The tandem fishing kayak opens up a range of opportunities and advantages over the smaller single-man models. Foremost is simply the tandem fishing experience – the occasionally long hours between catches or reaching your destination can be more easily whiled away with two anglers, knocking heads together and talking shop, perhaps engaging in a little competition. Being generally wider and heavier, these two-man kayaks are usually a little more stable in the water, with less jostling around to frighten fish.
And when it comes to all that extra space, why does it always have to be taken up by another passenger? For the more dedicated amongst us, heading out onto the water with a kayak stuffed with the extra rods, reels, and other tackle is the way to do things properly, to really mean business. But what makes the best tandem fishing kayaks?
Our Top Pick:
There are several things to consider when buying a tandem kayak, many of which are simply common sense while others are very specific to the tandem kayak fishing experience. You’ll want to consider the price – obviously – as well as the size, weight, and maneuverability.
Beyond this, it’s also a great idea to also consider your fishing style; how would you like fish? Some kayaks are designed for more relaxed seated fishing, for example, whilst others allow you to stand up and energetically cast your line. There’s all of this and much besides to consider, so read on for our list of the best tandem fishing kayaks and our detailed buying guide.
The 5 Best Tandem Fishing Kayaks:
1. BKC UH-TK181 | The Best All-Rounder
|Max Load (lb)||440|
The Brooklyn Kayak Company (BKIC) has made what is, for the price, an excellent all-rounder kayak and welcome addition to the market. This kayak is adaptable to a range of aquatic conditions, from rivers to lakes to bays. This kayak handles choppy water well, and BKC has been wise enough to exploit this feature by making the kayak equipable with a trolling motor. Many users have taken advantage of this, making this kayak excellent for venturing downstream or out to sea in pursuit of that catch. Contributing also to this kayak’s all-rounder status is that it handles standing casts well, being sufficiently stable for the longer range that this offers.
Another – seemingly minor – advantage which several anglers have reported is this kayak’s pre-installed threaded boat holes, which is a real time-saver in multiple situations. It also has sufficient storage for the extra equipment and victuals which might prove necessary when hooking up the trolling motor and heading out.
It has been reported by some that the screws are can be a little loose, but this is a minor problem. More serious might be that when seating only one passenger, this kayak’s impressive stability seems to diminish, and it can be a little wobbly. That said, this will probably only be a problem when standing up and, generally speaking, this kayak’s adaptability in all manner of other situations makes up for this shortcoming.
2. Sevylar Coleman Colorado | Best Inflatable Tandem Kayak
|Max Load (lb)||400|
When it comes to inflatable kayaks, the golden criteria is that combination of material durability and yield which makes the kayak resilient against the many aquatic perils which could lead to a puncture. Whatever it may be – sharp rocks, a rough riverbed, something pointy on-board – the kayak needs to be tough enough not to be ripped by scrapes, but yielding enough to give way to sharp objects, instead of bursting.
Judging according to this above all else, this model from Colorado is a winner. Composed primarily of 18-gauge PVC, this durable kayak has been designed with lake use in mind. Protecting the bottom (particularly vulnerable on lake-going kayaks) is 1000D tarpaulin with an 840 D nylon covering. This double layer should protect against even the sharpest of riverbed scrapes. Simply checking the bottom after use, you’ll be able to see where it has been scraped and, more to the point, just what it has endured. Another major plus in the durability department is that this kayak is comprised of multiple air chambers; should one burst, therefore, this will not lead to capsizing. The kayak is also equipable with a trolling motor and had handy paddle holders, keeping the paddles out of the way when you are fishing.
In terms of downsides, the back of seats are not very high, meaning there is something of a lack of back support with this kayak. Some anglers have also pointed out that the warranty this kayak comes with covers only electrical or mechanical issues, which is bizarre for a product which is neither electrical nor mechanical. This trickiness aside, however, this a great inflatable kayak.
3. Elkton Outdoors | Best for Durability
|Max Load (lb)||650|
Real durability, in the world of kayaks, is proven when a product outlasts the others. Too many kayaks, as has been reported in endless reviews, have performed great at first but, normally after warranty expiry, have begun to let their owners down. It’s hard to make guarantees, but it honestly looks like this model from Elkton is truly built to last.
Comprising of what is known as a rotomold injected body, this kayak is lightweight, can be carried easily but, crucially, is very tough. And this solid main body is complemented by several airtight containers which happen to be exactly that – airtight. Even when filling these compartments with gear, you’ll notice this kayak sits stably in the water although it can let you down when standing up. Such durability, it must be said, however, is let down by the pretty weak plastic from which the seat buckles are made. Some users have reported breakages here, even if the rest of the kayak is tough. Another minor design let down with this kayak is the screws; just like the BKC model above, they can come loose rather easily.
That said, this kayak has, beyond such minor difficulties, much to recommend it. For one thing, it handles well and, with durability, that’s a great combination!
4. Intex Excursion Pro | Best Starting Kayak
|Max Load (lb)||400|
There are many things to expect from a kayak and many more which you’ll need to bring to the arena yourself. Every angler is different and, in time, most build up an arsenal of tackle specific to their fishing needs. There are those of us, however, who find all of that a little daunting.
If you’re the type of angler going out onto the water with a single rod, perhaps your first baitcasting reel, or perhaps even making do with a trusty old spinning reel, you’ll want the tandem kayak to come with everything you’ll need – and everything that you didn’t know you’d need.
Related: If you are interested in baitcasting fishing, check our article about best line for baitcaster reels!
This kayak is precisely that and comes with a pressure gauge, a high output pump, two paddles, removable seats, adjustable footrests, and even removable seat boosters. This is, therefore, a great kayak for covering the basics, taking the stress out of a tackle shopping trip with little idea what to get. In addition to the basics, this kayak even comes with some real professional additions, such as changeable skegs for both shallow and deeper water and a watertight carry bag to hold all of this in.
Beyond the excellent array of gear, this kayak is also durable and handles well. There have been reports of wobbly oars and a bothersome returns/warranty process but, this aside, this is an excellent kayak for starting out.
5. Lifetime 10 ft. | Best For Handling/Tracking
|Max Load (lb)||500|
For the calm lakes and bays in which a great deal of fishing is done, almost any kayak will glide along softly, leading the fisherman to his catch. In a few situations, however, be it the choppy waters of a windy bay, the strong currents of a river or simply when having to travel a long distance without complete foreknowledge of what lies ahead, a kayak which can maneuver, handle and track well can be all but essential.
This model from Lifetime provides just that, as well as the durability to match it. Tough (if a little heavy), this kayak is at once stable in the water and deft moving through the water. Tracking well, even in choppy waters, it’s a good model for standing casts into the bargain.
This kayak can be a bit of a pain to transport, primarily because of its weight and the fact that it only contains a handle on one side. That said, it’s on our list for its performance in the water, not out.
Tandem Fishing Kayak Buying Guide
When buying a tandem fishing kayak – or indeed any kayak – you must always begin by asking yourself, what do I need? Evaluating your own needs before even browsing what’s on offer will help you being swayed by the endless sales techniques and marketing ploys designed to sell you what you don’t need.
For some, a good tandem kayak is something of a leisure item – what is more relaxing than a day out with a companion on a quiet lake, surrounded by the scenery? If this is your motivation for getting a tandem kayak, you’re going to be after something quite different from those for whom kayak fishing is a more serious business, the extra seat there to maximize your catch with the skills of a second angler.
There is also the issue of gear – what exactly will you be bringing on your fishing trip? For some, a tandem kayak is all about the extra space, useful for housing an array of rods, reels, lures and victuals for long hours on the water. For others, this isn’t quite so important.
The end of helping you get clear in your mind precisely what you want from your tandem kayak ahead of buying it, we’ve put together some useful questions to ask yourself. Come up with a considered answer for each one, and you’ll be well-equipped to take the plunge into the, often quite daunting, world of tandem kayaks. But before that…
The Essentials of a Tandem Fishing Kayak
First thing’s first: In all cases, you’re going to want a tandem kayak specifically designed for fishing. There are other types of kayaks besides fishing kayaks so it’s important to narrow things down to those which include the fishing essentials. These are the elements shared by the majority of fishing kayaks, without which you can expect to run into problems.
Generally speaking, fishing kayaks will be labeled as such. However, to be extra sure, see to it that your kayak has rod holders, cooler holders and a few extra mounts for other things such as a GPS. Although there are some exceptions to this rule, try to ensure that your fishing kayak is a sit-on-top model. Sit-in models will, in the vast majority of cases, place you too low in the water and adversely affect your stability. A fishing kayak that is stable when its occupant is standing up is a good indicator of quality.
Where Are You Going to Fish?
Considering that a kayak is, in essence, a water-going craft, what type of water it will be going on is perhaps the most important consideration before buying. This can have implications for all sorts of other factors. Planning on taking your kayak out on choppy waters? You’ll want extra stability. Planning on traveling long distances upstream in pursuit of the perfect catch? You’ll want to value tracking dexterity and storage. Going on out on shallow water? Make sure your hull can take a few scrapes, and so on.
For choppy waters, it’s all about stability. A good kayak for such an environment will be firm (not too yielding if it’s inflatable) and should be good for standing, at least in calm water (if you cannot stably stand up in it on calm water, that’s a red flag). With tandem kayaks, there is even an additional consideration. The stability of certain tandem kayaks can very well be dependent on whether the second seat is occupied or not. If you can be sure of taking a companion out, then great. However, if that extra space was reserved for tackle, victuals, or perhaps a dog, then you’ll want to make sure the kayak is still stable with only one human occupant instead of two.
For the long journeys out on the water or the adventure trips upstream, you’re going to have to prioritize tracking. Generally, the most important thing here is a firm and dextrous skeg combined with a good overall shape. Some kayaks come with replaceable skegs for different water conditions – this is a good sign. Ahead of buying, your best bet is to browse reviews and keep an eye for comments on tracking and maneuverability – this is something people tend to complain about if it’s lacking!
Durability is perhaps the final major factor when taking into consideration your intended fishing spot. Shallow water poses a threat to your hull and you’ll want to make sure your kayak is up to the challenge. A firm bodied kayak will usually have good all-round durability (and is in a certain sense the safest bet) but an inflatable kayak with a good combination of sturdiness and yield can be excellent for tough environments.
How Often Will You Fish?
For all this talk of durability, it, of course, stands to reason that this becomes less of an issue if you’re not planning on fishing regularly. Damage over time is a major consideration when it comes to kayaks; for example, there are often reports that inflatable kayaks can lose their ability to retain their shape or hold air after repeated outings. This becomes less of an issue if you’re only going for some seasonal fun with a companion on calm waters. So bear that in mind!
What Do You Want to Catch?
The type of fish you plan to catch is one of the primary considerations, not just when buying a kayak, but for fishing in general. Not only will the type of fish you want to catch have implications for where you plan to fish (see above) or what gear you plan to bring (see below) but can influence the very kayak you get.
Again, this all comes back to stability. For example, if you find yourself equipped with a low gear ratio baitcaster, trying to reel in bulkier, deeper fish, you might find yourself having to stand, just to get the mechanical purchase need to bring it home. Similarly, if you’re after quicker fish are known to shoot around over a larger area, you’ll need to stand to make those casts as well. In both of these scenarios, you’ll need a kayak that’s up to the job.
A good plan here is to again browse reviews, anglers will very often begin by explaining just what they used the kayak for, and what they were trying to catch. Identifying those reviews written by anglers after the same types of fish as yourself will allow making a very sound judgment ahead of any purchase.
Who, or What, Will You Bring?
Much of what has been said so far can refer to most kayaks. But this is the issue that is perhaps the most pertinent to tandem kayaks. As mentioned, there are many different uses for that second seat beside the company of a passenger or fellow angler as you plumb the depths.
As mentioned, there’s the issue of stability first and foremost. Some kayaks are perfectly stable with their intended two occupants, whereas others will let you down if you fill that space with tackle and victuals instead. It’s therefore important to think about what you will bring, how encumbered your kayak will be. You might, for example, plan on taking extra passengers as well as a hefty amount of gear and sustenance for a long trip on the water. In such a scenario, you’ll be wanting a kayak that not only has the max load to accommodate this but performs well at the max load.
And it isn’t just about whether your tandem kayak can perform at this level, the type of storage is also important. Kayak compartments can suffer all sorts of unexpected problems such as faulty lids, structures which break easily or compartments that aren’t at all watertight. If you plan on bringing any electronic gear, this can very quickly become a major problem.
Again, go to the reviews. You should have no trouble finding the anglers equipped similarly to you who have tested the product so you don’t have to. What you’re looking out for isn’t just your kayak’s ability to hold what you need, but to keep it safe and to perform while holding it.
What is Your Budget?
This final question is, of course, a fairly obvious one, which will most likely have been your first despite its final position on our list. Generally speaking, a couple of hundred bucks to around $1,000 is a normal price range for tandem kayaks, but you can certainly expect something decent at the lower range. Again, reviews will hold valuable information on what you should expect for the price, but a further technique is to compare those differently priced kayaks which appear to be offering the same thing. This way you’ll spot the rip-offs, and maybe find a few bargains.