Best budget fishing kayak

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Best budget fishing kayak

What’s the best fishing kayak for under 500, or at least close to it? This question had more relevance when I first wrote this article, now prices have increased exponentially and some of these offerings are now heading over the 700 mark.

Using these price points as a guide, we’ve selected five which we believe are the best options available.

Our five choices are all popular kayaks with overall great reviews and have been selected for their balance of value, features and quality. 

At this price point you can’t have it all, therefore some have less features but are better quality and some have more features but not the same quality.


  • Lifetime Tamarack AnglerBest budget fishing kayak. Our top pick for value for money, (Provided you can get it on sale!) Great all round features and performance for a budget friendly price tag.
  • Perception Sound 10.5Quality construction, great features, usability and good performance make this our top pick for a budget sit-in fishing kayak.
  • Perception Access 11.5 – Sit-on-top. Fantastic quality and features at an affordable price point.
  • Old Town Vapor 10 Another quality, affordable sit-in fishing kayak.
  • Lifetime Teton Angler

Kayaks open up a whole new world to explore  which is why I enjoy kayak fishing so much. There’s something magical about being out on the water in a beautiful place, and when you’re in that moment, it doesn’t matter what kayak you’re on.

So if you are just starting out or are on a budget, don’t worry, there are plenty of options and the truth is, you don’t need a high end kayak to get out there and enjoy yourself. 

It’s important when you are looking at kayaks in this price range not to be put off by what you can’t get but rather be encouraged by what you can get. Remember, having a fishing kayak will open up access to those beautiful places and those fish that once eluded you.

Below we have a great lineup of both sit-in and sit-on-top options to help you find a kayak to suit your needs and budget.

Jump to our buyers guide here.

Lifetime Tamarack Angler – Best Budget Fishing Kayak

Specs:

Length: 10 ft 
Width: 31 in 
Capacity: 275 lb 
Weight: 52 lb

The Lifetime Tamarack Angler is the go-to budget fishing kayak. Not necessarily a top of the line fishing kayak but provided you get a good one they’re tough enough and if you can get one on sale there’s no better value for money.  

Nice and stable with great fishing features and good overall paddling performance go a long way to making this a firm favourite for beginners. This budget fishing kayak is set up to fish right out of the box and is easily customisable.

The Tamarack angler is often priced well, though it is definitely worth waiting for a sale as prices can fluctuate significantly between retailers and at different times of the year.

These are constructed using a process called blow molding. With kayaks having complex shapes, the general consensus seems to be that rotomolding produces a superior product. There is however, some debate out there regarding these two processes which I’ll leave for you to investigate should you so desire.
I would venture to say that the quality of the end result depends more on the quality of the equipment used and the people using it than anything else. But that’s just my two cents worth.

On the negative side, these are considered of lesser quality than some of the other kayaks reviewed here. Quality control seems to be lacking as there is some variation between products, some even missing parts. Lifetime appears to be reasonably good with their response to any complaints though opinions differ here too. 

One complaint is that they are insufficiently protected for shipping and handling, and whether by fault of the transport company or the factory some arrive with damage so please make sure you check them over thoroughly before you take delivery of them. 

That said, people have commented that the plastic is soft and does get softer in hot sun, some have had them dent slightly but bounce back overnight.

The paddle they come with are very cheap and in my opinion not safe to use so do yourself a favor and grab a decent paddle. The Bending Branches Whisper paddle is a popular affordable option. 

Another issue is that the bungees penetrate the hull in some areas which can allow water to get inside, something to be aware of if you are out in rougher water.

Seat comfort is an issue but there are cheap DIY alternatives. A simple stadium seat works well as you can see in the video below.

Pros
  • Good value for money
  • Dedicated fishing kayak
  • Good paddling performance
  • Great fishing features
  • Lightweight sit-on-top
  • Readily available spare parts
Cons
  • Quality issues. Recommend viewing thoroughly first.
  • Seat comfort
  • Cheap paddle
  • Bungees penetrate the hull which allows water ingress

In spite of the negatives we have mentioned, these kayaks are immensely popular. If you can pick one of these up on sale for around the $300 mark they are unbeatable as far as value for money is concerned which is why we consider the Lifetime Tamarack Angler the best budget fishing kayak.

Perception Sound 10.5 – Best Budget Sit-In Fishing Kayak

Specs:

Length: 10 ft 6 in 
Width: 29.5 in 
Capacity: 335 lb 
Weight: 46lb 
Cockpit Length: 56 in 
Cockpit width 23.75 in 

The Perception Sound 10.5, big brother to the Sound 9.5 and is a sit-in kayak built to explore lakes and rivers with ease.

The Sound 10.5 is a good quality kayak built by a solid company that’s been in the business of making quality kayaks for many years and is known for their quality fit and finish. These kayaks are rotomolded construction and come with a five year hull and deck warranty, so with proper care they should happily last many years.

It features a large comfortable cockpit that’s easy to access with leg padding on the edges, adjustable footrests and a comfortable seat that is easily adjustable. 

Like the Access 11.5 below it has moulded in handles and a generous tankwell for all you fishing gear. The Sound 10.5 also features a drink holder in the front of the seat and a dashboard for easy access storage. The dashboard has two recesses for Perception Solo Mount Bases, These are a screw in accessory that have a RAM ball fitting in either 1 in or 1.5 in sizes which you can use to mount any RAM branded accessory such as, rod holders, camera mounts, cup holders and the like.

It has good tracking for a short boat and is very stable on the water though it is not fast. Perfect for a peaceful day out on the water. 
It also has a large weight capacity, coupled with the large cockpit means there’s some extra room which some use for taking one of their children with them or even the dog.

At only 46 lb this is a very lightweight kayak making it much easier to transport.

As with the Perception access 11.5 the Sound 10.5 has the same infamous rod holders to consider. As discussed previously, this is an easy fix.

As with any sit-in kayak it is recommended that you add some extra buoyancy in the bow and stern just in case it tips. This stops it from completely filling up with water and sinking. You can easily achieve this by adding float bags.

Pros
  • Trusted Brand
  • Quality rotomolded construction
  • Large, easy access cockpit
  • Tracks fairly well
  • Easily customisable
  • Very lightweight
  • Molded in handles.
  • Solo Mount recesses
  • Good all round sit in kayak
  • Plenty of weight capacity
Cons
  • Perception’s infamous rod holders
  • Slow, as expected with this size and shape

Perception is a solid company that’s been in the business of making quality kayaks for many years and is known for their quality fit and finish. These kayaks are rotomolded construction and come with a five year hull and deck warranty, so with proper care they should happily last many years. It’s due to this quality that the Perception Sound 10.5 is out top pick for the best quality sit-in fishing kayak.


If you’re looking for these qualities in a sit-in fishing kayak check out our top pick sit-in fishing kayak, the Perception Sound 10.5

Perception Access 11.5 – Quality Sit-On-Top Budget Fishing Kayak

Specs:

Length: 11ft 6in
Width: 31ft
Capacity: 300 lb
Weight: 55 lb

The Perception Access 11.5 sit-on-top fishing kayak is a quality kayak from Perception Kayaks. Built by a solid company that’s been in the business of making quality kayaks for many years and is known for their quality fit and finish. These kayaks are rotomolded construction and come with a five year hull and deck warranty, so with proper care they should happily last many years.

With the Perception Access 11.5 everything is kept simple and clean from molded in handles to foot rests and seat. There really is nothing attached that could fall off. Purported to be a straight tracking kayak with good speed but lacking in maneuverability.
Not so good on smaller rivers or areas with obstacles but no problem on larger bodies of water. A good choice if you like to paddle and tend to travel far.
Nice and stable when seated but not really a stand up kayak though some manage it.

What some people don’t like:

Two of Perception’s infamous recessed rod holders feature on this model. For those who are unaware they are oversized holes designed to take a Rod-X Pro, an accessory rod holder which perception sells. Thankfully it’s not a deal breaker and an easy DIY fix. 

Check out this clip to see a very basic fix.

Most of the items people complain about are fairly minor and can be easily addressed with some DIY innovation.

Pros
  • Trusted Brand
  • Quality rotomolded construction
  • Tracks well
  • Good speed
  • Easily customisable
  • Lightweight for a sit-on-top
  • Simple unencumbered design
  • Drier ride than others
  • Ample on deck storage
  • Sit on top good for safety
  • Molded in handles.
  • Good all round sit on top kayak
Cons
  • Not as maneuverable as others
  • Uncomfortable seat
  • No front hatch
  • No paddle holders
  • Not for stand up fishing
  • The high molded seat is an issue with stacking and storage for some
  • Perception’s rod holders…see comment above

Quality construction from a solid company, great features, usability and good performance make the Perception Access 11.5 a good pick for a cheaper sit-on-top fishing kayak. However, with the increase in price of this model I would be tempted to also consider the popular Perception Pescador Pro 10 which has great fishing pedigree, and in my opinion a better fishing kayak.


For a great quality affordable sit-on-top fishing kayak, check out the Perception Access 11.5

Old Town Vapor 10 – Runner Up Sit-In Fishing Kayak

Specs:

Length: 10 ft 
Width: 28.5 lb 
Capacity: 325 lb 
Weight: 47 lb 
Cockpit Length: 48 in 
Cockpit Width: 19.5 in

The Old Town Vapor 10 is one of the base models in the Old Town lineup but you still get  tough, quality construction as expected from this company. These kayaks feature their lifetime hull and deck warranty. They are built tough and should last many years.

The Old Town Vapor is a nice, simple entry level recreation sit-in kayak. Many people love the large cockpit and general ease of use this boat offers. This is a fantastic quality kayak that is much loved by many. Positive reviews abound so when I touch on the negatives, please bear that in mind.

There are mixed reviews about the tracking, which could definitely be improved by the addition of a skeg, and as expected with a kayak this size and shape it is not considered fast. Also mentioned is the pronounced weathercocking effect on this kayak, the raised area in the front makes it more susceptible to the winds influence, that means, going where you want to go when it’s windy just got a whole lot harder.

The seat comfort is an issue with many, again, with some customisation this can be rectified.
A common complaint mentioned is the position of the drain plug. It is placed in an awkward position making it difficult to drain, many finding it ineffective in completely draining the water out. The additional use of a sponge can be a helpful addition.

Old town has an angler version for an increase in price. The higher price tag gets you two flush mount rod holders and a short anchor trolley, I say short because it only runs from the cockpit to the stern which limits its use. Due to differing current and wind conditions, having the ability to anchor from either the stern or the bow is essential to getting the most out of using an anchor.

The good news is that you can save some money and customise the Vapor 10 by adding a couple of flush mount rod holders and an anchor trolley yourself and end up with a full length anchor trolley.

Pros
  • Trusted Brand
  • Quality rotomolded construction
  • Good seated stability
  • Great for beginners
  • Easily customisable
  • Simple 
  • Lightweight sit-on-top
  • Good weight capacity
Cons
  • Seat comfort
  • Slow, as expected with this size and shape
  • Tracking issues
  • No additional features for this price
  • Catches wind due to height in front
  • Awkwardly positioned drain plug

All in all the Old Town Vapor 10 is a simple entry level recreational kayak from a longstanding company known for building kayaks of exceptional quality. You do get exceptional build quality but it is lacking in features compared with other kayaks of comparable value. It can, however, be easily modified for fishing.


For a simple but tough and well made sit-in fishing kayak from a trusted brand check out the Old Town Vapor 10.

Lifetime Teton Angler

picture of kayak
Specs:

Length: 10 ft
Width: 30.5 in
Capacity: 275 lb
Weight: 53.5 lb

Another offering from the team at Lifetime and this one comes with a lawn chair style seat!

Other features include mounting tracks, flush mount rod holders and tankwells in both front and rear. The footrests are molded in and bungees are supplied over the tankwells. Gear tracks and rod holders make this ready to fish out of the box!

There are mostly positive reviews out there but there are some negatives which are generally the same as the Tamarack Angler. Number one; quality can be an issue, so make sure you thoroughly check it over first. It’s a good idea to check all the screws too. Once again, where quality control is lacking, customer service appears to make up for it when dealing with Lifetime providing you sort it quickly.
The bungees penetrate the hull which can allow water to get inside, something to be aware of if you are out in rougher water.

A little heavier than the Tamarack and with a higher seat it is likely to be less stable but should be good for most.

Make sure the seat is strapped down! Don’t lose it to the depths.

Once again a great starter fishing kayak especially if you can get it on sale. 

Pros
  • Value for money if you buy it on special
  • Mounting tracks
  • Lawn chair style seat
Pros
  • Quality issues. Recommend viewing thoroughly first.
  • Softens in heat
  • Bungees penetrate the hull which allows water ingress.

If you’re looking for a fishing kayak comparable to the Lifetime Tamarack Angler but with a lawn chair style seat check out the Lifetime Teton Angler.

Buyers Guide

Should I choose a Sit-on-top (SOT) or a  Sit-in-kayak (SIK)?

There is no one size fits all here, it all comes down to personal preference.

People often say that a SIK is more stable than a SOT. This is not necessarily the case as there are many factors to consider.

If you compare two kayaks of the exact same size, (width, length) and hull design, the SIK will be more stable because you are sitting lower in it, (lower center of gravity = greater stability). While this is true in theory it is not helpful when buying a kayak because there are too many factors involved when it comes to stability. Hull design tends to play the biggest part. 

What is important to take away from this is that SOT kayaks are often made wider to compensate for the higher center of gravity. Sitting higher and paddling a wider kayak will mean a longer paddle is required but won’t necessarily mean it is less stable or requires more effort to move. 

With regards to width, a narrower kayak is likely to be more efficient, but again this may not always be the case. A narrower kayak with a poorly designed hull shape can require more effort to move than a kayak with a wider but better designed hull. 

As you can see, it’s all very subjective so it’s best to take each kayak on its own merit.

Here are some pros and cons which you might like to consider.

Sit-on-top (SOT)

Pros
  • Sit-on-top kayaks are considered to be safer if you fall in as they stay buoyant and don’t fill up with water. Their design makes them much easier to get back on afterwards.  
  • The on deck storage is more accessible.
  • You have the ability to move around more.
Cons
  • You are more likely to get wet.
  • Sit-on-top’s are generally heavier than sit-in kayaks.
  • They tend to sit higher which lends them to be affected by wind.

Sit-in kayaks (SIK)

Pros
  • With a sit-in-kayak you are more protected as your lower half is inside the kayak. This gives you a drier ride. Great for kayakers who paddle in colder weather.
  • Sit-in-kayaks are less prone to being affected by the wind as they generally sit a bit lower in the water. Many people also find the lower seat position a more natural paddling position.
  • Sit-in kayaks are generally lighter, making them much easier to transport.
Cons
  • If you tip out, a sit-in-kayak is much harder to get back in to. (Both of the sit-in kayaks we recommend here are considered very stable if used appropriately)
  • Less accessible storage.
  • Limited room for movement. Some people feel too confined in a SIK. (The SIK’s in our lineup both feature large cockpit openings which go a long way to alleviating this.)

It is highly recommended that you have float bags in the bow and stern to aid buoyancy. If a SIK with no extra buoyancy tips it has a good chance of filling up with water and sinking. 

It is worth considering quality. 

A good quality product, properly cared for will not only last longer but also have better resale value if you decide to sell it. They are also trustworthy.

Knowing you can trust your vessel to keep you above the waterline is a must. Some cheaper kayaks have had issues with split hulls, cracks and all manor of leakages. If you plan to paddle close to shore and the water is warm enough to safely swim back that may not be a concern but for most I would venture to say that’s not the norm. If you can, buy a quality kayak from a trusted brand. Most of these companies produce entry level kayaks for less. Still the same great quality but fewer features that can make great fishing kayaks.

The cheaper, budget kayaks we have listed below are what we consider to be the best of the budget kayaks as far as quality and features. Most reviewers have not had issues with them but there are those who have so it’s important to understand that they are a budget kayak and are not as robust as others. Please inspect your kayak often and if you have any concerns about their hull integrity, don’t take them out any further than you are prepared to swim back.

Best advice is to inspect any kayak regularly for any sign of damage or wear and use them appropriately. 

Before we start I’d just like to note that the capacity in the specs is the maximum capacity specified. Subtract the weight of the kayak off this figure to get the maximum net weight that you load onto it. 

Best budget Fishing Kayak – Summary

There you have it folks, our views on the best budget fishing kayaks. Well we couldn’t pick just one so here are our choices again for this price category.

Lifetime Tamarack AnglerBest budget fishing kayak. Our top pick for value for money, (Provided you can get it on sale!) Great all round features and performance for a budget friendly price tag.

The Perception Sound 10.5Quality construction, great features, usability and good performance make this our top pick for a budget sit-in fishing kayak.

The Perception Access 11.5 Sit-on-top. Fantastic quality and features at an affordable price point.

Old Town Vapor 10Another quality, affordable sit-in fishing kayak.

Lifetime Teton Angler

If you can afford to spend a bit more I’d recommend checking out our best fishing kayak under 1000 article.

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