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Let’s get this out of the way now: No matter if you’re paddleboarding or white-water rafting, canoeing or even fishing, a life jacket - aka a personal floatation device (PFD) - is an absolutely essential item for anyone heading out for a day on the water. If there’s any chance you will end up in the water, you must wear a life jacket.
A fishing life vest isn’t just for emergencies, it’s also portable storage! Lugging around a tackle box can be awkward and weigh you down. If you like to move from fishing spot to fishing spot, fishermen life jackets are an amazing way to keep your gear on-hand and allow for more mobility when fishing. They are also particularly handy for fishermen who might prefer smaller boats, kayaks or canoes, fishing from shore, or even paddle boarding. Fishing life jackets ultimately save you space and can help you travel lighter while doing what you love.
P.S. If you're looking for a fishing SUP, we recommend inflatable paddle boards.
If you haven’t tried it yet, paddle board fishing allows you to access fishing spots that you otherwise couldn’t with a boat and offers more visibility of the fish and water. Curious to try? Check out our favorite fishing paddle boards.
No matter what type of fishing you do, this guide will break down what to look for and shortlist some of the best fishing life jackets available.
Before you jump and buy the first PFD you see, let’s go over the different types of life vests available.
Let’s get right into it! Out of all the fishing PFDs that we reviewed, these are the best fishing life jackets:
The most comfortable fishing life jacket we tested.
What we like:
What we don’t like:
A professional quality vest that boasts maximum comfort and functionality for all fishermen
What we like:
What we don’t like:
A solid contender if you’re on a budget!
What we like:
High-foam back for high-back seats
Breathable mesh lower back
Adjustable straps for a snug fit
Low profile, paddle specific foam design
What we don’t like:
You can’t use all the different pockets at once, as they share the same storage
Keep reading for the rest of our comprehensive guide to fishing life jackets and detailed reviews. No matter your budget or style of fishing, this guide has you covered.
The NRS Chinook Fishing PFD is a prime example of a life jacket designed to keep you afloat should you accidentally end up in the water, while still offering maximum storage and all the bells and whistles!
The NRS Chinook is perfect for a variety of fishermen, who fish from canoes, kayaks or other small boats, and need to save space wherever possible. It is consistently praised for its comfort while offering maximum storage and would definitely be classified as a professional-quality vest.
This multi-pocket fishing life jacket has been designed for maximum comfort and usability.
The Astral Ronny might just be the most comfortable fishing life jacket we’ve ever tested. The vest does offer multiple pockets but they do fall on the smaller end on the spectrum. If you pack light, this is the life vest for you.
Stohlquist is a household name in the fishing community and their Fishermen PFD stands up to the brand’s reputation offering one superb quality vest.
This life jacket really packs a punch with its functionality. The Fisherman offers multiple pockets with drainage, customizable attachments, adjustable shoulder and side straps, plus a comfortable and ergonomic design. For most fishermen, you don’t need more than this.
If you’re a kayak fisher then the Bahia Tour is for you. This life jacket boasts plenty of storage space and flexibility for organizing gear and tackle
The Bahia Tour has plenty of storage with multiple pockets but remains quite lightweight and comfortable for kayakers. The standout feature is the lumbar support in the lower back that works with reclined or high-backed seats. If your kayak doesn’t offer any low back support, this PFD would be a solid choice.
If you’re working with a budget, the ONYX Kayak Fishing Vest manages to pack in some decent features and a good amount of storage space at its price.
While the Onyx might not be the most durable or thoughtfully designed as the other life jackets on this life, we feel this offers the best bang for your buck!
If you’re a fly fisher who needs a ton of pockets and storage - look no further! With 11 pockets, a plethora of attachment options, and open sides for paddling and casting, this is our favourite fly fishing life jacket.
We had to include another Stohlquist life jacket in this guide because the brand and their products are just that reliable. Similar to their Fishermen model, this life vest offers all the bells and whistles that you could possibly want.
While some fishers feel the Stohlquist vests could be a bit more breathable, and have wider arm holes, but this life vest would be perfect for most everyday fishermen.
Built on a classic design, the Striker fishing life vest is a no-frills item for a fisher’s day on the lake, river or ocean.
The MTI Striker might not offer the widest range of attachments and storage options but it is a reliable, lightweight and low-profile jacket for those on a budget and tend to travel light on their fishing trips.
Responsible fishermen do! Like we said up top, if you’re spending a day on the water, you need to wear a life jacket - even if you’re standing on the shore of a calm lake or fly fishing on a creek. If you were to find yourself in a life-threatening situation on a fishing trip, your life vest would suddenly become even more important than your rod!
The storage is a good perk, too. If you take a look at any professional fishermen, they are likely all wearing a fishing PFD with their lures, hooks and other gear attached right to them! If the pros are doing it, you should too.
Finding a life jacket that was designed for your specific water activity, such as fishing, will ensure that you’re as safe as possible and can hold up to what you’ll be doing with it.
Each life vest is categorized by type and comes with a buoyancy rating or capacity to let you know how much floatation they offer so you can gauge exactly what you need.
We’ve said it already, but we’ll say it again: if you’re on the water, wear your life jacket! Every single year, dozens of people lose their lives while boating and statistics show that many of these deaths could have been avoided by wearing a well-fitted ife jacket.
Hopefully you never need to use your fishing life jacket in this kind of emergency situation, but if that moment ever comes, you’ll be glad that you invested in one! If you never end up in the water, then we hope our guide helped you find functional and comfortable options to look for before your next fishing trip!
Life jackets should be cleaned immediately if there are visible stains but we also recommend quickly rinsing your life jacket off after each use if you’ve been in the water. After cleaning, we prefer to dry our life jackets in the sun and then store in a cool, dark plac
A PFD is a very broad term that refers to any device that aids in flotation or keeping the wearer afloat. With that in mind, a life jacket or a life vest is essentially also considered to be a PFD. You may also hear them being referred to as life preservers, life belts, life savers and more.
Having and wearing your life jacket isn’t enough - it needs to fit well in order to perform properly. Your life jacket should fit snug without being too tight. We like to describe this as “comfortably snug”. A good sign of a well-fitting life jacket is that it doesn’t ride up over the chest and the shoulder straps don’t extend past the ears when pulled up on.
Life jackets should be cleaned immediately if there are visible stains but we also recommend quickly rinsing your life jacket off after each use if you’ve been in the water. After cleaning, we prefer to dry our life jackets in the sun and then store in a cool, dark place.
Yes! As mentioned already, a life jacket that doesn’t fit is essentially useless. This means you need to find a PFD designed specifically for children if you plan on bringing any kids with you on your fishing trip. Using an adult life jacket simply won’t cut it in terms of safety.
For two reasons – safety and law. A life jacket will keep you afloat and safe at the time you need it the most but in some cases, it’s actually illegal not to wear one!
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