What’s the Best Fishing Kayak for the Money?

5-minute read + 15-minute video

In this video, Bending Branches ProStaff team member Chad Hoover gives us his opinion on the 10 best fishing kayaks for the money. These are boats that were on the market in 2021, covered in his early 2022 video.

woman kayak fishing on a lake

(Photo courtesy of Aurora Hiraeth)

Chad based his list on the kayak’s popularity on social media, Google searches and out in tournaments. He also took into account the availability or lack of availability of these kayaks, including interviewing many retailers.

Then he uses the acronym SCRAPE when offering suggestions to anyone choosing a fishing kayak:

  • Stability (can stand, sit, land a fish without fear of capsize)
  • Comfort (for all-day fishing)
  • Rigibility (as easy to rig as possible) and Reliability
  • Affordability (price vs what you get
  • Performance (how well it pedals, motors or paddles)
  • Everything else (things like resale value, ease of storage, how it transports)

Watch Chad’s video below:

Here’s his list, beginning with #10 (all prices are 2022 prices):

10. Vibe Shearwater 125

The Shearwater is pedal-ready and motor-ready, designed to be affordable and extremely versatile. Vibe makes it extra easy to customize by offering a recommended Pro Kit you can add to the Shearwater.

The Shearwater 125 retails for $1,699.99 (without the Pro Kit). It has one of the higher weight capacities on the list, at 475 pounds.

9. Wilderness Systems Recon 120

Chad tested both the paddle and pedal version of the Recon. He didn’t like the pedal version as well, so his #9 choice is the paddle version. For performance, he especially liked this boat with a stern motor on it.

The Recon features Wilderness Systems’ SMART Hull Technology, its StowPro Storage System for all your gear and the ultra-comfortable AirPro ACE seat. The 2022 retail price is $1,289 USD.

kayak fishing angler standing on his boat in a lake with lily pads

(Photo courtesy of Chad Hoover)

8. NuCanoe Unlimited

“This one would’ve done better if it didn’t have availability issues and molding issues right out of the gate,” Chad pointed out. (The only one on this list he didn’t sit in, he promises a full review once he receives the one he ordered.)

“Unlimited” means unlimited rigability on this fishing kayak, designed to be both fast and stable. This NuCanoe comes ready for a pedal system and with wiring access points for an after-market motor. $1,799 USD.

7. Vibe Sea Ghost 130

One reason Chad has two Vibe’s on his list is availability, where other brands were harder to get a hold of. This is a great beginner boat, but he knows many seasoned anglers who continue to use theirs as well.

The Sea Ghost 130 is ready for a wide range of water conditions, optimized for storage, stability and speed. It retails for $1,299.99 USD. Vibe offers a Pro Kit to go with your kayak, making it easy for you to upgrade.

6. Old Town BigWater PDL 132 

Chad makes an interesting point with the BigWater from Old Town: it’s possible their own competition with a couple other models have hurt sales for this one.

PDL means this boat is a pedal-drive boat. Its hull design makes it efficient and yet stable on more open water. Great back support in the seat add to this kayak’s attractiveness for all-day fishing. $2,999.99 USD.

5. Jackson Bite Angler and Jackson Bite FD

In Chad’s research, 2021 sales were split about even between the two Bite models from Jackson. They both offer stability, great tracking, a comfortable seat and all kinds of rigging options you can customize.

The Bite retails for just $1,099 (the lowest price point on our list) while the Bite FD is the pedal version featuring Jackson’s Flex Drive Mark IV. It retails for $2,999 USD.

kayak angler holdling up a big fish

(Photo courtesy of Bill Sikora)

4. Native Titan Propel 12

Chad placed the Titan Propel 12 on this list due to its popularity over the 10.5 and 13.5-foot versions with the anglers he contacted. “A stable platform, super comfortable seat, great when it comes to rigability and reliability” all contribute to this boat’s success and value.

The Titan 12 is a pedal-drive kayak that Native markets especially to bass anglers. It retails for $2,999 USD.

3. Bonafide SS127

Since this is the boat Chad uses the most, he says, “It’s like judging your own kid in a beauty pageant”! It’s hard to stay unbiased, especially since he helped Bonafide design it. He loves its stability and standability, the comfortable seat (“maybe the most comfortable on the market”) and the rest.

He also thinks the SS127 is a great value for its price point, which is $1,799 USD.

2. Hobie Pro Angler 360

If he had taken Hobie’s Pro Angler model in total, with the other two lengths, it may have come out on top. To name just one of them, though, the 360 was the most popular among the anglers he talked with.

At $5,499 USD it’s the most expensive kayak in this list, which is what prevented it from taking the #1 spot. Hobie markets it to elite anglers, and it does have very tempting features for those who have the budget.

1. Old Town Sportsman Autopilot 136

Affordability and reliability were the factors that pushed the Autopilot into the top position on Chad’s list. It comes with a saltwater-ready 12V Minn Kota motor, but can also be paddled easily when necessary.

The Autopilot 136 retails for $4,499.99, also definitely on the high-end and out of reach for many anglers. But no worries—there are others on this list at a lower price point that will get the job done admirably.

kayak angler sitting in his kayak on the water, sun setting behind him

(Photo courtesy of 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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