Your kayak can make or break that fishing trip you’ve been looking forward to all year. If you mean to up your catch rate, you’ll need to spend some long hours on the water. A kayak that doesn’t allow you to do this comfortably turns that much loved pastime of yours into a waking nightmare.
What’s worse is if a kayak isn’t equipped with the proper safety features for a body of water. Traipsing home empty-handed will be the least of your worries. Everything about a kayak’s design needs to be tailored to your requirements, but high spec, high performance kayaks can cost a pretty penny.
Not to worry though, anglers, we’ve done the legwork, put in hours of research, and found five of the best you can buy for less than $400, and to sweeten the deal, we’ve developed an in-depth buyer’s guide too. Let’s get to it!
OUR TOP PICK
It’s no surprise the K2 is one of the most popular kayaks ever made. It’s just so dang comfortable.
Hitting the water has never seemed so cozy as when you have these two adjustable seats with inflatable backrests to look forward to.
The cockpit has tons of room for stretching out or accommodating essentials, and the back seat is just the right space for a young person. Take your kids with you and show them the ropes.
Multiple air chambers ensure that the Explorer stays high above the surface, and the upturned nose tames choppy waters and prevents splashing, keeping you dry as you catch your dinner.
Made from a highly-durable vinyl, it can really roll with the punches, and the I-Beam floor is firm and reliable.
Transporting a kayak can be a logistical nightmare, unless, like the K2, it’s an inflatable design perfect for packing away into a small space in the car or van.
With this marine wonder rolled up neatly, you’ve got way more space to load up with fishing gear and possibly a case or two of cold ones.
- Inflatable - No roof rack required, folks.
- No Separate Purchases - Comes with pump, two oars, repair patch and removable skeg.
- Comfort - Fish harder for longer with the luxurious seating.
- Spacious - Stretch out or load up on gear.
- Water Suitability - Designed for calm waters.
- No Holders - You’ll have to fashion your own rod rests.
The problem with large kayaks is that they can be pretty heavy, but weighing only 34.76lbs, the Big Basin is surprisingly light.
Split that 3 ways, and you’ll be able to hit multiple hot spots without burning your shoulders out on the way.
The heavy-duty PVC body is incredibly durable in its own right, but Sevylor has gone the extra mile and fitted it with a rugged tarpaulin base cover for extra protection from inevitable snags and bumps.
In addition, should the worst happen, and you suffer a puncture, the multiple air chambers ensure you stay afloat until you’re ready to travel landward. This means all your expensive gear is safe no matter what.
The chairs aren’t quite as comfortable as our top pick, but all 3 feature sturdy back supports and a fair amount of room for supplies and stretching.
What’s more, numerous lateral handles make transporting this kayak to the water a total breeze.
- Inflatable - Toss it in the back and take off.
- Reinforced Bottom - Tarpaulin and PVC make a formidable combo.
- Comfort - Nice seating arrangement.
- Spacious - Lots of room for brews and bait
- Skeg Included - Use this tracking fin to hold a line in choppy water.
- Separate Purchases - You’ll need a pump and oars.
- Seat Flex - Ideally, they’d be more rigid.
We’re back to Intex for our third pick, but who could blame us. The Challenger is almost as awesome as its K2 cousin.
Featuring the same two uber inviting inflatable seats with backrests, you and a buddy can hit the water in style and comfort.
The vinyl body is UV-resistant and extremely tough, more than capable of a few close encounters of the rocky kind, and the vivid green finish ensures high visibility in most weather conditions.
Streamlining is on point too. The challenger is one of the easiest kayaks to paddle on our list, so if you’re after some smooth sailing, look no further.
Two separate air chambers ensure that even if one section is breached, and you’re losing air, you have plenty of buoyancy to make it back to land and do some quick fix ups on site.
Unlike the deceptively heavy Intex in our top spot, the Challenger is incredibly lightweight, making it a great option for solo trips on the water or perhaps with your kid for some wholesome family time.
- Inflatable - Lightweight and space-friendly.
- No Separate Purchases - Comes with oars, removable skeg, and pump.
- Comfort - Awesome inflatable chairs keep you feeling fine.
- Price - Perfect budget buy!
- Dual Air Chambers - Stay afloat in the event of a puncture.
- Quite Small - Cramped for two adults.
- No Rod Holds - You’ll have to keep hold of your rod.
The Angler 100 is the best hardshell fishing kayak you can sail away in for less than $400, period!
Crafted from a UV-resistant, high-density polyethylene, it’s both durable and lightweight, which is exactly what you need for those solo fishing expeditions, just you and nature.
The single padded seat is well-designed and comes fitted with a sturdy backrest, but it’s the multiple position molded footrests we find to be the truly enticing prospect. They keep your ankles strong and enable sudden movements required when you get a bite.
On top of the two flush-mounted fishing rod holders, you can enjoy both front and rear bungee storage for safe transport of full packs, so you don’t have to be sparing when preparing for a day on the water.
Hull tracking channels ensure speedy movement when necessary, and thanks to the broad beam, the Angler 100 is an incredibly stable vessel, so next time it gets choppy, don’t head back. Stay out and boost that catch rate!
- Lightweight - 54lbs for a hardshell ain’t bad. It has carry handles too!
- Broad Beam - Wide beam means stability on the water.
- Comfort - Adjustable padded seating and molded footrests.
- Storage Space - Plenty of bungee storage for your gear.
- Price - We’re right on the edge of our budget here.
- Visibility - You’ll need to fit some retro-reflective tape so others can see you.
The Eagle has landed folks, and for an inflatable kayak, the 370 Pro sure is one tough cookie.
Designed to dominate white water rafting runs up to a class III intensity, it’s the perfect choice for the adventurous type that likes an adrenalin fueled day followed by a calm afternoon hooking some fish.
It comes with two deluxe seats - by far the comfiest on our list. Why it doesn’t come with three is a little perplexing, but they’re that good, we’re willing to let it slide.
Featuring not one, but two skegs, the Pro is unmatched when it comes to tracking and speed, so if you like to paddle out as fast as possible, this is the kayak for you.
Moreover, three deluxe one-way valves make inflation quick and easy, which means less faffing around and more time on the water.
The 38mm polykrylar hull isn’t just resistant against rocks, it can also handle scrapes and scratches from dog paws, which means...that’s right! You can take your best fluffy friend out with you for a day’s fishing. Pawfect!
- Durability - Toughest kayak on our list. Take your pooch for a paddle.
- Two Skegs - Speed and handling are unmatched at this price point.
- Oars, Repair Kit, and Pump Included - Comes ready for the water.
- Comfort - Best seats in the game.
- 3-Year Warranty - Sea Eagle believes in the 370.
- Seating - Only two seats for a 3-person kayak.
- No Ropes - You’ll have to secure your pack some other way.
Best Fishing Kayak under 400 Buying Guide
Hopefully we’ve introduced you to a kayak that’s perfect for your future fishing extravaganzas, but before you order one, let’s run over a few essentials.
The first thing you should think about is the capacity of a kayak. How many people do you like to go fishing with? Are you an ‘alone with nature’ kinda person or a ‘cold ones with a buddy’ sort of angler?
You’ll most likely be capped at a 3-person capacity if you want to spend less than $400, but that’s plenty for most people.
It’s easy to forget to factor in pack weight when you hit the road on a fishing trip, but when you get out into the water, every ounce matters. You’ll need the weights of any anglers you’ll be taking along and everything they’re bringing with them.
Exceeding the weight-bearing capacity of your kayak is to be avoided at all costs. Ignoring it will likely end up in you taking on water and exponentially increasing the chances of capsizing.
Inflatable vs Hardshell
Now you’ll need to think about what type of kayak suits you.
Inflatable kayaks are far more portable than their hardshell counterparts. They don’t require a roof rack, as they can be rolled up and stored within the vehicle itself.
They’re not quite as strong as solid kayaks but thanks to the advancement in plastic technologies, they’re more than capable of years of calm-water fishing trips. Some, like the Sea Eagle Pro, can even handle intensive white water rafting.
Inflatable kayaks aren’t just lighter, they tend to be able to carry more weight as the air gives them extra buoyancy, and what’s more, they’re almost always cheaper than rigid kayaks.
Hardshell or rigid kayaks are far less practical, but they do have their benefits, namely, their strength. If you need an incredibly durable kayak, a rigid design is a no-brainer.
They also don’t require inflating and deflating during every trip, saving you time and taking pumps out of the equation.
Dimensions aren’t just important for loading your kayak into or onto your vehicle, but how the kayak behaves in the water too. Generally speaking, the longer a kayak is, the faster it will travel.
The wider it is, the more stable it will be, allowing anglers to stand and sight-cast.
SOT vs SIK
Most prefer SOT (sit on top) kayaks for fishing as they don’t take on water when they roll.
SIK (sit inside kayaks) are more suited to flowing waters.
Kayaks are designed to be a compact way to get out on the water which means that sometimes they can lack adequate storage space for your gear. You can fit your own storage solution, but it’s always best if a kayak comes with bungee cords or deck space for a few items.
For long fishing sessions, we’d also recommend looking for something with rod holders.
Whether you’re in the home or on the water, comfort is king! In order to pull off long stints waiting for that big bite, you need to be comfortable.
It’s no good if your back and legs are shot after an hour’s angling, so pay extra attention to seat design.
Safety should always be your number one concern when you’re out on the water, and a huge part of water safety is visibility. Whether they’re in other larger vessels or simply casting out from the bank, people need to be able to see you.
This is why you’ll see a lot of fishing kayaks with bright, often garish color schemes. They may look a little outlandish, but they ensure that you’ll be noticed in weather conditions with poor visibility. That said, no matter how bright your kayak is, we recommend kitting it out with reflective strips.
If you’re planning on hitting a few spots on your fishing trip, a light kayak is always going to be preferable, especially if you’re going solo.
Putting you back out before you’ve caught a single fish is every angler’s worst nightmare, so buy smart, folks.
Don’t forget to check what’s included with your kayak purchase. Not all of them come with oars, repair kits, or pumps.
You’ll need all these things before you hit the road.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Best Cheap Fishing Kayak?
In our opinion, it’s the Intex Explorer K2. It offers the most bang for your buck in terms of both features and performance.
If you’re looking for the best cheap rigid kayak, you can’t go wrong with the Angler 100.
What Color Kayak is Best for Fishing?
Yellow is commonly thought to be the best color kayak for fishing. It’s highly visible in poor weather conditions and the sandy hue is less alarming to fish.
What Size kayak is Best for Fishing?
The best size kayak for fishing depends on the body of water.
For smaller areas, maneuverability is key, so you’ll need something less than 11 feet long. For larger areas, speed is more important, so a kayak measuring over 12 feet would be best.
What’s the Difference Between a Fishing Kayak and a Regular Kayak?
Fishing kayaks tend to be a lot wider and heavier to improve stability in the water, so you can really throw some shapes and make the catch.
Fishing kayaks also tend to have more adjustable seats to keep you comfy during long stints on the water.
Can You Use a Lake Kayak in the Ocean?
Lake kayaks should not be used in the ocean. Unfortunately, there is no one-boat-fits-all solution. You’ll need a dedicated design for each body of water.
That’s all from us, anglers. Was there anything on our list that stood out to you? There should be a little something for everyone, no matter your preferences.
As long as you think carefully about the things mentioned in our buyer’s guide, you can be out on the water doing what you love in no time at all, your hopes as buoyant as your boat. See you on the water!