Best Kayak Fishing PFD

We all know what the worst case scenario is if you go fishing without a good quality Personal Floatation Device or PFD. You topple over, fall into the water, fight manically for your life, and risk drowning.

This may not seem like such a likely scenario on a shallow river perhaps, but if you like to go ocean fishing it can mean the difference between life and death.

However, there is a solution. And a good one at that. With a good quality PFD, even if you do fall overboard, you are guaranteed to survive.

We’ve been checking out some of the best PFDs out on the market today, and after much deliberation we were able to handpick our top few favorites to show you. 

That’s coming up very shortly, and after that, we also have a handy buying guide for you that will walk you through all the key things to think about before you buy. You can use it as a little checklist.

In the interest of brevity, we’re going to focus on PFDs for adults only. PFDs for children and teenagers have different specs.

And without further ado…

OUR TOP PICK

NRS PFD Foam Chinook Unisex Fishing Kayak Lifejacket, Charcoal, Small/Medium

Now, customer feedback on this beauty has been overwhelmingly positive. 

On Amazon for example, after well over 500 individual customer ratings, the average customer rating comes out at an amazing full 5 stars out of 5. That’s a rare find on Amazon.

What we love about this PFD is how it’s designed with kayak fishing in mind. We’re loving rod holder. Not to mention the 2 large front pockets sized for tackle boxes, the tool holster, and the knife lash tab.

The armholes are very large, allowing plenty of movement for fishing and kayak paddling.

But most importantly, it has been approved by the US coast guard, and is verified safe for water sports and kayak fishing.

It’s easy to put on and take off, thanks to the zipper that runs down the front of the jacket.

It’s available in several sizes, but unfortunately there’s no size guide on the product page. You can find out a little more about the sizes however, by scrolling to the questions on answers on the product page.

It’s comfortable to wear with soft cushioning and has several adjustment points for a snug fit.

It’s made right here in the USA, and it’s available in 4 different color options. We like the red and the orange options. They’ll help you to be seen in the event of an emergency.

Pros:

  • Incredibly positive customer feedback
  • Great storage for fishing accessories
  • Large arm holes for easy movement 
  • Available in several different sizes
  • Approved by the US Coast Guard

Cons:

  • The darker color options aren’t particularly visible in an emergency situation

EDITORS CHOICE

Stohlquist Fisherman Personal Floatation Device, Khaki, Small/Medium

This is a bestselling PFD, and comes from top brand Stohlquist. It also comes highly recommended by those who’ve tried it, with over three quarters of those who bought through Amazon rating it at a full 5 stars out of 5.

It has been built with kayak fishing in mind, and features a special hook, which can be used to hold your rod for you when you need your hands free for other matters like keeping hydrated.

The arm holes are particularly large, allowing plenty of arm movement to paddle the kayak or to haul in a heavy catch.

We also like that the back of the PFD has a mesh back to help you keep cool throughout your fishing trip.

It’s very easy to put on and take off, thanks to the zipper at the front. And there are several adjustment points on the sides and shoulders, so you can get that all important snug fit.

There are two large pockets at the front, either side of the zipper, for stashing small items like tackle, and there are small D-clips that you can use to attach essentials.

Most importantly it’s classed as a Type III PFD, approved by the US Coast Guard, and has a buoyancy of 16 pounds 12 ounces.

There are 3 colors to choose from, namely khaki, olive green and orange. And there are several size options available too, namely small to medium, large to extra large, and XX-Large.

Pros:

  • Bestseller from a top brand
  • Features a clip to hold your rod
  • Approved by the US Coast Guard
  • Large arm holes for easy movement
  • Available in several colors and sizes

Cons:

  • Some fishers find the pockets provided a little too small

BEST VALUE

ONYX Kayak Fishing Life Jacket, Universal, Tan

Now, this is a great PFD for kayak fishing, and it’s available at a great price too, even if you don’t manage to catch a deal (pun intended).

It’s a bestseller with online retailers under 2 categories, life jackets, and fishing clothing. And for good reason too - it really has a lot going for it.

We’re loving the very large sealed pockets at the front. They’re large enough to fit small tackle boxes. Or if you’ve got those stashed elsewhere you could use them for stashing your smartphone or your GPS.

There’s also a zippered pocket on the chest, and elasticated straps to keep your fishing tools very easily accessible.

And there’s plenty of room to move your arms around to haul in your fish or to paddle your kayak, thanks to the very large arm holes.

There are two sizes to choose from, namely universal, for chests up to 52 inches and oversize, for chests of up to 60 inches wide. Unfortunately however, the larger size costs considerably more than the universal one.

Whatever size you get, you can ensure a safe snug fit by using the 6 adjustment straps and really cinch in the waist. There’s a mesh back for breathability, and the shoulders are padded for extra comfort.

And most importantly, it has been approved by the US Coast Guard as Type III PFD.

It’s easy to put on and take off, thanks to the zipper positioned along the front of the PFD.

It’s just a shame there aren’t more color options to choose from. 

Amazon occasionally has deals on this PFD, just click “Check price” to see if there’s a deal on now. Perfect for the bargain hunters amongst you.

Pros:

  • Available at an excellent price
  • Approved by the US Coast Guard 
  • Large arm holes for easy movement
  • A bestseller that’s been well received
  • Plenty of great storage options at hand

Cons:

  • Only two sizes to choose from and no other color options

RUNNER UP

ONYX MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest, Medium/Large, Aqua

The customer ratings on this beauty couldn’t be any more impressive. After well over 7,200 individual customer ratings on Amazon, the average customer rating still comes out at a whopping 5 stars out of 5. Unbelievable.

And it’s available at a great price too. One of the most affordable PFDs in our shortlist of 5.

And although it’s made from heavy duty nylon fabric, it’s surprisingly soft and lightweight.

It’s very comfortable to wear, thanks to the shoulder adjustments with neoprene comfort pads that provide a snug fit. And also thanks to the mesh at the lower back, which serves to ensure that your back doesn’t get too sweaty as you rest against the kayak seat’s lower back support.

There are expandable zippered pockets for stashing small items. And they feature mesh drainage, so it doesn’t stay wet and dries out quite easily. And there’s a lash tab for small accessories.

It has a durable construction, made with 200 denier ripstop nylon. So, it’s built to last and you’ll surely get your money’s worth from it.

The heavy duty front zipper helps prevent vest ride-up. While the large arm holes provide plenty of freedom of movement for fishing and paddling.

But more importantly, it has been approved by the US Coast Guard as a type III PFD.

We also love that it comes with a whistle attached - such a great safety feature in an emergency situation.

It’s easy to put on and take off, thanks to the zipper positioned vertically along the front.

Everything has a drawback however, and in this case is that it wasn’t designed with kayak fishing in mind, and as such it doesn’t feature a rod holder.

That said the large arm holes do allow enough arm and shoulder movement for fishing and kayak paddling.

It's available in 3 different sizes, X-small/Small, Medium/Large, and X-Large/XX-Large. So finding one to fit won’t be a problem, and there’s a handy size chart on the product page (just click “Check price”.

Pros:

  • Incredibly positive customer ratings & feedback
  • Comfortable enough to wear for hours
  • Approved by the US Coast Guard
  • Three different sizes to choose from

Cons:

  • Although there are four different color options to choose from none of them are particularly visible in low light conditions, and the colors are merely small accents on a black and grey PFD

RUNNER UP

NRS Chinook OS Fishing Lifejacket (PFD)-Orange-XL/XXL

Again this is another PFD that has seen some amazing customer feedback. After over 200 individual customer ratings

Sure it’s a little more expensive than the other PFDs that made our shortlist, but with that kind of customer feedback, people obviously feel it’s worth the money.

Our favorite feature is the rod holder loop, which is a godsend when you need to let your hands free. 

We  also love just how many storage pockets there are to keep all your gear organized and close at hand.The larger pockets are zippered so you can use them for things you need kept dry. Or you can use them for tackle boxes.

It has a mesh lower back, so it stays breathable no matter how long you’re sat in the kayak.

It offers plenty of buoyancy, at 16.5 pounds - more on that in our buying guide later. More importantly it has been approved as a Type III PFD by the US Coast Guard.

It’s also a very durable product, made with 400 denier ripstop nylon, so is really built to last.

There are two color options to choose from. We favour the orange option over the red option, because it provides much greater visibility in low light conditions.

There are three different sizes to choose from, namely XS/M, L/XL, and XL/XXL. And you can ensure a comfortable fit using the side and shoulder adjustments.

Pros:

  • Durable 400 denier ripstop nylon
  • Approved by the US Coast Guard
  • Mesh lower back for breathability
  • The orange option gives high visibilty
  • Features a rod holder - go hands free
  • There are several storage pockets available

Cons:

  • Premium product at a premium price
  • There’s no size chart available to check what size you need

Best Kayak Fishing PFD Buying Guide

As promised here’s your buying guide. 

Why you need a PFD for kayak fishing

Rivers and oceans can be somewhat unpredictable. Even if the water is very calm when you initially take to the water, a turn in the weather of the tide, or a simple misstep can land even the most experienced kayakers toppling face down in the water.

A good quality PFD can literally save your life in this scenario.

Our view is that you should always make safety a priority. It’s always better to be safe than to be sorry. Anything that could potentially save your life is certainly worth spending your hard earned money on.

And the good news is that you can get some excellent PFDs that won’t get in the way of your fishing. Or get in the way of your paddling for that matter. This is something we thought about as we handpicked PFDs for our shortlist.

What type of PFD should you get?

PFDs can come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and styles.  And some are better for kayak fishing than others.

What you should look for is known as a Type 3 PFD. They are predominantly intended for use in calm inland waters. But they are also designed with water-based activities in mind, where you need plenty of arm and body movement, such as when fishing, or paddling etc.

What to look for in a kayak fishing PFD

Buoyancy

Your first and foremost consideration should be about just how buoyant the PFD is. Buoyancy is  measured in pounds, and describes the force required to keep someone’s head above water when using a PFD in the water.  

The level of buoyancy you need depends on a number of different factors, such as the wearer’s weight, body fat ratio, and the water conditions.

Most adults typically need a  buoyancy of 7 to 12 pounds to stay afloat. But the US Coast Guard goes a small step further, and maintains that a Type III PFD must have a minimum buoyancy level of 15.5 pounds.

Comfort

Kayak fishing expeditions tend to last for several hours, so it’s important that you’re perfectly comfortable in your PFD. You will also need large arm holes for maximum arm movement for hauling in those fish. And for paddling. Fortunately this is a common feature in Type III PFDs.

You need the PFD to be snug in order for it to do its job, but at the same time you don’t want it to be too tight.

Putting on Method

Another thing to think about is how the PFD is put on. Some have zips on the front, so you put it on like you would a jacket. Others are put over the head and are properly fastened afterward. 

Sometimes a PFD zip can be a little stiff, or have a tendency to jam in the material, which is something to be wary of.

Storage

PFDs often feature some handy pockets. And this is great if you have limited storage on your kayak. You can keep your sunscreen or other small but necessary items close to hand.

Some PFDs also feature a hydration bladder to keep drinking water at hand, which is a nice feature. Especially if you don’t have anywhere to stash a bottle of water, which is quite likely by the time you’ve put all your fishing gear in the kayak.

Pockets are not exactly an important feature for a PFD, just a nice bonus.

Durability

In the spirit of being prepared for worst case scenarios, you may want to look at the PFDs’ durability, and how it can cope with coming up against sharp abrasive rocks or too much saltwater.

So, to that end we recommend going for PFD made of resilient material, such as nylon or neoprene. If we had to choose between these two materials, we’d go with nylon because it’s more lightweight. 

Cost

PFDs, including those aimed at kayak fishing can vary quite considerably in price, from as little as just over $20 to as much as $200.

In order to ensure that you get good value for money, we recommend that you check prices as you go along, so that you learn what your money buys you, so you can then make a good, well informed decision about how much your budget should be. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *