fishing out of a kayak before specialty angling kayaks were available for purchase. As a professional fishing writer and photographer, I talk with anglers frequently about their fishing experiences, preferences, and top-picks. When evaluating budget fishing kayaks, I based my choices on:

  • Hull design: How stable and efficient (speed and tracking) is the kayak when paddling and fishing?
  • Seat design and comfort: Can you fish all day sitting on the factory seat?
  • Accessories and angling-specific features: Is the kayak specifically designed with the angler in mind? How many features and extra accessories does it include? Is it ready to fish, or will it need some modification?
  • Weight and durability: How heavy is the kayak for transporting and storage? Is the hull going to stand up to bumps, drops, launches, and landings?
  • Price: Does the kayak represent the best value given it’s features and performance?

FAQs

Q: Can you stand up in a kayak and fish?

I hate to use the dreaded phrase, but it depends. Most kayaks you cannot stand and fish in, plain and simple. Even those that say you can, you often cannot do more than stand up and look around. I am an athletic guy with great balance, and I have found that standing in kayaks and actually fishing is tough. Therefore, if you really want to stand up and fish—especially if you’re a big guy, an older angler, or someone with poor balance—you should buy an ultra-wide, exceptionally stable kayak. 

Q: What length of kayak is best for me?

The length and width of a kayak are important, but I hope that I’ve made clear that hull design, load rating, and seat height matter, too. Larger anglers who need to carry a lot of gear are going to need a longer kayak to handle the weight. Those who are looking for a faster, more efficient and better tracking kayak are often looking for a longer kayak, too. But this is not always true, and hull design often matters more than length or even width. 

Q: How much are fishing kayaks?

If you just want to try out kayak fishing, you can basically fish out of anything. You don’t need a special fishing kayak. However, angling kayaks offer so many great features now—at really low prices—that they make fishing more enjoyable and productive. However, if you’re just starting out, there is absolutely no need to spend more than $1000—especially if you’re fishing small or calm water. In fact, there are some really great options out there for less than $700, including the Pelican Catch, Perception Sound, and Perception Pescador kayaks that will last you many years of angling enjoyment.

Final Thoughts

There are many options for fishing kayaks under $1000 these days that it can get overwhelming. My advice remains to simply focus on what is most important to you, and don’t feel you need to spend tons of money to get started. Match the features of the kayak to your angling and paddling demands, and have fun on the water this season. This list of the best fishing kayaks under $1000 is a great place to start. 

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