How to Find the Best River Fishing Kayak

Choosing the best boat for river kayak fishing

Judging by the number of fishing licenses sold each year, fishing is one of America’s favorite pastimes. However, motor boats are expensive to purchase and require considerable maintenance. Thus, many anglers are turning to kayaks as their fishing craft of choice and, in the process, they are discovering that a kayak is the ultimate stealth craft. Thus, a kayak enables a fishermen to approach wary populations of fish without spooking them.

2015 Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100 Angler (Camo)
Our favorite for 2016
FeelFree Lure 11.5 Kayak
A great river fishing kayak
Native Watercraft Slayer 12 Kayak - 2015
An excellent and fast fishing kayak

Also, with a kayak, anglers can travel though shallow waters that are off limits to motor boaters to reach those hidden spots that no one else fishes. However, not all kayak fishermen choose to fish on flat water but, instead prefer moving water and, a kayak is the ultimate craft for river fishing! In fact, with a kayak, the angler is not only closely connected to his element, he is also able to fish creeks and shallow rivers that are again off limits to motor boaters as well as negotiate rapids.

Our Top 3 Ocean Fishing Kayaks for 2017

Below you will find a list of what I feel is the top three river fishing kayaks for 2017. Also, you may note that I have purposely chosen only sit-on-top models because they are, by far, the most popular type of river fishing kayak.

Rating System:
Each of the kayaks listed below is rated on a an alphabetical scale  based upon their speed, maneuverability, seating, standing room, and outfitting.

2015 Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100 Angler (Camo) Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100 Angler – Of the three kayaks listed there, the Feel Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100 angler is my favorite. With a length of 10 feet, it is highly maneuverable and with a beam of 30.5 inches, it is wide enough to be stable but, not so wide that it rolls excessively in mild rapids. Also, it features Wilderness Systems Phase 3 Air Pro seat which is very comfortable along with adjustable Keepers Foot Braces to accommodate paddlers with different leg lengths.

In addition, it has an round Orbix day hatch amidships and gear storage pockets along either side. Furthermore, it features Slide Trax gear rails mounted on either gunwale both forward and aft of the cockpit which combines with Wilderness System’s Angler’s Package which includes several YakAttack attachments. Last, it features side carry handles with paddle keepers on both sides so you will have complete control of your paddle while fishing.

Rating: I have assigned this kayak a B instead of an A  due to its lack of unobstructed standing room and lack of an anchor trolley.

Specifications:
Length: 10 ft.
Width: 30.5 in.
Weight: 61 lbs.
Type: Sit-on-top
Capacity: 325 lbs.
Rigged For Fishing: Yes
Propulsion: Paddle

FeelFree Lure 11.5 KayakFeel Free Lure 11.5 -The Feel Free Lure 11.5 is another excellent kayak for river fishing. With a length of 11 and a half feet, it is a highly maneuverable craft and, with a width of 36 inches, it is highly stable. Thus, it is an excellent choice for anglers with larger statures. Also, the Lure 11.5 features Feel Free’s highly ergonomic Gravity Seat which is removable for transport and is easily adjusted over a wide range of heights using a side-mounted leaver. Thus, it can be lowered flush with the deck for increased stability when negotiating rapids or raised to the maximum height when extra visibility is needed. Also, it has a huge, padded, standing platform just forward of the seat which provides plenty of unobstructed foot room for standing up when fishing combined with a stand-assist strap and adjustable foot braces to accommodate anglers with different leg lengths.

In addition, it features side pockets for storing small items and Uni-Track Rails mounted on both gunwales forward and aft of the seat. Plus, it has two, flush-mounted, rod holders in both gunwales aft of the seat and there is a paddle park molded into the hull on both sides. In fact, about the only feature this kayak doesn’t have is an anchor trolley!

Rating: I have assigned this kayak a B+ instead of an A due to its lack of an anchor trolley.

Specifications:
Length: 11.5 ft.
Width: 36 in.
Weight: 65 lbs.
Type: Sit-on-top
Capacity: 375 lbs.
Rigged For Fishing: Yes
Propulsion: Paddle

Native Watercraft Slayer 12 Kayak - 2015Native Watercraft Slayer 12 – Of the three kayaks listed here, the Native Watercraft Slayer 12 has the greatest speed but, the least maneuverability due to its longer 12 foot length. Also, with its 31 inch beam and its Symmetrical hull design, it provides an excellent combination of speed and stability for rivers with long sections of calm water periodically interrupted by mild rapids. In addition, it features Native Watercraft’s Hi-Lo seat which consists of a tubular aluminum frame with a mesh fabric stretched that over it can be set to the high position for increased visibility or the low position for increased stability when traveling through rough water along with adjustable foot braces to accommodate paddlers of different sizes.

Also, the bilge has molded indents for tackle boxes and both gunwales have Groove Track equipment rails mounted forward, amidships, and aft for mounting fishing accessories as well as the include Cam Loc paddle holders. Plus, there is a small, round, day hatch with accompanying bucket positioned behind the seat for storing small items.

Rating: I have assigned this kayak a B due to its lack of unobstructed standing room and lack of a an anchor trolley.

Specifications:
Length: 12 ft.
Width: 31 in.
Weight: 65 lbs.
Type: Sit-on-top
Capacity: 400 lbs.
Rigged For Fishing: Yes
Propulsion: Paddle

So, while there are many excellent fishing kayaks on the market today, the three kayaks listed above are all excellent choices for those anglers who choose to pursue their chosen fish species on various sized rivers because each kayak listed provides an excellent combination of speed, maneuverability, and outfitting. Also, each of these kayaks are well made and well designed and have a proven track record of durability. Thus, if you are one of those anglers who prefer moving water to still water, you simply cannot go wrong choosing one of the three kayaks listed above.

Buyers guide – what are the best kayaks for rivers?

kayak river fishingWhen choosing a river fishing kayak, you might be inclined to think that a sit-inside design would be the best choice but, the fact of the matter is that sit-on-top kayaks are by far the most popular design for river fishing. Also, even though there are a few sit-inside fishing kayaks on the market and they do enable the angler to attach a spray skirt to the cockpit rim, most kayak anglers choose not to fish on waters rated above Class 2. Consequently, soft chines and spray skirts are not necessary for milder waters. In addition, when fishing shallow rivers where wading is possible, a kayak in an excellent means of transportation because it enables the angler to stop frequently and exit the craft so that they can more thoroughly fish a given area.

Therefore, a sit-on-top kayak design is a better choice for river fishing because it is easier to exit and reenter. Also, you will want a kayak that has plenty of pre-installed equipment mounts and both a paddle keeper to keep your paddle contained when fishing and an anchor trolley to enable you to deploy a kayak anchor for those times when you want to remain stationary in the current. In addition, look for hatches or center consoles that provide in-hull rod storage space as well as dry storage for extra clothing, water, and food. Last, you should consider the physical weight of the kayak and determine whether or not you will be able to lift it onto and off of the roof of your vehicle or, if you will instead need a trailer to haul it to and from your destination the next time you go fishing in the great outdoors.