Most Stable Fishing Kayak in 2020 (REVIEW GUIDE)
Kayaks are quickly becoming one of the most popular ways for anglers to get out on the water. They’re easy to transport, highly maneuverable, and can still hold everything you need. The one thing most kayaks lack though, is stability; most touring boats are at least a little tippy and they make for a poor angling platform. However, I’ve done the research to find some of the most stable fishing kayaks on the market right now.
One of the most stable fishing kayaks, in my opinion, is the Bonafide SS127. It’s a relatively new company, but their hull designs have rock-solid stability without sacrificing the maneuverability, speed, and tracking that you’ve come to expect with a high-quality kayak.
If you’re thinking about buying a kayak or upgrading to one better suited for fishing, I can’t recommend the Bonafide enough. However, there are so many great fishing kayaks out there right now and some of them come with really interesting features that are sure to compliment your angling experience.
Last update on 2020-01-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Reviews of the Most Stable Fishing Kayaks
1. Bonafide SS127 Sit-on-Top Fishing Kayak
Bonafide Kayaks is the newest creation from famed kayak designer Luther Ciffers of YakAttack. With anglers in mind, Bonafide has developed one of the best fishing kayaks on the market right now, with unmatched stability and tons of features to appeal to fishermen and women. Not only does it have superior primary stability from its 34-inch wide cockpit, but also great secondary stability should you need to reel in a big one and the boat gets to leaning. With 425 lb of capacity, it’s near impossible to tip this kayak over, no matter where you or your gear or positioned in it.
With the Bonafide SS127's excellent stability, many anglers will choose to stand up in it, but there’s also an incredibly comfortable seat, should you need a place to rest. The seat is raised up several inches, which can make spotting fish much easier, and the higher center of gravity doesn’t make it as tippy as you might think. The area under the seat serves as a convenient storage space for frequently used gear, but there’s also quite a bit of storage in the bow and stern.
Problems with the Bonafide SS127 boil down to what you’d expect from a big fishing kayak: it weighs a lot (95 lb) and is difficult to carry. Bonafide didn’t include any side handles with it, which means you’ll either be carrying it from the ends with a friend or carefully maneuvering it onto a kayak cart to transport it to the put-in/take-out point. However, there’s also the issue of not enough scupper holes in the Bonafide; should you get swamped by a wave, the drainage can be pretty lackluster.
The Bonafide SS127 is an all around great kayak for those that want stability and a comfortable platform to do their fishing from. Just know that you’ll have a tough time using it on solo trips.
2. Old Town Predator PDL Pedal Fishing Kayak
Old Town has been making kayaks and canoes in the heart of Maine for over a hundred years now, so it should come as no surprise that they’ve perfected the design for a stable fishing kayak.
With a 36-inch wide cockpit and tri-hull, the Predator PDL excels in both stability and tracking. It also has 500 lb of capacity, which can not only hold a lot of gear but also keeps you farther above the waterline and prevents water from coming up through the scupper holes.
However, great stability is not the only or even the main reason people consider the Predator. It’s the unique pedal drive system that utilizes a bicycle pedal setup to turn a small propeller beneath the hull. This is great for moving between fishing holes without letting go of your rod.
One of the first things anyone notices when using Predator is that it has a fairly steep learning curve. The pedal drive can be incredibly useful for maneuvering with a rod in hand, but synching your pedaling with the handheld rudder control while fishing isn’t exactly intuitive. Such a complicated system doesn’t come cheap either; this kayak costs around three times what many recreational kayaks cost.
As you might have expected with the wide cockpit, pedal drive, rudder system, and all the mounting points, this kayak is incredibly heavy too – 117 lb heavy. Even with two people, this boat is a challenge to transport and it will test the weight limit of a number of car roof racks. You need to have a plan every time you move this boat.
3. Ocean Kayak Caper Classic Kayak
Not every angler needs a totally tricked out boat to have a great fishing experience, and that’s exactly where the Caper Classic from Ocean Kayaks comes in. It’s a kayak for the budget minded paddler that simply wants a more stable fishing platform.
The Caper is considerably lighter than some of the other boats on this list at 47 lb, making it much easier to handle on a solo outing. It’s also about half the price of most fishing specific kayaks, which means you’ll have more money to spend on fish finders, trolling motors, and other gear. The Caper has a rather versatile hull too, with a wide cockpit and a rather hard chine that provides good stability and tracking in a variety of different conditions.
While the Ocean Kayak has great primary stability compared to most recreational boats, it’s only 31 inches wide and simply does not have the same stability that some of the dedicated fishing kayaks do. Secondary stability is also sacrificed, so if you don’t have great balance, it’s not advisable to stand up in this boat.
The Caper's seat is nothing to brag about either, just a thin cushion with the same tensioned backrest you would see on many entry-level boats. This isn’t the boat for you if you’re looking for a lot of organized storage space. The back deck area is secured with bungees that don’t have enough give to secure most milk crate setups. The front hatch can be difficult to reach if you’re not flexible and it also doesn’t have a lot of volume.
4. Wilderness Systems A.T.A.K. 120 Fishing Kayak
Wilderness Systems is a leader in the touring kayak market, but their A.T.A.K. 120, which stands for Advanced Tactical Angling Kayak, is one of the better stand up fishing kayaks right now. Unlike many boats designed for fishing, it actually performs quite well in a current, staying on track and with excellent primary stability.
It excels as an angling platform too, with plenty of storage space in the bow and stern and a number of traction pads positioned throughout the deck to keep you stable when standing upright. While it doesn’t come with a pedal-driven propulsion system, it is outfitted to accept the Wilderness’s Helix motor; it’s up to you whether this is a useful purchase though.
The things that make the A.T.A.K. great (stable hull, lots of mounting points for accessories, extensive storage) make for a hefty boat weighing 86 lb. It’s not so heavy that you can’t handle it alone, but it’s pretty darn close to it. Its hull design’s excellent primary stability has poor secondary stability though, as would be expected with a hard chine design like the A.T.A.K.’s.
While it has quite a bit of storage, the hull is only meant to hold 400 lb, which is plenty of capacity, but you might notice the boat sitting lower in the water than you’d like when fully loaded.
5. NuCanoe Frontier 12 Kayak
Most dedicated fishing kayaks have a deck that you can stand up on for better visibility and freedom of movement. However, few come anywhere close to the openness of the Frontier 12 from NuCanoe. It has a completely open deck, only broken up by its elevated seat. This setup almost gives it the feeling of a canoe, but with the one-person maneuverability of a kayak.
Freedom to move about the deck isn’t the only advantage that the NuCanoe offers though; it also has one of the most stable hull designs, thanks to its 41-inch-wide cockpit. This kind of width is nearly unheard with kayaks, but such a design lends superior primary and secondary stability to the Frontier 12.
It also has a massive 650 lb carrying capacity, which is completely unnecessary for carrying you and your gear, but it does help the Frontier to ride high in the water and prevents paddlers from getting splashed by small waves.
What’s perhaps most surprising about this boat is how lightweight it is for being so wide. At 77 lb, it’s no joy to carry, but it’s also not impossible to maneuver on your own.
Speaking of maneuvering, the Frontier does not come with a rudder, which is somewhat disappointing for such a wide boat that’s rather difficult to turn. While one can be added, it seems like a rudder should come standard on a boat like this. However, the Frontier is fairly light in amenities, including mounting points; it seems NuCanoe wanted to leave as much open space as possible instead.
Overall, NuCanoe’s Frontier 12 is a great boat for paddlers that want the most stable boat and aren’t terribly concerned with having a lot of accessories.
How to Choose the Best Stable Fishing Kayak - Buyer's Guide
What’s Important in a Fishing Kayak
At their heart, fishing kayaks aren’t so different from touring and recreation boats but for one exception, that anglers like to stand when they’re fishing. If you’re used to sitting inside the cockpit of a kayak, standing up in your boat will seem like a pretty foreign concept. That’s only because you haven’t had the right boat for it though. Fishing kayaks that are designed for standing have a wide cockpit and a hull that maximizes stability, often to the detriment of speed.
What’s the point of standing up while you’re fishing, though? Well, it’s a whole lot easier to spot the fish when your eyes are looking down on them and there’s less glare reflecting back from the water’s surface. Additionally, fishing for hours at a time in a sitting position can be a murder on your back and legs. Having the option to stand takes the pressure off these joints and makes for a much more enjoyable experience.
What Makes a Fishing Kayak Stable
Kayaks are made stable by a number of factors, but the general rule is that the wider the kayak’s cockpit, the more stable it’s going to be. That’s why you’ll see a lot of fishing kayaks with 34 inch wide cockpits or larger, where the standard touring width might be closer to 29 inches. However, there are a couple of hull design features that are important too and they factor into the boat’s primary and secondary stability rating.
Related Article: Best Kayak & Canoe Outriggers and Stabilizers
Primary vs. Secondary Stability
Primary stability refers to a boat’s predisposition to stay upright under normal conditions. Kayaks with poor primary stability are thought of as tippy – think narrow racing and sea kayaks with rounded hulls. Recreational boats and many fishing kayaks have great primary stability due to their hull design: flat with hard chines (the sharp angle of the kayak’s sides as they slope towards the middle) that resists leaning to one side of the other. Kayaks with good primary stability are typically slower.
Secondary stability is the kayak’s ability to hold a position when it’s being leaned off center. Think of a sea kayak or aggressive river runner and how they can tip to one side, carving a tight turn without flipping over. Kayaks with secondary stability are also easier to do a roll with as the rounded sides and soft chine pop out of the water much more easily than a V-shaped hull.
That being said, there are a few other considerations beyond stability that you’ll want to look into when choosing a fishing kayak.
Related Article: How To Make A Kayak More Buoyant
Fishing kayaks differ from touring kayaks in that your hands are frequently occupied when using them, effectively preventing you from paddling. For this reason, a number of fishing kayaks come with small propulsion systems that can be operated with your feet. Often they look like a set of bicycle pedals that turn a propeller; a hand-operated rudder is frequently paired with them to provide steering. This could be an important feature to look for in your fishing kayak if you know that you’ll be using it in strong currents where repositioning is a frequent necessity.
Few paddlers bring as much gear in their kayak as anglers do and for that reason, storage is a chief consideration when designing a fishing kayak. Most will come with a large space behind the seat that can accommodate a milk crate, cooler, or other large boxy objects. This is where you’ll want to store things that get used frequently. Less important items can go in the front hatch, but the hatch is usually not that easy to open and you’ll need to reach between your legs to do it.
My Choice for the Most Stable Fishing Kayak
While all of the kayaks reviewed do a reasonably good job at providing a stable angling platform, it’s the Bonafide SS127 that checks all the boxes and stands out as one of the best all around kayaks.
It’s just long enough and just wide enough to be incredibly stable without sacrificing tracking and turning ability too much. While many of the other boats have a greater carrying capacity or come with nifty extras like pedal propulsion systems, the SS127 has only what’s necessary, leaving it up to the angler if they want to add any accouterments. It’s not the lightest kayak and can be awkward to handle alone, but the same could be said for most dedicated fishing kayaks.
If you’re just getting into kayak fishing, the SS127 might be a bit above your price point and something like the Caper Classic from Ocean Kayaks could be a better choice. It’s not as stable or comfortable, but it gets the job done without breaking the bank and it weighs less than half what most of the other fishing kayaks do.
More experienced anglers that know what they want might be more impressed with something like the Old Town Predator. Its only major drawback is its weight and price, but it has a fantastic pedal drive system.
No matter which boat you choose though, know that a kayak is only as stable as the person paddling it. Kayaking is a sport that requires practice, and balance is one of the major skills gained in it. So make sure you get out on the water and feel your boat out before taking it on any long trips.
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Last update on 2020-01-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API