In this guide, I’ll explain what a kayak outrigger is, how they work, who should have them, and how to choose them. After that, I’ll review the best kayak outriggers and show you where to snag the best deals on them!
Those of us who choose to utilize a kayak to fish from aren’t looking for the thrill of navigating rough waters and the sport of kayaking. We’re looking to relax with a more traditional style of transportation that’s easy to transport to and from the water without moving parts and all the intricacies that come along with something that has a motor.
Kayaking really changes the experience of fishing for me and brings me closer to nature on a different level than I would get from fishing on a boat.
With that said, wrangling a monster fish from a kayak has a very distinct set of challenges that are really only present when in a kayak. Pulling, yanking, guiding, etc all require the use of our body weight and when you’re deeply invested into a fight, things can get exciting and crazy fairly quickly, which doesn’t mix well with one of the most unstable watercraft, the kayak.
Equipping your kayak with an outrigger alleviates the uncertainty and adds a considerable amount of stability without sacrificing the kayaking experience. Kayak outriggers are excellent choices for those of us who prefer to keep all of our gear, and ourselves, completely dry no matter the situation. Accidents happen even to experienced kayakers, grab some outriggers and you’ll be sure to come home dry!
- Kayak Outrigger and Stabilizer Buying Guide
- Here Are the Best Kayak Outriggers and Stabilizers
Kayak Outrigger and Stabilizer Buying Guide
What is a Kayak Outrigger?
A kayak outrigger is a series of floats attached to a frame that is then attached to the side of watercraft to provide a much higher level of stability and safety. Outriggers were originally designed by the Austronesians to increase the stability of their primitive fishing boats which greatly increased their ability to provide food for their villages.
Many modern outriggers are deployable and retractable, meaning you can lower them into the water when you need them and raise them when storing the kayak or navigating tight waterways. These give you options and versatility when it comes to using a kayak for fishing.
Typically, outriggers consist of a float on one side or both sides of the kayak that, when in contact with the water, holds the kayak to a certain angle of elevation in the water, ensuring it doesn’t capsize. These floats can be metallic encasements that store air inside or the floats can be inflatable air pockets.
Why Should You Use a Kayak Outrigger?
Since kayaks are designed to be narrow and cut through the water quickly, they are easily capsized with a shift of body weight or an unexpected wave. When fishing, the goal isn’t to provide a thrilling kayaking experience with a lick of danger, instead, we’re looking to reach our destination in a relaxing traditional method that brings us closer to nature.
Since we aren’t using a kayak to blow through waves or take on white water conditions, we don’t necessarily need the kayaks modularity and narrow attributes at all times. While fishing, it’s nice to know you’re on a stable surface without the risk of falling overboard or your kayak capsizing.
If you’re using a kayak for a relaxing fishing trip and you want better stability while casting, fighting, performing rod management, fish management, etc, using something to stabilize your kayak such as an outrigger gives you a huge advantage.
Kayak outriggers also increase stability for those of us on the larger end of the spectrum in terms of weight. Kayaks are meant to be small and nimble, thus they aren’t designed well for especially larger people. Using an outrigger can greatly increase the weight capacity of a kayak and also increase its stability.
Perhaps you’re recording your fishing adventure with a camera. The quality of your video would be greatly increased since an outrigger would stabilize the kayak and provide for a much more steady recording.
Get seasick easily? Using a kayak outrigger would greatly reduce that seesaw effect that causes seasickness. Some people can’t fathom the idea of bouncing wave to wave in a kayak and thus they miss out on the kayak fishing experience. Using an outrigger greatly reduces seasickness and may help you discover a new hobby that your physical limitations kept you from prior.
Can’t swim, have a disability, or an injury? You may want to refrain from using a kayak if you can’t properly swim due to the constant risk of tipping over. Using an outrigger with your kayak greatly reduces the chances of tipping over and gives people that otherwise may be at risk using a kayak a safer way to enjoy the experience like the rest of us.
Using a quality set of outriggers on a decent sized kayak will also greatly help with standing. For me, I rarely ever stand on a kayak, but if you need to for some reason, having outriggers turns it into a rather easy activity as opposed to a risky balancing act.
How to Choose a Kayak Stabilizer or Outrigger
Kayak outriggers may seem complicated at first but there’s really only a few different options and configurations to choose from.
As always, budgeting is probably going to be the most important concern for most people. A quality set of outriggers is likely going to cost a couple hundred bucks. There isn’t really any good options that are under three-digit price tags but on the flip side, a good outrigger setup shouldn’t exceed what you spent on the kayak itself.
Now that you’ve set aside a little money and you’re ready to add stability measures to your kayak, you need to decide what features are important to you and how you want your outrigger to stabilize your kayak.
Before we get started, you’ll want to consider how the system connects to your kayak. Some kayak outriggers require you to drill holes in your kayak. This may not be for everyone, so make sure you buy a system that allows you to mount it in a way that you are comfortable with.
First, you’ll need to choose whether you want permanent air filled solutions or inflatable raft-like outriggers. Inflatables have an advantage in terms of storage, however, they’re much less durable and may incur irreparable damage if punctured. They’re typically cheaper, though, and also lighter in weight. Most people who are fishing would likely be fine with inflatable solutions.
Permanent air filled solutions are going to be metal or plastic and will have much better durability in the event that you rub up on some rocks or incur rough waters. Of course, these are a bit heavier and more expensive, but they also won’t need you to constantly blow them up.
Secondly, you’ll need to decide if you need deployability or not. Some outriggers will be set in a fixed position. Either it’s on your kayak in use or you take it off completely. Others have pivot points that allow you to pull up the poles and suspend the outriggers out of the water. These are helpful if you need to store the kayak quickly or you want to navigate close to the banks or other objects. Some outriggers also offer variable positions for different levels of stability and water conditions.
Lastly, ensure quality. Make sure everything is resistant to corrosion, especially the hardware and the poles. Some outriggers may be purpose-built for freshwater use only and may not hold up to the extra corrosiveness of salt water, so if you plan to use an outrigger setup in the ocean, ensure it’s going to last through saltwater exposure.
Kayak Outrigger Reviews
In this section of the guide, I’ll discuss the best kayak outriggers and show you where to find them. Of course, I can’t review every kayak outrigger system out there, but if I miss a good one, feel free to tell me in the comments section! Also, I’m sure more and more outrigger systems will be available in the future as kayak fishing becomes more popular, so let us all know about new advancements in the comments section down below and I’ll do my best to add them to this list!
Here Are the Best Kayak Outriggers and Stabilizers
1. Pactrade Marine Boat, Kayak, and Canoe Stabilizer
My Review: The Pactrade outrigger system is a cheap and easy way to add a whole lot of stability to your kayak. These use air filled PVC tubes mounted via stainless steel hardware and aluminum poles to achieve well-balanced stability.What I like about these is that they don’t require a crossbar to work. Of course, those crossbar units are typically a bit more durable and sturdier, but these are the perfect solution for the “easy” fix.
I’d recommend these to someone using their kayak in relatively calm waters whos just looking to create a more stable platform for fishing or enjoying a nice day out on a calm lake or river.
These are also very easy to take off and store as they come with a quick release locking mechanism and since they attach via a lock nut, they’re easily adjusted onshore, but not so much while in the water so make sure you have them in the right place before casting off.
Why I like it:
2. Brocraft Kayak Outrigger
My Review: These are pretty straight forward and you’d be hard pressed to turn your kayak over with these attached to your rig, plus, they also work well as rod holders!
I’d recommend adjusting these to just above the water height before setting off.
They are fully adjustable, however, I found that these are a bit challenging to adjust when actually out in the water.
Of course, anything touching the water is going to create drag and make kayaking a bit more difficult, but if you set them to just above the water, they only touch when you actually need them to.
Mounting options with these come in two flavors. You can choose between the kayak track model or the deck mount option. The kayak track is only compatible if your kayak actually has kayak tracks and makes for a super easy installation. If you don’t have kayak tracks, the deck mount option requires you to drill four holes in the deck of your kayak for the Scotty mounts.
Why I like it:
3. Yak Gear Kayak & Canoe Outrigger Stabilizers Generation 2
My Review: These are fairly standard and if you’ve read my review on the previous two models I’ve reviewed, most of what was said there also applies here.
These use the same PVC floatation device style at the end of black aluminum rods attached to your kayak by stainless steel hardware.
They’re fully adjustable and of course, they provide excellent, cheap, and easy stability for both kayaks and canoes.
Overall, this is a solid outrigger for the money.
Note: You can buy or read reviews on this outrigger on Amazon here.
Why I like it:
4. Hobie Kayak Sidekick AMA
My Review: These are absolutely excellent little outriggers that couldn’t be any more simple but effective.
They are inflatable, which honestly sounds pretty terrible at first, but once you realize they have one-way valves and only take about 90 seconds to inflate, it’s not so bad!
They work as intended and attach to the kayak as a single piece design as opposed to the other multi-arm designs on this list.
The support bar is bent in a way that makes adjusting them super easy. Simply twist them up or down on the fly according to your needs and water conditions.
Worried about springing a leak? Well, that is a very valid concern with inflatable outriggers, but at least they include a nice little DIY patch kit in the event of a puncture.
You can also find this outrigger in green on Amazon here.
Why I like it:
5. Scotty #302 Kayak Stabilizer System
The system offers 30lbs of extra buoyancy to each side of your kayak and installing them is fairly easy with the side and/or deck bracket mounts.
I will admit, they are a little expensive in my opinion, however, they’re also a pretty amazing addition to your kayak setup. They’re so good that you can easily stand up and fish with little to no worry about falling overboard. If you manage to flip over with these on, I’d like to see a video because that would be quite an impressive feat.
Why I like it:
6. Spring Creek Canoe & Kayak Stabilizer
My Review: These are absolutely no joke. Using these is like turning your kayak into a pontoon boat!
The floats are designed for maximum hydrodynamic performance and offer a very low additional drag coefficient while adding 27lbs of buoyancy to each side of your kayak!
Mounting this system is fairly easy and is among the sturdiest and toughest designs of any previous kayak outrigger systems I’ve reviewed.
In the package, you will receive two steel floats, two telescoping steel stability arms, and a set of stainless steel mount clamps.
Yay, options! These are available in either steel gray, torch red, or sunlight yellow and come in either 36”, 40”, or 45” models.
They are a bit heavier than most other systems on the market, but they’re also by far the most robust and best all-around performers. Using these on a kayak or canoe guarantees the ability to stand and fish all day long.
Why I like it:
Captain Cody has worked on charter fishing boats in the Florida Keys, Virgin Islands and Alaska. Cody grew up in Pennsylvania and has also done extensive freshwater fishing including bass fishing tournaments. Cody strives to provide detailed information about the best fishing gear and tactics to help both novice and experienced anglers have a more productive and enjoyable time on the water. Cody also has a background in aerospace engineering and neuroscience but really only takes pride in being good at one thing and that is fishing!