With both summer and fishing season in full swing, many anglers have already spent several weekends out on the water. Whether gliding along the water in traditional small boats or simply baiting their lines on the pier, fishermen as a whole can be a practical bunch, wed to tradition and what’s worked before.

Nevertheless, there’s one piece of gear that any good fisherman needs to incorporate into his repertoire: the tandem fishing kayak.

The main problem inherent to tandem fishing kayaks is that a lot of people who are great at fishing aren’t so great at operating kayaks. Nevertheless, it’s well worth the effort to learn, as kayak fishing boasts a number of advantages:

  • Kayaks are portable and easier to deal with than traditional fishing boats
  • Kayaks are cheap and you won’t have to pay much for upkeep
  • If you keep things simple (which is a good thing in the great outdoors), everything you need will easily fit in your kayak
  • Finally, a tandem kayak will allow you to bring a friend, your partner, or your dog on your fishing trip

Convinced? If so, there are a few essential factors to consider when browsing some of the best tandem fishing kayaks:

Sit-on-Top vs. Sit Inside?

Kayak Fishing Supplies offers a good visualization of the distinction:

While Sit-On-Top kayaks offer increased mobility – crucial if you want to wade while you fish – there will be times when you’ll get soaked, which can be tough on frigid days. Sit Inside varieties also generally have more room for storage as well as a handy storage compartment.

However, as mentioned, your mobility is limited. Most anglers go with Sit-On-Top kayaks, but if you’re braving inclement weather, the best tandem fishing kayaks are Sit In.

Rigged or Unrigged?

This decision comes down to a simple question – do you want a built-in holder for your fishing rods (rigged) or do you want to put one in yourself? This is in essence what separates a “fishing” kayak from a normal one. 

Some kayaks will have the option of a cheaper unrigged variety or a “the works” rigged version. The best tandem fishing kayaks are the ones that fit your needs.

Dimensions

Be sure to decide how you’re planning to use your kayak, as dimensions will play a big role in your vessel’s pace, handling/maneuverability, and stability.

In general, the longer the kayak, the faster it goes and the wider the kayak, the more stability it provides.

For more information on how to choose the right kayak, you can read this article: Best Sit On Top Kayaks.

Now that we’ve oriented ourselves, we’ll explore a few of the best tandem fishing kayak models from the past few years:

The Price Performers ($400 – $1000)

Reasonably priced kayaks that get the job done for a great price, though in some cases performance may leave the tiniest bit to be desired.

Coleman Colorado 2-Person Fishing Kayak

Dimensions: 10’9” x 39”

Variety: Sit-On-Top

The Lowdown: This tough, rugged inflatable option is constructed from reinforced PVP that can take bumps and bruises on any variety of water surface. Its wide base gives it great stability, and its Airtight System insures that it won’t spring any leaks, lest it’s dinghy-like appearance turns off some consumers.

Multiple reviewers have described the Colorado as “handy” and “easy,” and those are this kayak’s two main selling points.  It’s a snap to inflate and deflate, so it’s ready to go and ready to leave in a matter of minutes, and its multiple air chambers insure that leakage is never a problem.

If you’re looking for something to get the job done – nothing more, nothing less – without a lot of bells and whistles, the Colorado is the perfect pick.

Lifetime 10-Foot Manta Tandem Kayak

Dimensions: 102” x 36”

Variety: Sit-On-Top

The Lowdown: A streamlined design capable of holding up to 3 people (if that third person is a pet or a small child), the Manta’s central features are comfort and safety. It offers multiple foot positions to make sure that you’re comfortable throughout the day, and the seatbacks are extremely pleasant.

Furthermore, the “high and dry” seating makes sure that you’re staying out of the surf as much as possible, and tunnel hull feature means that you’d almost have to be trying to capsize this kayak to make it tip over.

All of this combines to make the Manta the ultimate “family friendly” tandem kayak. Its versatility – it’s great for tandem riding or solo riding – only adds to its functionality.

Though it’s not the sleekest model and you won’t be maneuvering or handling it with the greatest of ease, it’s a safe, solid, dependable option, the steak and potatoes of tandem kayaks.

The Middle Class ($1000 – $2000)

A step up from the price performers, usually performance and variety of features (and, of course, the price tag) are what separate these options from the class below.

BIC Yakkair Fishing Inflatable Kayak

Dimensions: 13’5” x 37.8”

Variety: Sit-On-Top, but almost a hybrid

The Lowdown: Another inflatable option, the BIC Yakkair, offers a slick camouflage design that fits right in in the backcountry out on the lake.

The innovative design tries to capture the best of the inflatable and solid kayak worlds, boasting a high pressure floor and keel system that simulate the performance and stability of a rigid kayak while also offering the practicality and portability of an inflatable.

The Yakkair also boasts a surprising number of features for an inflatable, including rod holders, footrests, and safety grab lines. All of this likely contributes to its heftier price tag, which is its main downside.

It may be a pretty penny to pay for an inflatable kayak, but the engineers at BIC did their best to simulate the performance and feel of a hard kayak while still allowing you to inflate and deflate it wherever you please. As far as convenience is concerned, this is one of the best tandem fishing kayaks on the market.

The Upper Echelon ($2000 and above)

The best tandem kayaks money can buy, these options are beautiful, run perfectly, and offer a number of impressive features; however, to get one of these bad boys, you’ll need to be ready to pay up.

Hobie Mirage Oasis Tandem Kayak

Dimensions: 14’6” x 33”

Variety: Sit-On-Top

The Lowdown: Boasting five bright-hued varieties, the Mirage Oasis is truly a beast of a kayak that commands attention. Slim, sleek, lengthy, and lightweight, the Mirage Oasis cuts through the water with ease, essentially a sports car variety of kayaks, boasting superior maneuverability and speed.

However, none of this comes at the cost of functionality, as the Mirage Oasis offers three storage compartments, multiple height settings for its seats, and dual steering and “Mirage Drives” in front of each seat. In terms of pure performance, this among the best tandem fishing kayaks out there.

Not surprisingly, its drawbacks are similar to the drawbacks of actual sports cars: it’s heavy, it’s extremely pricey (probably a bit overpriced), and it’s not as stable as wider kayaks.

However, if you’re a serious kayak fisherman looking for la crème de la crème, look no further than the Rolls Royce of tandem kayaks.

Which are the best tandem fishing kayaks?

As with all purchases, finding the best tandem fishing kayaks comes down to a question of priorities. As with many outdoors purchases, it also comes down to a question of experience.

Before you even begin looking for a kayak, you should ask yourself, what do I want to use my kayak for, how often do I want to use it, and how much does fishing from a kayak mean to me?

If you have a great deal of experience – if you crave the smoothest of handling and the cutting edge – and you’re comfortable investing in your hobby of choice, you may want to consider the Hobie Mirage Oasis.

If you’re looking for a casual fishing kayak that doubles as a vessel in which to take the family and the dog out on the water, the Lifetime Manta is for you.

It’s all a question of what you want and what you need, and if you ask yourself the right questions, you’ll have no trouble snagging one of the best tandem fishing kayaks.

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