PFDs for Kayak Fishing: What Do You Need?

3-minute read

Besides a kayak and a paddle, the other non-negotiable kayak fishing item you need to be on the water is a PFD—a Personal Flotation Device (commonly known as a life jacket).

man wearing a traditional PFD fishes out of a kayak

Why is a PFD Non-Negotiable?

While drownings are rare among paddlers, the US Coast Guard estimates that 83% of recreational boaters who do drown weren’t wearing a PFD.

When you’re on the water in your kayak to fish, you likely have a boat that’s loaded with (sometimes very expensive) gear, you have a rod in your hand, maybe a fish on the hook. The last thing you want to have to think about in the event of a sudden capsize is keeping your head above water.

That’s why we always recommend keeping your PFD on and attached, not just sitting in your boat—even if your state or province doesn’t require it by law. You just never know.

To illustrate this, we love to recommend this video to anglers who think it’ll never happen to them. Drew Gregory, a long-time kayak angler, is on our ProStaff team. One day many years ago he had an unexpected run-in with a goose that…well, see for yourself:

You just don’t know what your fishing day will be like!

If you fish in moving water, deep water, big water or far from shore, wearing your PFD is especially important.

Types of PFDs for Kayak Anglers

There are many makers and styles of PFDs on the market. These brands are ones we trust that make paddling-specific models:

  • NRS carries a few different models of PFDs specifically for anglers, both men and women. They have several pockets to stow items you want at-hand. They offer a couple of inflatable vest options beside traditional foam models.
  • Stohlquist is another well-known name in paddlesports. They make several angling PFD models for men and women, and one for youth.
  • Onyx makes a wide variety of PFDs for men, women and youth. If your budget is tighter, this is a good place to start.
  • Astral makes a handful of fishing-specific PFDs (labeled as life jackets on their website) for men and women, including an inflatable belt model. Like NRS, Astral’s prices are higher.

 man wearing an inflatable PFD fishes out of a kayak

This angler is wearing a vest-style inflatable PFD

Besides the fit, look for the number of pockets and how secure they are, adjustability, color (do you need high-visibility?), loops and D-rings. Also, look for one that includes plenty of freedom around your shoulders for both paddling and casting/reeling (which those designed for kayak fishing do).

Where to Buy a PFD Designed for Anglers

Your best option is to find a local retailer that carries one or more of these brands so you can try them on. Comfort is hugely important, so you don’t hate wearing it!

Some large sporting goods retailers like Fleet Farm, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Cabela’s sell these brands and others. Paddleshops and retailers that specialize in kayak fishing will have a good selection.

If there isn’t a retailer close to you, you can order directly from any of the brands we listed above. Pay close attention to sizing, especially the adjustability range around the torso. A PFD should fit snugly but still allow freedom of movement.

A good PFD can usually be a one-time investment. Buy one that fits well and has the features you want, and it’ll serve you for many years of kayak fishing.

(Photos by Reggie Chapa)

Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Contact them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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