Best Bonafide Kayaks For 2024

Paddling Buyer’s Guide

In 2009, Luther Cifers was an avid kayak angler looking for a better way to add a navigation light to his kayak. Working in his garage, he put together a brighter, stronger light that quickly caught on with his friends.

That light was the beginning of YakAttack, one of the leading makers of kayak fishing accessories and gear. Cifer’s ingenuity, eye for detail and demand for excellence produced some of the most innovative kayak rod holders, gear tracks, rigging and lights.

After working with the biggest kayak companies in the business, Cifers decided to create his own kayak as a continuation of his gadget business.

Cifers spent a year designing and redesigning before releasing the Bonafide SS127 and smaller SS107. Since then, Bonafide has added a less expensive RS117 and hybrid sit-inside EX123. Most recently, Bonafide premiered the P127, their first pedal-powered fishing kayak.

Bonafide’s line of kayaks is focused on stability and rigging for standup fishing. Below the water, Bonafide kayaks use a modified V-hull for stability. On the topside, the boats incorporate some of the coolest features aimed at making kayak fishing easier and more comfortable.

Top picks: Best Bonafide fishing kayaks for 2024

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

Best Bonafide Fishing Kayaks

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EX123 Expedition

Shop for Bonafide kayaks

Follow the links below to the Paddling Buyer’s Guide where you’ll find every Bonafide sit-on-top fishing kayak available, along with specs, prices, reviews and where to buy.

Shopping for a used Bonafide kayak?

Since Bonafide Kayaks are high-quality and built with the best accessories, they make a great buy, whether used or new. If you’re looking to pick up a used Bonafide, here are some things you should look for.

First, Bonafide kayaks are made in the U.S. with the best materials, so detrimental wear from normal use and premature issues with sun damage shouldn’t be a problem. What would raise alarm bells is if you see faded, brittle plastic, suggesting the boat may have been stored outside in sunlight, damaging the plastic.

Next, make sure all the Bonafide accessories are present and working correctly. The Double Header hinges on the hatches that disengage in seconds, Junk Drawer storage area under the seat and other features set Bonafide kayaks apart from the competition, but as with all kayaks, it is the smaller, more complicated parts that tend to be damaged first, so do a thorough check.

Most important, check the high and low seat is functioning properly and undamaged. A high and low seat can be adjusted between the more stable and powerful low position for paddling and more comfortable high position for fishing. It’s simple to change seat positions by unhooking the base of the seat from the kayak and lifting it into the high base, where the hooks will engage automatically. Storing the seat outdoors can result in sun fading, fabric deterioration and corrosion. Ideally, a used kayak will have been stored indoors or covered loosely by a tarp.

You can find used Bonafide kayaks on social media sites, online classifieds and through paddle shops. Don’t forget to search for “Bonafide kayaks Craigslist”.

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

Bonafide kayak buying advice

Bonafide Kayaks makes high-quality kayaks with unique features that are focused on standup fishing. If you plan to spend long hours fishing hard, Bonafide makes one of the most stable boats with the most comfortable seat. Paddle kayaks shine in shallow water, rocky, stumpy and grassy areas where near zero draft becomes an asset.  Bonafide kayaks are great for bass fishing in lakes, ponds and lazy rivers. Their boats are also great at inshore fishing in tidal creeks, bays and marshes.

To balance stability and performance, Bonafide kayaks use a modified tunnel hull with pontoons pushing the volume to the sides of the kayak. Standing is easy and tracking is true, but a tunnel hull reduces speed and maneuverability compared to a longer, narrower, rockered kayak hull.

If you plan to standup fish for long hours in sheltered waters and cover relatively short distances, a Bonafide is right for you. To paddle long distances through open water, a traditional hull is best.

Since Bonafide kayaks are designed by serious kayak anglers, they have tons of cool details and little features that make a big difference. There are a lot of tunnel-hull, standup fishing kayaks, but nothing like a Bonafide.

For example, on the SS127 and SS107, check out the landing pads. These foot-sized flat spaces on either side of the seat give the angler a solid place to stand a few inches higher for a better view of the water and fish. Another cool addition is the Junk Drawer storage under the seat. It’s a large tray/bin that slides out from under the seat and keeps gear, and even rods that fit into grooves, close at hand.

Hybrid sit-inside kayaks are popular with anglers looking for a light boat that carries a lot of gear. Bonafide’s EX123 sit-inside has a huge cockpit and a unique dashboard with a dry box to keep important items safely close at hand. Unlike other sit-inside kayaks, EX123 uses Bonafide’s Hi Cat tunnel hull for exceptional stability and a frame seat.

Whereas other kayaks might have a seat that gets its structure from semi-rigid foam, a frame seat has a metal frame and soft, breathable mesh cover for all-day comfort. A frame seat is wider and sits higher off the deck to be as comfortable as a lawn chair. Since a frame seat is elevated off the kayak deck, it makes standing and fishing easier. On the other hand, a low-profile seat is lower to the water for more paddling power and less wind resistance.

Even the value-priced RS117 uses some of the cool features from more expensive models, like an integrated DryPod for storing and rigging electronics. The RS117 only sacrifices a bow hatch and swaps aluminum gear tracks for reinforced plastic gear tracks to save more than $500 off the price of the SS127.

The newest Bonafide P127 is the first design partnership with Bonafide’s new owners, Native Watercraft. The marriage has produced a great standup kayak with all the Bonafide goodies like the Hi Rise Seat and large bow hatch and Native’s tried and true Propel pedal system.

  • Bonafide kayak dealers

    If you’re looking for where to buy Bonafide kayaks, check out their Find A Dealer page.

  • Bonafide kayaks prices

    So, how much is a Bonafide kayak? Bonafide kayaks cost about the same as other premium fishing kayaks with advanced features and accessories. To save a few bucks, Bonafide offers the value-priced RS117, which has a hull and seat similar to the more expensive SS127 but doesn’t have the bow hatch and storage options.

  • Bonafide kayak specs

    Bonafide kayak specs and features are available in the Paddling Buyer’s Guide.

  • Bonafide kayak mods

    Since Bonafide kayaks come rigged with rod holders, gear tracks, a paddle holder and other accessories, anglers can go fishing right out of the box. However, Bonafide kayaks are friendly for adding modifications like rod holders, electronics and other gadgets for total customization. The boats are designed to accept accessories from YakAttack and other brands. To add motors or anchor systems, several Bonafide models have reinforced pads in the bow and stern.

  • Are Bonafide kayaks good?

    Bonafide kayaks are designed to be comfortable and functional for years of hard fishing. The unique accessories were designed by serious kayak anglers with a close eye to quality and durability. So, yes, Bonafide kayaks are good.

  • Are Bonafide kayaks made in the U.S.?

    Bonafide kayaks and most components are made in the U.S.

  • Does Bonafide make a pedal kayak?

    The latest addition to the Bonafide line is the P127 kayak with a Native Propel pedal system.

  • Is Bonafide Kayaks still in business?

    Bonafide Kayaks is now owned by Native Watercraft. Native has a long history in the kayak industry, starting in the early days of the whitewater kayak craze, through its subsidiary Liquidlogic. In addition to Bonafide kayaks, Native makes notable fishing kayaks like the Slayer, Titan and Ultimate. Just like Bonafide, Native is famous for innovation and features that have changed the course of fishing kayak designs.

  • Where are Bonafide kayaks made?

    Bonafide kayaks are made in Fletcher, North Carolina.

  • Who owns Bonafide Kayaks?

    Native Watercraft owns Bonafide Kayaks.

  • Do Bonafide kayaks come with paddles?

    Bonafide kayaks do not come with a paddle. A great paddle is key to getting the most out of a paddle kayak, so it is best bought on its own by each paddler. Look for the lightest, strongest paddle you can afford. Kayaks with a high-low seat perform best with a paddle with an adjustable shaft. Extend the shaft when the seat is in the high position, then shorten the paddle to go low.

  • Do Bonafide kayaks have pedals?

    The Bonafide P127 has a Propel pedal system.

Compare Bonafide kayaks

  • Bonafide vs Hobie

    Bonafide makes standup-friendly paddle kayaks. Hobie kayaks focus on their MirageDrive pedal system. Both companies make premium kayaks with unique features. The closest comparison would be between the Hobie Mirage Outback and the Bonafide P127. Both boats have a bow hatch, comfortable seats and premium accessories. The Hobie MirageDrive pedal system uses a forward and back motion to scissor a pair of flexible fins.

    Bonafide’s Propel pedal system employs elliptical pedals, like a bicycle, to turn a propeller. Each system has benefits and drawbacks. For example, MirageDrive produces more torque while propellers are easier to turn. In the end, choosing between the systems comes down to personal preference. Our advice, try it before you buy it.

  • Bonafide vs Old Town

    Old Town Canoes and Kayaks is one of the oldest paddlecraft companies in the world. Bonafide is one of the newest. Both companies make high-quality and well-respected fishing kayaks. Old Town has more than a dozen kayak models compared to five boats from Bonafide. The Bonafide SS127 and SS107 are similar to the Old Town Predator 120 and MX with a stable hull, open deck and bow hatch.

    For a value option, compare the Bonafide RS117 to the Old Town Topwater 120 for a great kayak under $1,000. Bonafide’s EX123 sit-inside is very similar to the Old Town Loon 120 Angler with a frame seat and large cockpit on a stable hull. And, the new Bonafide P127 pedal kayak is similar to the Predator PDL from Old Town.

  • Bonafide vs NuCanoe

    Bonafide and NuCanoe both make stable fishing kayaks with great features, but each designer approaches the goal of stability from a different angle. Bonafide kayaks are famous for the Hi Cat tunnel hull with modified pontoons for stability and tracking. NuCanoe hulls are flatter and wider to maintain stability and increase speed and handling.

    vAll NuCanoe boats are based on their canoe and kayak hybrid with a wide open deck from bow to stern. Bonafide makes more traditional sit-on-top kayaks with a bow hatch seat platform and stern well. You could compare the Bonafide SS127 to the NuCanoe Frontier since both boats have a premium seat and bow hatch. The NuCanoe F10 would be similar to the Bonafide RS117 with fewer options at a great price.

  • Bonafide vs Crescent

    As opposed to Bonafide’s line of fishing-dedicated kayaks, Crescent has three models focused on fishing. Bonafide kayaks are wider and heavier with a high capacity, Crescent’s fishing kayaks are lighter, quicker and simpler. Bonafide uses a hybrid tunnel hull for rock-solid stability.

    Crescent, on the other hand, has a traditional keeled hull with a slight rocker for speed and maneuverability. Bonafide kayaks feature a long list of cool fishing accessories while Crescent leaves installing accessories mostly up to the owner. The closest comparison would be between the Crescent Ultralight 12 and the Bonafide RS117. Both boats are basic fishing kayaks that cost less than $1,000.

  • Bonafide vs Vibe

    Vibe Kayaks and Bonafide both have a handful of models focused on fishing. Bonafide uses a tunnel hull while Vibe goes with a more traditional keeled hull. Bonafide kayaks use unique, innovative features not found on other company’s kayaks while Vibe has borrowed some of the best ideas from the first two decades of fishing kayak design.

    The closest comparison would be between the Vibe Sea Ghost with the Bonafide RS117 for a grab-and-go kayak with essential features at a great price.

Bonafide kayak reviews

There’s no better way to choose a kayak than kicking the tires and taking a test drive. The staff at Kayak Angler, our sister publication, has paddled, pedaled and motored Bonafide’s best kayaks. We’ve rigged the boats for fishing, loaded them with gear and hit the water. Our testing includes miles of paddling and hours of fishing in a variety of conditions and locations.

This allows us to evaluate how the boat handles and how it performs for the intended angler and conditions. If you can’t visit the paddle shop or get to a demo day, gain from the experience of others through our review of the best Bonafide kayaks.

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