Kayakers who enjoy fishing need to protect themselves with the right gear. A life vest is one of the most critical pieces of equipment for a kayak angler. In this article, we will explore the best kayak fishing life vests and discuss the pros and cons of each.
A good quality fishing life vest will have enough room to cast but fit snugly so that you will be protected if you end up in the water. A fishing life jacket combines the safety of a personal flotation device (PFD) with functionality, including pockets for fishing gear.
There are many great life jackets for kayak fishing, and we will help you narrow down the choices so you can select the perfect one.
If you are in a hurry, check out the top 3 picks:
Best Kayak Fishing Life Vest
Finding a life vest that fits well and is comfortable is essential. It should be lightweight and give you a range of motion, so it doesn’t interfere with casting and catching fish. Next, we will help you narrow the choices to find the best PFD for kayak fishing.
- Six adjustment straps to cinch vest up for a snug fit
- High foam back accommodates high back seats
- Pockets designed for your essential gear
- Breathable mesh lower back
- Comfortable neoprene shoulder pads
If you’re planning on spending time kayak fishing, it’s a good idea to invest in a quality life jacket. This is not only for safety reasons but also because they make fishing more comfortable.
You will need a life vest that works well for paddling and for fishing.
The Onyx Kayak Fishing Life Jacket is designed with six adjustment straps, making it easy to get the right fit. Your life jacket must be a good fit. If you end up in the water, you don’t want to lose your life vest over your head.
With the Onyx Kayak Fishing Life Jacket, there are straps for the shoulders, chest, and around the belly, so you can get the right fit for your body.
What good is a fishing life jacket without pockets for lures and other gear? This vest has a variety of pockets, so all your fishing gear will be easily accessible.
The jacket is designed with four different pockets, including a drop-down pocket perfect for a small tackle box.
It also has breathable mesh lower back panels which will keep you cool and comfy even when the day gets warm, and neoprene shoulder pads for a comfortable fit.
The Onyx Fishing Vest is available in two sizes, Universal (for anglers up to 90 pounds) and another model for anyone over 90 pounds.
Onyx is tough to beat if you are in the market for a well-designed kayak fishing life vest.
US Coast Guard approved
Breathable mesh back
High back foam
Multiple attachment points for gear
Easy to adjust
Gear can fall out of the drop-down pocket
Only one color is available
- Old Town's Lure Angler Men's Life Jacket is designed with the performance kayak...
- Made from tough ripstop nylon, the Lure Angler features adjustable shoulder, waist,...
- Designed to carry a lot of gear, the Lure Angler features zippered pockets for secure...
- The Lure Angler's AirComfort System provides unmatched breathability, keeping you...
- This life jacket fits a men's 48-inch to 54-inch chest and is a USCG certified Type...
The Old Town Lure Angler Men’s PFD is an impressive kayak fishing life vest. It is designed to meet the demands of high-performance kayak anglers.
This life vest is made from durable ripstop nylon and will last season after season without breaking down or wearing out like other brands.
This Life Vest from Old Town is a great choice, as it features adjustable shoulder, waist, and side straps for a comfortable fit. The life vest is also available in three different sizes to fit a wide range of paddlers.
The PFD’s design is excellent; you can zip it up and adjust the straps for a custom fit.
The high-back construction doesn’t interfere with tall kayak seats. In addition, the life vest has a mesh back and interior that helps improve airflow to keep you cool on warm days.
The life vest is designed to keep your fishing tackle organized, secure, and at your fingertips. There are zippered pockets for a small tackle box, stretch mesh pockets, envelope pockets, and multiple D-ring attachment points.
The front-zipper entry makes it easy to put this kayak fishing life vest on in a hurry while keeping your gear safe and secure.
It is one of the best kayak fishing life jackets because the front zipper makes it easy to get in and out of, while its mesh-lined front provides excellent ventilation during longer fishing trips. There is also plenty of pockets and attachment points for fishing tackle.
Available in multiple sizes
US Coast Guard approved Type III PFD
Mesh back and interior
High back foam
More expensive than other PFDs
- Graded Sizing creates a better, more appropriate fit for a wider range of users
- Higher mesh-back design offers increased clearance for tall seat backs
- EVA pockets act as fold-down work surfaces
- Type III PFD with sea level buoyancy of 16 lbs 4 oz
- USCG Approved
Fishing PFDs can be bulky and uncomfortable, making it hard to enjoy your time on the water.
The Stohlquist Fisherman Lifejacket is a kayak fishing life vest with some great features that set it apart from other fishing PFDs.
Have you ever wished you had a tabletop or workspace for lures and other fishing gear when kayak fishing? I know I have.
The Stohlquist life jacket solves this problem with EVA pockets that act as a fold-down work surface, giving you easy access to your fishing gear.
Integrated D rings allow you to keep a multi-tool, nippers, or other items at the ready.
One thing that Stohlquist does that is very unique has to do with how they build different sizes of life jackets. The amount of foam in the life vest is dependent on the size of the vest.
For example, a smaller life vest has less foam than a larger life jacket. This makes for a better fit for different sizes of paddlers. However, many other manufacturers use the same size foam for all the different sizes of life vests.
Stohlquist also uses a higher back mesh which is excellent for tall kayak seatbacks.
You can get a secure fit with the Stohlquist Fisherman Lifejacket. It has a zipper entry, a cross-chest strap, and adjustable (padded) shoulder straps for the right fit.
The Stohlquist Fisherman Lifejacket puts a lot of emphasis on its life vest design and is perfect if you are looking for a fishing life jacket that doesn’t hold you back.
Graded sizing for a good fit
US Coast Guard approved Type III
Fold-down pockets act as a workspace
High back foam
Front attachment point
Not as many pockets as in other models
It runs a little warmer than other PFDs
Fishing is a great way to spend time with friends and family, but finding the right life vest for kayak fishing can be tricky.
If you enjoy kayak fishing, you know how important it is to have a life vest that can accommodate all your gear.
This Lixada Fly Fishing Vest is feature-rich. It has four generous chest pockets and two mesh pockets on the sides, so you’ll always have room for any fishing tackle or equipment you need.
What sets this kayak fishing vest apart from other models is the sheer number of pockets for storing fishing gear. It even has a fishing rod holder.
There is plenty of room for fishing gear, your phone, wallet, keys, and many other accessories.
The only problem with so many storage options is you might forget where you put everything in your vest.
This lightweight PFD’s construction and durability include a breathable polyester shell, which helps keep you cool when the weather warms up. Zipper entry and adjustable shoulder and waist straps help you find the perfect fit.
Another downside of this kayak PFD is the lower pouch on the back of the life vest. This might be in the way when you are sitting down to paddle. If you are standing up while you are fishing, it’s not a problem.
From a storage perspective, this is undoubtedly one of the best kayak fishing life vests out there. It has everything you need to enjoy kayak fishing in comfort and style. But if you want something a little more streamlined, there are better options.
There are a lot of pockets
Breathable mesh back
Hanger for easy storage
Fishing rod holder
Not USCG approved
So many pockets can be overwhelming
You have to order it with foam if you want it to float
- Roomy front-entry design with full-length zipper, Mesh lower back fits great on...
- Soft PlushFIT foam flotation conforms to your body, multiple adjustment points lets...
- 2 zippered tackle pockets, 3-accessory pockets, 1-pocket sized for VHF radio
- 2 strobe holder loops, 2 knife lash tab, shoulder strap keepers and reflective...
- 16.5 lbs. design flotation, 2.15 lbs. average weight
Kayaking fishing is a fun and enjoyable activity that can be done on various waterways, including lakes, rivers, and even the ocean. However, kayakers must take precautions to stay safe while out on their boat.
Most kayakers know that a life jacket is an essential piece of gear for safe paddling. But it’s not just the life jacket you need to consider, but also how well-fitting and supportive it is.
If you are looking for a high-quality PFD for kayak fishing, consider the NRS Chinook OS Fishing Lifejacket. The NRS Chinook OS Fishing Lifejacket is an excellent option because it has plenty of storage for lures and other fishing gear.
In addition, the mesh back will provide ventilation on those hot summer days, while the durable construction will allow for years of use.
This lifejacket has a zippered entry so you can get it on and off quickly, along with adjustable shoulder and side straps that help you get a snug fit, leaving you plenty of room to cast.
When fishing in your kayak, the PFD needs to be comfortable, lightweight, and durable.
The Chinook OS Fishing Lifejacket fits all these criteria with 16.5 pounds of flotation, zippered front entry for a secure and snug fit, mesh lower-back for ventilation, and plenty of storage space with two large zip-up pockets, one small zip-up pocket, utility D-ring on the right shoulder for attachment of tools or accessories.
This PFD has a high back which, as kayakers know, is excellent for taller seatbacks.
The NRS Chinook OS is one of the best kayak fishing life vests because it is durable, fully adjustable, and has plenty of room for fishing gear without going overboard with pockets.
US Coast Guard approved Type III
VHF radio pocket
High back foam
Attachment point and plenty of zipper pockets for gear
16.5 pounds of flotation
More expensive than other PFDs
The VHF radio pocket could be a little bigger
- The Shenook is a Type III medium profile life jacket delivering 16.5 pounds of...
Yes, you read that right, “Shenook.” I wanted to include a life vest for women because …well, just because!
Kayaking is a great way to enjoy the water, and it’s even better when you’re fishing. But if you’re a woman, finding the right life jacket for kayak fishing can be difficult.
That’s why NRS has created the Women’s Shenook Fishing Lifejacket. This life vest is specifically designed with women in mind so that they can enjoy all of their favorite activities on the water.
NRS has designed this kayak fishing life vest with foam panels that reduce bulk in areas other life jackets don’t.
The PFD has a zip-up front and six adjustment points, so you can get the perfect fit, with plenty of range of motion for casting.
This life jacket has 16.5 pounds of flotation, so it works well in a variety of situations. It uses a high-back design that nests well with most tall seatbacks. One super annoying thing about many life jackets not made for kayaks is too much foam down the entire back.
Two large zipper pockets are on the front for small tackle boxes and fishing gear. In addition, there are smaller pockets for accessories that use a hook and loop.
The life vest is made of 400D ripstop nylon, so it’s durable and will last year after year.
One great feature of this fishing life vest is that it doesn’t overwhelm you with too many pockets. Although, honestly, it could probably use a couple more. Some life jackets have too many pockets, and it’s hard to remember where everything is.
The Shenook uses a streamlined design that is excellent for keeping your gear organized and ready when you need it.
From its zippered front entry and six adjustment points to its high-back design and mesh lower back, this life jacket has everything a woman needs for an enjoyable day of kayak fishing.
Designed specifically for women
16.5 pounds of flotation
Large zipper pockets for gear
High-back foam design
Easy to adjust
Not as many pockets as other life jackets
- Old Town's Treble Angler Unisex Life Jacket is designed for utility and comfort at an...
- Made from durable 200D nylon, the Treble Angler features adjustable shoulder, waist,...
- Built to carry a lot of gear, the Treble Angler features two zippered pockets for...
- The Treble Angler is a simple, lightweight unisex design that fits most sizes and is...
- This life jacket fits a 30-inch to 56-inch chest and is USCG and Transport Canada...
The Old Town Treble Angler Kayak Fishing Life Vest is the best way to paddle your kayak in comfort.
Adjusting the life vest is easy. The vest comes with adjustable shoulder, waist, and side straps. It’s easy to adjust to get the right fit for your body.
The waist strap should be tight enough to keep the vest from riding up when seated but not so tight that it restricts movement.
If you are going out on a long paddle, tighten the shoulder straps, but leave them loose enough for maximum comfort and mobility. The adjustable side straps are designed with kayakers in mind. Tighten them as needed until your PFD fits just right.
The Old Town Treble Angler also features two zippered pockets to keep your fishing gear handy during the day. It’s built to carry a lot of gear and will make your days fishing all the more enjoyable with your gear easily accessible.
This vest will last you a long time with its thick nylon design since it’s made of durable 200D nylon.
This fishing life vest is lightweight and comfortable, so you won’t be bogged down. It also has a thin back construction, so the PFD will fit nicely with various kayak seatbacks.
This is a popular life jacket because not only does it keep you safe, it’s also very affordable and has a lot of space for all of your fishing gear.
This life jacket is an excellent choice for kayak fishing because it is lightweight and comfortable, so you have nothing to hold you back from catching more fish!
If you’re looking for a life jacket for kayak fishing that is durable and functional, then the Old Town Treble Angler is an excellent option.
Lots of pockets for fishing gear
Easy to adjust
It does not have a mesh back, which might be kind of warm for some paddlers
No high-back foam
- SIZE: Universal Adult Size (Fits for the person who is less than 95kg/209lb)
- PREMIUM TEXTILE & EPE FOAM: Crafted with a premium rips top polyester shell and...
- MULTI ZIPPED POCKETS: Four generous chest pocket, four zipped front pockets, two side...
- BREATHABLE MESH: Mesh on the back and mesh fabric inside deliver high breathability.
- CONVENIENT OPEN SIDE: Open sides leave you with more room to paddle, cast or aim on...
The Amarine Made Fly Fishing Vest is a life jacket for kayak fishing. A fishing life vest with plenty of room for gear is essential without overwhelming you as a paddler.
The Amarine Fly Fishing vest delivers! It’s made with a premium ripstop polyester shell, designed to last many years and for many fishing trips.
The PFD has a zippered entry which makes getting the life jacket on and off easy. The adjustable shoulder straps help you get an excellent secure fit. Side adjustable straps give you a snug fit around the middle while leaving plenty of room for arm movement.
The life vest is equipped with pockets for all your fishing gear essentials. Included are four zippered chest pockets, two utility mesh pockets, two streamlined sleeves for fly boxes, and many other small compartments. So you’ll surely have all your fishing gear within easy reach.
The lightweight kayak PFD has a breathable mesh back and interior to help keep you cool when the weather warms up.
One feature that sets this life jacket apart from others is removing and replacing the foam if you need to.
The only downside with a fishing PFD like this is that there are so many pockets, it’s easy to get lost. Well, you won’t get lost, but your fishing gear might. But it’s better to have more pockets than too few pockets.
This is a great kayak fishing life vest with accessory loops and pockets galore. The price is quite affordable, especially considering how much it can hold. This one’s a winner.
Tons of storage space for fishing gear and whatever else you need
Breathable mesh design
Open sides give you range of motion
Sometimes too many pockets can be overwhelming
- COMFORT REDEFINED: The A/M-24 inflatable life jacket is designed with your comfort in...
- VERSATILE & RELIABLE: Whether you're fishing, boating, kayaking, SUP, canoeing, or...
- COMPACT & CONVIENENTt: This life jacket is easily inflatable by either manual or...
- UNMATCHED SAFETY: Don't compromise your safety on the water. Choose the A/M-24...
- AUTO & MANUAL MODES: AUTO MODE for boating or sailing, easily converts to MANUAL MODE...
The ONYX Manual Inflatable Life Jacket may not have room for all your fishing gear, but it is a lightweight option that will keep you afloat if you end up overboard.
If you need a life jacket that will not impede your paddling stroke or casting ability, this streamlined model may be an excellent option.
This lightweight and cool PFD give you the freedom to cast and reel in fish and won’t get in your way.
It has an adjustable strap around the waist to fit a variety of anglers. This is a solid way to go if you want a minimalist life jacket to keep you afloat.
If you need more storage pockets for fishing gear, you are better off with a different model.
Lightweight and open
Fits a variety of paddlers
No storage pockets
Needs to be manually inflated
How to Choose the Best Kayak Fishing Life Vest
There are some key features in a PFD for kayak fishing. Look for things like the number of storage pockets and whether or not the life jacket is approved by the US Coast Guard, to name a few.
Next, we will discuss what to look for in a kayak fishing PFD.
Buoyancy is vital when it comes to the best kayak fishing life vests. Buoyancy is the amount (in pounds) of weight a life jacket can support in the water. Adults need about 7-12 pounds of buoyancy to keep their heads above water.
Many things can cause your kayak to capsize and flip over when you are out on the water. For example, you might not be paying attention, or something could unexpectedly come up below your boat.
You may end up in the water with a potentially significant distance between you and your kayak. The last thing we want to happen is for the weight of our wet clothes to pull us down into deeper waters.
A life vest that provides enough buoyancy will keep you afloat, giving you more time to react or until help arrives.
When choosing a life jacket for kayak fishing, choose a PFD that will provide enough flotation for your body weight.
One of the first considerations when it comes to fishing life jackets is how much storage they have. A good quality life jacket will have a pocket on the front that can be zipped, but some have zipped pockets on the back too.
These pockets are designed for fishing gear and are really handy for also storing your mobile phone, wallets, keys, or snacks that you might want to have close at hand.
Make sure you choose a kayak fishing PFD with enough pockets for your gear, but don’t overdo it. You want to keep track of your fishing gear and not spend too much time searching all the different hiding spots.
It’s important to have the right gear when kayak fishing, and one of the most critical pieces is a lightweight life vest. The last thing you want is to drag extra weight around all day while trying to paddle, cast, and reel in fish.
It might not seem like much weight at first, but it can really wear on your body after hours in warm or cold weather.
Range of Motion
One other consideration for the life jacket is the range of motion. The best life jackets allow you to move freely while fishing.
This type of life jacket will have straps over the shoulders for even weight distribution when worn and a front zipper with a tab that you can grab while wearing wet gloves.
When you are on a kayak, you must be able to reach any equipment, including fishing rods, your net, etc. Life jackets with built-in rod holders can be a huge help as well.
Most fishing life jackets are made of nylon which is lightweight and durable. In addition, many PFDs have mesh inside and for the back, which is breathable and helps keep you cool when the weather warms up.
It’s essential to have a durable life vest to stand up to the rigors of kayak fishing and exposure to Mother Nature.
Is the Life Jacket Uscg Approved?
The US Coast Guard is the agency that approves life jackets for use in the United States. They approve PFDs based on what they are used for and how buoyant they are. Therefore, if a PFD is USCG-approved, the life vest meets the standards for its use as a life jacket.
You should wear a life jacket whenever you are on the water. Whether you are kayak fishing, leisurely paddling, etc. Regulations vary by jurisdiction, so you need to be familiar with the PFD rules before you hit the water.
Some states require you to wear a life jacket at all times. Others only require you to have one on the kayak. Keep an eye out for life jackets that are USCG-approved.
Does the Life Jacket Fit You?
A life jacket is essential equipment for kayakers who enjoy fishing. Assuming you are wearing the right size, it will provide you with buoyancy and keep your head above water if you end up overboard.
If a life jacket does not fit correctly, it won’t do any of these things well or at all. The life vest should be snug but not overly tight. You don’t want the life jacket to be too big on you. Otherwise, it might slip over your head if you are in the water.
It’s important to have a life jacket that fits you correctly.
How to Care for a Kayak Fishing PFD
Caring for a life jacket will help keep it functioning so it can do its job. If the life jacket is torn, you need to replace it as soon as you can.
When you store your life jacket, don’t just toss it in the corner of your garage, where pests might be able to make their home. Many kayak racks will have extra space where you can hang your PFD up, or you can store it in a closet in your house.
It’s important to keep your life jacket clean and get dirt, grime, salt, etc., off after each use. You can spray it off with fresh water and hang it up to dry so it’s ready to go the next time you need it.
Types of Kayak Fishing Life Jackets
Wearable life jackets are categorized by performance type, including I, II, III, and V. Where is Type IV, you might be wondering? We’ll cover that in a bit.
You can see the complete definition for each type here. Below is an overview
Type I PFD – Turns most unconscious people from a face-down position to a vertical, slightly backward position. This has the highest required inherent buoyancy (built-in flotation).
Type II PFD – This PFD is intended to turn some unconscious people from face down to a position where respiration is not impeded.
Type III PFD – This PFD is intended to keep a conscious person upright. It’s noted that this type of PFD is not required for an unconscious person from a face-down position. Many kayak fishing life vests fit into this category.
Type V PFD – Type V PFD is restricted to specific activities like commercial white water rafting.
A Type IV PFD is a throwable device and is not wearable. You can read more about Type IV PFDs here.
Foam Life Jacket vs. Inflatable
Foam kayak fishing PFD’s are inherently buoyant, meaning it is instantly buoyant. You don’t have to do anything, like pull a string (as with an inflatable) to inflate the PFD to keep your head above water. A foam PFD does all of this for you inherently.
A foam life jacket is ideal for kayak fishing because there is a lot of space for pockets to store fishing gear. Space is limited on a kayak, so having room on your life jacket for a small tackle box and other gear is very beneficial.
An inflatable PFD gives you a more lightweight and streamlined design and is much lower profile. An inflatable gives you more range of motion to cast and reel in fish but also has downsides.
The downside to an inflatable PFD is that they have to be inflated, typically by pulling a string or cord. Some PFDs inflate when they get wet, but that can be troublesome, too, if the jacket inflates when you don’t want it to.
Inflatable life jackets are not so great if you need or want pockets with a lot of storage for fishing gear and other stuff like your phone, wallet, etc.
Generally speaking, an inflatable life vest is good for range of motion and is lightweight. However, they don’t have the storage many anglers want.
One more thing to note is that once an inflatable PFD is deployed, you have to install a new CO2 cartridge (added expense) before you head out again. Plus, you need to be comfortable installing a new cartridge.
If you kayak fish, it’s important to protect yourself with a good quality vest. The best kayak fishing life vest is one that you will wear and fits you correctly.
It should have plenty of storage pockets for your gear, fit properly without restricting movement and provide adequate protection if you tip over.
Stick with the best kayak fishing life vest for your activity, and keep it accessible so you won’t hesitate to put it on when needed!
Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.