While fishing on lakes and rivers is all well and good, everyone knows the bigger the water the bigger the fish.
But as you move into saltwater paddling, you’ll need the best ocean fishing kayak.
We’ve done the legwork for you and in this article, we’ll break down our favorite ocean-going boats in a number of categories.
Whether you’re just getting started or looking for the best of the best, you’ll find what you’re looking for below.
Best Ocean Fishing Kayaks
Best Inflatable: Sea Eagle SE370
I wouldn’t trust many inflatables on the open ocean, but the folks at Sea Eagle really know what they’re doing.
Two plastic skegs prevent the wind from pushing the SE370 around, a common ailment for inflatable boats which also allows it to handle up to Class III rapids.
Able to be handled by one or two paddlers, it performs best with two people on board providing more power and speed if the weather picks up.
Set-up and takedown is a piece of cake with inflating requiring just eight minutes.
You won’t find much storage space, an issue for all inflatables, but it does have a storage box and two rod holders.
- Limited storage space
- Big 650 weight capacity
- Room for up to three people
Best for Beginners: Ocean Kayak Frenzy
A great option for beginners thanks to the smaller price tag, the Frenzy from Ocean Kayak lacks the features that are mainstays of other fishing kayaks.
There aren’t rod holders or other customization options that will pull in more experienced paddlers.
It has the stability to stand up to ocean swells however and at just 43 pounds it’s easy for a solo paddler to move on their own.
There’s no dry storage area but the bow and stern decks have large tank wells with bungee cords stretched over them to secure gear.
- Simple design with few features
- 325-pound load capacity
- Comfortable, padded, adjustable seat
Best Sit-On-Top: Vibe Sea Ghost 130
With a singular focus on fishing, Vibe has been perfecting their designs since arriving on the scene in 2014.
Sea Ghost 130 is the product of their efforts with a great combination of stability and speed that allows it to cover ground and stand up to choppy waves.
The large load capacity provides you with enough storage for multi-day trips.
But it’s the customization where the Sea Ghost 130 really stands out. Add a fishfinder, sonar, GoPro, or extra rod holders on the gear tracks to customize the boat to your exact specifications.
Add in the “hero seat”, one of the most comfortable kayaks ever conceived, and you’ve got a standout fishing kayak.
- Comes with adjusting rudder
- Tons of customization options
- Heavier and hard to transport
Best Sit-In: Bonafide EX123
One of the newest fishing kayaks, the EX123 has a slim and hydrodynamic design which gives it an impressive top speed despite its heavier weight (52 pounds).
While many sit-in kayaks feel cramped and uncomfortable, this boat has a mammoth cockpit that will accommodate most paddlers comfortably.
In addition to the eye-catching speed, this boat tracks really well and can handle ocean currents and tides better than most.
There’s not a ton of customization options but it does have two flush-mounted rod holders and the storage space is acceptable.
- Long, slimmer boat for better speed
- Stable enough to stand in
- Really comfortable stadium-style seat
Best Tandem: Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem
One of the most stable kayaks on the market, the Malibu Two Tandem from Ocean Kayak has a twelve-foot keel and roomy cockpits with space for a small third passenger making it a good boat for families.
The 425-pound load capacity should be enough for two people and their fishing gear and the seats and multiple foot braces make for a comfortable paddling experience.
A skid plate gives the tough plastic hull even more durability but the boat still weighs just 57 pounds with easy carrying handles.
- Lifetime warranty
- Incredibly stable
- Can be paddled solo or tandem
Best Budget: BKC UH-TK181
A great tandem kayak that’s perfect if both paddlers are interested in fishing.
The UH-TK181 comes equipped with an amazing seven(!) rod holders so both anglers can fish to their heart’s content.
It’s a big boat with a 34-inch beam that uses its large deck to ensure that you have a ton of storage space including two watertight consoles in front of each seat.
The beam also gives it impressive tracking and stability, especially when two experienced paddlers are at the helm.
At 68 pounds it’s a little heavier than I’d like, but thanks to the easy carrying handles, most pairs should be able to move it without too much trouble.
Add in the 450-pound load capacity and the two included aluminum paddles and you’ve got a boat that provides a lot of bang for your buck.
- Can handle choppy waters well
- Seat attachments can be fragile
- 5-year warranty
Best Pedal: Hobie Mirage Outback
The cream of the ocean fishing kayak crop are the pedal kayaks. And the Hobie Mirage Outback stands atop.
Phenomenal stability will have you plowing through the waves with supreme confidence allowing you to focus solely on fishing.
A rudder and the well-designed pedal drive system keeps you on course and gives you the option to troll.
Four rod holders highlight the fishing-specific features though I wish there were more customization options like the Sea Ghost 130 has.
- Weighs 85 pounds making it tough to carry
- 425 weight capacity
- Padded and adjustable seat
How to Choose the Best Ocean Fishing Kayak
How Experienced Are You?
Being on the ocean can be a very different paddling experience. Unlike likes and rivers, ocean paddling introduces additional variables like tide, current, and more inclement weather.
If you’re an inexperienced kayaker, be cautious when starting out. Select a boat that focuses on stability while you get the hang of the sport.
Plan trips so that you’ll have plenty of daylight to get home and stick close to shore.
Select outings that keep you in protected bays and near other people until you feel confident in your paddling skills.
This will matter a lot on what sort of trips you’re envisioning. For ocean paddling, I’d recommend a kayak with a flat hull. This gives you extra stability that is especially important for fishing.
The length of your boat will give you some idea of how much storage space you’ll have available. The length of the keel should also give you a rough idea of how fast the kayak is. In most cases the longer the keel and more curved the bow the faster the boat will be.
The width varies a lot between sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks. Narrower, more streamlined kayaks are easier to paddle and are more efficient.
If multi-day trips are part of your itinerary, prioritize a boat with at least one watertight storage hatch.
Make sure this space is large enough to house your camping gear. Nothing ruins a trip quicker than a wet sleeping bag.
Check the boat’s load capacity on its specifications page before purchasing. This refers to the amount of weight the boat can handle.
Remember that this number includes your weight too. Overloading a boat can make it sluggish and more apt to tip over.
In general, the longer your trips, the longer your boat should be.
This will give you additional storage room and the longer keel will make those longer distances melt away.
A comfortable seat should always be a priority, but it’s especially important if you plan on spending the whole day paddling.
Try out the seat before you bring your kayak home. Look for a boat that has a padded back and bottom and is fully adjustable.
Foot braces, either adjustable or multiple wells allow you to brace which takes some of the pressure off your back and helps with your stability and paddling efficiency.
In recent years, fishing kayaks have started to add more and more custom features to their boats.
“Gear tracks” or “accessory sliders” let you outfit your boat however you want and install some of your favorite gadgets. You can use these tracks or a central console to install a GoPro, to hold more gear, or even implement a fish finder.
Rod and paddle holders are pretty much necessities for kayak fishing and keep those unwieldy tools out of the way when not in use.
Paddle vs Pedal Kayaks
While most kayaks can only be propelled with a paddle, a high-end category of kayaks have pedal drive systems that allow them to be moved like a bicycle.
This has many obvious advantages. A pedal system lets you use your larger leg muscles creating more power and speed. You can increase this even more by paddling while pedaling. It also leaves your hands free to cast while your boat’s in motion.
But pedal kayaks are prohibitively more expensive than many paddle kayaks. And the pedal system means the boats are bigger, heavier, and harder to move.
Sit-In vs Sit-On-Top
The two main types of kayak. Sit-in kayaks have a defined cockpit with a seat on the floor of the boat.
With a spray skirt, your legs and lower torso are protected from elements making sit-in kayaks preferable for colder climates. Since you’re seated closer to the water, sit-in kayaks can be more streamlined and faster without compromising stability.
Sit-on-top kayaks have no defined cockpit making them easier to get in and out of. They don’t provide any protection and are best in warm environments where splashing water won’t be a big deal.
The seats are placed higher above the water to keep you drier, but this means the kayak has to be wider for the sake of stability. They’re the common design for recreation and kayak fishing.
If you’re going to be on the ocean, you should always plan for at least some choppy conditions and ocean swell.
Don’t go far from shore until you feel that you have a good understanding of the waterway you’re paddling and consult more experienced paddlers.
If choppy water paddling is in your future, make sure that you have a boat up to the task. Look for a boat that has a combination of stability and a streamlined bow that will allow you to cut through the waves and surf more efficiently.
Tandem vs Single
Tandem kayaks are longer and with an additional paddler can provide more speed.
Their tracking capability can be lower than a single and they don’t have the storage space of two singles.
But it may be easier to transport one tandem than two singles and many tandems in the recreational and fishing categories can be paddled solo or tandem.
This one is mostly cosmetic and many kayak models come with several different color options. If possible I select a boat with bright colors that will stand out on the water.
This makes me more visible to passing boats, and in the event of an emergency, easier to locate by a search and rescue crew.
Before heading out, make sure someone knows the color and design of your boat so they can describe it to emergency personnel.
There’s a wide range of boats that you can take onto the ocean with confidence depending on your goals and price range.
The Bonafide EX123 is a new design that deserves acclaim for its slim, sit-in design that more than makes up for lack of custom options. But there’s no competing with Hobie Mirage Outback’s pedal system that unlocks a whole new world of kayak fishing.
What do you think of our list? Who’d we miss and what are your favorite kayak models? Let us know in the comments below.