Best River Fishing Kayak

Best River Fishing Kayak Comparison Chart

Best for
Max Capacity
Storage Options
Bottom line
Best Overall
Perception Outlaw 11.5
Slow-moving rivers, lakes, ponds, and calm coastal
77 lbs
11 ft 6 inches
35 inches
425 lbs
Large bow and stern tank wells
Molded-in trays
Cup holders
3 solo mount recesses
2 double barrel rod holders
2 gear tracks/side handles
Offers plenty of storage, side handles are multipurpose, allows stand-up position, has a wide-open deck, is customizable, tracks well, is comfortable, solid, and affordable
Versatile, incredibly stable, has plenty of storage options, and has all the extras you need for a safe and comfortable ride on the river.
Best Bang for the Buck
Perception Pescador 12
Slow-moving rivers and streams, lakes and ponds, and calm coastal waters
64 lbs
12 ft
32.5 inches
375 lbs
Front hatch
Rear tank well with bungee
Drink holder
2 gear tracks
2 molded-in rod holders
Molded-in solo mount recesses
Paddle holder
Has ample storage, is stable, customizable, comfortable, tracks well, is durable, affordable, lightweight, and easy to transport
Shallow rod holders
This kayak is versatile, lightweight, and easy to transport with ample storage at a price that’s hard to beat.
Best River Kayak Pedal Drive
Perception Pescador Pilot 12
Slow-moving rivers, flat-water lakes, ponds, and coastal waters with light waves
85 lbs
12 ft 5 inches
33.75 inches
475 lbs
Mounting point
Large rear with bungee cord
Front storage with stretch-mesh bow cover
4 molded-in rod holders
2 gear tracks
Paddle storage
Shallow recesses
Drink holders
2 storage slots
Adjustable and comfortable seat, customizable, can get you to your destination faster, very stable, and has ample storage
Rod holders are too wide and shallow
If you’re looking for a pedal fishing kayak that offers ample storage, versatility, and stability for slow-moving rivers, then this is a great choice.
Old Town Topwater 120
Slow-moving river and flatwater
82 lbs
12 ft
33.5 inches
500 lbs
Universal transducer mount
Stern tank well
3 rod holders
Horizontal rod storage
Tackle storage
Dry storage
2 gear tracks
Very stable, comfortable seat, lots of storage, large weight capacity, superb durability, and moves well on the water
A bit heavy
With its impressive capacity, stability, durability, comfort, and storage, this is no doubt one of the best kayak for rivers.
Old Town Topwater 106 PDL
Slow rivers and lakes
105 lbs
10 ft 6 inches
36 inches
450 lbs
Universal transducer mount
Stern tank well with bungee cords
Rod and tackle storage
3 flush mount rod holders
Cup holder
Front dry hatch
Easy to maneuver, ultra-stable, has lots of storage spaces, comfortable and adjustable seat, compact, and well-made
A pedal fishing kayak with loads of storage, stability, great maneuverability, durability, and comfort in a surprisingly compact size.

Kayak fishing in flowing rivers isn’t exactly for beginners. With currents and wind, narrower channels, and underwater obstructions, it takes a specific set of skills and know-how to fish successfully in a river. More than that, you’ll also need a specialized river fishing kayak that can handle the ever-changing variables you’ll usually encounter in this type of water. 

Problem is, with so many fishing kayaks in the market, it can be difficult to find the ones for river use. It gets even harder if you don’t know what to look for. So to help you out, we’ve come up with a guide on how to find the best river kayaks. We have also put together a list of the top 5 kayaks for the river to make your search easier.

Take note, the kayaks we have listed are ideal for slow and flowing rivers only. This includes rivers in Class I where there’s a fast-moving current with small waves and few obstructions that you can easily avoid; and Class II where there are straightforward rapids and open channels, and where trained paddlers can avoid rocks and medium-sized waves.  

How We Chose the Best Fishing Kayak for Rivers?

We first searched for all the top and best-selling river fishing kayaks on the leading online marketplace in the country: Amazon. After hours and hours of research, we were able to determine what was available in the market. We then put together a shortlist of all those we liked and those most recommended by river anglers. 

From there, we analyzed each kayak on our list and compared them against each other. We looked at their features, quality, value for money, and overall functionality in the river. We also considered each product’s advantages and disadvantages. Once we’ve seen everything, we discussed among ourselves which kayaks to include and which ones to drop. After much consideration, we were then able to cut down our list to only the 5 best kayaks for rivers. 

That said, all the products you see below are carefully chosen and are guaranteed to be the best kayaks that will keep you safe and help you successfully catch fish in the river. 

Top 5 Best Kayak for Fishing Rivers

Why we love it: 

  • Plenty of storage
  • Side handles double as gear tracks
  • Very stable
  • Has a wide-open deck
  • Solid and durable

What it is best for:

  • Slow-moving rivers, lakes, ponds, and calm coastal

Our top choice for the best kayak for river is the Perception Outlaw 11.5. It is solid, stable, and comfortable with its elevated seating that you can fold and remove if you want. You can even put a 35-liter cooler in its place and use it as a seat. Plus, its deck is incredibly wide, providing you with a lot of room to move and walk on. 

We also like that this kayak is extremely customizable. It has several unique attachment points, so you can rig and DIY it however you want. It also has 2 double-barrel rod holders, a transducer scupper for fish finders, and side handles that double as gear tracks. 

The Perception Outlaw 11.5 is just the right size for small to extra-large paddlers. It’s also short enough, making it easy to handle and turn. Aside from that, it offers a lot of space to store your gear. It has large front and rear tank wells that can fit a crate and fishing gear. Plus, it has molded-in trays, cup holders, and a mesh cover with a paddle park over the front storage area. 


  • ZCustomizable
  • ZAllows stand-up position
  • ZTracks well
  • ZComfortable
  • ZAffordable


  • QSlow

Why we love it: 

  • Easy to carry and transport
  • Customizable
  • Comfortable
  • Stable

What it is best for:

  • Slow-moving rivers and streams; lakes, ponds, and coastal waters with light waves

Our next pick for the best kayak for river fishing is the Perception Pescador 12. It is one of the most popular choices for anglers and paddlers for plenty of reasons. For one, its longer length makes it faster on the water while adding more storage space and comfort. At the same time, it’s short enough to remain maneuverable. Compared to many hardshell fishing kayaks, it’s also surprisingly lightweight. Thus, making it easier to transport and store. 

We also like that this kayak has ample storage. It has a rear open tank well with bungee lashing where you can put in a cooler, fishing crate, and other fishing gear. Plus, it has a dry front storage compartment for your other important items. 

Overall, the Perception Pescador 12 is a fishing-ready kayak. It has 2 molded-in rod holders and gear tracks for accessorizing. It’s also comfortable with plenty of legroom and thick ventilated seat padding, plus an adjustable seatback. On top of that, it’s affordable. In fact, it’s the cheapest kayak on our list. 


  • ZTracks well
  • ZDurable
  • ZAffordable
  • ZLightweight


  • QShallow rod holders

Why we love it: 

  • Comfortable and adjustable seat
  • Ample storage
  • A lightweight and removable pedal system

What it is best for:

  • Slow-moving rivers, flat-water lakes, ponds, and coastal waters with light waves

The Perception Pescador Pilot 12 is our next pick for the best kayak for rivers and lakes. It has a pedal system, so you can get to your destination faster. It’s also lightweight and removable. You can take it out whenever you want. 

You’ll find that the Perception Pescador Piot 12 offers the perfect platform for fishing. It’s extremely stable, you can even cast from it in a standing position. It’s spacious, too, with accessory mounts and 2 gear tracks. So you can rig it for the river.

If you’ve been wanting to try out a pedal drive kayak in a slow-moving river without burning a hole in your pocket, then the Perception Pescador Pilot 12 is a great choice. It even comes with enough storage for all your fishing gear with its large rear tank well with a bungee cord, front storage with a stretch-mesh bow cover, drink holders, storage slots on either side of the seat, and shallow recesses where you can put your small items like baits, weights, and pliers.


  • ZCustomizable
  • ZCan get you to your destination faster
  • ZStable


  • QRod holders are too wide and shallow

Why we love it: 

  • Very stable
  • Comfortable seat
  • Lots of storage

What it is best for:

  • Slow-moving river and flatwater

What’s great about the Old Town Topwater 120 is that it’s packed with features that can help improve your game and make your fishing experience more comfortable. It has 3 rod holders, tackle storage, a universal transducer mount, and additional storage for your rods. You can also customize it with its 2 gear tracks. 

With this kayak, you can take all the gear you need for river fishing. It has a stern tank well and dry storage. Plus, it has an impressive hull capacity of 500 lbs. Not only that, it’s extremely comfortable with its breathable seat, which by the way, you can also set into a high or low position. 

The Old Town Topwater 120 is durable and extremely stable. It’s so stable that you can stand on it all day without a problem. It even has EVA foam deck pads for extra traction. Most of all, it’s very sturdy and great for river fishing. 


  • ZMoves well on the water
  • ZSuper durability
  • ZLarge weight capacity


  • QA bit heavy

Why we love it: 

  • Ultra-stable
  • Has lots of storage spaces
  • Well-made

What it is best for:

  • Slow rivers and lakes

If you’re looking for a shorter pedal kayak for the river, then check out the Old Town Topwater 106 PDL. Measuring only 10’6” long, it’s compact and nimble, making it perfect on the river. Furthermore, it is easy to maneuver and features an easy-to-use pedal drive, allowing you to go forward and reverse easily. 

While this kayak is short, it surprisingly offers lots of storage space for all your gear. It has a stern tank well with bungee cords, rod and tackle storage, a cup holder, and a front dry hatch. It also has a universal transducer mount and 3 flush mount rod holders. 

The Old Town Topwater 106 PDL is extremely comfortable, too. It is equipped with a beach-style seat that’s adjustable and breathable. Moreover, with its stability and exceptional load capacity, it offers the perfect platform for fishing.


  • ZEasy to maneuver
  • ZComfortable and adjustable seat
  • ZCompact
  • ZAllows stand-up fishing


  • QHeavy

What to Look For When Choosing the Best River Fishing Kayaks?

There are specific features that a kayak needs to have to make sure it can handle any situation that a river can put you in. To help you understand why they matter and what exactly these features are, here’s a guide on what you need to look for in a fishing kayak river model. 


The first thing you have to look for is the length as this will give you an idea of the boat’s maneuverability. See, when fishing in a river, you’ll encounter rapids and narrow courses. So you’ll need a kayak that moves and turns well. This will allow you to stay mobile, make tighter corners, and avoid obstacles better. 

Generally, the shorter the kayak is, the easier it will be to maneuver. This makes it ideal for small spaces and narrower rivers and streams. Its shorter length also makes it lighter. Thus, easier to transport, store, and launch from uneven and steep terrain, which is common in many riverbanks.

Fishing kayaks are usually 10 to 14 feet long. Now, there’s no definitive definition of the exact length of a short or long kayak. However, for most experts, kayaks 12 ft and under are considered short, and those above that are deemed long. 


Stability is key in any type of fishing kayak. When you are casting lines, you’re causing movements in your vessel. So if it’s too narrow, then it’s more likely to flip over. You’ll also need enough stability to be able to move around and access your gear or even stand up while casting or reeling in a fish. 

So how will you know if a kayak is stable? Well, through its width. See, the wider the kayak is, the more stability it has on the water. The trade-off is that it becomes slower. But in windier and fast-moving water, you’ll find that a nimble and stable kayak is much better than a faster one.

Aside from the width, the hull shape also plays a huge role in a kayak’s stability. A flat, multi-chined hull provides better secondary stability or the ability of a kayak to stay stable when tipped on its side. This is important in river fishing as this will make it easier for you when edging into tight turns. 


Another important factor you should look into is weight. Since you’ll often launch and land on steeper and less accessible riverbanks when river fishing, you’ll need a kayak that you won’t have trouble handling and carrying. You should also consider how you will transport it. Will you be hoisting it on top of your car or do you need to buy a trailer just to move it?

That said, make sure to check the weight and think about whether or not you can lift it and move it into the water on your own. 

Weight Capacity

When you’re out in a river, you want to make sure that you have a kayak that can fully support your weight as well as the gear you’re hauling along. Aside from that, you should also consider the weight of your catch if you’re planning to take it home. 

Now, you can easily check a kayak’s weight capacity. However, keep in mind that not all of it is usable. This is because as you near the max limit, the harder it will be to paddle. Its stability will also be affected, so there’s a much higher risk of you capsizing. That said, never exceed 70% of a kayak’s rated weight capacity. For instance, if the max limit is 500 lbs, make sure not to go over 350 lbs. 


Getting a shorter and lightweight fishing kayak should not mean less comfort. Since you’ll be in the water for hours, you’ll need a boat where you can be comfortable in. To ensure this, look for those with adjustable seats. Ideally, you should be able to set it in a higher position when you’re in calm water. But when there’s current, you’ll need to drop that seat. 

Additionally, you should make sure that the seat is well-ventilated and breathable, so you can stay dry while paddling. It also needs to provide you with just enough support to avoid aches in your tush and back later on. Aside from that, you should make sure there’s enough legroom and deck space if you’re planning to stand on it. 


Fishing kayaks can be propelled either with a paddle or pedal drive. However, when it comes to river fishing, a paddle kayak is still the best way to go, especially in rivers with currents, rapids, and shallow spots. It’s also the quietest, simplest, and lightest option. Not to mention the cheapest. 

Now, if you are fishing in rivers that do not present too much difficulty in terms of obstructions or navigation, then a pedal sit-on-top kayak is a good choice as well.

By the way, some paddle kayaks can be added with a pedal or trolling motor later on. So you may want to consider that as well. 

Storage Options

You will also need to consider where you’ll store all the fishing and kayaking gear you’re planning to take with you. If you’re going on overnight trips, then you’ll need more space for your camping gear. 

Usually, the best kayaks for the river will have dry storage or hatches to keep all your important items safe in case you tip over. There should also be enough storage space in the front and/or back with bungee cables to keep your other gear secured. 

Other storage options that you’ll find useful in the river are rod holders and paddle parks where you can stow your paddles and fishing rods while fishing or paddling. Mounting points or gear tracks can come in handy as well if you’re planning to rig or customize your ride. They will allow you to add more rod holders, GPS, fish finder, and other accessories. 

For river fishing, you should make sure that you can keep all your gear secured. Since things can quickly get out of control when you’re in moving water, it’s easy to lose your things if they are not secured properly to your kayak. You should also keep in mind your boat’s weight capacity as you don’t want to overload it, especially in a river.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: What is the best size river kayak?

A: The best size river kayak is 10 ft to 12 ft long. This is because shorter kayaks are easier to handle, and maneuver, and they make turns quicker. They are also lighter and easier to launch in uneven and steep terrain, which is pretty common in many riverbanks.

Q: Is a longer or shorter kayak better?

A: A longer or shorter kayak is better depending on what type of water you are planning to fish in. For rivers where you’ll encounter tight corners and underwater obstacles, you’ll need a shorter kayak as it will be easier to maneuver and make turns better. On the other hand, for wide and open bodies of water, a longer kayak is a better choice as it will be faster.