The 10 Best PFD for Kayak Fishing in 2021

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Are you going out to get some fishing action in your local lake? Don’t forget to bring your license, kayak, rod, reel, tackle, and your good old personal flotation device (PFD). Yes, wearing a PFD is one of those things that you can’t forget when going for a paddle.

It is even mandatory to wear one on some lakes, rivers, and national parks. Therefore, if you haven’t one, it is about time to get it. Don’t worry. It won’t take too long since we’ve come up with a list of the 10 best PFD for kayak fishing.

So, with no further ado, let’s get into it. 

Our Top 3

Best Budget Option

Lixada Fly Fishing Vest

4.6/5
Best Overall

Onyx Kayak Fishing Life Jacket

4.7/5
Best Premium Option

NRS Chinook Fishing Kayak PFD

4.8/5

Our Reviews – The 10 Best PFD for Kayak Fishing

4.6/5

Lixada Fly Fishing Vest

Best Budget Option

  • Available in six different colors 
  • Polyester and EPE foam construction
  • Multi zipped pockets
  • Weight (Pounds): 1.5
  • Buoyancy (Pounds): 12

The Lixada fly fishing is a multi-purpose vest for fishing. You can use it solely for fly fishing by simply removing the flotation foam. Alternatively, you can leave it on and use it as a PFD for kayaking! 

The main advantage of this PFD is its capacity. The four generous chest pockets, each one with a mesh pocket, offer plenty of storage space. But if you find yourself needing some extra space, you can always take advantage of the back zipper for extra storage. 

Keep in mind, however, that, unlike the rest, this PFD lacks the US coast guard approval

The Good
The Not-So-Good
4.7/5

Onyx Kayak Fishing Life Jacket

Best Overall

  • Zippered fleece-lined pockets
  • Six adjustable straps
  • Neoprene shoulder pads
  • Weight (Pounds): 1.35
  • Buoyancy (Pounds): 15

Simple, good-looking, and packed with features. What else you need to know? The Onyx kayak life jacket is one of the best, and more affordable, PFD you can get. 

The breathable construction is not waterproof. Still, it holds no water and gets dry in an instance. Although it is only available in two sizes, the six adjustable straps ensure a tight fit.  

The Onyx kayak PFD comes with a one-button push pocket. It is large enough to accommodate a small tackle box and some scissors. Above it, you will find three woven elastic attachment points. Use them to keep your shade close. You have a large pocket on the other side of the life jacket. 



The Good
The Not-So-Good
4.8/5

NRS Chinook Fishing Kayak Lifejacket (PFD)

Best Premium Option

  • High padded back
  • Breathable back
  • Multiple adjustment points 
  • Weight (Pounds): 1.95
  • Buoyancy (Pounds): 16.5 

Jumping into the expensive size, we find the NRS Chinook Fishing PFD. Yes, the price tag might be a little scary. Let’s see if it is worth it.

There are four sizes available. Plus, you also get a multi-point adjustable system for perfect fit and enhanced comfort. The NRS features two huge front pockets. Both are large enough to hold any essential piece of tackle you may need. Take advantage of the in-built organizers to keep everything in place. 

Like most fishing PFD, you get a lash tab for your knife. Additionally, you also get a tool holster to keep a set of pliers near. The external rod holder comes in handy to keep the rod in place as you walk to your kayak or wade into the river. 

The Good
The Not-So-Good
4.8/5

Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest

  • High padded back
  • Six adjustment points 
  • Weight (Pounds): 2
  • Buoyancy (Pounds): 15

Although it doesn’t scream fishing, the MoveVent PFD by Onyx is a great option for those looking for a versatile life jacket. There are three sizes available. Take advantage of the adjustment straps to tightly secure the vest.  

Storage-wise, you get a single pocket on the right-hand side of the PFD. It is only large enough to keep some essentials. So, forget about a small tackle box, pliers, or anything too large. 

The construction, which is of nylon, looks durable enough. The SOLAS-grade reflective material increases visibility during the night. Plus, the soft foam keeps the PFD comfortable while enhancing flotation. 

The Good
The Not-So-Good
4.7/5

Stohlquist Fisherman Personal Floatation Device

  • High padded back
  • Oversized pockets 
  • Breathable back
  • Six adjustment points 
  • Weight (Pounds): 1.21
  • Buoyancy (Pounds): 16

Are you looking for a good-looking PFD with lots of space? If so, the Stohlquist Fisherman is the one. Available in three different sizes, you are quite likely to find the perfect size for you. If not, take advantage of the six adjustment straps to fasten the vest. 

The most distinctive feature about this PFD is the two oversized pockets. Each one has a hard lid, a zippered mesh pocket, and a tool holster. Plus, the inner side of each lid has a velcro covering. On the outside, you have another holster and some stretchable holders. 

The Fisherman PFD features 500 and 200 denier-built neoprene padded shoulders. The lower back has a meshed construction to increase breathability. 

The Good
The Not-So-Good
4.8/5

Perception Kayaks Hi-Fi Kayaking Life Jacket

  • Breathable back
  • 200 denier reflective nylon construction 
  • Six adjustment points 
  • Weight (Pounds): 1.55
  • Buoyancy (Pounds): 15

If you are new to the kayak fishing world, let us tell you that you can’t go wrong with Perception gear. They have everything you need to get started, ranging from kayaks to PFDs and paddles. Let’s take some time to review the Hi-Fi life jacket. 

First, it lacks fishing-specific features such as knife lash or tool holsters. Still, the oversized pockets are large enough to hold some pieces of gear. Besides, since you are fishing from a kayak, you don’t need to keep too many things on you. 

The Hi-Fi PFD’s main advantage is that it doesn’t get in the way of your oar. You will barely notice that you have it on you! However, adjusting the vest might be a little too difficult since some straps are at the back. 

The Good
The Not-So-Good
4.7/5

Stohlquist Betsea Womens’ Kayak Life Jacket

  • 500 denier Cordura nylon outer shell
  • Two large zippered pockets
  • Type III PFD 
  • Weight (Pounds): 2.15
  • Buoyancy (Pounds): 16

Now a little something for our female readers. Although most models on this guide are unisex, we feel the urge to review a women-only PFD. 

The Betsea PFD wraps nicely around your body thanks to the multi-point adjustable system. Plus, the low cut and contours supportive inner cups increase prevent any discomfort. 

The oversized pockets, found on either side of the vest, won’t restrict your movement in any way. Sure, it will be a little tricky to get something from the vest. But nothing to worry about. 

This type III PFD features a lined hand warmer pocket and a two 4-way lash tab to keep any accessory within hands’ reach. 

The Good
The Not-So-Good
4.8/5

Old Town Solitude Men’s Life Jacket

  • Nylon construction 
  • Certified Type III PFD
  • Six adjustment points 
  • Weight (Pounds): 1.75
  • Buoyancy (Pounds): 15

Featuring two zippered pockets, fleece-lined handwarmer pockets, and D-ring attachment points, the Solitude PFD by Old Town is a superb option for the kayak angler.

It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles in terms of storage. Nevertheless, it offers an extra slim profile, which promises no movement restriction. Plus, the adjustable waist, side, and shoulder straps ensure a perfect fit, especially for thick anglers. 

Construction-wise, the outer shell features a 240 denier construction with 200 denier mesh fabric for breathable sections. In short, this means that the PFD can cope with the elements and pretty much anything else. Naturally, the long-lasting construction and slim factor both come at an expensive price tag.

The Good
The Not-So-Good
4.6/5

Kokatat Bahia Tour Personal Flotation Device

  • Six adjustment points 
  • Neoprene padded shoulders
  • 210 denier nylon construction
  • Weight (Pounds): 2.1
  • Buoyancy (Pounds): 16

Made with convenience in mind, the Bahia Tour by Kokatat is an ideal option for those looking for a PFD that covers the basics. 

By basics we mean, some storage to keep essentials near like a GPS, phone, a knife, and a set of pliers; nothing else. Fortunately, the Bahia Tour PFD, with its two huge side pockets and dedicated electronic storage space, does just that. With the added advantage of getting a long-lasting life jacket. 

In terms of construction, you get a Type III PFD with a 210 denier construction. The high padded back is perfect for kayak fishing. Plus, the lumbar support will protect your back during those prolonged fishing sessions. The main drawback, however, is that the Bahia Tour PFD is not as breathable as other life vests on this list. 

The Good
The Not-So-Good
4.7/5

NRS cVest Mesh Back PFD

  • Certified Type III PFD
  • Six adjustment points 
  • 400 denier construction
  • Weight (Pounds): 2
  • Buoyancy (Pounds): 16.5

Closing this list, we have the cVest PFD for kayak fishing by NRS. It has somewhat the same design as the previous model. This time, however, it has a slimmer profile, which is perfect for people looking for something that won’t restrict their movements. 

The cVest PFD by NRS features two large zippered pockets at either side of the vest. Use them to keep any large items within reach. On the right-hand side of the vest, you will find a dedicated pocket for your radio or fishfinder. 

You also get a 4-way lash and a small pocket to keep small pieces of gear such as sinkers. The entire vest features a 400 denier construction, and it is both tear and abrasion resistant.

The Good
The Not-So-Good

Our Winner: Onyx Kayak Fishing Life Jacket

It doesn’t matter how you look at it. The Onyx kayak fishing life jacket is the best PFD you can get. It is a Type III PFD approved by the US Coast Guard. Therefore, you can be sure that you will be safe while wearing it. 

It also has lots of storage spaces. You can even bring a small tackle box to keep your lures close and a pair of scissors. The lash tab and elastic attachment points are ideal for knives and sunglasses, respectively. Even with so many storage options, the PFD has a remarkably slim profile. Therefore, it is an ideal option for those looking for a vest with storage without compromising movement. 

Guide To Buying PFD for Kayak Fishing

Just like with any clothes, choosing a PFD is a question of likes. For example, people might like to wear a bulky life jacket with lots of storage spaces. Others like a slim movement-free profile better.

So, on the following lines, we will give you some bits of advice. These will help you in narrowing your search so you can find the best PFD for kayak fishing. Let’s get started. 

Storage Space or Slim profile? 

Like we said before, choosing between a large or slim PFD will be your first choice. Hence, if you are one of those anglers that like to have everything within reach, you should go for a PFD with lots of pockets. Now, if you aren’t, go for something with a small footprint, especially if you have plenty of space on the kayak. 

Bear in mind that all vests have a maximum weight capacity. Thus, try your best to stay beneath it. Not only to avoid tearing the PFD but also for safety reasons. 

Types of Personal Flotation Devices 

There are, namely, five different types of personal flotation devices. Each one is suitable for certain activities. Let’s take some time to review each one. 

Type I

Also known as Offshore Life Jacket, it is the PFD with the highest buoyancy rating (22 pounds for adults and 11 pounds for children). Therefore, they are extremely useful in rough waters, where it is crucial to stay afloat.    

Type III PDFs are the ones you will find on any commercial vessel. They aren’t typically available for purchase. Besides, they are quite useless for kayak fishing since they are rather bulky. 

Type II

Also known as Near-shore Buoyant Vest, these have a minimum buoyancy of 15.5 pounds for adults and 11 for children. Type II PFDs are more suitable for near-shore use. Here, rescue is quite likely to happen in a timely manner. Thus, no need for a Type I. 

Although less thick than Type I, Type II PFDs are still quite thick for kayak fishing purposes. 

Type IV

The throwable device, this PFD should be used as a backup for any of the other types we’ve reviewed thus far. As the name suggests, Type IV PFDs are meant to be thrown at people who are in need of them. Hence, not too useful for kayak fishing.

Type V

These PFDs lack the buoyancy rating of Type I, II, and III we reviewed before. But, they are also the life jackets with the slimmest profile. Therefore, these are more suitable for water sports such as water skiing. 

Inflatable or Standard Floating Foam? 

Now that you know that Type III PFDs are the ones that work best for kayak fishing, it is time to choose between inflatable or standard floating foam life jackets. The ultimate goal is the same. However, the means by which each achieves it are quite different.  

Inflatable PFD

As you might have guessed, inflatable PFDs are those that need to be inflated to work. Typically they are either automatically inflated as the PFD touches the water or by using a cord. 

The slim profile is the main advantage of this type of life jacket. Nevertheless, it is not the best option for people looking for lots of storage space. Plus, they require extensive maintenance to keep the system working. Additionally, inflatable PFDs are not suitable for people who don’t know how to swim. 

Standard PFD

These are the most common and widely available PFDs. They neither need manual nor automatic inflation. Therefore, standard inflatable PFDs are inherently bulkier than the latter type. 

Besides instant flotation, standard PFD also offers more storage space since they are stuffed with pockets. 

PFDs Construction

There is not much room for error here since all PFD have somewhat the same construction. In this case, nylon is the preferred material. However, not all fabricants use shards of the same denier. Therefore, durability won’t be the same. 

Naturally, a higher denier means that the nylon shard is thicker, which translated into durability. Remember, however, that this also means higher costs. 

In terms of flotation, most PFDs, if not all, use EVA foam to increase buoyancy. Similarly, some brands use mesh fabric to enhance breathability. Breathability is important to some degree, as it depends on the weather. For example, a meshed PFD is better for hot and humid fishing conditions. 

PFD Size

Size has more to do with your chest than with your weight. Typically most PFDs for kayak fishing are meant for people well over 90 pounds. So, how do you find the one? 

It all comes down to chest size. Therefore, you should measure your chest to find the PFD that works best for you. Don’t worry if your chest is 40 inches and the size chart says 36 to 44 inches. All PFDs come with adjustable straps that you can use to fix the vest in place. Most suppliers offer the same PFD in three sizes: Small, medium, and large. 

PFD Construction

Construction-wise, almost all Type III PFDs look pretty much the same. They have foam on either side of the vest and the back. Some suppliers offer a full or high-only padded back. While the first option grants even support, the latter is more suitable for kayak fishing. Why? Since all the padding is on the upper side of the vest, your back can fully rest on the seat. As a result, this construction is inherently more comfortable. 

Breathability is another advantage of high back PFDs. Here, the lower back solely consists of mesh fabric, making them perfect for hot days. 

Personal Flotation Device Maintenance

Taking care of a PFD is quite simple. Keep them away from direct sunlight while not in use. The closet will be the best place to put it. 

Remember to wait until the PFD is completely dry to store it. Check for any ruptures and signs of wear before using it. It is better to replace the PFD if this is the case. Thoroughly clean zippers and pockets to keep them in the best shape possible. 

After using the PDF in saltwater, rinse both sides with abundant freshwater. Open all pockets and make sure that there is no sand in them. 

Finally, remember to replace any damaged zipper or buckle before your next trip!

PFDs for Kayak Fishing: FAQs

What Type of PFD Is Used for Kayaking?

From the five types, the III and V are the ones more suited for kayaking. If you are paddling and nothing else, Type V will do the trick. But, if you want to do some fishing, Type III is your best bet. It comes with pockets that you can use to keep your essentials near. 

Why Should I Use a PFD?  

To simple put it, it is for safety purposes. You are less likely to drown while wearing a personal flotation device. Even if you are a professional swimmer you should always wear one. Besides, its usage is mandatory in some lakes and national parks. Hence, even if you don’t want to wear one, the law compels you to do so. 

What Does “Coast Guard Approved” Mean?

All safety gear has some kind of rating standard. This way, people can wear them without worries. The Coast Guard approval label is this safety rating which is given to those PFDs that meet the buoyancy standard set by the US Coast Guard. 

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Hi! I’m Steven!

I am an avid life long fisherman, having caught over 25,000 fish over the years. My life-long passion for fishing began when my father taught me how to fish at the age of ten. I started luremefish.com to share my extensive knowledge of all things fishing.

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