Kayak fishing is only fun if done safely. Even if you are an experienced paddler, accidents could happen. One of the most important safety precautions to take is wearing a Personal Floatation Device (PFD).
There is no harm in wearing one, especially if you know how to pick the perfect PFD -not too big and not too small. Such jackets don’t only serve to save you from drowning, but they also maximize the storage space by having many pockets where you can take your gear, for example.
Because they come at different price points and each has specific features, we have decided to make you a list of the best kayak fishing PFDs on the market. You’ll also find a buying guide and some essential information you should be aware of before making a purchase.
The 7 Best Kayak Fishing PFD
1. Kokatat Bahia Tour - Best Overall
Kokatat Bahia Tour
Made of 210 denier nylon, Kokatat Bahia Tour is lightweight, so it won't restrict your movement or feel stiff at any given moment. It is type III, which means that it is perfect for kayak fishing.
Plus, it is the perfect PFD for those who feel safer wearing a visible jacket because it not only comes in a visible color but also features reflective strips on the front and back that are approved from The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS.)
One of its most distinctive features is its ample storage, as it comes with two large zippers. One of them is designed to hold your pilers, and the other is excellent for the electronics. For example, it is a safe place to store your GPS, mobile phone, VHF radio and their likes.
The manufacturers are truly considerate because the main zipper pockets are bellows, meaning they can expand to hold lots of your gear, but when they are empty, they become relatively flat.
Plus, it features two lash tabs, where one is on the front and the other on the back. And they serve to secure your knife or torch.
Bahia knows how to keep its customers comfortable, and that is apparent in the PFDs design. It features lumbar support around the lower back, separated from the foam located along the upper back by a mesh section. This means that it is suitable for those whose kayaks have high back seats. Moreover, the neoprene padded shoulders and the soft Gaia foam boost comfort like no other.
- Lots of storage space
- Offers lumbar support
- Features reflective strips
- High back foam
- A bit bulky
If you’re searching for a PFD that keeps you safe and helps you store your gear, electronics, and tackle without any hassle, Kokatat Bahia Tour won't disappoint you.
2. Stohlquist Fisherman - Runner-up
Stohlquist Fisherman is one of the most durable PFDs on the market, as it is made of 500 denier Cordura shell and 200 denier oxford liner. This type III PFD is perfect for kayak fishing, and it comes in bright colors, which helps keep you visible on the water.
Besides, it features two large pockets and offers multiple D-rings as well as many elastic bands where you can slide your knife or line, for example. What’s more, I love that its zipper pockets are EVA-foam padded, which helps keep our gear safe, especially when you’re climbing back into the kayak after having been on the water.
The pockets also act as a fold-down work surface when they’re opened, which is great when you’re tying lines. Sadly, some people complain that the pockets are a bit bulky.
As for comfort, Stohlquist Fisherman features multiple adjustment points, so it is suitable for different-sized people. Besides, it stays in its place thanks to the chest straps.
Further, it features neoprene-padded shoulders and back waistband, and high back foam flotation that adds comfort if the back seat is high. What's more, its sides are ventilated so as not to make you sweaty in hot weather.
- Features high back foam
- Stays in place
- Offers zipper pockets
- Visible color
- Has easily adjustable straps
- May be bulky to some people
- Little storage space inside the pockets
Stohlquist Fisherman is the PFD to buy if you're looking for a durable one that is also comfortable and maximizes the storage space. Its drawbacks are minimal compared to its advantages.
3. NRS Chinook - Best Compartmentalization Ample Storage
Designed for anglers, NRS Chinook is the one if you’re searching for a PFD that holds all of your gear in an organized manner.
This type III PFD comes with three zipper pockets and four velcro pouches, allowing you to organize your gear as you want. The velcro pouches come in different sizes, providing lots of flexibility. Two of the zipper pockets are designed for storing your tackle, and the third is a bit smaller and has a key clip, so you can rest assured that you won't lose your keys.
That sounds like enough storage room, no? Luckily, it has still got more options. For example, it features a rod holder, allowing you to tie line without putting your rod down. Plus, the fly patch and retractable tool holder help you get great access to line snips.
What's more, the D-ring on the back of the vest holds your net in case you want to park the kayak for any reason.
NRS would never fall short of providing its customers with optimum comfort. This PFD has soft PlushFit foam, which enables it to take the shape of your body.
What’s more, it features eight adjustment points, so it perfectly fits different-sized people. Like most previous PFDs, it is suitable for high back kayak seats because of the mesh panel at the lower back.
Being red-colored, it is pretty visible on the water, but it doesn't have any reflective strips.
- Features seven pockets
- Has eight adjustment points
- Approved by the US Coast Guard
- Takes the shape of your body for unprecedented comfort
- No reflective markings
If you’re not on a budget, NRS Chinook is the perfect PFD for experienced anglers as it features multiple pockets. Plus, it is unbelievably comfortable to wear for extended hours.
4. Stohlquist Women's Flo - Best Women PFD
Stohlquist Women's Flo
Best Women PFD
Stohlquist Women's Flo is the best type III PFD for women for various reasons. One of which is featuring built-in bust cups, which serve to provide women with comfort. Besides, the cinching chest straps prevent the PFD from jumping up, which is a huge plus.
It is made of puncture-resistant 400 x 200 denier ripstop shell and 210 denier oxford liner with lightweight foam, which has an inner mesh lining for coolness and wearability. And it is so comfortable that you won’t have any trouble paddling while wearing it, thanks to its padded neoprene lower back waistband.
Another thing I adore about Stohlquist Women's Flo is featuring a mesh panel at the lower back, which serves to raise the foam above the back of the seat, and therefore, you won’t have to lean forward.
Further, it fits women of different sizes as you can adjust it at the waist and shoulders until you find the shape that most suits you.
As for storage, it has large bellow pockets with drainage to ensure your tackle stays as dry as possible.
Sadly, some of the large-chested women complain that it is not the best PFD for them since its front padding lies over the chest area, leaving a gap between itself and their body.
- Designed for women
- Does not jump up
- Fits lots of women
- Large bellow pockets
- Approved by the US Coast Guard
- Not suitable for large-chested women
- May be a bit bulky
Stohlquist Women's Flo is the one for women with small breasts. Its ability to stay put without jumping up is a huge plus, given how horrible paddling is in such a case.
5. Onyx Curve MOVEVENT - Budget Choice
Onyx Curve MOVEVENT
At a very affordable price, Onyx Curve MOVEVENT is a pretty durable type III PFD, thanks to its 200-Denier nylon ripstop and nylon oxford construction.
Plus, it offers plenty of storage as it features three main pockets where you can secure your tackle. Rest assured that nothing will fall off your pockets as they are secured with zippers, snap buttons and buckles.
There are other pockets, but they are stacked on top of each other, so you won't be able to utilize them simultaneously.
This PFD is thoughtfully designed, given that it features fleece-lined hand warmer pockets, which you can use if you’ll fish in cold weather. Plus, the fold-out pocket doubles as a pocket and a workspace.
Like the Kokatat Bahia Tour, it is made of SOLAS-approved reflective material. It is also approved from the US Coast Guard and comes in blue, yellow and black colors. We recommended you get the yellow one, as it is the most visible and therefore the safest for night fishing.
It offers maximum comfort, thanks to its shoulder and back floatation and bubble foam. Plus, the mesh on its lower back allows for ventilation when you are out fishing on hot summer days for a long time.
It fits people of different sizes because of its neoprene-padded shoulder adjustment and adjustable side belts that give you the freedom to adjust the PFD until it fits you well.
- Features reflective material
- US Coast Guard-approved
- Has many pockets
- A little bulky for some people
Onyx Curve MOVEVENT is the perfect PFD for people on a low budget. Its durability, comfort and multiple pockets are very attractive, especially when compared to its price point.
6. Lixada Fly Fishing Vest - Most Storage Options
Lixada Fly Fishing Vest
Most Storage Options
Lixada Fly Fishing Vest offers plenty of storage, featuring a total of eleven pockets. You’ll find four large chest pockets where you can store your gear, another four zipped pockets on the front, two side pockets with mesh panels to secure light gear, and finally, a large back pocket, where you can keep your lunch, for example.
At a very affordable price, this is an excellent vest that comes in a universal adult size and offers superb buoyancy for anyone weighing less than 209 pounds.
It’s made of abrasion-resistant ripstop polyester, so it is pretty durable to last for years. What’s more, it comes in two different categories, where one of them is with EPA foam, and the other isn't. We advise you to get the one with foam as it boosts the PFD’s buoyancy.
Lixada Fly Fishing Vest’s design is one of the best out there thanks to its open sides. Such design gives you enough mobility to cast and paddle without feeling restricted. You can adjust it until it fits you, thanks to its adjustable shoulder and waist straps.
Plus, its breathable mesh construction allows for air movement. This way, you can wear it on hot days without irritation and sweat.
- Plenty of pockets
- Low-quality zippers
Lixada Fly Fishing Vest is pretty cool for anglers with its eleven pockets and comfortable design. Plus, its affordable price is hard to resist, considering the minimal drawbacks.
7. Stearns Child Watersport - Best PFD for Kids
Stearns Child Watersport
Best PFD for Kids
If you want to take your kid with you on any of your kayak fishing trips, you must make sure that they're wearing a high-quality PFD so that they stay safe in case of an accident. Stearns Child Watersport is the most suitable PFD for this purpose.
This type III PFD is specially designed for kids between 30 to 50 pounds. Because Stearns knows how kids get irritated by wearing such jackets, they have designed it with closed sides and three belts for the chest area and a crotch strap. This way, they won't be able to get it off without your consent.
Putting your kid's comfort in mind, the PFD features large armholes, so that your kid doesn't suffer from the vest’s friction against their arms.
Made of 200D nylon over PE foam, Stearns Child Watersport is quite durable to withstand children misuse.
- Designed for kids
- Closed-sided and has three belts for kids’ safety
- Might be a bit tight on large kids
Stearns Child Watersport is the safest PFD to get for your child. It’s also the most comfortable because your kid won't feel restricted.
What is a PFD
PFD is short for Personal Floatation Device. As the name implies, a PFD is a piece of attire that helps keep you afloat whenever you’re in the water. Therefore, it is one of the most critical equipment on any kayak whenever it leaves the shore.
Types of Kayak PFD
There are various types of PFD catering to different purposes and situations.
Type I PFD: Offshore Life jackets
Type I is specially designed for rough waters, oceans, or any place where being rescued quickly is unlikely to happen, as it turns your face up if you're unconscious. This justifies why it is the best floatation device.
However, it is the bulkiest and doesn't provide the comfort one needs when paddling. It is the type of PFD you’d find on a commercial vessel, and it’s not sold to the public.
Type II PFD: Nearshore Buoyancy Vests
Type II is an excellent floatation device as Type I; however, it is intended for near-shore use where rescue is quick to arrive. While it is less bulky than the former type, it is still unsuitable for kayaking because it doesn't offer the mobility a paddler needs.
Type III PFD: Flotation Aids
Type III is what you’re searching for. It is the type of PFD that must be on every kayak. Its large armholes and the fact that the bulk of floatation is kept away from the arms and shoulders provide the kayakers with the mobility and comfort they need while paddling and casting. Like type II, this one is designed to be used in places where rescue is fast to arrive.
Type IV PFD: Throwable Devices
This is the type of PFD most of us are familiar with. It is this ring that is to be thrown to anyone who's having trouble swimming. It is regarded as a backup rather than a PFD, though. Plus, it won't rescue unconscious people, unlike Type I and II. it is needless to say that this is not what you need while kayaking.
Type V PFD: Special-use Devices
This type is designed for specific activities. To illustrate, some are designed for kayaking; others are intended for waterskiing, windsurfing, or other similar activities. So, before buying this type, make sure that the one you pick is designed for kayaking.
How to Pick an Excellent PFD for Kayak Fishing
Before buying a PFD, certain factors must be checked off your checklist. We have gathered all of the critical factors below, hoping you pick the right one.
The size of the PFD is the first thing you should check before buying one. Note, though, that like any jacket you buy, it is not your weight that matters but your chest size because this is where the PFD should fit. If it is too big, it may come off, and if it is too small, it might not be able to hold your weight.
The best way to deal with this problem is to opt for one with multiple adjustment points, as this will give you a more secure fit than a model with one or two adjustable straps.
Nothing is better than feeling comfortable while paddling. For this reason, some designers manufacture their PFDs with high back flotation with a mesh panel at the lower back. This serves to make it comfortable because the bulk of the PFD stays above the back of your seat while you’re sitting.
There are three types of material of which PFDs are made: Gaia, Kapok and PVC. Each of these has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, PFDs made of Gaia are environment-friendly, meaning that they are UV-resistant. Plus, they are lighter than the other materials.
Kapok is more buoyant and durable, but it is flammable, so we don't recommend it. Meanwhile, we suggest PVC, as it is resistant to flames, sun and other chemicals without compromising the performance.
We also love the ones made of ripstop nylon. Don't forget to check the denier, which is the number that denotes the density of the nylon. The higher it is, the more durable the vest.
What would you say if I told you that you could store some of your gear in the pockets of your PFD? Sounds fantastic, no? Whenever you’re looking for one, make sure it has lots of pockets.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Must I Wear a PFD When Kayak Fishing?
Yes, you must. It ensures your safety in case of any accidents.
How to Clean my PFD?
It is very simple. All you need to do is rinse it in fresh water after each use, hang it and then leave it to dry.
What is the Difference Between a PFD and a Life Jacket?
PFDs are more comfortable because they are worn for longer than traditional life jackets. But they offer a lower level of protection than life jackets.
Hopefully, you’ve already found the PFD you want to buy. In case you’re still confused, allow me to highlight some of the most prominent models on our list.
Our best choice is Kokatat Bahia Tour for its ample storage that allows you to secure your electronics. Plus, it is pretty safe, thanks to featuring SOLAS-approved reflective strips. It’s also pretty comfortable.
For women PFD, your best option is Stohlquist Women's Flo, as it is the only one that features built-in bust cups, which provide women with comfort. Also, its cinching chest straps prevent it from jumping up, helping you paddle with relaxation. Plus, it features large bellow pockets and can be adjusted to suit your size.
In case you're searching for a PFD for your children, go for Stearns Child Watersport. It is pretty durable and specially designed for kids. Besides, it has closed sides and belts around the chest area, ensuring that no matter what a kid does, they won't be able to get it off without the parent’s agreement. It is also comfortable and soft on your kid’s skin, causing no friction.