IT DEPENDS ON YOU, but you will quickly learn that your first fishing kayak purchase will not be your last. This article will give you a brief comparison between a sit-inside and a sit-on-top kayak and what is most preferred for kayak fishing. Keep on reading!
***Scroll towards the end of this article for answer.
The advantageous part about kayaking is the ability to diverge into many water sport activities. One of these activities include kayak fishing. Both sit-inside (SIS) and sit-on-top (SOT) can be used for kayak fishing. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, though. If you decide that kayak fishing is an activity you would like to try out and potential do regularly, there are reasons to go with one over the other.
First, let’s compare the differences between SIS and SOT kayaks.
DESIGN: SIS kayaks have a hollowed-out hull design allowing the person to sit inside the kayak via a [typically circular] cockpit. SOT kayaks have a relatively horizontal and leveled deck allowing hull space to be use for storage, stability, and buoyancy. SIS kayak’s narrow design allows the vessel to cut through water; great for recreational kayaking and giving the person dependency with the kayak. SOT kayaks push water with its less-narrow hull design, but maintains stability.
SPEED: When comparing speed between both a SIS and SOT kayaks, SIS kayaks are traditionally faster and are built for speed. Sitting low to the water allows for more paddle-water contact, creating a more constant speed. SOT kayak’s high seating and wider design makes the user more prone to constant speed. Generally, as a rule of thumb, the narrower the kayak, the more speed it will pick up as it cuts through the water. There are a few SOT kayaks that are more narrow versus wide as shown on the image above on the right.
COMFORT: When comparing comfort, SOT [fishing] kayaks are built for duration. The kayak fishing industry has invested much to ensure anglers are getting a comfortable seat to endure hours on the water. I have fished with SIS kayak anglers and after an 8-hour float, their back starts to hurt due to stiffness. With a SOT kayak, you have the option to stand and stretch if needed. Additionally, the seats are normally comfortable and allows you to sit higher from the water, as if you were sitting on a chair. The industry does acknowledge the importance of comfort and are ergonomically developing products to enhance the fishing experience.
STABILITY: When comparing stability between both a SIS and SOT kayak, SOT kayaks are far more stable due to the wider hull design, allowing user to sit higher and stand without wobbliness. The V-shape design of SIS kayaks tends to rock the kayak, which can be more of a hinder if trying to stand (I would NOT recommend standing in a SIS kayak). A stable platform is essential when fishing to maintain balance when casting, setting the hook, and reeling in the fish.
MOBILITY: When comparing mobility between a SIS and SOT kayak, a SIS will allow the user to control the kayak more because they will be the center of the kayak on both axis. This allows the SIS kayak to easily track without having to battle wind resistance. A SOT kayak will struggle with tracking due to wind resistance on the angler and paddle. There are certain SOT kayaks that track well regardless, but the U shape hull will need additional effort to track the kayak.
WEIGHT: When comparing weight, SIS are traditionally lighter than SOT kayaks. SIS kayaks are normally under 50 lbs and SOT kayaks are above 50lbs. The weight depends on the design of the kayak and material use. Traditionally SOT kayaks are built for convenience outside of recreational paddling, such as fishing. SIS kayaks are built more for recreational kayaking where the need for excessive weight is unnecessary. When I still had my SIS kayak, I was able to carry it over my shoulder or above my head with no problem. With a SOT kayak now, I have to use my vehicle/trailer support to get the kayak mounted.
ACCESSORIES: SIS kayaks do not offer much accessories to enhance the fishing experience as compared to a SOT kayak, which can be equipped with rudder, pedal drive unit, rod holders, and storage. Kayak fishing industry primarily develop and market products towards SOT kayaks, but a little creativity and DIY will allow for add-on features on both a SIS or SOT kayak. Realistically, all you need to kayak fish is a kayak and a fishing pole. All other accessories, specs, and features are tools used for convenience.
RE-ENTERING: Because of the hollow design and cockpit, a SIS kayak is quite difficult to re-enter if tipped over and suddenly filled with water. Whitewater kayaks can be re-entered quickly if educated and trained properly, but a SIS fishing kayak is more difficult. SIS fishing kayak may require rescue or drag to shoreline to drain out water. A SOT kayak has scupper holes across the deck that allows for water to exit. Because the hull is dry, water will not enter it regardless if the kayak tips upside down; this is an advantage with SOT kayaks. If for some reason you do capsize or the SOT kayak tips over, it is simple to re-enter because the kayak will stay dry inside the hull and remain buoyant. The angler, however, do need to learn how to re-enter properly without exhausting themselves. I try to practice kayak re-entry at least once or twice a year. I have also created a video on two ways to re-enter a SOT kayak: from the front, or the side. Commonly with a SOT kayak, the angler is the one that falls overboard while the kayak stays stabilized. This is not to say that it is impossible to enter a sit-in fishing kayak when it does capsize, but may require a buddy to hold the kayak steady so it does not rock back and forth; this is also assuming your SIS kayak has not been filled with water. If your SIS is full of water, use a bilge pump to pump out the water. I HIGHLY recommend carrying a bilge pump with you if you choose to purchase a SIS fishing kayak; I would even carry one for a SOT kayak in case of an emergency.
ANSWER: Sit-on-top kayak. There are a few selections of SIS kayaks designed for kayak fishing, but the kayak fishing industry is primarily marketed towards SOT kayaks. If you have ever observed or gone to a kayak fishing event, you will notice that majority of anglers use SOT kayaks. SOT kayak’s stable deck allows angler to fish sitting down or standing. The deck also allows for a dry hull that will not sink if someone were to capsize. The scupper holes on SOT kayaks will allow water to freely drain. SOT kayaks are normally costlier than SIS kayaks, but SOT becomes advantageous with features that can turn it into a fishing convenience such as rudder-capability, pedal-drive capability, more DIY options, deck space, dry hull for storage, and ease of re-entry. There are reasons to get a SIS kayak if an angler feels more comfortable sitting low to the water and like a lighter kayak for transport and mobility. If you are committed to kayak fishing and long trips are on your agenda, a SOT kayak will be a more ergonomic and convenient choice. Whether inland or offshore kayak fishing, you will realize that the type of kayak you select matters; it’s about personal preference, but also geographical preference!
The next step is WHICH SOT kayak to purchase. This will be tabled for another article, but I advise doing some research on select brand and live demos if you are able to. I own a few Feelfree SOT kayaks and will gladly assist you in selecting the right kayak for your need! Remember that whichever fishing kayak you decide will probably not be your last. To get the most out of your kayak, try and initially find one that is right for you. Enjoy shopping and welcome to the kayak fishing world!
I joined the Feelfree Kayak Fishing Team in July 2017 with the intent of promoting what I passionately love doing and using. Every year since then have been an accumulation of knowledge on the Feelfree products and services, and meeting some of the most dedicated kayak anglers who share the same passion.
As the 2020 fishing season approaches, I will be continuing my kayak fishing journey with the Feelfree Kayak Fishing Team. A few reasons why my interest and passion with Feelfree persists is their innovation, affordability, customer service, and the Wheel in the Keel feature on their kayaks.
INNOVATION. A stagnant business is a dying business. Feelfree’s R&D team has done amazingly well in developing products that creates convenience for its customers. Feelfree has introduced new and/or improved products to their product line. 2017 was the Overdrive unit; 2018 was the Feelfree Dorado; 2019 was the Feelfree Moken 12.5 V2, other V2s, and the Feelfree Summer Slam event. I, along with the other team members, are eager to see what awaits the Feelfree community come 2020 and the future!
AFFORDABILITY. Have I known about the Feelfree kayaks when I first got into kayak fishing in 2015, I would have purchased one of these for myself. Feelfree carries 21+ kayaks ranging from $400 to $2500. For $600, one could get the Feelfree Moken 10′ V2 with adjustable seat and rudder ready, features that are redefining the kayak fishing industry. For an additional $300, one could get the Feelfree Lure 10′ V2 equipped with the patented Gravity Seat, an extremely stable platform, removable pod, and rudder ready! For an additionally $200+, one can get the Lure 11′, Tandem, or Dorado, all that can be retrofitted and equipped with the Overdrive system. The point is, Feelfree has enhanced their products to improve the “Feelfree experience” by providing each kayak angler with a variety of kayak selection for all types of waterways.
CUSTOMER SERVICE: I can attest through other Feelfree forums and myself that Feelfree has one of the best customer service in the market. Coming from a manufacturer that has a core focus in customer care, Feelfree has demonstrated their dedication to ensuring all customers are taken care of. For a business that creates products for customers to refrain from technology, Feelfree has really embraced all platforms of telecommunication to actively engage with its consumer. I have contacted Feelfree on multiple occasions via emails and phone calls and their response time has always been within reasonable time. Emails have been within 24 work hours and phone calls [during their work hours] are usually immediate. Feelfree has built great trust with their consumers and will do what they can to get their customers back on the water so that they can “feel free.”
WHEEL IN THE KEEL. Feelfree’s patented Wheel in the Keel is one of the most unique feature that sets itself apart from other competitors. The wheel has made dragging kayaks to and from the water many times easier, and less scratches to the kayak’s keel. I have tried using kayak carts for my Feelfree kayaks, but none is as convenient as the built-in wheel. One primal reason why I purchased a Feelfree kayak was because of the Wheel in the Keel. This innovative feature has made portability simpler and quicker.
I am eager to see what awaits me in 2020. Subscribe to this blog to read future articles. Connect through my social media links @cxfishing to see regular activities of my fishing activity come this season! And don’t forget to check out Feelfree’s online store for limited-time discounts and sales on kayaks, accessories, storage, and merchandise! If you have any questions at all, do not hesitate to reach out to me. Have a great season!
Before continuing, I’d like to thank Tyler Thiede of Small Craft Outfitters and Small Craft Fisherman for his help and assistance with transforming the utility trailer to a kayak trailer. Much, much appreciated.
Prior to purchasing a trailer, I spent hours researching various trailers’ sizes, weight, material, and brand to see the best fit for me. I was looking for a trailer that could transport at least two kayaks. There were a ton in the market, new and used. However, the prices of new trailers exceeded my budget; and the used trailers did not meet my expectations. Upon my search for a trailer, I spoke with Tyler and he steered me towards the Harbor Freight 1090 lbs. Capacity 40-1/2 in x 48 in Utility Trailer, which was at a discount at the time of purchase for about $260. I spent a good amount of time reading reviews for this trailer, both positive and negative feedback, and contemplated on purchase. Based on Tyler’s recommendation, I made the purchase for that trailer; it did come disassembled so I spent a good week assembling the utility trailer. Looking back now, I was glad to have assembled this trailer to better understand the ins and outs of it in case any issue arises. If you have the time and capacity to assemble your own trailer, I would recommend it!
The trailer jack was purchased separately knowing I’d be physically moving the trailer in and out of my garage. The U-bolt spare tire carrier and spare tire were also purchased separately as well. Also, based on Tyler’s recommendation and past experience, the Bearing Buddy was also purchased for continuous grease application onto wheel bearing.
Upon completion of assembling and wiring the utility trailer, it was time to transform it into a kayak trailer. I only had one minor issue which might have occurred during assembling, but one of the side markers went out. Not a big issue as it was easily troubleshooted. I have no experience with building a trailer, so I reached out to Tyler for the help. Below are a list of supplies used to construct the kayak trailer:
I used this trailer throughout the 2019 season and had minimmal issues. I have driven on rough roads and gravels and there are the occasional bump from lesser weight, but nothing dramatic. On highways, I was able to go at a constant 70 mph for 200 miles (longest travel so far on trailer). Overall, I have put in a near 2,500 miles on the trailer in 2019. This purchase that I made was a great addition to my kayak fishing voyage. I will continue to use this trailer throughout 2020 as I do more traveling in state.
Those who knows me knows that I’m very forgetful. Don’t be bothered if I ask for your name again the second time (or the third time, or fourth). I’ve forgotten paddles, life jackets, fishing poles, and much more; all things that forces me to return back home and contemplate returning or relocating to lakes/rivers closer to home. Because of this very reason, I’ve created a checklist to do the night before so I don’t rush myself the next morning before heading out. Since using this checklist, I’ve saved so much gas! All kidding aside, I would much rather be overprepared for a kayak fishing trip than underprepared.
Below is a simple list of gears and supplies I prepare the night before for my fishing trips. Most of my kayak fishing trips are 6+ hours long and I’ve been on enough trips to know exactly what’s needed based on water location, water condition, water terrain, weather condition, and time. It may seem like I’m being too excessive with my list, but these supplies fall under three categories that I keep in mind when packing: (1) recreational, (2) internal safety (safety of myself), and (3) external safety (safety of others).
|––||FOR THE KAYAK ––––––––––––––––––––––––––|
|❏||Paddle w/ leash|
|❏||Life jacket w/ whistle in pocket|
|❏||GoPro w/ cable charger|
|❏||2x external charging bank|
|❏||2x 64 gb micro sd|
|❏||Crate bag (lures, fish grip, scale, first aid, license)|
|❏||Towline (store in hull)|
|❏||Kayak cart (C-tug)|
|––||FOR MYSELF ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––|
|❏||Spare clothes (store in hull)|
|❏||Eyeglass clip-on cord|
After viewing my kayak fishing checklist, what do you normally pack on your paddle craft fishing trip? I’d love to read about it! Comment below.
NOTE: I’m sharing my thoughts on life jackets with the kayak fishing/kayaking community. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment below this article!
The subject on life jackets and whether small craft anglers should wear it or not becomes a very sensitive topic in the kayak fishing/kayaking community. It’s not ignorance that refrains an angler from wearing their life jacket nor is it lack of experience that encourages an angler to wear their life jacket; it’s a matter of choice. In most states, it’s legal to not wear your life jacket, as long as it’s in your vessel and in a reachable distance in case of capsize/emergency. Of course, there are anglers who promote and advocate for kayak safety by encouraging others to wear their life jackets; but that’s all it is: encouragement. Nothing is being forced onto anyone as long as it’s within legal regulation.
I wear a life jacket not because I’m an inexperienced swimmer or fear capsizing. I can swim just fine and I know how to re-enter my kayak if I ever do capsize. I even have a kayak re-entering video for proof! Click Here. There are many reasons why I wear a life jacket, but here’s a few…
…Because anything can happen. The water is unpredictable and proactiveness is key in preventing accidents. Modern technology is great when it comes to predicting weather forecast the next day or even the next week, but there’s a reason why water forecast is not a thing… I’ve seen and have helped rescue groups from river floats on beautiful days. No matter how great of a swimmer you are, you cannot outswim a river current, also adding the factor that river sweepers, rocks, and fallen trees below the water surface can easily entrap an arm or leg. Wearing your life jacket will not change the water condition, but it will make you visible to rescuers if anything was to go wrong.
…Because life jacket floats and I don’t. I’ve heard excuses from larger individuals claiming PFDs will not work properly due to their physique. That is why there are so many life jackets in the watercraft business! If you haven’t purchased a life jacket beyond a Type II life jacket, then you may want to do more research. And if you don’t know what a Type II life jacket is, then definitely do research! There are tons of articles and sites sharing knowledge and information about what PFD to wear (I may potentially write one in the future). There is a life jacket for you; it’s a matter of going that extra mile to find it. Life jacket’s purpose is to make the wearer stay afloat. Eventually, a body will stay afloat, after they’ve drowned… If you are ever unsure if your life jacket will support you, test it out at the beach or pool.
…Because it reinforces positive PFD wear rate. Take the time to view the following article by the JSI Research and Training Institute, Inc. on the life jacket wear rate from 1999-2017 and analyze the trend of paddle craft PFD wear rate: http://uscgboating.org/library/national-live-jacket-wear-study/2017-Life-Jacket-Wear-Rate-Observation-Study-Report.pdf. I have also attached two tables from the article below this paragraph. It’s interesting to see the differences between adult PFD wear rate versus youth PFD wear rate. It’s clear that youth are wearing PFD more than adults, but does the title “Adult” push individuals away from wearing life jackets? If you’ve read the article, you’ll see that within Figure G under the kayak section, the wear rate is actually lower than what’s shown below (which is the average for all paddle craft); same goes to canoers. Youth PFD wear rate has increased in the past six years, but why have adults’ PFD wear rate still relatively the same since 1999? I’d like to hear your thoughts on this…
…Because I may save a life. If wearing my life jacket encourages others to wear theirs as well, I will continue to do so. All the photos and videos that I post on social media will show me wearing a life jacket on the water (if you do see a photo of me without one on, scold me!). I’d like to model positive life jacket wear and the best way to influence action is if I do so. I’m not calling myself an influencer, but an advocate for life jacket wear. I would hate to hear a victim of drowning on a paddle craft say, “I did not wear my life jacket because so-and-so didn’t wear theirs either.” I’ve been kayaking for six years [and counting] and have capsized on my kayak; I know the struggle of re-entering a kayak while simultaneously trying to gather all my personal belonging; it never goes as planned, because you never plan to capsize in the first place. Now, add to that struggle trying to reach for your life jacket in your kayak as you try to shuffle all your personal belonging on and below the water surface. Your life should always be your top priority; wearing your life jacket will reduce that negative mindset because you’ll know that you’ll stay afloat. Others need to see that as well; that wearing a life jacket can reduce the foreshadowing of capsizing.
Just know there’s no harm in wearing your life jacket. Wear it like a clothing attire. If it’s uncomfortable, purchase a more comfortable one. I wear mine so often (every time I’m out) that it’s now part of my kayak fishing routine. If I don’t wear it, I don’t venture out onto the waterways.
Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts on life jackets. Do you usually wear yours? Vote below!
I seldom encounter fallen trees when river floating as I’m usually proactive by overlooking ahead. This footage occurred while paddling down a small river in central WI that my camera caught throughout maneuvering through the obstacle. Do watch and always remember to stay calm during these situations.
Tips & Tricks from video TEXT:
NOTE: This accident was unintentional as I underestimated the river current. Water level during this stretch was 1-2′. I could’ve easily gotten off, but decided to demonstrate the process of escaping an entrenchment.
Grab any gear extending vertically from your vessel and lay them as low as possible from branches.
Maintain self-control of your vessel.
Add weight towards the branches to maintain a balanced vessel. DO NOT lean towards the current.
Ensure all gears are untangled from branches. Check both the front and back of vessel.
Slowly inch forward, maintaining balance while being aware of current and surrounding.
Maneuver through the obstacle by utilizing branches for balance. Now is not the time to be afraid of creepy crawlies.
Double-check your vessel to make sure all items are recovered. The aforementioned procedure on checking your gear is to assure that you won’t have to paddle upstream to retrieve them.
When it comes to predicaments like this, it is best to refrain from negative thoughts. Be proactive and ready to escape any situations coming your way.
Remember, never underestimate the current and depth of water. What may seem shallow now may have a steep drop-off in a couple feet. Utilize your surrounding to escape soundly.
Thanks for watching and paddle on!
There’s no doubt that kayaking is becoming a more adopted water sport in the U.S. This, however, means that the community needs to be proactive in recognizing their surroundings and environment before heading out. The United States Coast Guard USCG’s annual boating fatality report states an annual increased kayak [and other boating] fatality in the U.S., which has nearly tripled in the past decade. Kayak fatalities should not be increasing with its popularity as shown throughout the years and there are preventable actions. Majority of kayak fatalities are due to drowning where kayaks capsize or paddlers fall off their vessel. Even with a life jacket, paddlers can drown if unconscious and faced downward. What it ultimately comes down to is being competent about kayaking and knowing before going.
Know your kayak. Whether you’re paddling a sit-in or sit-on kayak, these two types are used for different types of activities. Sit-ins are used more for recreational paddling and shallow waters where land access isn’t too far in case of emergency. Sit-ons are used more for guided activities, such as fishing and hunting, and should be used in deeper water where you don’t necessarily need to be on land to get back into your kayak. Of course, re-entering your kayak does take practice, which should be implemented. It is recommended to re-enter getting into your kayak at least twice a year so you’re comfortable with your kayak and know how to maneuver in and out of it. The following link is a video of me and another kayak angler re-entering our sit-on top kayaks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0TU_D7rJi04.
Know your life jacket. There are five types of PFD that are defined by the DNR that you can view on their boating regulations per state. Life jackets are a preventative measure to drowning; although it is not 100% drown-proof, it significantly decreases the chance of any fatal incidents. The United States Coast Guard website recorded statistics on 2016 recreational boating and confirmed that a total of 701 deaths occurred during boating activities where 80% drowned; of the 80% that drowned, 83% were not wearing life jackets. Another study by the 2016 National Observational Life Jacket Wear Rate Study at the JSI Research and Training Institute concluded that 45% of adults wore PFDs when on a paddle craft in 2016, a decline from 51% in 2015. Whether life jackets should or should not be worn is a hot topic in the paddle craft community; however, this does not mean you should refrain from wearing life jackets. It means you need to know your life jacket so it’s accessible and can be easily equipped in dire situations.
Know the water. The National Center for Cold Water Safety describes it best on their site, http://www.coldwatersafety.org/WhatIsCold.html, but in general, water temperature below 60°F should be taken with precaution. A dry suit is never a bad idea under 60°F water temperature. As kayak anglers, we fish in all water conditions. Always be prepared for the worst-case scenario and a [contingency] plan if tragedy does occur. Aside from water temperature, also be cautious of your surrounding from fast-wake waves that are caused by winds or boats, and even riptides.
Know the weather. Always be proactive when planning a fishing trip. Of course, this may be difficult for tournaments and in this case, dress appropriately. I’ve fished in rain, snow, hail, and high winds; it’s about knowing how to counter the weather to be able to paddle and fish in these extreme events. Check your forecast on a daily basis to see if weather pattern changes. I am always checking the weather to be readily prepared when I do go out. A common saying that many paddlers say is “rain or shine,” meaning they’ll fish in all weather conditions. If this is the case, be sure to bring extra clothing, a communicated device, and a reminder to someone that you’ll be out and return by ##:## o’ clock. As with awareness to the water conditions, always be cautious of your surrounding from the climate above sea level.
In general, I think we can all agree that kayak fishing is a widespread water sport that’ll continue to rise with its exposure. If you’re inexperienced, be sure to buddy up or fish in smaller, local waters where access to shore is simple. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with your kayak, boating regulations, and the environment, it’s a matter of enjoying the outdoors and sharing memorable stories to others. Be safe out there and fish on!
References & Additional Reads
Mangione, T. W., Imre, M., Chow, W., Lisinski, H. E., Heitz, E., Millock, R. (2017). 2017 life jacket wear rate observation study. JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc., 1-59. Retrieved from http://uscgboating.org/library/national-live-jacket-wear-study/2016-Life-Jacket-Wear-Rate-Observation-Study-Report.pdf.
Quistberg, D. A., Bennett, E., Quan, L., Ebel, B. E. (2014). Low life jacket use among adult recreational boaters: A quantitative study of risk perception and behavioral factors. Elsevier, 62, 276-284. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2013.10.015.
Stallman, R. K., Moran, K., Quan, L., Langendorfer, S. (2017). From swimming skill to water competence: Towards a more inclusive drowning prevention future. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 10(2), 1-37. Retrieved from http://scholarworks.bgsu.edu/ijare/vol10/iss2/3/?utm_source=scholarworks.bgsu.edu%2Fijare%2Fvol10%2Fiss2%2F3&utm_medium=PDF&utm_campaign=PDFCoverPages.
United States Coast Guard Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety (2017, May 22). 2016 recreational boating statistics. Retrieved from http://www.uscgboating.org/library/accident-statistics/Recreational-Boating-Statistics-2016.pdf.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (2017, November 17). Wisconsin boating fatality summary – 2017 season. Retrieved from http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/boat/fatalitySummary/boatCurrent.html.
Zellmer, R. (2016, January 22). The handbook! Of Wisconsin boating laws and responsibilities. Retrieved from http://dnr.wi.gov/files/pdf/pubs/le/le0301.pdf.