After countless hours of research, testing, and spirited discussions, we’ve gained invaluable insights and firsthand experiences with the best lightweight fishing kayaks. We’re excited to share our top picks with you, each boasting an impressive balance of performance, durability, and ease of use.
Whether you’re a seasoned angler seeking an upgrade or a novice embarking on your very first fishing adventure, a lightweight kayak can be a total game changer. From our own experiences, we can attest that these kayaks not only simplify transportation and storage, but also offer superior maneuverability and speed, ensuring you reach your prized fishing spots with ease.
The Best Lightweight Fishing Kayaks
Below is a preview of our favorite lightweight fishing kayaks. Continue scrolling for our in-depth reviews, complete with a comparison table and practical buying advice to help you make the best choice for your needs.
- Best Sit-on-Top: Eddyline Caribbean 12FS Angler (45 lbs)
- Best Value Sit-on-Top: Pelican Sentinel 100X Angler (44 lbs)
- Best Sit-Inside: Perception Sound 10.5 (46 lbs)
- Best Value Sit-Inside: Lifetime Payette Angler 98 (44 lbs)
- Best Inflatable: Sea Eagle 385fta FastTrack Angler Series (45 lbs)
- Best Inflatable Pedal: Hobie Mirage iTrek 9 Ultralight (37 lbs)
Eddyline Caribbean 12FS Angler
Best lightweight sit-on-top fishing kayak
Length: 12′ | Width: 30″ | Weight: 45 lbs | Capacity: 275 lbs
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What we like
What we don’t like
The Eddyline Caribbean 12FS Angler is a fantastic choice for warm-weather day trips, providing all the necessary accessories and tools for a hassle-free fishing experience. Unlike most sit-on-top fishing kayaks, which can feel heavy and cumbersome, the 12FS is a mere 45 pounds, making it significantly easier to carry and transport on your own.
I’ve found the seat to be not only durable and breathable but also water and sun-resistant. With its well-padded and adjustable design, you can easily find a comfortable position, no matter your body type. Plus, the removable seat doubles as a convenient camp chair for those memorable evenings spent recounting the day’s adventures.
In terms of storage, the large stern hatch is open-air but features bungee cords to secure bulky gear like a cooler or tackle box. A smaller, watertight hatch in the bow keeps your sensitive items protected from water.
The pair of gear tracks running along the hull allow for easy customization, accommodating fish finders, GoPro mounts, and more. Another gear track in the center is typically reserved for a rod holder.
Capable of handling class II rapids, freshwater, and coastal paddling, the Caribbean 12FS is a versatile option for both casual and aspiring anglers.
For those who prefer a slightly larger model, the Eddyline Caribbean 14FS offers a longer keel for increased speed and improved tracking. However, it sacrifices some maneuverability in tight corners. Nevertheless, with similar custom features and a higher weight capacity of 350 pounds, it handles comparable water conditions.
Pelican Sentinel 100X Angler
Best value sit-on-top fishing kayak
Length: 9’6″ | Width: 30″ | Weight: 44 lbs | Capacity: 275 lbs
What we like
What we don’t like
I’m usually skeptical when I come across cheap fishing kayaks, as it often raises concerns about their quality and performance. However, Pelican Kayaks has a long-standing reputation for designing reliable kayaks, and the Pelican Sentinel 100X Angler is no exception.
The kayak offers a steady and dependable fishing experience for those who want to enjoy time on the water without breaking the bank.
One aspect that pleasantly surprised me about this budget-friendly fishing kayak is its range of custom features. The central console between your legs houses multiple compartments, keeping small essentials like spare tackle and line within easy reach. Additionally, the kayak comes with two vertical rod holders, two flush-mounted holders, accessory eyelets, and even a paddle tie-down, allowing you to customize the Sentinel to your preferences.
Despite being 2.5 feet shorter than the Caribbean 12FS, the Sentinel shares the same width, providing fantastic stability as long as you stick to protected waters. However, the shorter keel may leave larger paddlers feeling cramped, despite the comfortable seat and adjustable foot pedals.
Perception Sound 10.5
Best lightweight sit-inside fishing kayak
Length: 10’6″ | Width: 29.5″ | Weight: 46 lbs | Capacity: 335 lbs
What we like
What we don’t like
The Perception Sound 10.5 is an excellent sit-inside option that keeps you closer to the water, resulting in excellent stability despite its narrower build.
During my time with the Sound 10.5, I noticed it was faster than most sit-on-top kayaks of similar size, making it a more suitable choice for longer paddles to reach prime fishing spots. However, the trade-off is the limited storage space, with only one storage area in the stern.
This open-air compartment is sizeable and has bungee cords for securing gear, but it does restrict what you can carry. I found that shorter paddlers could store some gear in front of their feet, but organization and accessibility can be challenging. However, a small dashboard in front of the cockpit is useful for keeping small items handy.
The kayak offers two mounting points for accessories and two molded rod holders, giving you some customization options.
I found the Sound 10.5 performs best in lakes, calm rivers, and protected bays, offering casual anglers everything they need for a great day on the water.
Lifetime Payette Angler 98
Best value sit-inside fishing kayak
Length: 9’8″ | Width: 30″ | Weight: 44 lbs | Capacity: 250 lbs
What we like
What we don’t like
As someone who’s always on the lookout for value options, I was pleasantly surprised by the Lifetime Payette Angler 98, which offers excellent performance at an affordable price point. This kayak is best suited for casual kayak anglers or beginners, with its sporty, compact design that performs well in calm waters.
While the Payette Angler 98 doesn’t come with custom features like gear tracks or accessory eyelets found in more expensive kayaks, it boasts impressive stability and handles well for paddlers of all experience levels.
What I appreciated, though, was the built-in fishing rod holder directly in front of the seat and the recessed cockpit, which provided some space to strategically place my fishing gear for easy access while paddling.
Storage is somewhat limited, but Lifetime has made good use of the shorter keel. The bow features bungee cords that are easily accessible from the cockpit, and there’s a dedicated storage hatch in the stern for keeping sensitive items dry.
The kayak’s stability is solid despite its narrower design, and the seatback is well-padded. However, I found that adding extra padding to the seat bottom made for a more comfortable experience.
Sea Eagle 385fta FastTrack Angler Series
Best lightweight inflatable fishing kayak
Length: 12’6″ | Width: 36″ | Weight: 45 lbs | Capacity: 635 lbs
What we like
What we don’t like
I was blown away by the Sea Eagle 385fta FastTrack Angler Series, which is part kayak, part raft, and an absolute dream for fishing enthusiasts. Its inflatable design doesn’t compromise stability or durability, and its compatibility with a small electric motor makes it incredibly versatile.
It can handle a 15-pound engine, which allowed me to reach my favorite fishing spots quickly and effortlessly. Once I arrived, the wide 36″ hull and non-slip surface provided a stable platform for standing and casting, even in windy or wavy conditions.
The sprayskirts come with built-in rod, hook, and lure holders, while additional storage can be found beneath bungee cords. Though Sea Eagle markets this kayak as capable of holding up to three paddlers, I found it to be a bit cramped for three adults—especially when actively fishing. However, it works exceptionally well as a solo or tandem fishing kayak.
The kayak’s width can make paddling strenuous in windy weather, so I recommend using an electric motor for longer distances or when encountering wind or current.
The inflatable material is tough, rigid, and resistant to punctures and severe damage with minimal care, and inflating the kayak was simple and intuitive, taking less than ten minutes once I got the hang of it.
Hobie Mirage iTrek 9 Ultralight
Best lightweight inflatable pedal kayak
Length: 9’5″ | Width: 40″ | Weight: 37 lbs | Capacity: 350 lbs
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What we like
What we don’t like
As someone who appreciates versatility in my kayaks, I found the Hobie Mirage iTrek 9 Ultralight to be an exceptional choice. This inflatable pedal kayak not only serves as a kayak but also doubles as a stand-up paddleboard, making it a two-in-one deal. Hobie even includes a three-piece SUP paddle with your purchase.
A common concern with pedal kayaks is damaging the fins in shallow water. Hobie ingeniously addressed this issue with their kick-up design, which automatically retracts the fins upon contact with a solid object. This feature allowed me to confidently navigate various waterways without worrying about damaging the kayak.
Steering is a breeze with a small handle located next to the seat, and a built-in paddle holder ensures you always have an alternative method of propulsion. In addition, the adjustable seat is well-padded and can accommodate a range of sizes, providing a comfortable experience.
The kayak is steered with a small handle next to the seat, and a built-in paddle holder allows you to bring another method of propulsion along. The seat is mounted on top of the inflatable platform and can be easily adjusted, along with being well padded and able to support a range of sizes.
Though the iTrek 9 isn’t specifically designed for fishing, its open deck and 350-pound capacity offer ample space for a kayak crate and fishing rods. Additionally, its compact and lightweight design makes it perfect for squeezing into tight spots or traveling to remote waterways.
Lightweight Fishing Kayak Comparison Table
|Eddyline Caribbean 12FS Angler||12′||30″||45 lbs||275 lbs||1||Sit-on-top||Hard-shell|
|Pelican Sentinel 100X Angler||9’6″||30″||44 lbs||275 lbs||1||Sit-on-top||Hard-shell|
|Perception’s Sound 10.5||10’6″||29.5″||46 lbs||335 lbs||1||Sit-in||Hard-shell|
|Lifetime Payette Angler 98||9’8″||30″||44 lbs||250 lbs||1||Sit-in||Hard-shell|
|Sea Eagle 385fta||12’6″||36″||45 lbs||635 lbs||1 or 2||Sit-on-top||Inflatable|
|Hobie Mirage iTrek 9 Ultralight||9’5″||40″||37 lbs||350 lbs||1||Sit-on-top||Inflatable|
Lightweight Fishing Kayak Buying Advice
Characteristics such as length, width, and material can significantly impact a kayak’s performance. Knowing the pros and cons of these features will help you make an informed decision when purchasing a kayak.
In the following section, I’ll share my personal experiences and insights to guide you through some key features to look for when researching lightweight fishing kayaks. My goal is to help you find the best model tailored to your specific needs and preferences.
- Sit-Inside vs. Sit-on-Top
- Stability & Tracking
- Portability & Storage
- Fishing Customization
Sit-Inside vs. Sit-on-Top
The first decision you must make when shopping for a kayak is whether a sit-inside or a sit-on-top will fit you and your paddling goals best.
Sit-inside fishing kayaks boast a more streamlined, traditional kayak appearance. The seat is mounted on the hull below or at the waterline, and the top of the bow encases your legs and hips, offering extra protection from the elements, especially when using a spray skirt to enclose the cockpit.
With their lower seating position, sit-inside kayaks are typically faster and track better than their wider sit-on-top counterparts. They also provide better secondary stability, making them well-suited for rough seas.
However, the drawback, particularly for smaller, lightweight models, is that cockpits can be pretty cramped for bigger or heavier paddlers. Therefore, it’s essential to check your kayak’s weight capacity, and I’d recommend sitting in the kayak at the store before making your purchase if you think space might be an issue.
On the other hand, sit-on-top kayaks feature a cockpit mounted higher above the water, providing more legroom and making seat adjustments easier while on the water. Since the seat is higher, these kayaks need to be wider to compensate for the higher center of gravity.
This design gives sit-on-tops a raft-like feel, and some models, like the Sea Eagle 385fta, are stable enough to stand and cast without the worry of tipping over. However, they tend to be slower and can be more challenging to track in windy conditions. That being said, they are generally more user-friendly, making them an excellent choice for newcomers and casual paddlers.
The biggest drawback of sit-on-top kayaks is the lack of protection from the elements, so be prepared to get wet in choppy conditions or if the weather turns sour. If you live in a warm climate, this may not be a concern, but those paddling in temperate or colder areas might prefer the added protection offered by a sit-in kayak.
Ultimately, your choice between sit-inside and sit-on-top kayaks will depend on your personal preferences, the type of water you plan to paddle in, and the level of comfort and protection you desire.
Most hard-shell kayaks in this category are made of tough, rigid polyethylene plastic. As a cost-effective and low-maintenance option, this plastic is favored by many manufacturers and kayakers alike. From my experience, polyethylene kayaks can handle almost anything you throw at them. As long as you’re not slamming your kayak on the rocks or dragging it over long distances on rough terrain, it should last a long time.
Inflatable fishing kayaks, on the other hand, have a somewhat undeserved poor reputation due to the presence of subpar designs in the market. However, I’ve discovered that the inflatables from reputable brands like Sea Eagle and Hobie are of exceptional quality. Their tough, drop-stitch kayaks can withstand accidental bumps, drags, or collisions and continue performing well. The multi-chamber design of these kayaks also provides redundancy, ensuring that even if one chamber leaks, the others will keep you afloat.
Your choice of material will depend on factors like your budget, transportation, and storage options. But rest assured, if you invest in a quality kayak, you can expect durability and reliable performance from both hard-shell and inflatable kayaks.
Lightweight kayaks are usually shorter, and since a kayak’s speed is correlated to the length of its keel, none of the kayaks we’ve reviewed will be setting any speed records.
However, I found that the Sea Eagle 385fta has a unique edge over its competitors when it comes to speed. If you install an electric motor, it will leave other kayaks in the dust. Setting that aside, the Eddyline Caribbean 12FS Angler and 14S are the fastest kayaks on our list. Though these are sit-on-top models, their long keel and relatively narrow design allow them to outstrip others.
During one of my fishing trips with the Eddyline 14S, I was amazed by how quickly it allowed me to reach my favorite fishing spot compared to other lightweight kayaks. The extra speed not only saved me time but also made my overall paddling experience more enjoyable.
While small fishing kayaks may not have the speed of larger models, their maneuverability is often superior. Designs like the Hobie iTrek 9 and Pelican Sentinel 100X excel at making sharp turns and squeezing into tight spots that bigger boats just can’t access.
I recall a specific trip where I used the Hobie iTrek 9 to navigate a narrow, winding river. The kayak’s exceptional maneuverability allowed me to easily explore areas that would have been difficult, if not impossible, for a larger kayak. As a result, I stumbled upon a secluded fishing spot teeming with fish.
For those just getting started in kayaking, the enhanced maneuverability of these smaller vessels provides a more user-friendly experience. This extra margin for error can be a real confidence booster as you practice and hone your paddling skills.
So, if you’re looking for a lightweight fishing kayak that offers superior maneuverability, the Pelican Sentinel 100X, Lifetime Payette Angler 98, and Hobie iTrek 9 are excellent options to consider. Their ability to make sharp turns and navigate tight spaces not only enhances the overall kayaking experience but can also lead to discovering hidden gems on the water.
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of comfort during those long days on the water. Even the most feature-packed kayak won’t serve you well if it leaves you with an aching back or numb legs.
Fortunately, many modern kayaks come equipped with ergonomic, adjustable, and well-padded seats. I’ve found that the breathable mesh back coverings on these seats make a world of difference on hot summer days, helping to keep me cool and comfortable.
One exception I’ve encountered is the Lifetime Payette Angler 98. Although the seat’s backrest offers plenty of padding, the bottom lacks cushioning. I resolved this issue by adding a kayak cushion pad, but it would have been nice if the manufacturer had included some padding to begin with.
For big and tall kayakers, sit-in kayaks on this list may feel cramped. It’s not a design flaw but rather a consequence of keeping the kayaks small and lightweight. If you’re concerned about legroom, I recommend considering a sit-on-top kayak or investing in a larger model (though keep in mind it will likely be more expensive and heavier).
From my experience, prioritizing comfort when selecting a lightweight fishing kayak can make all the difference in the enjoyment of your time on the water. A comfortable kayak ensures that you can focus on the excitement of fishing and exploring, rather than any discomfort.
Stability & Tracking
When you’re trying to reel in that dream catch, the last thing you want is a tippy kayak that threatens to capsize.
Sit-in kayaks generally offer better secondary stability. So although they might feel a bit wobbly, they can actually rock back and forth quite a bit without capsizing. This sensation can be unnerving for those new to paddling, so I suggest starting out near the shore until you get comfortable.
On the other hand, sit-on-top kayaks provide better primary stability, giving you a steadier feel with less rocking. However, once you start tipping, there’s little you can do to prevent a full capsize.
Tracking is closely related to a kayak’s speed. As a result, longer and narrower vessels tend to track better. I’ve also noticed that the Hobie iTrek 9 and Sea Eagle 385fta excel in tracking, thanks to their steering systems that help maintain course in windy or current-heavy conditions.
Outside of those two models, I’ve found the Eddyline Caribbean 12FS/14FS and Perception Sound 10.5 to be particularly good at tracking, largely due to their long keels. This feature proves valuable when paddling through windy areas that can attempt to spin you off course.
Good stability and tracking are key to a satisfying and successful day of kayak fishing, so consider these factors carefully when choosing your lightweight fishing kayak.
From my experience, hard-shell kayaks made from plastic hulls are long-lasting and require minimal upkeep. As a result, these kayaks can be landed on most beaches without much worry. However, I’d exercise caution when landing on rocky beaches, especially in high surf conditions.
On the other hand, inflatable kayaks demand a bit more care. Despite their reputation, I’ve found that they are surprisingly resilient and can handle most everyday bumps or on-water collisions without any issue. That said, I’d advise being extra careful when landing on beaches and always avoid dragging them over anything other than sand.
Portability & Storage
While all these kayaks are some of the easiest to transport and carry, it’s hard to beat the Hobie iTrek 9 in terms of portability. With a fully rigged weight of just 37 pounds and the kayak itself weighing only 20 pounds, transporting it to remote lakes or rivers, even during backpacking trips or airplane rides, is a breeze.
For solo anglers, moving your kayak from the parking lot to the water might be a challenge. In that case, I recommend investing in a kayak cart to make the process much easier.
When it comes to storage, most models on our list have limited space due to their smaller keel. However, I’ve found that the Sea Eagle 385fta can handle a considerable amount of gear, thanks to its raft-like design.
Additionally, I appreciate the storage capacity of the Eddyline Caribbean 12FS compared to other models, as well as the Hobie iTrek 9. While the Hobie model might not have designated storage spaces, its open deck is perfect for holding kayak crates and dry bags, which I find quite handy during my fishing trips.
Outfitting your kayak with various accessories can significantly improve your fishing experience.
Personally, I’m a big fan of Eddyline’s setup for customization. They’ve designed a single track between your legs, which I find to be the perfect location for a rod holder. Additionally, there are two accessory tracks on each side, allowing you to add more rod holders, a GPS, a camera, or other fishing gear holders.
Even with its small size, I’m impressed with how the Pelican Sentinel 100X has managed to incorporate so many features into its design. Not only does it come with multiple rod holders, but it also offers accessory eyelets similar to the Eddyline Caribbean’s setup, all in a more compact package.
Having a highly customizable fishing kayak makes all the difference when you’re out on the water. It allows you to tailor the kayak to your specific fishing style and preferences, ultimately enhancing your overall experience and success in landing those trophy catches.
Lightweight fishing kayaks have their fair share of pros and cons. Their portability allows you to transport and carry them with ease, while their shorter keels offer impressive maneuverability. They can be fantastic options if you’re willing to accept their smaller load capacity and limited storage space.
When it comes to sit-on-top kayaks, I found the Eddyline Caribbean 12FS to be the top choice. With its great speed, stability, and generous customization options, it ticks all the right boxes for me. However, if you’re more inclined towards a sit-in kayak, the Perception Sound 10.5 is an excellent alternative. While its shorter keel does affect its speed, you still get all the custom options, along with solid stability.
Ultimately, choosing the best lightweight fishing kayak depends on your specific needs and preferences, but in my experience, these two models stand out from the competition and can significantly enhance your angling adventures.