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Top Ten Fishing Kayaks of All Time

by Staff Members

We thought itd be fun to compile a list of the top ten models of fishing kayaks ever created.  Our list will be geared toward west coast kayak fishing which may involve surf launching, big fish, and a variety of conditions.  Brand loyalties and preferences aside, weve come up with the most unbiased selections we could, based strictly on the application of kayak fishing.

10.) Ocean Kayak Prowler 13/15

A fast kayak, designed for fishing, the Prowler squeaks onto our list.  Originally available in both 13 and 15 foot versions, only the 13 remains in production today.  There were a few other considerations for these last two spots on the top 10, but the Prowler gets the edge for its popularity, and its purposeful design for the sport of kayak fishing.

9.) Hobie Pro Angler

We had to put the Pro Angler on the list just because theres never been anything like it on the market.  Hobie pulled out all the stops and set out to make a kayak designed only for fishing and nothing else, with every bell and whistle they could think up.  For that dedication, they earn themselves a spot on the list.  Its big, its heavy, it might not be much fun in the surf, but its got to be on the list.

8.) Malibu eXtreme

Now we start getting into the meat of the list.  Just a few years ago the eXtreme wouldve been in the top 3 of this list.  A good percentage of serious kayak fishermen were paddling this kayak in the San Diego area and that earns it a spot on the list, but nowadays there have been other models introduced and other options available, so the eXtreme slips to #8 on the top 10 of all time.

7.) Ocean Kayak Scupper Pro

Really in the same boat (pun intended) as the eXtreme, the second Ocean Kayak on our list was one of the most popular models before other options became available within the last few years.  For the pioneering role this kayak played in the sport it earns itself a spot in the bottom half of the list, but this kayak is no longer in production, and we tend to hear a love/hate relationship from most Scupper Pro owners.  Kind of like your favorite old pair of jeans thats full of holes, but comfortable to wear&  An important player in getting the sport to where it is, but like the eXtreme, theres probably better options out there nowadays.

6.) Wilderness Systems Tarpon Series (120, 140, 160)

On an east coast list, perhaps the Tarpons rank higher as theyre a more popular option elsewhere, but they hold down the #6 spot on our west coast top 10.  A fishing kayak to be sure, designed as fast kayaks with limited storage and weight capacity.  Compared to other options however, most west coast anglers prefer a little more stability and storage than the tarpons can offer.  Some experienced anglers have started making the switch to the tarpons for the ease of paddling and excellent performance, but due to their specialty niche in the west coast kayak fishing scene, we slot them at #6.

5.) Hobie Revolution

Well we cant put every mirage drive Hobie on the list, so we had to choose one.  This ones the most popular option for fishing due to the deck layout and performance of the  kayak.  The mirage drive system in itself has literally revolutionized the sport of kayak fishing and that gets Hobie into the top 5 with their second kayak on the list.  Hobies arent for everyone, but the ingenious foot pedal system has allowed kayak fishermen to do things never before possible in a regular kayak.

4.) Malibu X-Factor

If not for the recent introduction of the Stealth series, based on the same hull as the X-Factor, this kayak would rank even higher than it is.  An ideal fishing kayak for the west coast, you cant find a more stable kayak or any more storage space or weight capacity.  Its user friendly even for fishermen who have never been in a kayak, which makes up the majority of beginning kayak fishermen in this area.  One of the biggest benefits of the X-Factor, and many other Malibu models, is the amount of flat surface and mounting options on the kayak.  No special adapters are required because this kayak is designed for mounting fishfinders, rodholders, and any number of kayak fishing accessories with no additional mounts or jerry rigging required.  A look at any of the local launch sites in So Cal will verify the popularity of this kayak, so its got to be in the top 4.

3.) Ocean Kayak Trident (13, 15)

The Trident makes the top 3 as OKs 3rd entry onto the list.  Not as user friendly as some other, more stable options, but those kayak fishermen who have been doing it for a few years now are starting to transition to a kayak that is a little faster, a little lighter and doesnt give up much stability at the same time.  Fishermen who still do not consider themselves kayakers, but want a little more performance out of their kayak will find the best option in a Trident.  Ocean Kayak gains some major points for kayak fishing specific features such as the Rod Pod, fishfinder shield, and transducer friendly scupper hole.  With its high bow and great performance on the water, this is nearly a perfect kayak for west coast fishing.  The only thing holding this kayak out of the top 2 spots is its relatively young existence, and the fact that it appeals mostly to experienced kayak fishermen, limiting its popularity only slightly.

2.) Cobra Fish N Dive

We had to do it.  Like the eXtreme and Scupper Pro, the FND is an old school throwback that probably played the biggest role of any other kayak in popularizing the sport.  Unlike the other two, the Fish N Dive was, and still is one of the most stable kayaks on the water, allowing fishermen to feel comfortable and safe in a kayak.  The Fish N Dive almost single handedly created the sport of kayak fishing in California, and on that fact alone it falls one short of the top spot.  Along with being one of the most stable kayaks out there, the FND is also known as one of the slowest.  Like the eXtreme and Scupper Pro, the FND has been surpassed by other options on the market, mostly due to its slow paddling speed and lack of mounting options, but unlike the other two there are still plenty on the water.

1.) Malibu Stealth Series (12, 14)

In our observation this has been the top selling fishing kayak on the market by a large margin since its introduction.  The Stealth gets a pass on its short time on the market due to the fact that the 14 is made on the same hull as the already proven X-Factor (and the 12 is a similar design, only shorter).  Apply our assessment of the X-Factor and then add the following, because the Stealth is essentially an X-Factor, only better.  Improving on an already top 4 kayak earns the Stealth the top spot on our list.  It earns points for popularity, kayak fishing friendly mounting options, as well as Malibus devotion to creating a kayak fishing specific design.  Same performance and specs as the X-Factor, but what sends it over the top is the only internal bait tank system on the market.  Hands down, the best bait tank option available, and live bait is the best way to fish on the west coast.  No gimmicks or impractical features, this is a fishing kayak meant to fish for yellowtail, halibut and white seabass.  Had this kayak never been made, the X-Factor would be a strong contender here, but improving on that kayak and adding a smaller version locks it up for the Malibu Stealth.

Honorable Mention

These are certainly not the only 10 fishing kayaks on the water, and it was difficult to narrow it down to only 10.  What gave some kayaks the edge over others, especially toward the bottom half of the list, were things like the manufacturers devotion to making a kayak for the specific purpose of fishing (and success of such design), popularity of the kayak, and whether it played a role to increase the popularity of the sport compared to other models.  Kayaks like the Cobra Marauder, OK Drifter, OK Scrambler XT, Malibu Pro-Explorer,  Malibu X-13, Hobie Outback, Wilderness Systems Ride amongst others were all in the mix, but in the end we determined that the kayaks which  made the list offered something those others didnt.   The OK Torque was also a strong consideration to make the list, but we determined the addition of a motor would be a slipper slope in creating a list of fishing kayaks, despite its purposeful design.