Best Ascend Kayaks For 2023

Paddling Buyer’s Guide

Ascend is the in-house brand for outdoor giants Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. True to the stores’ sportsman roots, they make kayaks for fishing and spending time in nature. With a blend of sit-inside and sit-on-top kayaks, there is an Ascend kayak to suit the needs of most recreational paddlers.

Those who are looking for a first kayak will appreciate the simplicity and stability of these crafts. All Ascend kayaks include features for kayak fishing, but you don’t need to be fish-crazy to enjoy these boats. Birdwatchers and wildlife photographers will also love the stability these kayaks provide—you can even stand in them! All Ascend kayak models are short, 13 feet or less, for easy maneuverability and transportation. These recreational kayaks are best suited to calm, sheltered waters and slow-moving rivers.

Easily slide one of these kayaks off the back of an RV, or carry it to the launch to silently explore your local waters. If you are keen to cast a line, you will appreciate the inclusion of rod holders, accessory rails and ample gear storage. Ascend kayaks’ minimalist design reduces moving parts that may break, ideal for a kayak to leave at camp or stash in the bush.

Keep reading to learn more about the models offered, and find tips for buying new and used Ascend kayaks.

Top picks: Best Ascend kayaks for 2023

The following Ascend kayaks have received the highest star ratings by reviewers in our Paddling Buyer’s Guide. See and review all Ascend kayaks here.

Shop for Ascend kayaks

Follow the links below to view Ascend kayaks in our Paddling Buyer’s Guide. The links are filtered by kayak type, size or stores where they are available. Ascend is sold primarily through Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s, but the models may differ between stores in Canada and the USA. Within the Paddling Buyer’s Guide, you will find important information about each kayak, including product specifications, prices and reviews. Start browsing here, or read on to learn more about Ascend kayaks.




Shopping for a used Ascend kayak?

Maybe you’ve found a used Ascend kayak on Kijiji or Craigslist that catches your eye. Choosing to buy used helps you save costs, and the money you save can go toward an upgraded paddle or comfortable PFD. Second-hand Ascend kayaks are relatively abundant on the used market.

Recreational and fishing kayaks from Ascend are entry-level boats. As paddlers’ skills progress, they may upgrade to boats with more features or made with lighter materials. This is good news if you are just starting out and looking for a used, entry-level kayak of your own.

Consider a few things when you’re looking at used Ascend kayaks. Remember that these kayaks are entry-level and proprietary to Bass Pro/Cabela’s. If there are any broken pieces on them, like seats or straps, getting original replacement parts from the supplier may be difficult. It’s not hard to improvise fixes, though. You’ll find suitable substitutes for straps, buckles or webbing at any hardware store. Be sure to check that the kayak comes with a drain plug that has a tight seal.

Both sit-inside and sit-on-top Ascend kayaks are made with high-density polyethylene (HDPE). Polyethylene plastic kayaks can withstand significant impacts, bending rather than breaking. Any scratches you see on the hull (bottom) are likely superficial.

Sometimes, however, the force is too great, and permanent damage can occur. Typically this is caused by over-tightening the kayak with ratchet straps during transportation. Look for signs of warping along the sides and bottom of the kayak, and consider looking elsewhere if there is significant denting.

For more tips on what to look for when selecting a used kayak, read our article How To Buy A Used Kayak.

Ascend kayak buying guide

If you are wondering if an Ascend kayak is the right choice for you, think about what type of kayaking you want to do. These kayaks are designed for use in sheltered waters. They aren’t going to win any races, but they are incredibly stable. Paddlers who want to enjoy some casual fishing or tranquil relaxation in the outdoors will enjoy Ascend’s recreational kayak models.

Ascend kayaks fall into two broad categories: sit-inside and sit-on-top kayaks. Within these categories, there are “Sport” and “Fishing” models. Sport models are more basic and cost less than the fishing kayaks. Fishing kayaks are equipped with rod holders, additional storage and some even include trolling motors. These additions come at a higher price.

Sit-inside or sit-on-top?

First, decide whether a sit-inside or sit-on top better suits your paddling style and aspirations.

man and woman paddle in sit-inside and sit-on-top Ascend kayaks
Photo: Courtesy Ascend

Sit-on-top features

Sit-on-top kayaks are the easiest to enter and exit. They are incredibly stable and can accommodate a wide range of body sizes. The open deck eliminates claustrophobic feelings that nervous new paddlers sometimes experience with a sit-inside design. If the kayak capsizes, the paddler slides off. They can then hoist themselves back on or just bring the kayak ashore.

Ascend’s sit-on-top kayaks are especially wide for maximum stability, with the fishing models designed for paddlers to stand and cast or fight fish. Sit-on-tops are the most common type of fishing kayak, and are also a good option for those who enjoy bird-watching from their kayak. Ascend’s “Power” models can be equipped with an electric trolling motor.

Sit-in kayak features

Ascend sit-in kayaks have large, rectangular cockpits that provide lots of room for easy entering and exiting. They feature an open storage area behind the seat and a partially covered front deck to protect your legs from splashes, cold wind or harsh sun. For this reason, sit-in kayaks are a good choice for paddling in cooler environments.

There are significant differences between these recreational sit-in kayaks and ones used for coastal paddling in open waters. Without bulkheads (interior walls within the hull that create watertight chambers), a recreational kayak does not float if there is a capsize. Recreational kayaks are exceptionally stable, but in rough conditions, they can flip like any other kayak. The kayak doesn’t have inherent buoyancy, and it will be difficult to re-enter.

This is particularly true with the Ascend line. Instead of traditional hatches, these kayaks have nylon coverings that are not watertight.  If you plan on paddling in remote areas or rough conditions, a touring kayak and proper re-entry techniques are essential.

Dress For Immersion, Not Air Temperature
  • Your body loses heat much faster when immersed in cold water than it does when dry.
  • Avoid cotton clothing like t-shirts and jeans; they retain water and accelerate cooling when wet. Synthetic fabrics, or wool, are generally a better choice. If the water is very cold (60° fahrenheit or less), you should wear a wetsuit or drysuit.

Pick a model

Once you’ve decided between a sit-in or sit-on-top, look at the different models offered. As mentioned before, the Sport models are the cheapest in Ascend’s lineup. Without the bells and whistles of the Fishing kayaks, these bare-bones boats will still get you on the water at a lower price. As the kayaks move up in cost, they get longer and have more features. Longer kayaks are faster than short ones, but they do not turn as readily.

Ascend fishing kayaks have flush-mounted rod holders, frame seats, accessory rails, a gear tray and a rear tankwell at a minimum. Models include the budget-priced FS10 sit-in fishing kayak, the slightly pricier 10T sit-on-top and the H10 and H12 Hybrid kayaks. These ultra-stable kayaks act like both sit-in and sit-on-tops, with open storage areas in the bow and stern, an open cockpit area and high sides like a canoe. These are the most stable kayaks in the lineup; their tunnel hull design also boasts an impressively high weight capacity (400 lbs for the H10 and 450 lbs for the H12).

Still not sure which Ascend kayak is right for you? Here are answers to some of the most common online questions about Ascend kayaks.

  • Are Ascend kayaks any good?

    If you are looking for a stable, capable recreational or fishing kayak for less than $1,000 (some models are even less than $500), Ascend kayaks are great. Their stable design allows anglers to stand on the kayak in calm waters. They don’t have the speed that longer, narrower touring kayaks have, but if that isn’t a priority, Ascend is a solid choice.

  • Is an Ascend kayak worth it?

    Ascend kayaks are decent entry-level kayaks for casual paddlers or anglers. They offer plenty of stability and a high weight capacity, with solid features for easy kayak fishing off the shelf. If you are looking to cover lots of distance, you may want to shop for other, speedier kayaks at comparable prices. Read our comparisons to see how Ascend stacks up to other recreational kayak brands.

  • What material are Ascend kayaks made of?

    Ascend kayaks are made of a marine-grade, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) called AQUATUF. This material is commonly used for recreational and fishing kayaks as it is inexpensive and durable.

  • Are Ascend kayaks rotomolded?

    Ascend kayaks use rotomolded high-density polyethylene (HDPE). Rotomolding is one of the most popular methods of making recreational kayaks, as it results in a durable, inexpensive kayak.

  • Can you stand up in an Ascend kayak?

    Most Ascend kayaks are so stable that it’s possible to stand up in them, making these kayaks great choices for fishing or wildlife viewing. In calm conditions, the wide tunnel hull design provides a stable standing platform for sight-casting or getting a better perspective.

  • Does Ascend make a pedal kayak?

    Ascend does not currently make a pedal kayak. However, their Yak-Power sit-on-top kayaks can be equipped with electric trolling motors.

  • Does the Ascend kayak come with a paddle?

    Unless explicitly stated otherwise, Ascend kayaks do not come with paddles included. Kayak paddles, PFDs and other essential equipment are sold at Cabela’s and Bass Pro alongside Ascend kayaks.

Carry A Whistle (And A Light For Night Use)
  • Every paddler should have a whistle attached to his/her life jacket.
  • Carry a light at night. Consider carrying a distress signal device.
  • Where to buy Ascend kayaks

    Ascend kayaks are primarily sold at Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s stores in Canada and the U.S. Independent Ascend kayak dealers can be found in many states across the U.S.—use the dealer locator on Ascend’s website to find your nearest dealer.

  • Ascend kayak warranty

    Ascend kayaks purchased at Bass Pro and Cabela’s come with a three-year limited warranty.

  • Who makes Ascend kayaks?

    Ascend kayaks are built by White River Marine Group, who manufactures Ascend kayaks in Springfield, Missouri.

  • Where are Ascend kayaks made?

    Ascend kayaks are made in Springfield, Missouri.

  • Does Bass Pro own Ascend?

    Ascend kayaks is owned by the White River Marine Group, a brand group including Tracker, Mako, Sun Tracker, Nitro, Tahoe and Regency boats. They are under the umbrella of Bass Pro Group, which owns Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s.

Compare Ascend kayaks

  • Ascend vs Old Town kayak

    Old Town is one of the oldest canoe and kayak manufacturers in North America. They build a range of kayaks, from basic recreational sit-on-tops to high-end touring kayaks. These kayaks have more deluxe outfitting and options, like pedal drives. The cheapest Old Town models are priced comparably to Ascend, but if you’re willing to spend a bit more, you’ll get a more comfortable and more refined kayak.

    If you are a committed Bass Pro/Cabela’s customer, you may want to stick with their in-house brand. Old Town kayaks are sold at smaller paddlesports retailers, where you may be able to try the kayak before you buy it. Bottom line: choose Old Town for variety, quality and comfort; look to Ascend for solid fishing kayaks at entry-level prices.

  • Ascend vs Lifetime kayak

    Lifetime kayaks are widely available from big-box retailers like Walmart and Costco, or online through Amazon. Like Ascend, they are entry-level kayaks, with some of the lowest prices you’ll find. Lifetime doesn’t focus as much on fishing kayaks as Ascend, but they do make boats with rod holders.

    If you’re a committed angler, look at Ascend; Lifetime kayaks suit casual paddlers who want a simple, no-frills boat that will get you out for a relaxing afternoon on a pond or winding river.

  • Ascend vs Perception kayak

    Perception kayaks are popular among recreational paddlers. These kayaks are also American-built, and you’ll find them in big-box stores like Dick’s Sporting Goods as well as at smaller outfitters. The Perception Sound (9.5 and 10.5) is comparable to Ascend’s sit-in kayaks, while the Perception Pescador (10.0 and 12.0) is similar to Ascend’s sit-on-tops. Perception has more variety in their lineup, with tandem kayaks and recreational kayaks that incorporate features from touring kayaks. The tapered design of the Perception Joyride (10.0 and 12.0) makes it faster than Ascend’s ultra-stable kayaks.

    Perception also has longer, faster day touring kayaks in the 13-foot range. If you want to travel quickly, look for a longer Perception kayak over an Ascend. If speed isn’t an issue, or you prefer higher weight capacity and stand-up stability, choose Ascend. The 400-pound weight limit is more than most other recreational kayaks offer.

  • Ascend kayak vs Pelican

    Pelican is one of the largest recreational kayak brands in the world, and there is a lot of variety in its offerings. Most Pelican kayaks are made with RAM-X polyethylene plastic. This plastic is stronger than the HDPE used to make Ascend kayaks, so less of it is needed, resulting in a lighter kayak.

    There are many different Pelican designs to choose from, including pedal-drive fishing kayaks and tandem recreational kayaks. Pelican and Ascend are priced comparably.

  • Ascend kayak vs NuCanoe

    NuCanoe’s super stable sit-on-top kayaks allow just about anyone to get on the water. They are designed for fishing, hunting, birdwatching or any other activity that requires a solid platform. They are more expensive than Ascend kayaks, with burlier designs for more rugged use. If you are looking for a simple fishing kayak, choose an Ascend.

    NuCanoe offers a greater range of sit-on-top models, with the option to add an electric motor or pedal drive to any model. If customization and modification are your things, look to them.

  • Ascend kayak vs Vibe

    Vibe makes high-end sit-on-top fishing kayaks. These cost more than Ascend kayaks but have many more features like advanced frame seats, rudders and pedal-drive or jet-propulsion options. These are kayaks for the serious kayak angler.

    Will you still catch fish with an Ascend kayak? Absolutely. Ascend is a great choice for a more casual angler (or a kayak angler on a tight budget). But if you’re already hooked on kayak fishing, or you are a gear junkie, skip straight to Vibe.

Education: Get Some!
  • Take a paddling safety course from the American Canoe Association (ACA), your local paddling shop or outfitter, or other reputable source.
  • Take a boating safety course from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadrons® or your own state’s boating agency.
  • Take on-the-water skills training.

Ascend kayak reviews

Look to our reviews of a range of Ascend kayaks to help you decide which is right for you. Find out how the kayak performs, where it’s best used, how comfortable it is, what features you can expect and more.

 

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