Kayak Fishing PFDs: Buyer’s Guide with Review

The Best Kayak Fishing PFDs: A good PFD is essential for kayak anglers.

A personal floatation device that functions properly can make the difference between arriving home and exaggerating the size of the cobia you landed or not returning home at all. Safety is paramount, especially in large water.

The best options offer visibility, floatation and storage. They also double as mini tackle bags and PFDs.

We’ve got your back if you don’t know where you should start!

Here’s a comprehensive buying guide and reviews of top kayak fishing PFDs.

Here’s a quick look at the top kayak fishing live vests

  • Stohlquist Fisherman
  • NRS OS Chinook– The Best Kayak Angling Personal Firearm
  • Stohlquist PiseasBest Kayak Fly-Fishing Equipment
  • Kokatat Bahia Tour– The Best Long Paddle Fishing PFD

The Best Kayak Fishing PFDs Reviewed

Stohlquist Fisherman


SM/MD – 33″ – 39″

LG/XL – 40″ – 46″

XXL 46″ – 52″.

Stohlquist’s Fisherman has a lot of great things, which is why it’s one of our favorite books over the years.

Kayak anglers require a lot more storage than most paddlers. Stohlquist clearly thought of fishermen when designing this PFD.

The vest’s front features two large, zippered pockets that drain. This gives you plenty of storage options and keeps your gear close at hand. There are plenty of mesh pockets inside and a D-ring to attach tools. Each pocket has a zippered front that can hold small items such as lures, flies, split shots, and the like.

This is a big deal, considering that deck space on a ‘yak is often at a premium.

There are also two D-rings located at the bottom of the PFD that offer additional attachment points.

Stohlquist Fisherman has storage options that are hard to beat.

The Stohlquist Fischerman wears a tough 500 denier Cordura nylon shell and is ready to tackle any challenge while angling. You’ll also find a 200-denier oxford inside, which is more comfortable and skin-friendly.

This PFD is very well-fitted, especially if it follows the sizing chart. It can also be adjusted in all the right spots. There are no complaints.

This PFD has very little mesh, but it is Type III approved by US Coast Guard.

Stohlquist offers two color options, but it is virtually impossible to find mango. This leaves only a low-viz option.

The neoprene-padded shoulder straps are very comfortable and have a small strip of 3M reflective material.

My verdict: This vest is great for places where visibility isn’t critical. It also makes it possible to fish in areas where there is no boat traffic. This is not uncommon, and I have fished many lakes without power boats.

The Stohlquist Fisherman may be right for you if that is something you are interested in.


  • Great storage options
  • Excellent fit
  • Excellent comfort
  • The US Coast Guard has rated Type III
  • Fabric that is tough and easy to clean


  • It is very difficult to find high-visibility colors.
  • The PFD does not have enough reflective material

NRS OS ChinookBest Kayak Angling PFD


XS/M 30″-42″.

L/XL – 42″-52″.

XL/XXL: 50″-56″.

The NRS OS Chinook kayak anglers’ dream PFD offers unbeatable storage and safety.

The high viz orange, like the Stohlquist can be difficult to find unless you go directly to the manufacturer (which is not an option for Stohlquist unfortunately). It’s undoubtedly your best safety option, especially if big water anglers.

NRS has thought of everything when designing this PFD for kayakers. This safety item doubles as a small tackle bag and has zippered pockets to hold a VHF radio. You will find plenty of storage options and attachment points to keep your gear organized.

The OS Chinook has many storage options, including a VHF radio pocket.

This is a truly amazing front.

It is also comfortable. OS Chinook forgoes mesh panels and focuses on clever design. You’ll see a lot of air, not mesh, which is a big difference from the rest of the market.

What could be better than mesh? Air!

It is important to measure your body and choose the right size. There are many adjustment points on the OS Chinook to ensure that you get the perfect fit.

Expect 400 denier ripstop nylon exterior and softer, more abrasive inner.

The high-viz orange is also matched with numerous strips of reflective material. This greatly increases low-light visibility.

My money is on the best kayak fishing PFD.


  • Amazing storage options
  • Excellent fit
  • Amazing comfort
  • The US Coast Guard has rated Type III
  • Fabric that is tough and easy to clean
  • Manufacturer offers a great high-visibility color option
  • There are many reflective materials available


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Stohlquist PiseasBest Kayak Fly – Fishing Equipment


SM/MD – 30″ – 42″

LG/XL – 42″ – 56″

UNIV – 30′ – 54″.

Stohlquist Piseas has storage options that are tailored to fly anglers.

There are plenty of points to attach tools such as hemostats or pliers. You’ll also find two large zippered pockets in the front, one with a mesh inner pocket, and the other with a fly organizer.

These details really distinguish the Piseas from its competitors.

That is what matters to me. I believe it will for you.

This vest is ideal for fly fishermen because it doesn’t require you to open a fly box and retrieve it. Instead, unzip and grab it.

If you measure correctly and select the right size, you can expect excellent fit. You’ll also find many buckles that can be used to adjust the fit of the Piseas.

However, unlike the Stohlquist Fisherman’s PFD, this PFD is not as stylish as the NRS. Stohlquist has managed to manage as much open air as possible, and there’s a mesh panel on the back.

The Cordura ripstop nylon shell is 420 denier and looks like cast iron. It’s also easy to clean. Your vest will withstand the elements year after year, no matter how delicate your flies.

The PFD’s crimson color is very visible, but it doesn’t have much reflective material.


  • Amazing storage options
  • Excellent fit
  • Excellent comfort
  • The US Coast Guard has rated Type III
  • Fabric that is tough and easy to clean
  • High-visibility color.


  • The PFD does not have enough reflective material

Kokatat Bahia Tour– The Best Long Paddle Fishing PFD

Kokatat Bahia Tour Personal Flotation Device


SM/MD 36″ – 42″

LG/XL 42″-50″

XXL50″- 5″

Kokatat’s Bahia Tour, a great fishing PFD is for anglers who paddle long distances to their fishing spots.

Bahia Tour is designed for paddling sessions that are intense. It has large arm holes, plenty of space for shoulder rotation and ample storage. Anglers who need to push themselves each time they get on the water can take this as a good thing.

You have two zippered side-entry pockets that can be used for storage, but they are not ideal for handling tackle. The VHF pocket is located on the front right and is essential for big-water anglers, who may choose this PFD.

The fit is great and the comfort is good. It also offers some of the most customizable options of any PFD we have reviewed. This vest’s design makes perfect sense. The Bahia Tour will work for you, not against, on long, difficult paddles.

This PFD is made of 210 denier nylon, both inside and outside. It is not the most durable, but it is the brightest. It’s easy to spot the orange in the water and sky and enough reflective material makes it easy to see in low light.

This is a huge deal when you are a mile off the coast, the sun is setting, and fishing boats are returning to the marina to launch.

If you are a serious kayak angler who chases big fish in big water, then it may be worth trading storage for comfort.


  • Excellent fit
  • Amazing comfort
  • The US Coast Guard has rated Type III
  • Fabric that is strong enough to be cleaned easily
  • Amazing visibility


  • The PFD does not offer much storage for anglers

How to Choose a Personal Floatation Device For Kayak Fishing

Coast Guard Approved

Each PFD on this list has been approved by the US Coast Guard. You should not buy or use any vest that isn’t. It’s as simple as that.

To ensure that PFDs work properly, the Coast Guard tests them rigorously.

These vests are all Type III and can be worn continuously in activities such as kayaking.However, Type III PFDs won’t make paddlers unconscious.

Although they are heavier and bulkier, PFDs designed for this purpose are not made for paddling or fishing.


People I know who don’t like wearing a PFD mainly do so because they are uncomfortable. It’s true, a poorly fitting vest can really be painful.

It’s not difficult to find a PFD that fits and offers comfort as well as life-saving buoyancy.

Keep in mind that a loose PFD will not always do its job in an emergency. It is crucial to take care of yourself.

Use a tape measure to wrap around your chest.

Here are some tips to help you achieve the perfect size.

  • Do not assume that you are the right size. Measure! It could be the difference between your life and death.
  • To ensure the vest fits properly, wear it with your regular fishing clothes. You can loosen up the fit and wear heavier clothing if you fish in different seasons. To really shape the vest, a good PFD allows you to adjust the fit at different points (shoulders, waist and chest).
  • Ask a friend to help you pull the PFD up over your head. If the PFD falls off, it is too large and may not be able to keep you safe in an emergency.
  • Once the vest is in place, take a paddle and start to move in the air. If you have restricted arm and shoulder movement, this is not the right type of PFD.
  • Next, sit down in a kayak and lean back. You can give the PFD a pass if it feels uncomfortable.


A good fishing PFD has features that can be worn on any vest but also includes some specific features for angling like pockets and storage options.

High-contrast colors, reflective materials

Safety features such as bright colors and reflective materials are important to me. In case of an emergency, it is important to be easily visible and easy to locate, even in low lighting. It is important to be easy to spot when you are fishing or paddling in large water.

Mesh should be used in reasonable quantities

A PFD will never be better than any other. You should be prepared to sweat a little more in exchange for safety.

I prefer to see a lot of mesh at the back and sides, and to let heat escape and sweat evaporate.


Fabrics are rated using a denier system. Higher numbers indicate thicker and more durable weaves.

A tough PFD is essential due to the harsh conditions that water, sun, wind and rain can cause. To ensure a long-lasting service life, choose nylon 400 denier or heavier.

We look for zippers that are strong and easy to use, but don’t catch fabric when you close them.

Storage and pockets

A good fishing PFD can be used as both a tool and a survival necessity.

I would like to see storage options, and attachment points for tools such as pliers. This will ensure that your gear is always at hand and ready for use.

Take care

Your PFD will soon get ugly fast: blood, slime and scales

You want one that is easy to clean, and you can take good care.

Keep these things in mind when using a personal flotation device (PFD)

  • Do notUse your vest as a cushion. The foam will be compressed by your weight, making it less buoyant.
  • Do notJust toss the vest in your yak and leave it there until next time. The fabric can be damaged by prolonged UV exposure.
  • DoUse a mild soap to clean it. You will be pleasantly surprised at how dry it is.
  • DoAt the beginning of every season, check your PFD for any damage or wear.
  • DoGive it a good sniff. If you smell mildew, your foam might be compromised. You will need a new PFD for safety.
  • DoYou should check your vest for buoyancy at least once a season to make sure it keeps you bouncing on the surface. Put your vest on and enjoy swimming!

Why I amRECOMMENDED NOTAutomatic Inflating Vests

The latest trend in PFDs, the ultra-low profile automated inflating style, is the one that maximizes comfort and minimizes material.

If you are willing to give up storage options, that’s a great idea. I’m open to the trade – if these PFDs were 100% reliable.

They aren’t!

This failure was highlighted by a tragic death in 2018, and it is worth quoting the official reports. Jon

Santarelli’s “lifejacket”, which was supposed to be set for automatic inflation, was never inflated and he wasn’t seen trying to manually inflate.

I would be able to take a different position if this were a rare event. But this is far too common. These devices are not recommended for safety purposes until the failure rate is zero.

Last Thoughts

The best PFD is one that you can choose from and meets your needs.

I hope this article helped you to narrow down the options and make the best decision for you.

If so, I would love to hear all about it!

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