Best River Fishing Kayak

River fishing has become a hugely popular pastime over the past few years.

Not only does it allow you to enjoy the peaceful serenity of being totally immersed in nature, but it also allows you to experience the adrenaline rush of kayaking through the water and exploring all that the river has to bring!

When it comes to picking the right kayak for fishing, you’ll need a kayak that is going to be able to help you navigate your way through different water types commonly found on rivers, as well as remaining a stable and secure platform to fish from.

It should be easy to maneuver and feel sturdy, as well as having a decent storage capacity to make sure that you can bring along all of your fishing gear.

To help you choose the right one for you, we’ve spent some time compiling a helpful guide to make sure that you know everything there is to know about river kayaks, as well as including some of our top picks for you to consider.

In a hurry? This is our Winner!

Our Top Pick
In a hurry? This is our Winner!
9.4/10 Our Score

Perception Pescador Pilot 12

  • Lawn chair style mesh seat with 2-level seat adjustment
  • Leak-proof one-piece construction with built-in buoyancy for added safety
  • Large front and rear open storage for cooler, tackle, and other gear

Best River Fishing Kayak – Comparison Table

Image Product Features Price
Our Top Pick

Perception Kayaks Perception Pescador

Perception Kayaks Perception Pescador
  • Boat length: 12’5”
  • width: 33. 75”
  • Boat weight: 85 lbs.
  • Max capacity: 475 lbs.
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Intex Excursion Pro Kayak Intex Excursion Pro Kayak
  • Max Weight: 400 lb (182 kg)
  • Passengers: 1 – 2
  • Material: Heavy duty puncture-resistant vinyl
  • Overall Height: 18 inches
  • Kayak Weight: 39 lbs
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Lifetime Tamarack Angler Sit-On-Top Kayak Lifetime Tamarack Angler Sit-On-Top Kayak
  • Color: Olive Green
  • Weight: 51 lb. (23,1 kg)
  • Length: 120 in. (304,8 cm)
  • Maximum Weight Capacity: 275 lb. (124,7 kg)
  • Width: 31 in. (78,7 cm)
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Best River Fishing Kayak – Reviews

1. Our Top Pick: Perception Pescador Pilot 12 Fishing Kayak

The Pescador Pilot Fishing Kayak is a great kayak tailored for fishing because it offers exceptional stability!  Even from a standing position, you can be confident that you will remain drier than many other sit-on-top models, while its spacious cockpit will make sure that you can enter and exit the kayak with ease.

As for how comfortable it is to sit in? Well, taking into consideration that you’re most likely going to be spending a full day on the water, Perception has made sure that this particular kayak has been built to accommodate that. Its roomy captain’s chair features zonal mesh that will be able to better promote a cool and breezy airflow, while on-the-fly seatback adjustment is able to tilt backward for when you want to kick back or forwards when you want to get caught up in the action.

Offering fantastic value for money, the Pescador Pilot has also been built to last for a number of years. It has been designed with high-density polyethylene to help optimize the weight, while the one-piece roto-molded construction is able to provide fantastic UV protection, abrasion-resistance, and is impact-resistant –  so don’t worry about a few knocks and bumps while out on the water – this kayak can handle it!

Additionally, the inclusion of a replaceable skid plate is able to add additional protection when dragging your kayak across the land, while the stainless steel and brass hardware coating is both ocean and saltwater optimized, which is able to prevent corrosion for long-lasting performance.

An ideal choice for kayakers of all levels, the Pescador Pilot has been designed to feature built-in buoyancy to provide you with peace of mind, as well as letting you relax and have fun! If that wasn’t enough, you’ll also be able to accelerate with ease thanks to this kayak also featuring built-in pedals.


  • Length – 12 ft
  • Width – 33.75’
  • Weight – 16lbs
  • Max Capacity – 475lbs

2. Inflatable Intex Excursion Pro Kayak

Our next top pick is the Inflatable Intex Excursion Pro Kayak! It is made of very tough laminate PVC with a polyester core which makes this kayak both super lightweight and able to withstand abrasion, impact, and the effects of sunlight.

For quick and easy inflation, this kayak features high-pressure, spring-loaded valves for easy and fast inflation, while the high pressure helps to provide extra rigidity and stability while out on the water. Additionally, the Inflatable Intex Excursion Pro Kayak features a 3-Ply super tough construction of a high molecular PVC that is able to be exposed to gasoline, saltwater and oil with no compromise on its performance.

Plus, to make sure that you’re never without all of your necessities, this kayak features spacious storage space in the bow and stem, while stainless steel d rings will allow you to tie down any bags or other gear that you’d like easy access to.

Unlike the Perception Pescador, this inflatable kayak comes with two seats which will allow you to partner up with someone if you’d like, although you could most certainly still use this alone (the max capacity stands at 400lbs) which means that this boat could easily carry two adults and a bunch of fishing gear.

As well as this, this nifty kayak has also been designed with removable skews which will allow for optimal maneuverability through both shallow and deep waters, while integrated recessed fishing rod holders will ensure that you can securely rest your fishing rod and free up your hands without fear of it going overboard!

As far as comfort goes, you won’t be disappointed with the Intext Excursion Pro. The seats are spacious and cushiony, the floor-mounted footrests will make sure that your legs and feet always feel comfortable, while the adjustable mounting bracket will allow you to easily hold any accessories (such as swivel fishing rod holders, fish finders or a GPS system) within arms reach – so you don’t have to worry about standing up or moving around to reach them.


  • Length: 12 ft
  • Kayak Weight: 39.01lbs
  • Persons Capacity: 2
  • Maximum Weight Capacity: 400lbs

3. Lifetime Tamarack Sit-On-Top Angler

The Lifetime Tamarack Angler Sit-On-Top is another excellent Kayak suitable for fishing. It is a sit-on-top kayak that has been designed with stability and optimum safety in mind.

For starters, this kayak has been made with UV-protected high-density polyethylene (so, don’t worry about this kayak becoming damaged by sunlight – it won’t). It will also be able to actively withstand any bumps and knocks with ease, as well as being resistant to saltwater corrosion, making this bulky and durable kayak excellent value for money.

Plus, made with your comfort in mind, this rugged kayak features multiple different footrest positions to make sure you feet and legs are always in the most comfortable position for you, while the adjustable padded seat will allow you to adjust the back for maximum support which we’re sure will be appreciated on those longer fishing adventures!

To make sure that you always feel safe and secure, the Lifetime Tamarack Sit-On-Top Angler Kayak has been made with a stable wide bottom with deep tracking channels and stability chine rails to offer maximum stability, a smooth ride and a lowered chance of any capsizing from occurring.

Additionally, this olive green kayak features both front and back carry handles to make it easy to transport it to the lack and back again, while the strategically placed rear and center storage hatches, shock cords, and fishing rod holders will provide plenty of conveniences and enhance your fishing experience.


  • Length: 10ft
  • Weight: 52lbs
  • Maximum Weight Capacity: 275lbs

Best River Fishing Kayak – Buyers Guide

River Fishing Kayak

What is are river fishing kayaks and how are they different from flat or seawater kayaks?

There are plenty of features that differentiate river fishing kayaks from other types. However, one of the main differences between river fishing kayaks compared to flat or seawater kayaks (aka a touring kayak) is that they tend to offer a greater level of maneuverability.

River fishing often tends to involve having to navigate your way through flowing currents and narrow watercourses, so river kayaks often tend to be a little shorter as this allows for better maneuverability, as well as reducing the chances of getting stuck or caught up in different obstructions, such as rocks.

Additionally, many river kayaks also feature a low waterline and a high rocker which will allow you to accelerate through the water quickly and with ease. Another common feature present within river fishing kayaks is that they usually tend to have a shorter hull, too. For this reason, it is better able to keep itself from getting hung up around tight bends, while also offering the added benefit of making the kayak easy to transport and store.

Some other main characteristics and features you’ll find within a river kayak are as follows:


Just like with every fishing kayak, one of the most important components is how much stability it offers! The last thing you want to occur is your kayak capsizing. So, when it comes to river fishing kayaks, you’ll usually find that many river fishing kayaks have a wide beam with a flat multi-chined hull. Not only does this ensure that the kayak will be sturdy and able to easily withstand the changing conditions of the river, but the multi-chined hull provides the additional benefit of being better able to edge around tight bends, as well as any obstacles.

It will also enhance your fishing experience because it will give you confidence to be able to maneuver without fear of the kayak toppling over or making you feel unsteady. The best fishing kayaks will be able to easily withstand you standing up and moving around (especially if a big fish takes the bait) without feeling like it’s becoming lopsided or unsteady.

Rounded Keel

A rounded keel is most suited to fishing, while a flatter keel is more suited to use in flat waters. A rounded keel will make all the difference while fishing in a river or lake because it will allow you to move sideways with less resistance from the hull.

A rounder keel is more pronounced than a flatter keel and curves upward into the air, which in turn means that less of the kayak is submerged in the water. For this reason, it will be a lot easier to maneuver and navigate sideways as less of the kayak hull will be getting pulled through the water, which could make it more strenuous.

A wider beam

A wider beam is one of the most important differentiating features between a kayak tailored towards fishing and others. A wider beam is more suited to paddling on a river because the conditions can change quickly and a river is generally less smooth than say, kayaking in a larger body of water (like the ocean on a calm day). For this reason, stability is paramount. Additionally, as the nature of fishing can sometimes require you to stand up (especially if you’re reeling in a big catch) you want to feel confident that you aren’t going to capsize while grappling with a catch. A wider beam will be able to counteract the effects of the river current, as well as any of your movements, to ensure the kayak remains upright and flat.

What is are river fishing kayaks and how are they different from flat or seawater kayaks?

River Fishing Kayak vs seawater kayaks

The weight

Before venturing out onto the lake to spend a day fishing and taking in the views, we first recommend considering the weight capacity of your kayak. The last thing you want to happen is take too much with you and overburden the kayak, which could lead to a potentially dangerous situation.

Therefore, it is important to consider the collective weight of both yourself and your equipment before setting off to make sure that you stay safe and your kayak can withstand it. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so make sure that the combined weight falls below the maximum weight limit as stated by the manufacturer.

Pick a kayak with shock/bungee cords

Though the very best kayaks for fishing will feature storage space integrated within the design, they will also feature shock or bungee chords. These are vital because it will allow you to tie down your fishing gear (such as bait, paddles, and your rod) while allowing you to access and use them easily.

Like we’ve already mentioned, the conditions of the river can change drastically and sometimes you can find yourself traversing through strong currents. For this reason, you want to make sure that your gear will always be within arms reach without any fear of them getting thrown around or worse, overboard! Fishing kayaks that come with the helpful addition of chords will allow you to secure your equipment down and give you complete peace of mind.

Pack a life vest

This should go without saying, but a life vest or jacket should be worn at all times while out on your kayak! If possible, we also recommend storing a spare one just in case you encounter an emergency or the one you’re wearing somehow becomes damaged. Regardless of whether you’re a beginner or a kayak fishing oldtimer, the river can be dangerous so you always want to make sure that your safety is the number one priority – always prepare for the unexpected!

Tell your friends and family

No matter whether you’re just going for a quick morning fish or planning on spending the weekend on a fishing adventure, make sure that you always notify a friend or family member of your whereabouts.

Sometimes while out on the water you may have a struggle trying to find a solid signal for your cellphone, so, for this reason, we suggest not only just letting your friends and family know that you’re going out on the water, but also giving them an estimate of what time you will be back home. By doing this, even in the event of an emergency, your friends and family will still be able to help notify emergency services if anything should happen.

As a side note, we also recommend packing food, water, and a blanket alongside all of your fishing gear. Your safety is of the utmost importance and it is always a good idea to err on the side of caution, especially as river kayaking can be so unpredictable.

Our Top Pick
In a hurry? This is our Winner!
9.4/10 Our Score

Perception Pescador Pilot 12

  • Lawn chair style mesh seat with 2-level seat adjustment
  • Leak-proof one-piece construction with built-in buoyancy for added safety
  • Large front and rear open storage for cooler, tackle, and other gear