5 Best Kayak Fishing PFDs [Reviews and Buyer’s Guide]

Outfitting your kayak for fishing can be a challenging mission with so many items to choose from to suit your individual requirements. An important piece of safety gear is the PFD or the Portable Flotation Device.

Life jackets or PFDs can save your life if you capsize or find yourself in high current rivers where it is difficult to swim or keep your head above water.

Selecting a PFD that suits kayaking is a different challenge and to give it features for fishing is even more selective. 

We have put together a list of the top 5 Kayak Fishing PFDs available on the market for this month as well as highlighting the features, pros, and cons of the best 5 that we have reviewed. At the start of this article we have also written a brief buyer’s guide to help explain some of the key differences and features you should be looking for.

Let’s dive in.

Quick Summary – Best Kayak Fishing PFD

Kayak Fishing PFD Buyer’s Guide

There are variety of life jackets available for kayaks but not so many that are suitable for fishing as well. The main feature that allows a PFD to be used while fishing is the additional storage.

Kayaks never has as much storage as you need. They also have dry hatches that you shouldn’t open too often while on the water. This means that if there are so tackle or tools that you want to access frequently while fishing you need to find an alternate location for it – your life jacket is a good option.

Just make sure you don’t load it up so much that you are carrying extra weight or sharp items – this is primarily a safety device after all.


Life vests are given a buoyancy rating of how much weight they can keep afloat – this is generally between 14-16 pounds of lift. 

Remember, the human body is already buoyant – so the rest doesn’t have to add too much extra lift to maintain your head and chest out of the water.

If you are particularly muscular or have problems staying afloat then I would certainly recommend looking for one of the more buoyant options.


The main difference between a kayak PFD and a boat PFD is that lack of sides on the kayak life vest. This gives the kayak-er extra movement through their shoulders to paddle. It also allows the kayak-er more maneuverability to swim if they capsize their kayak.

Kayak PFDs are also much slimmer than a bulky, square boat life vest. 

Value for Money

Some kayak fishing PFDs can be well over $100, so you want to make sure you are getting good value for money. The easiest way to do this is to make sure it is extremely durable and well constructed. The best way to get more out of your money is to make sure it lasts for many years to come.

Make careful note of negative reviews mentioning poor stitching or zipper problems – as this poor construction quality is a good way to kill your vest and reduce its effective life.

The Fit

Making sure your personal flotation device fits well is key to ensuring it functions well. It should not be too tight or too loose, and should be adjustable on both the shoulder straps and the waist band.

Have a look at the following video on How to Properly Fit your Kayak Fishing PFD by KayakFishingTales.

1. ONYX Kayak Fishing Life Jacket


Six adjustment straps to get that snug fit

High foam back to fit with high backed seats

Multiple pockets to keep your essentials within easy reach

Breathable mesh lower back

Neoprene shoulder pads


From a pure fishing perspective, you can’t beat the Onyx design. It comes with so much storage on the front, you always have your essential tools and tackle available at your fingertips.

The combination of breathable mesh and neoprene shoulder pages gives it an extra level of comfort. The 15 lb life buoyancy is a little short of some of the other options, but is certainly sufficient.

Some of the complaints from other users include poor zippers and single stitching that can fail after extended use.

I would also venture that the style is not particularly modern or fashionable. 


  • 15 lb lift pressure
  • Great Pockets
  • Good Fit


  • Poor Zippers
  • Single Stitching

2. ​STOHLQUIST Fisherman Fishing Kayak Life Jacket

Stohlquist Fisherman Personal Floatation Device, Cactus, Large/X-Large
  • 500 dnier Cordura shell & 200 denier oxford liner
  • High-back flotation rides above back rest.
  • Neoprene padded shoulders and lower back waistband and open sides for ventilation


Upper back is a breathable mesh design

EVA pockets act as fold-down work surfaces

Padded shoulders and waistband

Cross-chest cinch harness


If there is one thing I love about the Stoklquist Fishermen Life Jacket, it is the top fold-down work pockets. If you want somewhere safe to play your lure while you are tying a knot, this is absolutely perfect.

The mesh on the back also provides a cooling breeze which is particularly comfortable in hot, humid, summer conditions.

The cross-chest harness gives a good fit and stops the vest from riding up.

The only negative is that there aren’t any other pockets for storing essential tools or tackle, so keep that in mind when making your decision. It is also more expensive than some of the other options.


  • Lots of adjustment in all fits
  • Good pockets
  • good solid zippers
  • 16 lb buoyancy


  • More expensive than other options

3. NRS Chinook Fishing PFD Life Jacket


Front entry design with full-length zipper

Mesh lower back for ventilation

Multiple adjustment straps for comfortable fit

5 multi purpose pockets

16.5 lb flotation buoyancy

2.15 lb weight


The Chinook kayak fishing PFD has more buoyancy than most other options at 16.5 pounds of lift.

It also comes with 5 multi purpose pockets so you have easy access to all of your tools and tackle.

The mesh back and wide open arms provide plenty of maneuverability and allow a cooling breeze in summer fishing trips.

The black and green style also pops and looks great, but this comes at a higher price point.


  •  Very comfortable
  •  Great fit
  • Pockets are easy to access and allow for multi purpose use
  • 16.5 lb buoyancy


  • More expensive than other options


Stohlquist Keeper
  • Graded sizing provides a more appropriate fit for a wider range of users
  • 8 points of adjustment for a secure and personal fit; Cross-chest cinch harness for zero ride up
  • 3M reflective on the front and back for low-light safety


Made from rip resistant material

Low profile with large arm holes

4 pockets on each side and 2 pockets at the top of the best


This Stoklquist PFD is more heavy duty than some of the other options. It is made from a rip proof material and comes in camouflage green that might blend in well to a rain-forest river bank.

The downside of this heavy duty model is that it can be a bit bulkier than the other options.

It also has plenty of pockets for storing all of your tackle and essentials. This is key in any fishing jacket as it means you don’t have to open up any waterproof bags or hatches every time you need a pair of pliers.

The material also dries quickly, so you can stay warm even after a capsize or a swim. 

It does not have a cross-chest adjustment so might ride up over time.


  • Back panel perfect for kayaking
  • Great fit and adjustment
  • Excellent zippers
  • Pockets work well for small tackle
  • Dries quickly


  • Is a little bulky

5. STOHLQUIST Womens Cruiser Life Vest

Stohlquist Women's Cruiser Life Vest
  • Graded Sizing and a higher mesh-back design; Check Fit Guide tab for proper sizing
  • Women specific features include a smaller cut, shortened torso, supportive inner cups, and the WRAPTURE shaped torso
  • Comfort features include cross-chest cinch harness for zero ride-up, ventilated shoulder and back pads, adjustable 1-1/2†webbing shoulder pulls and open sides for ventilation


Cross-chest adjustable strap of zero ride-up

Adjustable shoulder webbing

Buoyancy of 16 lbs 4 oz

Reflective accents on the front and back


This Stoklquist PFD is design specifically for women – it has different sizing and fits than the standard kayak life jackets. Pay close attention to the sizing guide to make sure you get something that fits comfortably.

With 16 lbs and 4 ounces of life, this offers plenty of safety through buoyancy.

It comes with adjustable shoulder webbing and chest harness to avoid riding up and get a better fit.

For additional safety it allows comes with reflective tape on the front and back to help remain visible even at night.


  • Vest built for women
  • Great fit
  • Back open so comfortable when paddling
  • Zip pockets
  • 16.5 lb buoyancy


  • None – this is a great design


That brings us to the end of this article. I hope it has given you some insights into what features you should be looking for and some of the best options available in the market at the moment.

Please let us know which kayak fishing PFD you have chosen and why in the comments below. Learning more about how our readers make decisions allows us to improve your writing and research. It also gives plenty of wisdom to other anglers looking for high quality gear.

Happy fishing!

Russ Egan

Russ is an avid angler. He has fished all over the world, primarily for Saltwater game fish but also for local prize fish. Russ writes reviews for all of his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. His favorite reel is a Shimano Tyrnos for an overhead reel or a Shimano Curado for a baitcaster. His dream is to catch a Black Marlin.

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