Updated on May 28, 2020

Kayak fishing is typically very safe, but as with all water sports, it’s your responsibility to yourself and your loved ones to always wear a personal flotation device (PFD). With so many to choose from, it can be difficult to find the best kayak fishing PFD.

PFDs are available to suit a wide variety of sizes, budgets and performance options in an assortment of materials, buoyancies, and weights. Simple design features can sometimes make or break your kayak fishing experience.

Here at The Adventure Junkies, we’ve done the research to help you choose a PFD that fits your body and your budget in order to ensure your day on the water is a successful one. A proper PFD choice will save your life in an emergency and fit comfortably when you’re simply reeling in the big ones.

For more of our top kayak fishing gear recommendations, check out the Best Kayak Paddles for Fishing.

 

Quick Answer - The Best Kayak Fishing PFDs

  1. Stohlquist Fisherman
  2. NRS Chinook
  3. Astral Ronny
  4. Stohlquist Ebb
  5. MTI Adventurewear Helios 2.0
  6. MTI Solaris
  7. ONYX MoveVent Curve
  8. Stohlquist Contour
  9. ONYX Kayak Fishing
  10. ONYX MoveVent Dynamic

 

Comparison Table - Best Kayak Fishing PFDs

PictureNameBest UseBuoyancyMaterialPriceRating
Stohlquist FishermanStohlquist FishermanOverall16.8 lbs.500 denier cordura shell, 200 denier oxford liner, and eco-conscious Gaia foam$$$4.5
NRS ChinookNRS ChinookOverall16.5 lbs.200 denier urethane-coated ripstop nylon$$$4.7
Astral RonnyAstral RonnyLightweight16.0 lbs.200 x 400 denier ripstop nylon outer, 200 denier nylon liner, polyethylene foam$$$4.7
Stohlquist EbbStohlquist EbbLightweight16.1 lbs.200 X 400 denier ripstop outer shell and soft 210 denier inner liner, polyethylene foam$$4.4
MTI Adventurewear Helios 2.0MTI Adventurewear Helios 2.0Inflatable26.0 lbs.Polyester/Oxford nylon; inflatable bladder$$$5.0
MTI SolarisOverall17.2 lbs.Ripstop nylon & closed cell foam$$4.3
ONYX MoveVent CurveLightweight15.0 lbs.200 denier nylon outer shell, soft, lightweight flotation foam$$4.7
Stohlquist ContourInflatable22.5 lbs.240 denier mini-ripstop shell, 210 denier oxford liner$$5.0
ONYX Kayak FishingBudget15.0 lbs.400 denier nylon oxford$4.8
ONYX MoveVent DynamicBudget15.0 lbs.200 denier nylon ripstop and nylon oxford$4.7
PictureNameBest UseBuoyancyMaterialPriceRating

Reviews - The Best PFDs for Kayak Fishing

Stohlquist Fisherman

Specs
  • Best Use: Overall
  • Buoyancy: 16.8 lbs.
  • Material: 500 denier cordura shell, 200 denier oxford liner, and eco-conscious Gaia foam
Features
  • Open sides for ventilation
  • High back
  • Adjustable shoulder and side straps
  • Gear storage
  • Anchor points
  • Front-zip entry
  • Padded neoprene shoulders
Stohlquist Fisherman

BEST FOR ALL AROUND KAYAK FISHING

MOBILITY: Offers good shoulder mobility but leaves more to be desired ergonomically

PROS: Comfortable, well-ventilated, plenty of gear storage

CONS: Drop-down platforms not ideally located

NRS Chinook

Specs
  • Best Use: Overall
  • Buoyancy: 16.5 lbs.
  • Material: 200 denier urethane-coated ripstop nylon
Features
  • Front-zip entry
  • Ventilated high back
  • Seven adjustment points
  • Key lanyard in front pocket
  • Rod holder loops
  • Retractable tool clip
  • Fly drying patch
  • D-rings
NRS Chinook

BEST FOR COMFORT AND UTILITY WHILE FISHING

MOBILITY: Seven adjustment points make this the most adjustable PFD

PROS: Comfort, adjustability, unique rod holder loops

CONS: Lacks drop-down platforms

Astral Ronny


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Best Use: Lightweight
  • Buoyancy: 16.0 lbs.
  • Material: 200 x 400 denier ripstop nylon outer, 200 denier nylon liner, polyethylene foam
Features
  • Reflective trim
  • Beverage pocket
  • Six adjustment points (2 side
  • 2 shoulder
  • 1 waist)
  • Quick-access knife tab
  • Lightweight construction
  • Front-zip entry
Astral Ronny

BEST FOR CASUAL FISHING

MOBILITY: Good shoulder mobility, but ½ inch foam back pad is bulkier than a mesh back

PROS: Lightweight, durable polyethylene foam, minimal design, perfect for casual fisherman, reflective trim

CONS: Bulky in chest, moderately comfortable, lacks fishing-specific features

Stohlquist Ebb


View Women's Version
Specs
  • Best Use: Lightweight
  • Buoyancy: 16.1 lbs.
  • Material: 200 X 400 denier ripstop outer shell and soft 210 denier inner liner, polyethylene foam
Features
  • Cross-chest cinch
  • High-back
  • Lightweight
  • Open sides
  • Front-zip non-corroding entry
  • 4-way lash tabs
  • Self-draining pockets
Stohlquist Ebb

BEST FOR COMFORT AND COOLNESS IN SIT-ON-TOP KAYAKS

MOBILITY: Good shoulder mobility, high back

PROS: Cross-chest cinch, self-draining pockets

CONS: Slightly heavy at 1 lb. 6.4 oz, lacks fishing-specific features

MTI Adventurewear Helios 2.0

Specs
  • Best Use: Inflatable
  • Buoyancy: 26.0 lbs.
  • Material: Polyester/Oxford nylon; inflatable bladder
Features
  • Backup oral inflation tube
  • Reflective trim
  • Tethered whistle
  • Reflective trim
  • Zippered front storage pocket
MTI Adventurewear Helios 2.0

BEST FOR KAYAKING IN HOT WEATHER

MOBILITY: Yoke style construction offers the best mobility

PROS: Low profile, lightweight, high buoyancy, mobility

CONS: Price, lacks fishing-specific features, requires manual inflation

MTI Solaris

Specs
  • Best Use: Overall
  • Buoyancy: 17.2 lbs.
  • Material: Ripstop nylon & closed cell foam
Features
  • Gear storage
  • Drop-down “fishing bridge” for tying flies and changing lures
  • “Fishing bay” – an elastic tackle box holder
  • D-rings
  • Hat loop
  • Pin-on retractor holder
  • Lash tabs
  • Zippered cargo pockets

BEST FOR GEAR STORAGE AND LURE CHANGING

MOBILITY: High mesh back and open sides allow for high mobility

PROS: Gear organizing features, high buoyancy for heavier fisherman

CONS: Pockets, D-rings, tabs subject to snagging

ONYX MoveVent Curve

Specs
  • Best Use: Lightweight
  • Buoyancy: 15.0 lbs.
  • Material: 200 denier nylon outer shell, soft, lightweight flotation foam
Features
  • Shoulder and side adjustments
  • Mesh in lower back
  • Solar reflective

BEST FOR LONG DISTANCE PADDLING AND HOT SUMMER DAYS

MOBILITY: Fits like a glove, amazing mobility

PROS: Lightweight, comfortable, relatively inexpensive

CONS: Lacks fishing-specific features

Stohlquist Contour

Specs
  • Best Use: Inflatable
  • Buoyancy: 22.5 lbs.
  • Material: 240 denier mini-ripstop shell, 210 denier oxford liner
Features
  • Manual/oral inflation option
  • Adjustable waist belt (up to 46”)
  • Adjustable neck strap
  • Zippered pocket

BEST FOR MAXIMAL MOBILITY

MOBILITY: Highest mobility, low profile design

PROS: Low profile, highly buoyant

CONS: Requires manual inflation

ONYX Kayak Fishing

Specs
  • Best Use: Budget
  • Buoyancy: 15.0 lbs.
  • Material: 400 denier nylon oxford
Features
  • Zippered fleece-lined pockets
  • Opening in top of pockets for quick access
  • Lash tab
  • Six adjustment straps
  • High back
  • One-push drop-down tray

BEST FOR UTILITY ON A BUDGET

MOBILITY: Sufficient mobility for arms and shoulders

PROS: Best value vest

CONS: Least buoyant vest, lower quality construction

ONYX MoveVent Dynamic

Specs
  • Best Use: Budget
  • Buoyancy: 15.0 lbs.
  • Material: 200 denier nylon ripstop and nylon oxford
Features
  • High back
  • Low mesh back
  • Shoulder and waist adjustments
  • Unique bubble foam
  • Zippered pocket
  • Emergency whistle

BEST FOR ATHLETIC PADDLERS

MOBILITY: High mobility for arms and shoulders, moderately bulky

PROS: Price, comfort, fits like a glove for athletic, dynamic paddling

CONS: Offers little storage

 

 

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST KAYAK FISHING PFDS

PURPOSE

It’s important to ask yourself what type of fisherman you are. Do you have a checklist of fish you want to catch or places you want to visit for fishing? Are you more of a casual fisherman, interested in how far you have to reach for your beverage, instead of how many lures your can pack into your pockets?

It’s also important to know how tall your kayak seat back is while deciding what type of PFD back (high, low, mesh, foam, etc.) you need. If you don’t know or remember what type of kayak you have, review this kayak buying guide from Paddling.com.

Are you new to the sport?If so, have a look at our Beginner’s Guide to Kayak Safety and Paddling Techniques.

 

MATERIAL

Most PFDs are made of various types of nylon for its mildew resistant properties. Some are simply nylon, some are coated, others are ripstop, which can greatly extend the life of a vest. Consider what type of climate you mainly fish in, and you’ll be able to decide if a mesh back is important to you, or if you’d prefer to have fleece-lined pockets, etc.

 

MOBILITY

Mobility is one of the most important things to consider when choosing a kayak fishing PFD. Casting, reeling, and fighting fish all require that the shoulders and arms can move freely. Adjustable straps are typically high on the kayak fisherman’s priorities, because there is nothing worse than being on a beautiful lake for hours, uncomfortable the entire time. There are five main types of PFDs, all differing in comfort and mobility.

 

FEATURES

This is where things start to get interesting! Think about how much gear you typically take on a fishing trip, and how you like to use it. Do you prefer to have a set of pliers hanging from your vest to easily remove a hook from a fish’s mouth? Do you fish in a location subject to strong winds and need a hat loop so your hat won’t blow away? PFDs are available with (or without) almost any fishing-specific feature you could think of.

 

BUOYANCY

According to REI, the average person only needs 7 to 12 lbs. of buoyancy, which is the United States Coast Guard minimum. Body fat also helps to keep you afloat, so the more body fat you have, the less buoyancy you need in a PFD.

 

WEIGHT

Some people prefer a lightweight PFD, even at the expense of fishing-specific features. If you’re not too concerned with the weight, a heavier PFD with more features may be perfect for you.

READ MORE

For more of our top kayak fishing gear recommendations, check out these popular articles:

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