Best Flotation Fishing Vests – The Top 4 Choices!

Best Flotation Fishing Vests



A flotation fishing vest is to a fisherman what a seat belt is to a driver. It can literally save your life. This is why flotation vests, which are also called life vests or Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs), are essential for anyone who wants to enjoy taking part in water activities. This includes everything from kayaking, canoeing, tubing, swimming, fishing, or recreational boating.


There are several types of PFDs out there, and many of them are activity-specific. This is why the focus of this article will be on fishing-specific PFDs. I’ll take a look at some of the best ones you can buy today and explain why I believe they provide the highest levels of safety to a fisherman. Let’s begin!




Before we get to the specifics, I want to first take a quick look at the things to consider when buying a flotation vest. This will help you figure out what to look out for and how to get the best one.


What You Need to Know

If you want to make the most informed decision, you need to have a good understanding of what PFDs are and how they are categorized. There are 5 PFD definitions. Each definition is designed for specific functions. In summary, here is what you can expect:


• Type I PFD: Designed for all types of waters, especially where rescue may be delayed. Will turn an unconscious wearer to a face-up position in the water

• Type II PFD: Designed for calm inland waters, and will turn some unconscious wearers to a face-up position in the water.

• Type III PFD: Designed for conscious wearers in calm inland waters where quick rescue is possible.

• Type IV PFD: Designed to be thrown at a conscious person in the water to be held till rescue comes

• Type V PFD: Designed for specific activities, and should be worn according to the approved conditions.


Typically, flotation fishing vests are Type III PFD vests. They can be worn comfortably on a canoe or kayak, and typically have wider cuts around the arms to make it easy to paddle a boat while wearing them. They are also designed to give more freedom of movement. It is therefore very easy to cast and reel while wearing one of these.


These types of vests also generally come with several tool hangers and loops for placing your fishing rods and other tools. They also have pockets for a wide range of fishing accessories.


What to Look For


1. Material


Personal Flotation Devices typically come in two common materials: nylon and neoprene. Nylon is the most common of these two. It is light, cheap, and comfortable. Neoprene is a little more expensive, but it provides more buoyancy and a snugger fit. In your search, you will come across pure nylon vests, pure neoprene vests, and composite vests that have a little bit of both materials.


2. Sizing and Fitting


They come in 4 sizes: adult, youth, child, and infant. When you buy one, select it based on chest size for adults, and weight for children.


You also need to be sure to try it on before purchasing it. To put it on, loosen the straps, put it on, secure closure, then tighten all the straps starting from the waist up. To tell if a vest is too big, try pulling it up from the shoulder straps. If it pulls up around the head, it is too big. You should also try some paddling motions to make sure you can paddle comfortably while wearing it.


3. Standard vs Inflatable


Most PFDs are standard non-inflatable ones. They rely on their own materials for buoyancy, so they can be a little bulky. On the other hand, inflatable PFDs are slim, unobtrusive, and comfortable, but need to be manually inflated to work. I recommend standard non-inflatable PFDs because in case of an emergency, for example when you get knocked unconscious into the water or if you hurt your hands or arms, inflating an inflatable PFD might be out of the question.


4. Feature specifications


• Pockets: consider the location, size, and the number of pockets on the vest and think of the gear you would like to store in them.

• Color: go for a brighter PFD as they are more easily visible.

• Tabs: get one with as many tabs as possible. Tabs allow you to attach knives, whistles, strobes, and other accessories.

• Reflective tape: a vest that comes with reflective tape will make it easier for you to be seen in low light conditions.

• Ventilation: if you are going to be fishing in a hot area, get a vest that has built-in vents to allow your body heat to escape and keep you cool.

• Fishing features: For a fishing vest, look for one with tool hangers, rod loops, and a drop-down pocket for lures and flies.




Now that you have a good understanding of what you need to look out for, here are four of the best floatation fishing vests you can buy today.




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The NRS Chinook stands out because of its storage capabilities. At 16.5lbs sea level buoyancy, it will prove to be a comfortable weight to have on without being too cumbersome.


It comes with several easily accessible front storage compartments. An assortment of gear attachment points has also been thrown into the mix, making it a great fisherman’s fishing PFD. Here is a closer look at some of its key features:


• It has 7 front pockets, maximizing storage space for snacks, small tackle boxes, and tippets.

• It has 8 adjustable straps to ensure a secure and comfortable fit on your body.

• It has a comfortable back mesh that provides ventilation during warm weather and doesn’t interfere with paddling.

• It has a very spacious front entry and comes in a zip style. This makes it very easy to put on and take off.

• It has D-rings and attachment loops for holding nets and gear.




• It comes with 7 front pockets which maximize storage

• It has 8 adjustable straps which ensure a comfortable fit

• It comes with a nice mesh back for ventilation

• It comes with several attachment loops and D-rings

• It is made of strong, breathable 200 denier urethane-coated rip stop nylon

• It has a well ventilated mesh lower back for added comfort and breathability




• It is a little pricey when compared with other similar vests

• It does not perform well in active fishing conditions or water sports

Verdict: The NRS Chinook Fishing PFD is the perfect choice if you are looking for something to keep you safe during your slow, calm fishing expeditions. If you need a vest for when you go out on the lake to spend a relaxing day fishing, this is it. You can get yours today by clicking the image above of the box below!



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This is one of the most uniquely designed vests on this list. It looks simple, minimalistic, and functional. Designed to prioritize comfort over everything else, the Stearns PFD Comfort Fishing Vest feels almost weightless and is completely unobstructive when you fish or paddle while wearing it. Here are some of its key features:


• It has two front pockets that angle slightly to the side, which allow quick access to gear. They also make the vest look and feel less bulky

• It is designed to help you cool down on a hot day. It has a mesh back and mesh shoulders which breath really easily

• It has very large arm holes. This leaves a huge portion of your body exposed, which further improves ventilation

• The large arm holes also give you more room to paddle, cast and retrieve your line

• It comes with a zippered front and adjustable buckle straps that make it fit snugly. They also make it easy to put on and take off

• The flotation material used is Crosstech Flotation Fam, which is tough and durable




• It is perfectly designed for use in a canoe or sit-on kayak

• It is so comfortable you might forget you have it on. Easy to put on, easy to use, easy to take off, and breathing beautifully throughout

• It is perfect for the fisherman who does not like all the clutter that is stuffed onto most life jackets these days. If you want something that goes straight to the point and gets the job done, this is it

• It is simple, tough, durable, and looks really good




• It can be a little tricky to use in a sit-in kayak as it rides up the wearer quite a bit and ends up on top of the seat’s back

• Admittedly, it is not for everyone. It is rather limited when it comes to its features list. It is basically just a life vest that looks good without all the bells and whistles that other similar jackets come with

• It only comes with 2 small pockets, so if you are looking for extra storage, try something else on this list

Verdict: If comfort is your number one priority, then the Stearns PFD Comfort Fishing Vest is the answer to your prayers. What it lacks in storage compartments it makes up for by being absolutely comfortable to wear and, dare I say, stylish? If this sounds like exactly what you need, then click on the image above or the box below to get yours:



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If you have been looking for a fishing life jacket that has been very well built for kayaking without compromising on comfort, then this is it. With the Stohlquist Fisherman Fishing Kayak Life Jacket, you get the perfect mix of quality, support, and a great fit. And at only 16 lbs. sea level buoyancy, it is a comfortable weight to have on if you end up in the water. Here are some of its key features:


• It has a high mesh back that breathes really well especially on a hot day

• The high mesh back is ideal for fishing kayaks, because it allows the vest to fit comfortably even on a high seat

• It has a Cross-Chest Cinch Harness that prevents the vest from riding up on you when you wear it

• It comes with a set of two thickly lined front pockets which double up as work surfaces when you fold them down

• It has padded shoulders and a padded lower back area for extra comfort

• It has several multi-use pockets that can easily be drained. This allows it to dry really quickly after it gets wet

• It has hooks, straps, and mounting locations for tippets, retractors, and leader lines




• It comes with a very handy Cross-Chest harness that prevents it from riding up on you as you wear it. Every angler knows just how annoying this can be, so this feature is an absolute must have

• It is very well ventilated through the mesh back and through the sides

• It has multiple pockets, hooks, and straps for storage

• The padded shoulders and lower back make it very comfortable to wear, especially for someone who is going to be sitting or standing in one place for hours




• It is a little bulky and uncomfortable to paddle while wearing it

• There is room for a lot more storage space than it comes with

• It is a little on the pricier end of fishing life jackets


Verdict: The Stohlquist Fisherman Fishing Kayak Life Jacket is the perfect companion for the angler who loves to multitask. Everything on it is intuitively positioned, making it easy to reach your bait storage and grab a hook and line at the same time without even looking.  Get yours by clicking the image above or the box below!



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This is the perfect fisherman’s vest. It is made of both nylon and neoprene, guaranteeing the best of both worlds through these materials. The nylon makes it light, durable, and long lasting, while the neoprene shoulders make it comfortable to put on. It is also designed to maximize storage without being too obstructive, which is always a plus when it comes to floatation fishing vests. Here are a few more key features:


• It has multiple pockets for storage

• It comes with many straps and hooks for keeping your fishing accessories

• It has two very large outer storage pockets. These pockets are thickly lined, so you will not accidentally crush anything you put in there

• The flotation material used in this vest is Gaia Flotation foam, which is very durable and light

• It has a set of easily adjustable straps to maximize the wearer’s comfort

• It is very well ventilated through the sides, so no matter the weather you choose to paddle in, if you are wearing the Stohlquist Fisherman PFD, your body will not get too hot

• The combination of padded neoprene shoulders and the ultra-soft Gaia flotation foam make it very comfortable to have on




• It has multiple pockets and hooks for storage

• The neoprene shoulders are very comfortable to wear for extended periods of time

• It comes with ventilation on the side and unobtrusive straps which make the entire vest stay cool even in hot weather

• The pockets are designed to keep everything in them safe and secure, preventing everything from water damage to impact damage

• It is made of 500 denier cordura shell & 200 denier oxford liner

• It is very easy to clean. It can be hand washed in soap and water




• It can be a little bulky

• When compared to some of the other similar PFDs, it does not have as much storage space

• It is also a little on the pricier end of the spectrum


Verdict: The Stohlquist Fisherman Personal Floatation Device has clearly been designed with the fisherman in mind. A lot of thought has gone into what a fisherman needs, and this makes it a very intuitive and convenient PFD. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, click on the image below!

Best flotation fishing vests decision




Fishing is a fun activity, but even as you have fun in the water, safety should be your number one priority. And the right PFDs can guarantee that. In fact, it is for this very reason that most states strictly mandate the use of PFDs as a requirement to ensure the well being of the user.


For the avid angler, a PFD is much more than just a safety tool. It is also a handy storage location for fishing equipment and accessories. This is why getting nothing but the best flotation fishing vest should be a no brainer. The trick then becomes getting one that is designed to suit your specific needs.


If this is your goal, I hope I have at least helped a little in that regard with this list. Here you can be sure to find a flotation fishing vest that will be a perfect fit for you in every way as you head out to the water. Then you can finally enjoy your favorite pastime with the guarantee of safety and convenience. And isn’t that all that we all really want?


Good Fishing to you,

Mike Aha

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