Budget vs Premium Fishing Kayak: What's the Difference?

Budget vs Premium Fishing Kayak: What's the Difference?

Trevor Thomson
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Warning! Saving money upfront will not give you long term joy!! There are big differences between buying a budget vs premium fishing kayak.

My name is Trevor Thomson and I’ve been kayak fishing since 2017. My passion for fishing led me into the rabbit hole of kayak angling because of all the immense opportunities, locations, species, and tranquility on the water that kayak fishing offers. For me, it's the most enjoyable time outdoors!

Saving money is good -- we all love to no matter the circumstance. But when it comes to purchasing a kayak specific for angling, saving a buck is simply not worth it.

My preferred kayak fishing boat is anything from Jackson kayak. I have a few of them for different types of angling opportunities. Let me tell you, I have put them to the test in more ways than one.

Premium kayaks give you that premium quality, so if you’re looking to do some DIY to them, they tend to be much easier to work on than a budget kayak.

They have multiple attachment points. There’s also plenty of online forums, blogs, and social media pages to learn about how other anglers are rigging up their boats, transporting them, and most importantly, hitting the water with them!



Why Buy from a Professional Kayak Fishing Retailer

trevor thomson kayak fishing

I can almost guarantee that 9 out of 10 people who make the choice to buy a kayak for fishing, aren’t going to be taking any paddling courses, and that’s fine, you don’t have to in order to get out on your favourite pond and fish for trout, walleye, etc.

But what you need to know about kayak fishing for the first time is important -- you'll always get this information from a premium retailer like Aquabatics. 

Unlike box stores, the staff at Aquabatics are paddlers. This is what they know. They will gear you up, give you insight on what to keep in mind, provide you with all the necessary safety gear required by law, and give you the support you need before getting onto the water. 

Experience usually doesn’t come free, but Aquabatics will provide you with plenty! And support you after your purchase. The trade off is spending a bit more on a premium boat.


Differences Between Budget and Premium Kayaks

Budget kayaks are typically purchased from big box stores like Canadian Tire, Walmart, Costco, etc. I won’t single out brands, but if you've done any looking, you’ve seen them. The price point is super attractive and they usually come with all necessary accessories to go directly from store to water without stopping in between.

Honestly, that's great -- who doesn't like one stop shopping! The problem is long term enjoyment out of the investment. With a budget fishing kayak, you'll likely have to upgrade year after year. 

A premium angling kayak is usually loaded with features, from gear track, to in-hull specialty storage, etc, etc…. If you can think of a need you may have, it is either on it already or can be added with another premium accessory.

Each premium manufacturer has their own little niche that really compliments each angler's preferred needs. A lot of boats come with gear track, whether they are premium or not. The difference is quality of track and solid mounting points for your accessories.

On-deck storage with pad eyes, hooks and bungees to secure your dry bag or other gear is a great option to have, and the majority of your higher end builders supply these. Honestly, the difference list can go on and on. But to narrow it down for you, here is a short list of things that stand out between premium and entry-level/ budget fishing kayaks.


Premium Fishing Kayak Features 



premium fishing kayak seat

First and foremost, one of the easiest things to spot on a premium boat is the quality of the seat.

Most seats are large and very comfortable. They are a high back design and built to hold various body sizes, weights, and contours. They're comfy enough to spend several hours on the water fishing and usually offer addition features for those who may have ailing issues and require lumbar supports, additional padding etc. 


Deck Padding

premium fishing kayak deck padding

Angling kayaks nowadays are made quite large and robust. They're designed not only for a seated angler position, but for people to stand and site fish. The addition of deck padding is quite standard on most premium boats.

Deck padding serves a few purposes: noise reduction when placing items in the boat, comfort on your feet while standing, and additional traction when the deck may be wet and your sight casting. Definitely a nice feature to avoid any unnecessary swimming excursions!



premium fishing kayak plastic

For the most part, whether it’s premium or pelican, fishing kayaks are made from plastic. We all have had experience in using something plastic at one point in our life. And I’m sure we have all had positive ad negative experiences with plastics.

Being in a kayak, on the water fishing either on a freshwater body of water, moving river or creek, or even offshore is no place to have a negative plastic experience!

Premium angling kayaks are primarily made of a rotomolded plastic design. They are thick, well constructed, have design features built to take shock, load and abuse (within reason of course). Your premium kayak is built to last and handle any adventure you set out on. 


The Store

aq outdoors premium fishing kayak

Premium angling kayaks are usually more expensive at the beginning. You typically will not find these high-quality, high-performance boats in your big box stores.

Premium kayaks are most readily available at your premium stores, like AQ Outdoors Aquabatics. When premium meets premium, you get premium sales, service, advice, oh…..and premium accessories too for you needs. Items like life jackets, paddles, dry suits, etc. All investments that will pay off every time you push off from shore! When you have time carved out for fishing, the last thing you want to worry about is your gear.


Other Thoughts to Consider

If your goal is just to simply get out only a few times a year on a small pond, or a short river float, then it can be understandable why the investment of a premium kayak may not fit your budget, and honestly, that’s OK. I would rather see more folks out on the water enjoying themselves, than sitting at home because they feel they cannot afford a premium boat.

Be diligent though, this is a real investment and you don’t want your large kayak purchase to be a negative one because you rushed out and just bought what was available. 

But...if you find yourself adventuring more and more in your box store boat and are looking to upgrade, go premium! Or, if you want to save yourself the hassle right off the bat, head to AQ Outdoors to get setup properly the first time.


How to Buy a Premium Fishing Kayak

Make a list of your wants and needs on the kayak, take into consideration where you typically fish, species, and your current transporting options. No one wants to buy a fishing kayak and then say...how do I get this to the water now...? 

One of the biggest recommendations I can offer to you as a AQ Outdoors Ambassador is take the opportunity to explore demo days (when we are pandemic-free of course). Whether you're looking at a fishing kayak from Aquabatics, or other premium retailers, reach out and find what options are available to you.

Perhaps demo days are coming up, or there may be rental options, or just go in and chat with the staff to see if they can make any club or social media group recommendations for you to reach out to fellow anglers.


Learning from Other Kayak Fishers

Lots of groups do impromptu meetups and it’s always great to see new faces out at launch points. Even if it’s just to chat up a member and ask them about their boat, where they purchased it, what they like/dislike, anything and everything. 

I can almost guarantee you, info like this you won’t find at your pelican retailer….just sayin’

We all can’t afford to go premium always, and wherever we can save our hard earned money on a large purchase, I wouldn’t hold that against anyone. But if you want and can swing it, don’t look anywhere else but at premium manufactured angling kayaks. You won’t be disappointed. 

Jackson Bite Angler Kayak

Jackson Bite Angler Kayak


The Jackson Bite Angler Kayak has extra seat padding, seat security clips, MOLLE panel for ease of customization. The Jackson Bite Angler Kayak's easy accessible tackle storage located along the gunnels provides a convenient spot for stashing tackle boxes, and rod stagers… Read More

Shop Fishing Kayak Collection


Trevor Thomson

WCKFT Trail Director

Aquabatics Ambassador (Edm, AB, CAN)

Jackson Kayak Regional Fishing Team Member

Armoured Custom Rods Pro Staff

Related Kayak Fishing Articles

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AQ Outdoors Contact

Edmonton:  (p) 780 463-4892 (e) info@aquabaticsedmonton.com

Calgary:  (p) 403 288-9283  (e)  info@aqoutdoors.com

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