2024 Kayak Buying Guide

by Chris McCotter

   Our region is blessed with plenty of rivers, big and small that lend themselves to good kayaking. On most weekends you’ll find a colorful armada of kayaks plying the riffles and eddies. While prices have gone up, entry-level boats (we’re not talking about big box kiddie pool kayaks here) are relatively inexpensive when compared to traditional boats, durable; require no bank payment or fuel and very little maintenance. They permit anglers to fish areas not always accessible by larger, more conventional fishing boats. 

  A good entry level fishing kayak will run you $799-$999. The next level up runs from $999 to $1,600. Top-of-the-line pedal-powered and tricked out kayaks push $2,800 and beyond.

  Plenty of design elements make each of the following lines stand apart but you will note some features that are standard across manufacturers’ models. When you are ready to purchase your fishing kayak, do check with the local dealers first. You can often test paddle and get accessories rigged by pros when you buy from a dealer. You won’t get any of that from Tractor Mart.

1. 3 Waters

  This division of Feel Free Kayaks specializes in affordable fishing kayaks.
   The Big Fish 105 V2 offers all the same features, stability, comfort and performance as its older brother, the Big Fish 120 but in a smaller (10’5” long and 33.5” wide, weighs 89 lbs., 380-lb. capacity) and more manageable 10 foot version. It’s a good choice for anglers with limited transportation and storage options that still want the capacity of much larger kayaks. The new V2 version now features the EZ Rider seat, offering more back and bottom coverage. The cathedral tri-hull features two outer pontoons along with a central pontoon with deep channels in between offering incredible primary and secondary stability. 

    The Big Fish line up also includes the Big Fish 120 V2 (non pedal drive), Big Fish 103 and 108 (pedal drive) models. Oak Tree Outfitters, 804.815.4669. www.oaktreeoutfitters.net

2. Bonafide

  The new Bondafide PWR129 (12’9” long, 35” wide, weighs 78 lbs. with a 500-lb. capacity) is a serious contendor for anglers looking for a tournament grade boat that can be customize with various pedal and power options. The PWR129 has incredible standard features like the RVR adjustable seat with a storage drawer underneath, bow and stern anchor drag chain channels, Anchor Wizard pulley landings, an integrated Torqueedo throttle landing rudder capable foot brace landing, rod tip/butt organizer system, multifle flush mount depth finder positions, five power link ports for rigging electronics and much  more that sets it apart. Bonafide also has the SS120, SS127, RS117, EX123 and P127 kayaks.  Appomattox River Company  (434) 392-6645. www.paddleva.com.

3. Crescent

   The Crescent Shoalie is a good option for your fishing kayak investment at 11’10” long, 34” wide, weighing 77 lbs. with a 450-lb. weight capacity. This boat is loaded with unique standard features like a bow rod securing system by Rod Saver, rear facing rod holsters, a cam track system, paddle park system, 26” ketch board, Power Pole mounting points and cupholders. Oak Tree Outfitters, 804.815.4669. www.oaktreeoutfitters.net

4. Feel Free

   The Moken 10 Pedal kayak is back this season. This is a 10’4” long, 35”  wide boat that weighs just 72 pounds (without pedal drive) with a 425-lb. capacity. This boat comes with the Rapid Pedal Drive System, the Beaver Tail Rudder the, Rapid Steering System, the EZ Rider Seat and is available in desert camo, ocean camo, green flash and winter camo. It also has the UNI-Track accessroy attachment system and the famous Feel Free wheel-in-the-keel makes this a sought after pedal drive for under $1,500.

   Feel Free also has the Lure 10 V2 kayak new this season. This is a 10’ long, 34” wide paddle kayak that weighs just 77 pounds with a 375-lb. capacity and comes with the EZ Rider seat. See the 2024 Feel Free kayaks at Lake Anna Outfitters 540.894.3540. Oak Tree Outfitters, 804.815.4669. www.oaktreeoutfitters.net

 4. Hobie

 Hobie makes some of the best high-end fishing kayaks out there and the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler series is probably their most popular amongst avid anglers. The Pro Angler 12 360 offers top-of-the-line feature sets that are attractive to a lot of tournament kayak anglers. 

  The Mirage Drive 360 and Kick Up fins enable you to travel nimbly without worry as it pivots 360 degrees! The boats have six rod holders, an elevated Vantage ST seat with BOA lumbar support, a Guardian transducer shield, a Hobie exclusive H-Rail for adding accessories quick and easy, rear and forward hatches for storage, with stain resistant grip pads throughout. These models are high end and intended for serious anglers who want a lot of features in a wide stable platform.  Backyard Boats  Woodbridge. 703.491.3188. Oak Tree Outfitters, 804.815.4669. www.oaktreeoutfitters.net. Appomattox River Company  (434) 392-6645. www.paddleva.com.

5. Hoodoo Kayaks

   The Hoodoo Impulse 105 offers a revolutionary new ultra-stable kayaking experience with a fin drive propulsion option and a new  multi-directional adjustable seat, including adjustable height settings. 

   This 10.5’ long, 34” wide kayak weighs 90 lbs. (hull only) with a  400-lb. capacity and comes as a complete package ready to hit the water. The only thing needed is a personal flotation device.  Standard features include the with its innovative fin drive propulsion system and rudder, rear tankwell design, front hatch, accessory tracks, mounting points. Oak Tree Outfitters, 804.815.4669. www.oaktreeoutfitters.net

6. Jackson Kayaks

  Jackson has a popular line of fishing kayaks available including the Big Rig FD, Big Rig HD, Bite FD, Coosa FD, Big Tuna, Bite Angler, Coosa, Coosa HD, Kilroy HD, Liska, Mayfly, Knarr FD and YuPik.

   New this season is the Bite FD at 11’6” long, 35” wide, 95-lb. weight with seat and pedal drive and a 400-lb. capacity. Molded in handles bow and stern make comfortable grips for maneuvering the Bite FD on land. s.

Molded in rod stagers on the deck let you change your rods on the fly.

The Flex Drive Mark IV (Patented) is the product of four years of constant evolution. Molded-in tackle storage on the gunnels of the Bite FD let you keep your tackle close at hand and secure. A replaceable skid plate protects thehull from seasons of dragging at launch. Appomattox River Company  (434) 392-6645. www.paddleva.com.

7. Native

  The new Native Slayer Propel 10 is said to be the lightest pedal drive kayak on the market at just 62 pounds (with drive system). The boat measures 10’ long, 34.” wide, weighs 62 pounds (81 lbs. rigged) and holds 400 pounds (small enough to fit in a truck bed but with the features of a bigger boat).

  Standard features include Propel Pedal Drive System with forward and reverse, hand sewn seating with adjustableinseam, left hand rudder control system, impact resistant stern rudder, 17″ dry bow hatch cover, right hand forward facing rod holder/cup holder, two flush mount rod holders aft, Groove Tracks for accessory mounting, Propel Drive trunk cover with accessory tray and cup holder  

  Other Native model lines include the TitanX Propel, the Titan Propel, the Falcon and the Ultimate. Backyard Boats  Woodbridge. 703.491.3188. Appomattox River Company  (434) 392-6645. www.paddleva.com. Oak Tree Outfitters, 804.815.4669. www.oaktreeoutfitters.net. Appomattox River Company  (434) 392-6645. www.paddleva.com.

8. Nu Canoe

  The Nu Canoe EPS line is said to be one of the easy plug and play powered kayaks on the market thanks to a QuickConnect system. You can choose from the Torqueedo or Newport Vessels propulsion systems and easily mount them on the Flint, Pursuit, U10, Unlimited, F10 and Frontier models. The QC rudder system and Pivot Drive pedal systems are also popular options on Nucanoe hybrids.

 Green Top Sporting Goods. 804.550.2188 www.greentophuntfish.com. Appomattox River Company  (434) 392-6645. www.paddleva.com.

9. Old Town

  The long-time kayak manufacturer has many models available with power, pedal or paddle propulsion, the most popular in the region being the updated Sportsman line.   

  The line features the Salty PDL 120, the BigWater PDL 132, the 120,  the PDL 106, PDL 120, the AutoPilot 120, AutoPilot 136, BigWater EPDL+132, 106, BigWater 132 and 106 powered by Minn Kota 

  Perhaps most intriguing is thenew Sportsman AutoPilot 120. This boat is available in a limited edition Fire Tiger color based on the iconic lure. 

  The award-winning Old Town Sportsman AutoPilot motorized kayaks integrate Minn Kota’s Spot-Lock technology. Anglers control the kayak with a touch of athumb using the Bluetooth connected i-Pilot remote. The trolling motor is integrated into the hull in front of the angler.

   Additionally, the trolling motor combines with foot brace steering for truly hands-free fishing and exceptional maneuverability. A two-position, removable premium seat constructed from dual-layer Textilene is durable, UV resistant and easy to clean. There are four 18” accessory tracks, two forward-facing and two rear-facing flush mount rod holders, non-slip EVA foam deck pads, shallow water anchor mounting inserts, tournament-ready channels secure a fish measuring board with in-hull storage when not in use, extra large rudder that provides excellent boat control in forward and reverse.lppomattox River Company  (434) 392-6645. www.paddleva.com.

10. Perception

  The Perception Outlaw 11.5 fishing kayak is a an amazing value and boasts a wide-open deck, an expansive standing platform, seriously elevated seating, and intuitive features throughout. The boat measures 11’6” long, 35” wide, weighs 77 lbs. and holds up to 425 lbs.

   The Outlaw also integrates industry-firsts including a stowaway seat for complete deck walkability and space for up to a 35L cooler. Two “double-barrel” rod holders offer the ultimate multi-rod setup. Elevated seating allows for the highest fishing vantage ever in a kayak, and the ergonomic and comfortable seat extends time on the water and transition easily from sitting to a standing position. Add the Perception Kayaks Saddle Bags (sold separately) and this kayak is a horse of a different color. Molded-in trays and cup holders keep important items and refreshments within easy reach. There’s transducer scupper on the hull for fish finders, two “double-barrel” rod holders and 3 Solo Mount recesses enable anglers to easily add mounts and accessory holders without drilling. Appomattox River Company  (434) 392-6645. www.paddleva.com.

11. Vanhunks

   The Vanhunks USA Pike is a new boat local anglers will definitely be interested in. At 9’8” long, 35” wide, 62 pounds (75 rigged) and a 419 capacity this kayak is fin or pedal drive compatible. The Pike is constructed of 5 mm polyethylene, comes with a removable Tool Pod, features a double pontoon hull and square stern. An optional adjustable foot or hand-controlled rudder system ensures precise control and limited drift. The rudder system is Bixpy motor-compatible, and brass inserts allow easy side motor mounting.

  The molded-in high or low seating position allows for easy chair height adjustment. Accessory rails accommodate additional rod holders, and built-in spacing simplifies electronics installation. Oak Tree Outfitters, 804.815.4669. www.oaktreeoutfitters.net

12. Vibe

  Vibe’s Makana 100 (10’ long and 33” wide) compliments the Shearwater 125, the Vibe Cubera 120 Hybrid, the Vibe Sea Ghost (130 and 110), the Yellowfin (130T, 120 and 100).

  The Makana 100 is notable because it features the X-Drive and Vibe rudder, Hero 2.0 seat, 5 mm deck padding, x tackle tray slots, paddle port and protected transducer port, all for around $1,600. Oak Tree Outfitters, 804.815.4669. www.oaktreeoutfitters.net

13. Wilderness Systems

  New from is the Targa 100, a 10’ long, 32” wide kayak that weighs 62 pounds with a 325 pound capacity. This kayak has an innovative, integrated rear deck cooler, a sling style seat, removable bow hood cover to keep gear dry, plus heel pad.

Appomattox River Company  (434) 392-6645. www.paddleva.com.

14. Gheenoe

  This Titusville, Florida manufacturer has been creating their unique boats for over 40 years. There are five models available from 13 to 18’.

  The 120-pound Gheenoe’s, the 13’ and 15’4” models are light enough to easily be put on top of a car or in the back of a truck. There are three wider and roomier Gheenoe’s, the 15’6” Classic for the fisherman who wants a little more room, and the largest Gheenoe – a 16’ and 18’ Super available with stick steering or center console. The Super is considered, by many, to be the world’s ultimate flats boat.  Gheenoe boats feature fiberglass construction and a flared gunnel design that offers anglers a stable platform. The 13’ long model is over three and a half feet at the beam and weighs145 pounds. It sports a 15-inch transom for short shaft motors up to five horsepower. This Gheenoe is small enough to get into the tightest fishing holes or the remotest of duck ponds with a 412 capacity rating. Wilcox Bait & Tackle, 757.595.5537.

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