Fishing Kayak Life Vest


If you are a longtime reader of, you know that our ultimate goal is to further the world’s awareness of kayak fishing and to ensure that our readers learn how to stay safe while participating in the most rewarding water related activity on the planet.

By now, you’ve probably heard of kayak fishing. After all, it is growing at an exponential pace! But did you know that there is a certain type of life vest that is designed uniquely for kayak fishing purposes? Yes, there is, and we’ve dedicated this Ultimate Guide to singing the praises of the fishing kayak life vest! Do you want to learn more about the fishing kayak life vest and the benefits it will provide you? Well, you’re in the right place!

Fishing Kayak Life Vest

Fishing Kayak Life Vest: Ultimate Guide

Fishing Kayak Life Vest

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We’ve written this Fishing Kayak Life Vest Ultimate Guide to serve as your #1 free resource for everything you need to know about the different types of fishing kayak life vest on the market today. We’ve also been sure to include all of the reasons that we suggest you buy a life vest as soon as possible (hint: there are more reasons than safety). We’ve organized this Ultimate Guide into separate categories, beginning with an overview of the basics before moving to a quick and useful “how to” checklist!

After you’ve gone over (or freshened up on) the basics and have breezed through the “how to” list, you’ll benefit from reading through the list of the critical features to find when analyzing fishing kayak life vests. We’ve  includes examples and pictures of each of these critical features so you follow along with perfect clarity as to what we are describing. Along with each feature is a short summary of why the particular feature is perfectly tailored to (and so helpful for) kayak fishing!

After reading through the above sections, you’ll pretty much be an expert on the fishing kayak life vest, so we’ve included a link to a particular model of  that we know from experience is a perfect example of a high quality and high performing kayak life vest. It is one of our favorites. The link will take you to the manufacturer’s product page so you can learn more about the particular life vest to see if you think it makes sense for your own kayak fishing style! We’ve also written about our own experience with the referenced model of life vest. We always think its best to learn from the first hand experience of others – hopefully it will be helpful for you too! Ok, shall we get started?

Fishing Kayak Life Vest: The Basics

Fishing Kayak Life Vest

Please note: This post contains affiliate links. An affiliate link means that we may earn advertising/referral fees if you make a purchase through our links. 

Shortcut to Fishing Kayak Life Vest Review

We are certain that you’ve seen life vests, or life jackets (the other name that these products sometimes go by) in tons of different styles and with numerous different features. We’ve seen life vests for the back yard pool. Life vests for motorized water sports. Life vests for water skiing. It seems that there is a life vest for every different type of water activity in existence. Can you guess which type of life vest is our favorite? Easy answer – the vest that is specifically built for kayak fishing!

You can see from the image that we’ve included above that the fishing kayak life vest is quite specialized – it is perfectly crafted for kayak fishing purposes (rather than floating, water skiing, etc). As long as the fishing kayak life vest is correctly used, which you will learn below, it will keep you safe while you are on the water. Even better? The life vest will literally improve your kayak fishing ability by including features that impact and increase your kayak fishing expertise! Try to find another kayak fishing product with such a great dual benefit.

Lastly, you and every other kayak fisherman are surely aware that kayak fishing requires a number of pieces of gear! Some of the gear is big like trolling motors and kayak outriggers. Some of the gear is small, like paddle leashes and tackle boxes. The result of this reality is that the typical kayak fisherman is always on the lookout for better ways to maximize his or her space – of course, extra space is merely one of the bonuses of a fishing kayak life vest. The remainder of this article will touch on the other reasons why a fishing kayak life vest comes so highly recommended by KFC. Let’s dive in!

Fishing Kayak Life Vest: How to Use Properly

Fishing Kayak Life Vest

We are visual learners. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? For this reason, we’ve added an image (above) that is indicative of the proper way to wear the fishing kayak life vest. Look how the straps of the life vest have been tightened to fit appropriately to the fisherman’s chest, shoulders and back? Notice that the straps under the fisherman’s arms have been tightened to make certain that the life vest will not slide around while the fisherman is being active (like during casting, or paddling, or adjusting his or her kayak stabilizers).

We will say it a number of times in this Ultimate Guide in hopes of you remembering this important safety lesson: Even the best fishing kayak life vest will not keep you safe if you do not wear and use it correctly. In fact, improper wear or use may actually be MORE dangerous that not wearing a life vest in the first place! We know that most of the KFC readers realize that  they should use a kayak life vest while on the water. Most readers have good intentions when they decide to purchase a life vest for themselves or others in the kayak fishing group.

The common mistake is that many of these readers (prior to this Ultimate Guide) have purchased a life vest of low quality or comfort or even one that has not been designed for kayak fishing purposes. Please do not make the same mistake! We’ve written this Ultimate Guide to prevent you from doing so! The reality is plain and simple. A low quality or uncomfortable life vest will actually encourage a kayak fisherman NOT to wear the life vest! Take a look at some of the other “Do” and “Don’t” tips and tricks relating to the proper use of a kayak life vest:

Fishing Kayak Life Vest
  • DO – Buy the right size of fishing kayak life vest. Remember to consider what you will wear underneath the life vest. Will you be wearing additional layers of clothing due to cold weather? If yes, you should get a little larger size of life vest).
  • DO – Customize the straps of the life vest to make certain of a tight fit. You’ll want the life vest should to be tight enough so that it doesn’t slide around or ride up on you (especially if you accidentally fall overboard), but you should see it from becoming so tight that it results in pain or discomfort (because you’ll be less likely to use it).
  • DO – Have the right number of fishing kayak life vests on the kayak at all times. Make sure to take tally of the life vest BEFORE paddling out onto the water. If you are a tandem kayak fisherman, you’ll need one life vest per participant, no exceptions!
  • DON’T – Overload or overstuff the life vest’s pockets. Yes, high quality fishing kayak life vests have many pockets, but don’t overfill them. Why? Doing so might disrupt the level of buoyancy of the life vest (remember, they life vest are designed to maintain an appropriate the level of floatation, but the design can be impacted if you overload).
  • DON’T – Forget to store your kayak life vest the right way when you are done for the day. You’ll want the life vest to be completely dry before you store it for away for a later trip. A fishing kayak life vest should not be left in a wet condition. Always allow the vest to fully air dry. Once the life vest is 100% dry you should store it in an appropriate location for future use!
  • DON’T – Locate sharp hooks or exposed blades in concealed pockets! You might forget where you have stored dangerous items like these, and you could easily hurt yourself or someone else! Keep these type of items in a safe location, but never in your life vest pockets!

Fishing Kayak Life Vest: Important Features

Fishing Kayak Life Vest

Like we said above, there are life vests for just about every different type of water activity imaginable. If you are a water skiing, then you’ll want a water skiing life vest. If you are more of a pool lounger, then you’ll want a life vest that is built for lounging. If you enjoy motorized water sports, then you’ll need a performance life vest. Just like each of the previous types of life vests, kayak fishing has a particular type of life vest that perfectly suits its demands. We’ve listed five of the definitive most critical features to find in a fishing kayak life vest below – after all, this is an Ultimate Guide. You’ll see that each critical feature includes a example photo and a short description of why the feature is ideal for kayak fishing. Here we go:

  • Customizable size / Adjustable straps.  You’ll need to verify that your fishing kayak life vest allows you to customize the fit of the life vest to the particulars of your body. Remember to think about whether you’ll be wearing extra layer of clothing and how that might impact your sizing needs. If you kayak fish in the winter time, thus wearing additional layers of clothing, you’ll want to size up to make certain there is room for the extra layers. The fishing kayak life vest should fit you comfortably, but comfort does not mean that you need to compromise safety. Shoulder straps will allow you to achieve the level of comfort needed without putting yourself at risk. Check out the example below:
Fishing Kayak Life Vest

The best fishing kayak life vests will adjust at the shoulders AND the waist. Dual adjustability creates maximum customization. Make sure to tighten all straps to fit snuggly to the fisherman’s waist and shoulders.  A life vest won’t work unless you are wearing it properly. Remember, never buy a life vest that is both uncomfortable and non-adjustable. Why? You won’t wear it! Adjustability and customization go hand in hand. These, more than any other factors, are the most critical feature to find on any kayak life vest! Look for  life vest with a high degree of adjustability (you’ll need this for your safety and your convenience)!

  • Attachment “Ladders” and Accessory Hoops.  We are sure that you have seen this particular design feature, even though you may not have known the correct name for them. They are essentially connection points for carabiners. Carabiners are a highly useful piece of kayak fishing gear. Most high quality kayak life vests will have durable and logically located ladders or hoops to where carabiners can be connected! Take a look at a close up of the ladders and hoops below:
Fishing Kayak Life Vest

The lateral attachment ladders are great for clipping on extra water bottles or other small to medium sized accessories. The connection hopes can also be used for attaching an iPhone holder. It keeps the iPhone conveniently located, allowing you to use your hands on more important things, like reeling in fish! We were surprised to see that many kayak life vests did NOT include these critical features. Some did have them, but we were concerned. They were actually of low quality (which is far more dangerous than not having them at all).

  • Front Zipper Pockets. Pockets, pockets, pockets! The more locations into which we can place kayak fishing gear, the better! It is an unfortunate reality that space is very limited on a kayak. Every little bit helps! Many high quality fishing kayak life vests have pockets are generally 5 by 8 inches. The pockets generally expand outward about 4 inches from the vest. Take a look at some exampled with the included measuring chart so you can get a feel for the size:
Fishing Kayak Life Vest

Enlarged pockets (like the above) are critical. You’ll end up using these pockets to hold extra weights and any number of other pieces of kayak fishing gear.  Make sure that your fishing kayak life vests have zippers (as opposed to velcro) to securely shut the pockets. Zippers are way better at securing the content and tend to stand up better over time. Velcro will wear out and doesn’t seem to perform as well after several instances of water exposure. Velcro just isn’t reliable enough. Zippers can be trusted to do the job!

  • Rod “Loop” Holder. These features are easily missed because they are quite small. You need to know what you are looking for in order to see them in the first place. They are great for giving you an “extra set of hands” because they allow you to “hold” your rod while freeing your hands to address other matters. The example below shows you what this feature is and includes a rod safely stored within the feature itself.
Fishing Kayak Life Vest

Rod loops are generally located diagonally across from one another (though we have seen them oriented one on top of the other on some vests). One loop is usually near the waist and the other near the shoulder. This allows the handle of the rod to rest safely between the two large fishing kayak life vest pockets – keeping the rod safely stored and out of the way. Very, very convenient and a feature not to be taken for granted!

  • Hanger.  Unless you have very thoroughly researched this market (like we have) you have almost certainly never thought about the presence or absence of a hanger.  Boring right? No way! Hangers are very, very important. You should never hang the life vest by the shoulder straps. Why? Continually doing so will surely result in a crease where the strap is folded over. A crease will lead to a weakening of the material of the life vest over time! 
    Fishing Kayak Life Vest

A built in hanger allows you to take better care of your life vest. A fishing kayak life vest with hanger lets you to place several life vests side by side on a rack (perfect for not taking up too much room).  We always suggest that KFC readers hang kayak life vests on a rack as the preferred method of storage. The longevity of life vests that have been hung on racks, instead of jammed them onto shelves or stuffed into boxes, is far superior!

Buy the Best Fishing Kayak Life Vest

(Commissions Earned)

Perfect for Kayak Fishermen!

Remember what you learned above. A kayak life vest is not a “one size fits all” type of product. With a fishing kayak life vest, you are actually taking care of two needs/products at once. First you are buying something to keep you safer on the water. Second, you are buying a vest, a product that immediately makes you a better kayak fisherman! has conducted hours and hours of research, personal fittings, trial and error, and even a trip across state lines. We finally decided that our favorite fishing kayak life vest is the one that we’ve linked to above.  It contains all of the features that we’ve listed in this Ultimate Guide, but that’s really only the beginning.  We love the ripstop polyester outer shell – its great for durability. It is also very convenient that the sides of the life vest are “open” rather than “enclosed”. This allows the kayak fisherman to paddle, use a trolling motor, or even stand and cast, without interference that would come from an enclosed style life vest.

We also like the reflective material on the front and rear shoulder pieces. This is a nice safety feature for kayak fishing at dusk and dawn (when there isn’t much sunlight) because the reflectors will help show your position on the water to boaters who might otherwise not be able to see you. The mesh on the back of the life vest provides maximum breathability and comfort. If you are not comfortable, you are not going to wear a life vest! Period. This is a big mistake! It is better to spend the few extra dollars to buy a fishing kayak life vest that is adjustable and comfortable, you’ll be glad you did (and you’ll be much safer for it)! Remember, even if you are using something more simple (like a tandem pedal kayak) and particularly if you will be using it in the sea (in the best tandem sea kayak), you’ll need to have at least one life vest per occupant in the kayak. No exceptions!

Fishing Kayak Life Vest: My Experience

Fishing Kayak Life Jacket

Truthfully, a kayak life vest is one of the vest first things you should by before taking your kayak out onto the water. Perhaps it, your kayak, and your fishing pole, are the three most critical elements to the sport. The kayak life vest, however, is the only one of the three that is designed specifically to keep you safe.

As we’ve said above, any time we are able to combine two features into one piece of kayak fishing gear, we are pretty ecstatic. Here, I was thrilled to combine the reassurance provided to me by the kayak life vest with the convenience typically reserved for a high quality kayak fishing vest. The life vest is very easy to wear, doesn’t get in the way of my casting, and is capable of adjusting to the size of my body regardless of whether I am wearing a number of additional layers of clothing. Frankly, after putting this life vest over my head, tightening at the shoulders and around my waist, I forget that I am even wearing it in the first place. It feels more like wearing my trusty fishing vest, but with the added benefit of life preserving protection!

While you are here… are you looking for a new kayak fishing adventure? See if Tandem Kayak Fishing would be a good fit for you. Kayak fishing is always more fun with a friend, just make sure to bring an extra life vest! And if you are looking for something a little easier to move among your favorite bodies of water, a portable kayak could be a good fit!


Fishing Kayak Life Vest

I hope our Fishing Kayak Life Vest Ultimate Guide has been helpful to you. Again, our #1 goal was to write a guide that would provide all of the important details and considerations for this awesome kayak fishing product. Remember, if you have any questions about any particular fishing kayak life vest, or want to know more about which features you should consider when deciding which one to buy for yourself, be sure to let us know! Just post on the comment box below. We’d love to bounce ideas around with you. We know that there is benefit to having a conversation with you! Above all else – always consider your fishing kayak life vest as a piece of kayak fishing gear – only with the added benefit of increasing your safety on the water! Good luck out there! Learn more about safety on the water in this article by the Red Cross!

Test your skill against fellow kayak anglers by entering a kayak fishing tournament!

Fishing Kayak Life Vest: Comments

Do you own a fishing kayak life vest? How long have you had it? Is it comfortable to wear? What features do you like the best? If you could change it, what would you change? What overall score would you give it?  We’d love for you to share your experience with the KFHQ Community! Just post below in the comments section!  We read and reply to every single comment! Interacting with the kayak fishing community is one of our favorite pastimes!

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