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!