When going fishing, you need to carry a life jacket for safety and wear it all the time. A good fishing life jacket will not only keep you afloat in the water but also provide enough comfort and portability.
If you are looking for the best life jackets for fishing, we are happy to assist with this comprehensive buying guide.
Here are the best life jackets for fishing (Mar 2021 Update):
- Best Overall: Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest
- Best for Kayak Fishing: ONYX Kayak Fishing Life Jacket
- Best for Boat Fishing: Airhead Trend Life Vest
- Best for Breezy Days: Stearns Comfort Series Collared Angler Vest
- Best for Warm Weather: ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx A/M-24
- Best for Trout Fishing: Amarine Made Fly Fishing Vest Pack
|6 Best Life Jackets For Fishing|
|Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest|
Best for Kayak Fishing
|ONYX Kayak Fishing Life Jacket|
Best for Boat Fishing
|Airhead Trend Life Vest|
Best for Breezy Days
|Stearns Comfort Series Collared Angler Vest|
Best for Warm Weather
|ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx A/M-24|
Best for Trout Fishing
|Amarine Made Fly Fishing Vest Pack|
Best Overall: Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest
- Fit snugly to the body without riding up during movements - sculpted flexible foam, heavy-duty zippers, & high back mesh
- Still give you freedom of movement - large armholes
- Able to keep fishing stuff for easy reach - expandable zippered pocket and lash tab
- Very durable - tear- and puncture-resistant nylon fabrics
- The mesh used in the back looks a little tacky
Most pro fishers prefer their life jacket to not ride up while paddling, but as they also require something accommodates high back kayak seats, we think this model is the best choice.
It is designed with sculpted flexible foam to not only hug snugly to your body but also stay in place during movements. There are also three size options to choose from.
Wrapped on the outside is tear- and puncture-resistant nylon fabrics.
We like that it still provides large armholes and high back mesh for freedom of movement while you’re fishing. The biggest bonus is its expandable zippered pocket and lash tab where you can keep your fishing gear along with you for quick reach.
|Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Sports Life Vest Specifications|
X-Small/Small- 90lbs and over, 28"-36" Chest
Medium/Large- 90lbs and over, 36"-44" Chest
X-Large/2X-Large- 90lbs and over, 44"-56" Chest
SOLAS grade reflective material
sculpted flexible foam, heavy-duty zippers, & high back mesh; large armholes; expandable zippered pocket and lash tab; tear- and puncture-resistant nylon fabrics
According to its top-not performance, we decided to give the Onyx MoveVent our Best Buy award.
Best for Kayak Fishing: ONYX Kayak Fishing Life Jacket
- Able to fit the user’s movement or the kayak seat height – 6 adjustment straps
- Provide freedoms of movement and breathability - a high back with mesh
- Keep lots of fishing gears – 4 spacious pockets plus two woven elastic attachment points and lash tab
- Zipper pulls are a flexible plastic, which is prone to break
- A bit hot in the chest area
This low-profile life jacket has everything needed for kayak fishing.
It boasts 6 straps that are adjustable up and down due to your movement or the kayak seat height. Along with that, it has a high back with mesh for both freedoms of movement and breathability.
What’s worthiest talking about this life jacket is its spacious storage space with smart arrangements for easy reach.
There are four pockets overall - a one-button push drops down tray pocket for a petite tackle box, a zippered chest pocket, and two zippered fleece-lined pockets.
It also gives you two woven elastic attachment points and a lash tab.
|ONYX Kayak Fishing Life Jacket Specifications|
Universal- 30"-52" Chest, over 90lbs
Oversize- 40"-60" Chest, over 90lbs
High foam & mesh
6 adjustment straps; a high back with mesh; 4 spacious pockets plus two woven elastic attachment points and lash tab
As its name defines, the ONYX Kayak Fishing Life Jacket is specifically designed to meet all of your needs for a fun, effective, and long kayak fishing trip.
Best for Boat Fishing: Airhead Trend Life Vest
- Allow you to go fishing in style - Modern, closed-sided life vest design
- Fit nicely anyone – vast size chart & four adjustment belts with quick-release buckles
- Long-lasting durability - stain- and UV-resistant 200D polyester & Poly-E foam
- Not really comfortable in the back of the neck
Built for safety and style, the Airhead Trend Life Vest is our favorite choice for boat fishing, PWCs, and watersports.
There are sizes for anyone, from men and women to youth, from small-framed people to the large-framed, which is a big thank you to the four adjustment belts and quick-release buckles.
What we like the most is it’s nice and lightweight without feeling big and frumpy.
The material seems to be durable as well, featuring stain- and UV-resistant 200D polyester with Poly-E foam inside, all is USCG Approved Type III.
|Airhead Trend Life Vest Specifications|
Soft UV and stain-resistant 200-Denier Polyester
Modern, closed-sided life vest design; Modern, closed-sided life vest design; stain- and UV-resistant 200D polyester & Poly-E foam
When it comes to the best life vest for boat fishing, this model from Airhead is one of our favorites and still a go-to.
Best for Breezy Days: Stearns Comfort Series Collared Angler Vest
- Able to keep your hands warm - tackle-pockets
- No chafing in the back of the neck - Flexible neoprene collar
- Good ventilation - Mesh shoulder panels
- Easy to move & cast - Large armholes
- The zippered pockets are a bit small
If you don't want to spend the bucks for the self-inflating vests, then this is your choice.
It is well-made, comfortable, fits great, and doesn’t ride up to the chin or so like other similar counterparts. Meanwhile, there is plenty of arm room for movements. If your hands get cold, it has nice hand-warming pockets that are big enough for an iPhone 8 Plus.
A big improvement making this life vest superior to the Airhead model above is the flexible neoprene collar, meaning that it doesn’t chafe or rub harshly to the back of your neck.
Besides, there comes with mesh shoulder panels for extra airflow on breezy days.
|Stearns Comfort Series Collared Angler Vest Specifications|
durable 200D nylon oxford
Flexible neoprene collar; Mesh’s shoulder panels Large armholes; tackle-pockets
We chose this life vest for its excellent air ventilation, especially during windy days, along with its safe design and lightness.
Best for Warm Weather: ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx A/M-24
- Super-lightweight, compact, and flexible – slim-profile construction
- Very comfortable and cool on warm-weather – slender design
- Not for sale in Catalina Island
- No storage pockets
The ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx A/M-24 is a perfect option for fishing and sailing.
When you quickly move around the boat or pull lines, it doesn’t restrict your movements or is cumbersome and bulky like ski vests. It also allows for full arm and body mobility. The puncture- and tear-resistant fabric also make it last longer.
It is supposed to inflate automatically if you fall in the water and there also has a pull cord to manually inflate.
The key feature making it a good option on those warm days is its slender design. In our list, this is probably the most minimalist life jacket yet works reliably.
|ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx A/M-24 Specifications|
Durable fabric resists tears and punctures
slim-profile construction; slender design
The ABSOLUTE OUTDOOR Onyx A/M-24, this year, has earned our Top Pick for Warm Weather for its slender yet reliable design.
Best for Trout Fishing: Amarine Made Fly Fishing Vest Pack
- Give the most storage space to store & organize your trout fishing stuff for quick access – 11 different pockets
- Superior buoyancy – replaceable EPE foam lining
- Zippers don’t seem to be very secure
The Amarine Made Fly Fishing Vest Pack gives us the most storage space amongst other candidates.
It has a super-spacious back pocket, two side mesh pockets, four zippered ones on the front, and four generous chest pockets. All are made of a premium ripstop polyester and heavy-duty zippers for the highest security.
Above all, they’re located in those areas where you can easily reach. The EPE foam lining is another worth-mentioning feature.
It is not only quality and functional but also replaceable for superb buoyancy. For trout fishing, this is an unrivaled option.
|Amarine Made Fly Fishing Vest Pack Specifications|
Universal Adult Size (Fits for the person who is less than 95kg/209lb)
PREMIUM TEXTILE & EPE FOAM
11 different pockets; replaceable EPE foam lining
The Amarine Made Fly Fishing Vest Pack continues to be our best choice for trout fishing due to its plenty of storage space and flexible design.
How To Choose The Best Life Jacket For Fishing?
Type of fishing
It’s important that your life jacket offered adequate assistance for you when you go fishing, so the first thing to do is determining what type of angler you are.
Occasional, boat-based angler: if you don’t go fishing often and mostly sit on a boat, you can opt for an inflatable vest jacket. It offers enough protection and has a simple design.
Experienced, regular boat-based angler: if you belong to this type, you may want to get a life jacket with additional pockets to hold small items and accessories.
Professional angler: if you are a serious angler and are willing to make an investment, you should choose a life jacket with pockets, maybe an additional cushioned back panel for comfort.
This is the key factor to consider when choosing a life jacket.
The size ranges based on chest size for adults and based on weight for children. You can test if a life vest fits by wearing it, placing your thumb under the shoulder straps then pushing up. If it stays in place, it’s a fit.
Besides, you should choose a life jacket with adjustable straps to secure better.
Apart from the basic factors, it also helps to look at additional features:
Panel Positioning: a high back panel sits above the kayak and provides comfort.
Pockets and Gear Loops: they help you hold pliers, fliers, lures, as well as other fishing tools. Meanwhile, gear loops can be attached to the outside of a life jacket instead of inside.
Low-Bulk Design: low-bulk flotation panels on the neck, shoulders, and sides allow for more mobility when you move your arms.
Which Brands Make The Best Life Jacket For Fishing?
The main focus of Onyx is safety and it improves its products continuously by innovating the design, maintaining quality control, and catching up with the market. This way, the brand offers the highest-quality life jackets for your fishing trips with preparation for all foreseeable and intended uses.
With years of experience of making outdoor gear, STEARNS has become the most recognized brand in the life jacket business. Its products come with world-class designs and have to undergo strict tests to meet high standards.
It’s a premium brand with a wide range of products for all ages. The brand aims at safety, reliability, and user-friendliness for its products so that whatever you do, you are safe and comfortable.
Do fishermen wear life jackets?
It seems that they don’t. Even though fishermen spend a lot of time on the see, they have long declined to wear a life jacket, saying that it’s inconvenient.
Is a swim vest the same as a life jacket?
No, it’s not. A swim vest tends to be thinner and made for calm water while a life jacket is much thicker, harder to move around in, and features heavy-duty clasps on the front.
Will a life jacket keep you afloat if you can’t swim?
Yes. A life jacket is designed to keep you afloat even when you can’t swim or pass out.
Can an undertow pull you under with a life jacket on?
It depends on the strength of the undertow. A life jacket keeps you afloat in many cases, but if the undertow is too strong, it can possibly pull you under.
How long can you survive in water with a life jacket?
You can survive for 3-5 days. A life jacket helps you float and you can pull your knees up to the chest to avoid getting too cold, but three to five days is the longest you can survive provided that you’re in warmer water.
A life jacket can be a lifesaver when you go fishing, especially if you accidentally fall into the water and cannot swim. It will keep you afloat while you figure out a way to get back on the boat.
We hope that this guideline will help you pick the best life jackets for fishing and you will enjoy your future trips. Good luck out there!