Best Fishing Kayaks Under $400 – 2018 Guide & Reviews

If you love to fish, then you know that casting your line from the water is one of the best places to do it. While you could use a motorized boat for this, there’s something so rewarding when you do it from a kayak instead.

Fishing kayaks are designed to help you get closer to your next catch by putting you right where they are. These models are different from standard kayaks because they are built to accommodate poles and tackle boxes.

Taking to the water in one of these beauties is going to offer better results than trying to cast from the shore, and it will allow you to get the best of both worlds. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best fishing kayaks. To make it even better for those on a budget, each of these models is under $400.

Comparisons on  6 Fishing Kayaks Under $400 

6 Best Fishing Kayaks Under $400 - Reviews 

1. Sun Dolphin Excursion 10-Foot Sit-in Fishing Kayak

One of the first things that you have to consider when picking out the best fishing kayak is the kind of seating you’re going to have. There are two primary options - you can sit on top or inside. Cockpit-style kayaks are like regular non-fishing models, while open-air kayaks give you more flexibility to sit or stand while casting your line.

Our first model is one of the former. This is a sit-in kayak that works well for either fishing or standard kayaking, making it a versatile option for those who love the water. The shape of this model is also perfect for standing water, so if you like to go out on the lake, this is a perfect choice. That being said, we don’t recommend it for the ocean or rivers as waves can make the experience choppy and uncomfortable.

The construction of your fishing kayak is another primary concern. In this case, the Excursion from Sun Dolphin is built out of Fortiflex polyethylene. We like this material because it’s rugged and lightweight at the same time. It can take a beating, but it’s not too heavy to carry to and from the car.

Speaking of carrying, this kayak comes with two handles (one on each end) so that you and a friend can bring it to the water with ease. To make it even more efficient, these handles are attached via rope, rather than being built into the shell itself. The placement makes it easier to manage. It also enables you to drag the kayak by yourself if necessary.

When it comes to fishing in this model, it has a few proprietary features that make the process more enjoyable and comfortable. In the back (behind the seat), there are two flush-mount rod holders. They are designed to allow you to keep your rods stable while you’re paddling out to your desired spot on the water.

Once you’re ready to cast your line, there is a swivel rod holder in front. This enables you to get more leverage and avoid losing your balance while reeling in your next catch. The holder is made of thick plastic, and it moves smoothly without any resistance.

When you’re kayaking, your feet are going to be in the front. To make it better for you, the footrests are adjustable depending on your height. Once you’re casting your line, however, you can bring your legs up to get into a better position without tipping the whole thing over. This means that you are going to rest your thighs against the edges of the cockpit. Fortunately, there are thick pads there, so you don’t feel uncomfortable.

Finally, there is a large storage container in the rear of the kayak with bungees covering it so that it stays shut. Also, there is a water bottle holder in the front that uses the same cords to keep your water from falling out. 

What we liked

  • Sit-in style kayak
  • Lightweight model is more comfortable to carry
  • Maximum stability while on the water
  • 10 feet long for better handling
  • Two flush-mount rod holders
  • One swivel rod holder
  • Durable UV-protected Fortiflex Polyethylene
  • Bungee covered storage box
  • Soft and comfortable seat cushions
  • Front and rear handles for carrying
  • Thigh pads for comfort while fishing
  • Water bottle holder in the front

What we didn't like

  • No paddle provided
  • Not designed for choppy water or waves

2. Sun Dolphin Bali SS 10-Foot Sit-on-top Kayak

For the most part, a lot of anglers prefer to use an open-air kayak while on the water. The reason for preferring this design is that it enables more movement and freedom to cast your line. In this case, the Bali SS from Sun Dolphin is a sit-on-top model, which is perfect for most types of fishing.

Overall, the size and dimensions of your fishing kayak also matter immensely. Usually, 12-foot models are preferred, but when you get a smaller option like this 10-foot Bali SS, it offers more maneuverability, and it can make tighter turns. That being said, it can take some getting used to, especially if you’ve been paddling larger kayaks before this one.

One exciting feature of the Bali SS is the portable accessory carrier (PAC). It usually sits in the rear of the kayak to offer dry storage for your valuables, but you can pull it out and tow it behind you if necessary. The ability to take it out allows you to bring more belongings on your fishing journey without weighing the kayak down as a result.

Although this is a fishing kayak, there are no fishing mounts, so you will have to hold onto your rods manually. There are a water bottle and a paddle holder in the front to give you more freedom of movement, but be aware that it can be tricky to keep your rods accessible. We suggest using the bungee cords on the front or back, or sticking it in the water bottle holder and holding your drink in one of the side pockets instead.

As with the other Sun Dolphin model, you get thick padding on the sides for your legs. Some shorter users may have to slouch to reach them, but they are well placed for most anglers. You also get an adjustable seat pad to add to the overall comfort of the kayak.

The material of this model is durable and lightweight, and you can find it in a variety of color options. Carrying it to and from your car is a breeze thanks to the two corded handles on the front and the back. Overall, it can support up to 250 pounds (gear included), so keep that in mind when setting out on the water. 

What we liked

  • Sit on top style kayak
  • Multiple colors available
  • 10-foot design is perfect for most water
  • Dry storage compartment with stretch cord riggings
  • Open cockpit is easier to get in and out
  • Front and rear handles for carrying
  • Protective thigh pads for comfort
  • Removable portable accessory carrier
  • Soft seat padding
  • Front water bottle holder
  • Side mesh compartments for additional storage
  • Holds up to 250 pounds
  • Adjustable foot braces

What we didn't like

  • Can be unstable for some users
  • Steering and turning can be a little wobbly at times

3. Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak

When comparing open-air fishing kayaks, it helps to determine how many features the model has for fishing specifically. In some cases (like the Bali above), the unit is mainly designed for paddling, not fishing. That being said, this Angler 100 from Lifetime is built for fisherman, and it shows.

The first thing that we like about this kayak is that it’s built to be as stable as possible out on the water. The hull has a unique shape that helps you track and maneuver much more easily than other units. There is an integrated skeg on the bottom that cuts through the surface tension so that you don’t have to worry about turning or gliding.

Additionally, the bottom has a multi-chine design that keeps you afloat and reduces the risk of tipping over. Since a robust catch can throw you off balance, having this extra protection will make your fishing expedition much more enjoyable.

As far as your rods go, there are three places to hold them. While we do like swiveling rod holders because they allow you to brace yourself while casting, the Angler 100 still offers some excellent choices. In the back, there are two flush-mount holders for storage while getting into position.

Once you’re ready to cast, there is a top mounted rod holder on the side that allows you to keep your line accessible while also enabling you to stay steady in the water. Each holder is expertly crafted so that they won’t break down.

Overall, the Angler 100 is well built and should last for years. It uses high-density polyethylene, which is both durable and UV resistant. If you’re not sure why that last part matters, it’s essential because it ensures that the color won’t fade and that the material won’t become brittle after too much exposure to sunlight.

Another thing that we like about this kayak is the integrated footrests. With most models, you have to adjust the braces manually to get them to fit, but this can be a problem if you reposition your feet while fishing. In this case, however, the rests are carved into the hull itself, allowing you to move up or down quickly and easily.

When it comes to storage, there is two screw-top dry compartments. There is one right in front of the seat and one directly behind it. Also, you can use the shock cords on both sides to hold additional items as necessary. There is even a holster for your paddle so that you don’t lose it while fishing. 

What we liked

  • Open-air kayak model
  • Durable high-density polyethylene
  • UV protected materials
  • Adjustable footrests for different heights
  • Integrated skeg on the bottom for better tracking
  • Multi-chine hull is stable on the water
  • Two flush-mounted rod holders
  • Top mount rod holder
  • Two storage compartments (front and back)
  • Shock cord straps for additional carrying capacity
  • Two paddle cradles for convenience
  • Front and rear T-handles for moving
  • Water bottle holder in the front

What we didn't like

  • Limited dry storage space
  • May not come with a paddle

4. Sun Dolphin Journey 10-Foot Sit-on-top Fishing Kayak

If you liked the Bali SS from Sun Dolphin, but you wished that it came with fishing-specific accessories, then you will want to get the Journey model instead. This unit is similar to the Bali, but it’s so much better for anglers. It’s easier to use, and it comes with everything you need to find and haul in your next catch.

One thing that we like about the Journey is the inclusion of the portable accessory storage compartment. It’s so convenient to be able to put all of your dry belongings into the pouch and tow it behind you. Then, you can set fishing gear on the spot where it was, allowing you to have much more equipment while on the water.

What makes the Journey such a step up from the Bali is the fact that it comes with three fishing rod holders. There are two flush-mounted options behind the seat, and one swivel-mounted holder in the front. Also, because this is an open-air kayak, it works a lot better than the one on the Excursion we saw at the beginning.

As with other Sun Dolphin kayaks, you can adjust the footrests to meet your height restrictions. Also, there are two thigh pads on the sides so that you can bring your feet up and maintain a stable position while fishing. However, with the inclusion of the swivel rod holder in front, you don’t have to work as hard to bring in your next catch.

Overall, this kayak can hold up to 280 pounds. However, because of the portable accessory storage compartment, you don’t have to worry as much about the amount of gear you bring since you can tow any extra weight that could slow you down.

That being said, the UV-resistant polyethylene is still rugged and lightweight, and the two T-handles on the front and rear of the kayak allow you to carry it wherever you need it to go without straining yourself.

What we liked

  • Open-air design
  • Two flush-mounted rod holders
  • One swivel rod holder in the front
  • Portable accessory storage
  • Dry compartment in front
  • Shock cords for holding additional items
  • Durable and lightweight materials
  • Front and rear T-handles for carrying
  • Soft, comfortable seat pad
  • Thigh pads for better positioning
  • Adjustable footrests for different user heights
  • Side mesh compartments
  • Paddle holder
  • Holds up to 280 pounds

What we didn't like

  • Tracking can be tricky for some users
  • In rare cases, the hull may have an open seam, allowing it to fill with water

5. Elkton Outdoors 10' Foot Inflatable Tear Resistant Fishing Kayak

One of the problems with having a kayak is that it takes up so much space. When you’re not out on the water, putting it on your car can be a challenge, and you have to have sufficient room in your garage or shed to hold it, which can be another difficult thing to achieve.

Fortunately, there is a simpler alternative, assuming that you are more concerned with the fun and excitement of fishing on the water than having a heavy-duty kayak in which to paddle. In that case, this inflatable two-person model from Elkton is a fantastic option.

First of all, the material of this kayak is remarkably tough. It’s made of 1000 denier nylon and PVC, which is not only resistant to tears but hooks as well. Since you will be working with sharp points, it helps to know that you don’t have to worry about losing buoyancy because of an errant cast.

At first, you may think that inflating this kayak would take a long time. However, it’s built to be as efficient as possible, meaning that you could be ready to go in minutes. In fact, it’s so efficient that using a motorized inflator could cause it to burst.

As far as fishing goes, this is also an excellent kayak. Although most anglers like to go on the water solo, having two seats is perfect if you want to fish with your kids or a friend. Best of all, there are six rod holders (three on each side), so you can bring all kinds of fishing gear with you. There are also six mesh pockets throughout the kayak to hold onto any other items you need.

Unfortunately, there is no dry storage on this kayak, but it does have two paddle clips so that you can keep those handy without them getting in the way of your line.

The other issue with an inflatable kayak is that there is no skeg on the bottom. You are floating on top of the water, so it can take more effort to maneuver and turn than it would with a hard-body model. Also, having two people paddling can take some practice to get into a fluid motion. 

What we liked

  • Two-person fishing kayak
  • Inflatable design means it stores more compactly
  • Inflates in minutes for quick assembly
  • Rod holders on each side for convenience
  • Tear-resistant 18-gauge 1000 denier PVC
  • Don’t worry about hooks puncturing the kayak
  • Front and rear carrying handles for easier transportation
  • Side paddle holder 
  • Adjustable seats for comfort
  • Three air chambers allow for better repair options
  • Inflates well with manual pumps - no motors required
  • Six mesh pockets for storage

What we didn't like

  • Lack of skeg makes tracking and maneuvering a bit more challenging
  • Not ideal for taller users
  • Oars provided are somewhat flimsy

6. Sevylor Big Basin 3-Person Kayak

Our final kayak is meant for whitewater rafting, but you can easily adjust it to fit your fishing needs. What we suggest is that you use it as a two-person model and keep the center of the rig open for all of your gear.

As with the other inflatable kayak, the material is built to withstand punctures. Also, because it’s meant for whitewater rafting, you know that it can take a beating without deflating. The bottom is covered with a thick tarp to keep it intact, and there are multiple air chambers inside so that even if one does get punctured, you aren’t going to sink.

Inflating this kayak is still a breeze, partly because of the sealed chambers but also due to how it’s built. You don’t have to use a manual pump though, so feel free to bring a motorized air pump instead to make things more efficient. It uses a threaded Boston valve to ensure that you don’t have any issues with inflation.

On the sides of this kayak are Velcro holders for the paddles. However, you can easily retrofit these to carry your poles if you wish. Also, the length of the kayak is long enough for most poles to fit next to you on the inside. The seats are even adjustable so that you can make it more comfortable for both of you. Overall, this kayak can hold up to 490 pounds, making it a viable option for both rafting and fishing. 

What we liked

  • Inflatable three-person kayak
  • Rugged PVC construction is tear-resistant
  • Side holders for paddles
  • Airtight system won’t leak
  • Inflates in minutes - manually
  • Tarp bottom prevents punctures from below
  • Multiple air chambers keep the kayak afloat
  • Threaded Boston valve is built to last
  • Adjustable seats
  • Holds up to 490 pounds
  • Front and rear carrying handles for convenience
  • Spray covers to help you stay dry

What we didn't like

  • No storage compartments
  • No rod holders or additional fishing gear

Final Verdict 

When looking at the best fishing kayaks under $400, we’ve seen models that are tailor-made for angling and those that are best suited for kayaking. Since the point of these units is to bring in a catch, we value any that come with custom-made features and benefits for the discerning angler.

With that in mind, we appreciate the Lifetime Angler 100 over everything else. The construction of the kayak is remarkable, allowing you to use it year after year without breaking down or falling apart. We also like that it has multiple storage compartments, rod holders, and integrated footrests for stability. Finally, the shape of the hull itself is much more stable than most other fishing kayaks, making it a winner in our book.

David Valle
 

I started this blog to provide advanced material, guiding you towards a better and more comfortable fishing experience. I deliver more than fishing gear guides, and motivate people to hit the water!

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