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The first time I ever fished from a kayak was in Alaska, on a lake north of Fairbanks. I had enough fun doing it that when I got home from that trip, I started looking hard for a kayak of my own. Ideally, I wanted the best fishing kayak under 500 bucks, because I’m not really able to spend more than that on one.
While I’m still waiting to pull the trigger on my own, this list has the five best fishing kayaks under 500 dollars that you can find. I’ve spent hours researching kayaks, so there’s more to these rankings and this list than the ones published by most other outlets.
What to look for in a fishing kayak
Before getting into the list, it’s important to understand what features you should look for in a new fishing kayak.
First off, you want a kayak with a sit-on-top design. By placing the seat on top of the kayak instead of inside, you increase the stability, comfort, and you create a more natural platform for standing and casting. If you’re like me and don’t enjoy sitting down to cast all day, a sit-on-top kayak is a must.
Second, you want one that’s relatively light. Heavier kayaks mean you’re spending more energy paddling around, and less fishing. Generally, a kayak in the 50-85lb range is ideal. However, you will find that some kayaks are much more stable the heavier they get. At the sub-$500 price point, though, you’ll likely not have a huge range of weight options to choose from.
Finally, you’ll want to strongly consider storage options. Kayaks with more room for coolers, attaching extra gear like fish finders, or bad-weather gear, are likely going to be more useful for you than kayaks without those features.
In putting together this list of the best fishing kayaks under 500 bucks, we made sure to find the best bang-for-your-buck options. And while you certainly get what you pay for when it comes to kayaks, these are all solid options that should work for most anglers.
Starting us off is the Lifetime Lotus. This is a sit-on-top kayak that weighs only 38 pounds, and has a pretty small weight capacity of only 250 pounds. It’s one of Amazon’s best-selling kayaks, but it’s not the ideal fit for most anglers, due to its lack of storage space, no rod holders, and nowhere to place extra gear. However, its design and backrest make it a viable option if you’re thinking you don’t need anything too fancy.
At $473, it’s just under the $500 mark. There are better options, but if you like the look and feel of this one, you won’t be disappointed.
Coming in at number four on the list is this Emotion Spitfire kayak. It’s 8 feet long, has a 240 pound capacity, and weighs 39.7 pounds. It edges out the Lotus because, even though it has similar storage space issues, it’s almost $100 cheaper. If you’re trying to find the cheapest decent kayak that’ll get you on the water, the Spitfire is the one.
This is a fantastic choice. The Pelican Sentinel comes from a great brand name, and has tons of storage space for all sorts of gear. It’s also 9.5 feet long, weighs just 44 pounds, and has a max weight capacity of 275 pounds. To pack all of that – along with an excellent seat and backrest – into this package for less than $500 is impressive.
One of the storage compartments is removable, so you can really modify this ting however you need. It also has two rod holders, which is a feature any angler is going to love.
The Sentinel is built with stability in mind, more so than speed or tracking. So if you plan on standing up in your kayak to fish, then this is one that deserves some serious consideration.
The Lifetime Tamarack is an excellent kayak that comes with two paddles, complete with shock cords, as well as a deep hull for excellent tracking. The seat is padded, which means you’ll be comfortable all day long, and the storage is nearly limitless on this kayak. it has 3 rod holders, along with some 6-inch storage compartments in the rear and center of the kayak.
The Tamarack weighs 52 pounds, so it’s a bit heavier than others on this list, but it makes up for it with a 275-pound weight capacity.
What I really like about this one is that the storage compartments, mentioned above, have hatches. So you can keep your gear dry without needing to add a dry-box or bag, taking up otherwise valuable storage space.
The best fishing kayak under 500 bucks is the Lifetime Hydros Angler 85. It doesn’t have near the storage of the Tamarack, but it’s only $350. For that, you get a kayak that weighs 38 pounds, has a 225-pound weight capacity, and a molded, padded seat. Oh, and the hull is designed for great tracking and stability, so you’ll get expert maneuverability combined with a stable casting platform.
It also has a single rod holder mounted right in front of the seat, a location that I think is really helpful for managing your gear. Again, the storage options aren’t as plentiful here, but the bang-for-your-buck value makes it impossible to not put this kayak at the top of our list.
Finding the best fishing kayak under 500 bucks is a lot easier than it probably seems. What it really boils down to is whether you want a lot of storage space, or if you’re willing to sacrifice that to spend less money. Either way, you’ll have tons of fun using a kayak to go fly fishing. It has all the advantages of a float tube, without needing to be pumped up every time you’re looking to hit the water.
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