Best Fishing Kayaks Under $500 in 2020 – Buyer’s Guide

Is it possible to find a fishing kayak under $500 that’s functional and well-built? Simply, yes. It all depends on what you can sacrifice for more of another aspect.

Generally, kayaks are a great way to get access to more of the water you’re fishing in and get closer to the fish. Also, they’re more affordable alternatives to boats.

So, if you’re in the market for one, but you’re on a tight budget, I’ve listed the best fishing kayaks under $500 right here.

List of the Best Fishing Kayaks Under $500:

  1. Intex Explorer K2 Kayak – Best Lightweight Fishing Kayak 
  2. Sun Dolphin Bali SS – Best Sit-on-Top Fishing Kayak
  3. Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 – Best Fishing Kayak Under $500
  4. BKC UH-TK181 – Best Tandem Fishing Kayak
  5. Sevylor Coleman Colorado – Best Airtight Fishing Kayak
  6. Sun Dolphin Journey – Best for Solo Kayak Fishing
  7. BKC UH-FK184 – Best for Rough Water

Our Top Picks

KayakWeightCapacity
Intex Explorer K2 Kayak30.60 lbs.400 lbs.
Sun Dolphin Bali SS44 lbs.250 lbs.
Lifetime Tamarack Angler 10051 lbs.275 lbs.
BKC UH-TK18168 lbs.440 lbs.
Sevylor Coleman Colorado41 lbs.470 lbs.
Sun Dolphin Journey44 lbs.250 lbs.
BKC UH-FK18444 lbs.330 lbs.

The 7 Best Fishing Kayaks Under $500 in 2020

1. Intex Explorer K2 – Best Lightweight Fishing Kayak

Intex Explorer K2 Kayak

This inflatable kayak easily makes it to the top of the list as it almost has no cons. It gives you a huge bang for your buck as it comes with many advanced features.

Measuring only 123 x 36 x 20 inches and weighing only 30.60 pounds, it’s pretty compact and lightweight, and consequently, it’s very easy to maneuver.

Yet, it can accommodate up to 400 pounds, which is a pretty great ratio. It allows you to go kayak fishing with a friend and pack a good amount of equipment and gear.

Furthermore, it comes with comfortable seats that you can adjust and that have backrests to keep you relaxed.

The removable skeg on the Intex Explorer K2 gives you a high degree of directional stability, so you can enjoy fishing without worrying about the kayak drifting off to other areas.

With a bright and yellow color, it’s more visible and easier to identify in case you face an emergency.

Finally, the Explorer K2 comes with two aluminum oars and a high output air pump that you can use to inflate the kayak quickly and smoothly.

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Skeg can be removed
  • Visible, vivid, and bright yellow color
  • Aluminum oars
  • Comfortable inflatable seat
  • Portable

Cons:

  • None

Bottom Line

The Intex Explorer K2 is one of the best kayaks under $500 if you’re going to use it for fishing in small waters like lakes. It’s packed with advanced features yet comes at a super affordable price that doesn’t even hit the 100-buck level.

2. Sun Dolphin Bali SS – Best Sit-on-Top Fishing Kayak

Sun Dolphin Bali SS

Employing a unique design with plenty of advanced features, the Sun Dolphin Bali SS makes a very versatile fishing kayak.

For starters, it’s stable enough to enable you to stand up and keep your balance without exerting any effort. It also has easy paddling and tracking, which is a great combination as stable kayaks typically have more difficult paddling.

The Sun Dolphin Bali SS is equipped with storage compartments to keep your equipment secure and dry, with no leakage troubles.

Moreover, it has an open cockpit that you can effortlessly get in with a single jump -something that sit-on-top kayaks are popular for. Once you get it, you’ll enjoy a spacious and comfortable seating area. It even comes with protective thigh pads, a paddle holder, and adjustable foot braces.

As for the design, the Sun Dolphin Bali SS comes in vivid blue color, measures 120 x 30 x 11 inches, and weighs 44 pounds. It doesn’t take up much space, but it’s a little heavier than we’d like, especially when you consider the fact that it can only accommodate 250 pounds.

Pros:

  • Provides maximum stability
  • Comes with a dry storage compartment
  • Vivid and bright color
  • Spacious seating area with an open cockpit
  • Protective thigh pads
  • Foot braces are adjustable

Cons:

  • A little hard to control and maneuver
  • Low weight capacity relative to the kayak’s weight
  • Low speed

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly fishing kayak that provides maximum stability, has incredible tracking, and has a reliable storage compartment, you should definitely go for the Sun Dolphin Bali SS.

However, I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re a beginner who still has to learn how to control and maneuver their kayak.

3. Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 – Best Fishing Kayak Under $500

Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100

The Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 is the perfect fishing kayak under $500 and has great value for the price.

To begin with, it’s made of high-density UV-protected polyethylene, which makes it extremely durable. You can definitely rely on it for a long time.

As for the inner construction, it comes with adjustable padded seats with back support. Also, it has two flush-mounted fishing rod holders and a top-mounted one to really simplify and facilitate your fishing experience.

To keep you safe and protect you from any emergencies, the Tamarack Angler 100 comes with front and rear shock straps. In addition, it has a 6″ storage compartment where you can store all your essentials and needs with certainty that they won’t get wet.

However, it’s not very lightweight. At 51 pounds, it’s not the best option if you’re going to pull it through paths in order to reach the water in which you’re going to fish. Plus, it only accommodates 275 pounds. I liked the deep hull tracking channels that work on making transportation easier.

Finally, the Tamarack Angler 100 comes with chine rails and a stable bottom that maximize the steadiness of the kayak. This does take a toll on the speed, however, as this kayak isn’t the fastest.

Pros:

  • Affordable price
  • Decent storage space
  • Flat bottom for extra stability
  • Adjustable, padded seats with back support
  • Plenty of leg space

Cons:

  • Doesn’t suit choppy waters
  • Common hull cracking issues

Bottom Line

If you’re not concerned with speed that much, the Tamarack Angler 100 is a great durable, and stable sit-in-kayak. However, you shouldn’t count on it to fish in shifting waters.

4. BKC UH-TK181 – Best Tandem Fishing Kayak

BKC UH-TK181

Whatever you’re looking for in a fishing kayak, you’ll probably find it to a degree on the BKC UH-TK181.

Its tandem aspect gets plenty of attention as it comes with seven fishing rod holders and two secure paddle parks where you can keep your paddles when not in use.

The BKC UH-TK181 is one of the bigger kayaks. Despite this, it doesn’t waste any space and comes with reliable storage compartments where you can store your valuables without worrying about water reaching them.

Moreover, it’s equipped with a 34-inch beam that enhances tracking and stability. Overall, its performance is pretty impressive. It’s almost suitable for open water, but it’s best for choppy water where you can stand up without worrying about it tipping over.

It has plenty of capacity with a 450-pound limit, which can accommodate two adults with plenty of gear. However, it’s also considerably heavier than most options at 68 pounds.

Finally, the two aluminum paddles and deluxe kayak seats speak volumes of how comfortable the kayak is to use for extended periods.

Pros:

  • Equipped with multiple carrying handles
  • Decent storage
  • Quite stable even on choppy waters
  • Quick speed
  • Well-built and looks good
  • Comes with a 5-year warranty

Cons:

  • Doesn’t suit open water
  • Seat battens are prone to break

Bottom Line

If you’re going to fish in somewhat choppy water, the BKC UH-TK181 is a pretty solid choice. It also allows you to load on equipment and gear with its high capacity.

5. Sevylor Coleman Colorado – Best Airtight Fishing Kayak

Sevylor Coleman Colorado

Unlike the Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100, the Sevylor Coleman Colorado is very budget-focused. If a high-end model is out of reach, the Coleman Colorado is a good alternative.

This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have decent construction and performance. It’s made of a strong PVC material that makes it suitable for rugged lake paddling.

Coming at 41 pounds, it can accommodate up to 470 pounds. This combination is pretty impressive, especially for the price level of the kayak.

Furthermore, to guarantee safety and protection, it comes with a tarpaulin bottom that employs a nylon cover that makes it more durable and puncture-resistant. Add to that, it employs multiple chambers that enable it to stay afloat in the case one chamber gets punctured. It also uses airtight technology that leaves no space for leakage.

The Sevylor Coleman Colorado comes with rod holders that carry your fishing rods for you while the adjustments facilitate hands-free fishing. It’s also equipped with paddle holders where you can keep your paddles if you stop in the lake or river.

Finally, it has spacious mesh storage, easy inflation and deflation, and reliable performance. Despite this, however, it’s not a very reliable option in terms of durability.

Pros:

  • Best choice for budget
  • Safe trolling motor
  • Airtight technology
  • Tarpaulin bottom and 18-gauge PVC construction
  • D-Rings
  • Convenient holders
  • Multiple chambers that keep it afloat in case of puncturing

Cons:

  • Does not include a pump or a paddle
  • Seats can be uncomfortable, especially for tall people
  • Sidewalls can be bulky

Bottom line

The Sevylor Coleman Colorado is an amazing fishing kayak under $500 that gives you plenty of value for the price. It provides plenty of features that keep it afloat. However, if you’re looking for something that’s very durable, it’s not the best choice.

6. Sun Dolphin Journey – Best for Solo Fishing

Sun Dolphin Journey

Are you going to go kayak fishing on a lake or a river? Then the Sun Dolphin Journey is a great choice for you. It’s not too heavy at 44 pounds, so it’s not too hard to maneuver. However, it can only accommodate 250 pounds.

It’s made of high-density polyethylene and comfortable seating with protective thigh pads. The dry storage compartment and the PAC (Portable Accessory Carrier) can even serve as extra space for storage.

To make paddling an easier task for you, it comes with paddle holders on both sides. It also has footpegs that offer plenty of comfort during fishing. Not only that, but it also has a swivel fishing rod holder that gives you hand-free fishing.

However, it’s not the most stable option you’ll find on the market. With a couple of casts, it might go back a little. It also doesn’t provide enough firmness to prevent it from tipping over.

Pros:

  • Portable Accessory Carrier can be used for extra storage
  • Carrying it is easy due to its lightweight
  • Self-bailing
  • Budget-friendly
  • Rod holder and paddle holders both sides of the boat
  • Stable base to avoid capsizing
  • Plenty of room to allow flexibility and free movement

Cons:

  • Has a 250 pounds weight limit
  • Keeps spinning while braking
  • Does not track well

Bottom line

If you enjoy solo kayak fishing trips, the Sun Dolphin Journey is a great choice. It doesn’t provide plenty of capacity, but it does offer a lot of comfort for a low price point.

7. BKC UH-FK184 – Best for Rough Water

BKC UH FK184

The BKC UH-FK184 comes with a nice design and is available in two appealing shades. It’s versatile enough to suit nearly any water environment.

Moreover, it’s equipped with convenient paddles and seats. Plus, it has five-rod holders, making it extremely convenient and easy to use.

The waterproof storage is a nice addition where you can keep all your gear and essentials without worrying about them getting wet. There’s also a cargo area at the back with easy bungee straps

If you worry about losing your paddle between fishing sessions, there’s a convenient paddle pack facility that puts your mind at ease. Additionally, it has four carrying handles that make its transportation easy, especially with a 44-pound weight. Its 330-pound weight capacity is a great ratio.

Finally, the BKC UH-FK184 is pretty stable, and that’s why it travels at slower speeds. But that’s not too bad when you consider the fact that it’s a fishing kayak.

Pros:

  • Water-resistant storage facility
  • Paddle packs are convenient
  • Four carry handles
  • 5-rod holders
  • Roomy rear cargo area
  • High stability

Cons:

  • Low speed

Bottom line

the BKC UH-FK184 is a single fishing kayak that is a budget-friendly package. It comes with a convenient seat, a paddle bundle, and high stability, which makes it really good for fishing.

What to Expect from a Fishing Kayak Under $500?

The right thing to do here is to ask what you’re willing to sacrifice for another thing.

For example, you could go for a very stable kayak, but you’d have to accept some compromise on the paddling effectiveness. Similarly, if you go for a kayak that has good tracking and paddling, you might end up sacrificing some of the stability and balance.

How to Pick a Fishing Kayak

Just because you’re going for a budget choice doesn’t mean you should accept one of poor quality or performance. So, even if you’re not going to spend a lot of money, make sure you consider the following things:

1. Type: Sit-on-Top vs. Sit-in Kayak

When you shop for a fishing kayak, you’ll be faced with two types. The one you choose should depend on where you’re going to fish most of the time.

​Sit-on-Top Kayaks

Sit-on-Top kayaks or SOT kayaks provide you with plenty of space but aren’t the best when it comes to security, so they’re suitable for fishing on calm waters where you won’t need to try hard to keep your balance.

Moreover, it’s more prone to having water enter the kayak as it’s pretty open. But that also gives you plenty of legroom and allows you to bend or stretch your knees according to your own preference. This also means more room for your equipment.

However, SOT kayaks are pretty hard to move from one place to another as they tend to be bulkier and heavier.

Sit-In Kayaks

Sit-in kayaks are pretty tight and secure with a small compartment where your legs go. This design guarantees that the kayak will always remain attached to you. There’s also a compartment where you can store your fishing gear and personal belongings.

They aren’t much different than SOT kayaks, except they come with cockpits. They suit adventures in challenging waters that don’t have the best conditions.

2. Stability and Tracking

While you’re fishing, you might want to stand up to gain more power or cast your rod, so you’ll need a kayak with a good degree of stability, and that allows you to balance yourself with ease.

However, stable kayaks are usually harder to paddle and maneuver, so you should find a good combination for yourself.

Tracking refers to the extent to which your kayak can maintain a track when underway. A kayak with good tracking means that it can hold its course even when a turning force like a sweep stroke acts on it.

3. Paddling Experience

Most of the fishing kayaks I’ve mentioned are ideal for beginners or intermediate kayakers. If that’s your level, you should go for something that isn’t too quick to turn when you give it input. 

This is to provide you with more stability, and therefore, more confidence if you’re still learning.

Furthermore, wider cockpits are good for beginners where they can move around and experiment with how their movements impact the stability and balance of the kayak.

However, more experienced users might want to opt for a tight-fitting cockpit to have more control over the paddles.

4. Weight and Portability

Over the years, kayaks have become heavier despite the advances, so you must keep this in mind when you’re shopping for one.

If you’re the one to pack a lot of accessories and gear when you’re kayak fishing, you should make sure it’s going straight into the water.

On the other hand, if you’re going to drag your kayak through some paths before hitting the water, you should go for a super-light model -typically, a sit-in one or an inflatable one.

5. Weight Capacity

As a rule of thumb, you should always go for a kayak with a capacity that exceeds the weights of your body and gear combined by 100 pounds.

If you’re two people going on a kayak fishing trip, go for around 400-pound weight capacity.

6. Maintenance

Anything you want to last requires maintenance from time to time, and kayaks are no different. Although a budget kayak will probably integrate plastic parts reinforced by some other materials, you should still look into its durability and make sure you get something that’s less prone to wear and tear.

7. Frequency of Use

How often you intend to use your kayak also makes a difference when it comes to buying one. If you’re only going on a few trips every month, you might be able to compromise some durability. 

However, if you’re going to use it frequently, you should opt for something that’s built from solid materials to last.

8. Anchoring

While anchoring isn’t an essential feature, it’s quite important if you’re looking for increased stability. This is in the case that you’re fishing in rough water, where your kayak might be taken away by some streams.

9. Accessories

There are a lot of accessories that’ll make your fishing trip easier or more fun, but the three most common and helpful are:

  • Rod Holders: These serve as a place to put your rod when you’re paddling or when in the water.
  • Paddle Holders: These are a way to keep the paddles from drifting off when you’ve stopped.
  • Keel: Keels are a small addition that really helps when you’re fishing in deeper water as they prevent the kayak from spinning around.

These are the three most important accessories. However, if you’re going for an inflatable kayak, you should check out the puncture repair kits as well.

Final Thoughts

All the seven choices I’ve mentioned above can easily be considered the best fishing kayaks under $500. However, each one has a specific advantage over the rest.

For one, if you’re looking for the most lightweight option, you should opt for the Intext Explorer K2. It’s generally a great option with little to no disadvantages to mention.

The Sevylor Coleman Colorado is a nice airtight option that provides plenty of safety and protection while you’re on the water. It’s a great choice for beginners as well.

In the case you’re going solo, you’ll find none better than the Sun Dolphin Journey.

Finally, the Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 is a good option overall and provides plenty of comfort to enable you to fish all day long.