Best Fishing Kayak Test

Find out which kayaks made our 2012 best fishing kayak list, and what features make them stand out among the crowd

Kayak Fishing

Kayak Fishing

Kayak FishingOutdoor Life

The rise of fishing kayaks coincides with last decade’s spike in oil prices. In 2000, you’d have had better luck spotting a mermaid than a fishing kayak. Now, they’re a common sight. Many converts credit the expense of operating a motorboat as the impetus for joining the kayak navy. But that’s not the only reason to grab a paddle. Even a 10-pound fish can haul a kayak around. The fight from a kayak is a completely different adrenaline rush (as in: way more intense). You’re also fishing in tight quarters, paddling out of reach of motorboats and shore fishermen to where the trophy fish often lurk.

The fact that we're even conducting a best fishing kayak test means manufacturers are paying attention. In the old days—like, five years ago—normal kayaks were retrofitted for fishing. Now, specific touches like rod holders, casting platforms, lure storage, and sonar mounts are commonplace. We put five new models through their paces to find the best all-water fishing kayak.

▶ The first thing that impressed us about the Ride 115, pictured above, was the seat. It slides forward and back, adjusting your center of gravity depending on the load.

It also has multiple comfort adjustments. Hours in the seat don’t mean leg cramps later. When you first stand up, the kayak feels a bit tippy. As you lean side to side, though, the chines on the hull engage. The hull is designed perfectly: It’s got little surface area on the water when you paddle (translating to more speed), but plenty when you stand up (meaning added stability). All details are thought through, from easy-to-use latches on the dry storage to foot molds on the deck. These attributes come with one drawback: increased weight. The Ride 115 tips the scale at 76 pounds, more than many boats 2 feet longer. However, that extra weight means a lot of plastic in the hull for durability.

Test Result
Overall: ****
Mobility: B+
Stability: A
Design: A
Durability: A
Price/value: B+
Length: 11 ft. 6 in.
Width: 33 in.
Weight: 76 lb.
Final Word: The best boat for all-around use in lakes, rivers, and inshore.
MSRP: $1,019

Emotion Mojo Angler

Emotion Mojo Angler

Emotion Mojo AnglerOutdoor Life

▶ The Mojo’s tall gunwales and ample girth make it secure for big water and stand-up fishing, but it lacks the speedster look of its competitors. The cockpit is outfitted with an adjustable (and removable) console that has space for a depth finder, a drink holder, and a forward-facing rod holder. Perhaps the most attractive aspect, though, is that it’s priced right for fishermen looking to switch from a putter boat to a paddle boat.

Test Result
Overall: *** 1/2
Mobility: B
Stability: A-
Design: C+
Durability: A-
Price/value: A
Length: 12 ft. 6 in.
Width: 32 in.
Weight: 52 lb.
Final Word: The best value in the field, and an excellent boat for the beginner kayaker.
MSRP: $799

Hobie Mirage Revolution 11
Hobie Mirage Revolution 11Outdoor Life

▶ The Revolution 11 moves at seemingly supersonic speeds thanks to its peddles-and-flippers system. The kayak is lightweight and compact, with plenty of cockpit space for small tackle boxes. The steering knob and rudder are wonderfully responsive—you can save your shoulder strength for landing a lunker, not paddling. This speed and ease comes at a price, however, as the drive system adds a few hundred bucks to the cost.

Test Result
Overall: *** 1/2
Mobility: A+
Stability: B-
Design: B
Durability: B+
Price/value: B
Length: 11 ft. 6 in.
Width: 29 in.
Weight: 47 lb.
Final Word: If you've got the cash, the mirage drive system will change your paddling life.
MSRP: $1,749

Ocean Kayak Tetra 12 Angler
Ocean Kayak Tetra 12 AnglerOutdoor Life

▶ The Tetra is narrow, light, and fast, meaning tracking was an issue in currents. That said, this is a sharp-looking boat with nice lines and a low profile, and it’s more stable than its design would suggest. It has a well-thought-out cockpit: The cover on the storage space has a ruler and several fittings for rod holders and a depth finder. Rods store neatly in the cargo hold. One caveat: This kayak is designed for medium-size folks at best.

Test Result
Overall: *** 1/2
Mobility: B-
Stability: B+
Design: B-
Durability: A-
Price/value: B+
Length: 12 ft. 1 in.
Width: 28 in.
Weight: 55 lb.
Final Word: A great starter boat for young and small-statured anglers.
MSRP: $860

Ja****ckson Cuda 1****4

Jackson Cuda 14
Jackson Cuda 14Outdoor Life

▶ The Cuda is loaded with features—including an enclosed bow cover to protect rod tips, and ample rod and dry storage space—but the seat is where the Jackson stands apart from the field. It has a low position for paddling; when you’re fishing, raise it to the “up” position. A pull-up strap helps you get up out of the seat to make standing casts. The Jackson’s only drawback is its mobility: Battleships turn more easily.

Test Result
Overall: ***
Mobility: C
Stability: A-
Design: B+
Durability: B
Price/value: B+
Length: 14 ft. 3 in.
Width: 29.75 in.
Weight: 74 lb.
Final Word: Plenty of extras at a cost. The length and width make maneuvering a chore.
MSRP: $1,199