Looking for the BEST Fishing Kayak PFD? We've Got The Answer
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Looking for the BEST Fishing Kayak PFD? We've Got The Answer

Looking for the BEST Fishing Kayak PFD? We've Got The Answer

A personal floatation device, or PFD, is an essential safety accessory every time you hit the water, regardless of the type of vessel you're heading out in. And while life jacket laws vary from state to state, you don't want to be without the right type of PFD in an emergency out in the open water. However, PFD laws and kayaks are a bit different. In fact, vessels less than 16 feet long are required to have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD for every person on board. And because space is at a premium on kayaks, it's often best worn while on the water.

With all this being said, what exactly should you look for in a PFD for kayaking? Here we’ll cover the essentials for selecting the best PFD for kayak fishing – from sizing to features to consider. Here's a closer look at what you need to know:

How to Select the Best Fishing Kayak PFD

There are a variety of factors that you need to consider when selecting the best PFD for fishing. Let’s start with arguably the most significant factor to get right: the size of the PFD.

Size Matters

There are two types of PFDs: fitted and universal. Universal vests are just what they sound like – they're more of a one-size-fits-all type of PFD and tend to be ideal for entry-level paddlers or for paddlers who just want to have an extra life vest on hand should a guest ever join them on the water.

The best PFD for kayak fishing? We recommend a fitted life vest for several reasons. These life vests come in a range of different sizes, from small to extra large, allowing paddlers to select one that suits them perfectly. The right fitted life vest is snug where it needs to be and doesn't restrict paddling or casting. 

Bonus Tip: Make sure to fit the life vest for you and other paddlers based on chest size and weight.

Adult Universal
Model Chest Size Persons Weighing
Riverstream 30 - 52 Inches More than 90 pounds
Treble Angler 30 - 52 inches More than 90 pounds
Outfitter 30 - 52 inches More than 90 pounds
Model Chest Size Persons Weighing
Volks Junior 25 - 29 inches 50 - 90 pounds
Inlet Junior 25 - 29 inches 50 - 90 pounds
Adult Fitted
Model XS S/M L/XL 2XL - 3XL Persons Weighing
Solitude Women's 32 - 38 inches 40 - 46 inches 48 - 54 inches - More than 90 pounds
Solitude Men's - 40 - 46 inches 48 - 54 inches 54 - 60 inches More than 90 pounds
Lure Angler - 40 - 46 inches 48 - 54 inches 54 - 60 inches More than 90 pounds

High Back

If you're a serious paddler, the best kayak fishing PFD should have a high back. This means that the layer of foam, which helps facilitate flotation, is located in the back of the life jacket (above where a paddler would be seated in the kayak). Standard life jackets tend to have layers of foam in the front and the back of the life vest. The foam layer in the back can restrict paddling and fishing performance by pushing the paddler forward in the seat. A high back vest can resolve this and also helps to better keep the paddler cool.


We know wearing a vest is not the most convenient or comfortable thing to do while on the water. Whether it’s too hot to put one on or just not comfortable, we hear many reasons why kayakers don’t want to wear a vest. However, the vest you wore 15 years ago is not the same as the vests being made today – there are many upgrades, including breathability. Today's life vests have features to help you stay cool and comfortable all day. In fact, Old Town vests come with a high back, breathable mesh feature that allows the lower back area to breathe. Plus, funneling into the back of the vest are built-in channels between EVA foam blocks that facilitate moisture evaporation and airflow. These channels also help reduce skin and body contact with the vest.  


From the engineered shoulder strap designs to the side/waist adjustment straps and the placement and type of foam used on the front of the vests, everything is designed with the comfort and mobility of the paddler as a priority. In fact, our Old Town Solitude or vests similar are great options if you’re looking for something that’s adjustable and has a good overall fit.  Life vests are available in men's, women's, and youth cut versions, each designed to contour the user correctly. 

Fishing Features

Zippered storage pockets, knife lash tabs, and even rod holders are life vest fishing features that serious kayak fishermen and women should consider when selecting their PFDs. These life vest accessories can help anglers stay organized while out on the water and make more efficient use of their PFDs. Frequently, space is at a premium while on a kayak. A life vest with these accessories can help anglers do more with less and prevent clutter elsewhere throughout the kayak. For those looking for added storage and features, vests like the Old Town Lure Angler and NRS Chinook offer zippered tackle pockets with internal organization, knife lash tabs, and (on the Chinook) even a rod holder.

Other Options to Consider

Among the other options and features to consider when searching for the best kayak fishing PFD include:

  • Blunt Knife: Whether you're dealing with tangled lines or other matters, having a knife on your vest is never a bad idea. Like how many outdoorsmen and women always carry a pocket knife on their adventures, a blade can come in handy while you're out on the open water. Looking for a recommendation? The NRS Neko Blunt Knife is a great option that we carry at Black Hall Outfitters, one that most of our anglers will have on hand.
  • Whistle or Noise Maker: In many areas, these are required when paddling, as they're considered a necessary safety tool to alert nearby boaters or anyone on the shore of your position in an emergency. Your vest even has attachment tabs for this purpose, so you can keep it close by.
  • Inflatable Life Vests: Inflatable life vests are becoming more popular among anglers for their convenience. These PFDs are lightweight and worn like a sweatshirt or vest. When an angler faces an emergency, they can pull a tab on the life vest to activate a CO2 canister that causes it to inflate. The convenience of inflatable life vests, unfortunately, isn't matched by their practicality. For example, since you'll need to pull a tab to inflate it, a panicked or unconscious paddler may be at serious risk in an emergency. The internal canister is also prone to fail over time.

The Black Hall Pick for 2023

The Old Town Solitude PFD continues to be one of the top life vests for paddlers on the market today – and it's still the one we suggest for serious kayakers. A fitted life vest available in both men's and women's sizes, the high-performance PFD features a high back, plenty of storage, and an AirComfort system to keep paddlers cool on even the hottest summer days. Plus, it even looks great!

Contact Black Hall Outfitters Today

For more information on selecting the best PFD for kayak fishing and to browse our industry-leading Old Town and Ocean Kayak brands, contact Black Hall Outfitters today. We can’t wait to help you get back out on the water!

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