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In the market for a fishing kayak? The choices can be overwhelming!

Choosing Between Sit-On-Top and Sit-In Kayaks

When selecting a kayak for fishing, the first major decision is whether to go with a sit-on-top fishing kayak or a sit-in kayak. If you’re unsure which style is best, we’ll help you narrow down the options by examining the pros and cons of each style and considering other important factors.

Sit-On-Top Kayaks: A Favorite Among Fishermen

Sit-on-top kayaks are the preferred choice among fishermen. They offer exceptional stability and have a shorter learning curve for proficiency and safety compared to sit-in fishing kayaks. In fact, some sit-on-top models are stable enough for standing while fishing.

If you have never paddled both a sit-in and sit-on-top kayak, I recommend renting from a local outfitter to try out each style. Although outfitters may not have fishing-specific kayaks available, trying different kayak styles will provide valuable insights before making a significant investment.

Similarities of Sit-On-Top vs Sit-In Kayaks

The design of a kayak’s hull, along with its length and width, primarily determines its tracking and speed. When considering these factors, there is little distinction between sit-on-top and sit-in kayaks of the same type with similar hull shape, length, and width.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Fishing Kayak

Several factors should influence your decision when picking between a sit-on-top fishing kayak and a sit-in kayak:

  1. Your type of fishing
  2. Your style of fishing
  3. Your kayaking skill level
  4. The type of water you’ll be fishing on
  5. The location, such as open water or tighter confines
  6. Water temperature
  7. Air temperature
  8. Wind speeds
  9. Type of kayak (e.g., river, ocean, or lake)
  10. Do you want a fishing kayak that allows you to stand up?
  11. Manufacturer
  12. Price
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Considering these factors will guide you toward the right kayak. Some of them will determine whether a sit-on-top or sit-in kayak is more suitable. Now, let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of each type.

Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayaks

While sit-in kayaks may offer certain advantages for fishermen, sit-on-top kayaks have become the top choice due to their ease of use.

Sit-on-top kayaks have a wide, open deck that you sit on top of. Your legs are not enclosed inside the kayak like with a sit-in kayak. Everything is on top of the kayak, including the foot braces.

Pros of Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayaks

  • Ideal for warm weather: Sit-on-top kayaks are excellent for warm-weather paddling since you can get wet without filling up the kayak with water. Water often splashes over the deck and from the use of your paddle. You may also experience splashing from the scupper holes.
  • Self-bailing: Sit-on-top kayaks have scupper holes that allow water to drain off the deck. In warmer weather, the scupper holes are generally left open. However, scupper plugs and valves are available if you want to block the splashing.
  • Lower learning curve: Sit-on-top kayaks have a lower learning curve in terms of proficiency and safety.
  • Easy to get in and out: Getting in and out of a sit-on-top kayak is far easier than with a sit-in kayak, whether you need to cool off, avoid obstacles, or wade fish.
  • Stability: Fishing kayaks are increasingly designed to be wider and more stable, catering to the needs of fishermen.
  • Standing while fishing: Wider kayaks provide the ability to stand while fishing. However, these kayaks are generally slower than their narrower counterparts. If standing is not a priority and you value speed or covering more water, a wide, slow boat may not be the best option.
  • Variety: Sit-on-top kayaks come in a wide variety of types and styles to accommodate different fishing preferences.
  • Fishing accessories and savings: Most sit-on-top fishing kayaks come standard with multiple fishing accessories, saving you money compared to buying and installing them separately. However, if you prefer customizing your kayak with specific fishing accessories, you have the flexibility to do so.
  • Ample gear storage and accessibility: Sit-on-top kayaks have plenty of room for your fishing and kayaking gear, electronics, and other items you’ll bring on your kayak fishing trip. Look for kayaks with watertight hatches, tiedown areas on the hull, and a dedicated storage area behind the seat.
  • Wide range of options: The popularity of sit-on-top fishing kayaks has driven market demand, resulting in a wide selection of options for fishermen.

Cons of Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayaks

  • Wet ride: Sit-on-top kayaks can be wet, especially if splashing occurs. While being wet in warmer temperatures is not always an issue, getting wet in cold weather or water conditions can lead to hypothermia. Consider wearing a dry suit for warmth.
  • Exposure to weather conditions and water temperatures: Sit-on-top kayaks leave you more exposed to the elements compared to sit-in kayaks, especially in terms of adverse air and water temperatures. If the air or water is cold, without a dry suit, you may feel chilly. Sit-on-tops can also be challenging to navigate in windy conditions, so an anchor or anchor stake can be useful.
  • Higher center of gravity: The center of balance in a sit-on-top kayak is higher than in a sit-in kayak of the same width, making it easier to tip over. However, wider sit-on-top kayaks compensate for this. Keep in mind that wider kayaks tend to be heavier.
  • Heavier: Sit-on-top kayaks generally weigh more than sit-in kayaks. If you’ll be hauling a heavy kayak overland, consider using a kayak cart.
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Sit-In Fishing Kayaks

Sit-in kayaks are the more traditional kayak that comes to mind when people think of kayaking. They feature a cockpit that you get inside.

Sit-in kayaks are popular in cold-weather regions, as they allow for the use of a kayak skirt to close off the cockpit and keep water out.

Pros of Sit-In Fishing Kayaks

  • Agility and speed: Sit-in kayaks provide better speed, control, and maneuverability.
  • Lower physical demand: The design of sit-in kayaks makes them easier to paddle, especially during long fishing excursions.
  • Lighter weight: Sit-in kayaks weigh less than sit-on-top kayaks, making them easier to secure to your vehicle’s kayak carrier and carry to the put-in point.
  • Ease of carrying: The cockpit of a sit-in kayak can be used to carry the kayak on your shoulder.
  • Lower wind exposure: Sit-in kayaks are less affected by wind than sit-on-top kayaks due to their reduced surface area exposed to the wind.
  • Reduced exposure to weather conditions and water temperatures: Being down in the cockpit of a sit-in kayak reduces your exposure to adverse air and water temperatures. Using a kayak skirt further enhances comfort and warmth.
  • Warmer rides: Sit-in kayaks provide a warmer ride, making them suitable for fishing in cooler weather. Using a kayak skirt helps trap your body heat inside the cockpit, keeping you even warmer and reducing the need for a bilge pump. If you value seasonal versatility, a sit-in kayak may be the right choice.
  • More storage space: Sit-in kayaks typically offer more waterproof storage compared to sit-on-top kayaks.

Cons of Sit-In Fishing Kayaks

  • Lower seating position: Sit-in kayaks place you lower in the water than sit-on-top kayaks, which can be a disadvantage for some fishermen.
  • Higher skill level required: Mastering certain skills, such as water exiting and re-entry in case of tipping over, is crucial with sit-in kayaks.
  • Challenging re-entry from the water: Sit-in kayaks are harder to exit and re-enter without swamping them.
  • Need for a bilge pump: Without a kayak skirt, water enters the cockpit of a sit-in kayak. You may need a bilge pump or sponge to remove the water.
  • Hot and stuffy in warm weather: Sit-in kayaks provide little to no ventilation for your lower half, especially when using a kayak skirt.
  • Limited gear space: Sit-in kayaks offer less room for gear, and accessing gear while on the water can be more challenging.
  • Fewer options available: The lower demand for sit-in fishing kayaks has resulted in a reduced selection of prebuilt sit-in models for fishermen.
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Size, Weight, and Load Capacity

The size, weight, and maximum load capacity of your kayak are crucial considerations.

On average, polyethylene sit-on-top fishing kayaks weigh around 77 lbs, while polyethylene sit-in fishing kayaks weigh approximately 52 lbs. It’s important to be able to transport your kayak to the water and for it to support your weight and gear. If hardshell fishing kayaks are too heavy for you, inflatable fishing kayaks or fishing float tubes are excellent alternatives.

The size of your fishing kayak also plays a vital role:

  • Size and shape impact tracking and speed.
  • Storage and transportation become easier with a well-suited size.

To narrow down your search, refer to the tables below. You’ll notice that manufacturers and outfitters offer more options for sit-on-top fishing kayaks due to their popularity. However, some sit-in kayaks are outfitted specifically for fishing, although their accessory selection may be limited. Customizing a sit-in kayak with fishing accessories is often necessary for a broader range of features.

Would you like to go fishing with a companion? Tandem kayaks are available, and having a buddy to help transport your kayak and gear can be immensely helpful.

( * The average weight figures listed are based on the fishing kayaks mentioned below.)

Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayak: Size, Weight, and Maximum Load Capacity

[Insert Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayak Image Here]

Advanced Elements (Inflatable Fishing Kayaks)

Model Length Width Max Load Weight

Aquaglide (Inflatable Fishing Kayaks)

Model Length Width Max Load Weight


Model Length Width Max Load Weight

Jackson Kayak

Model Length Width Max Load Weight

Ocean Kayak

Model Length Width Max Load Weight

Old Town

Model Length Width Max Load Weight


Model Length Width Max Load Weight


Model Length Width Max Load Weight


Model Length Width Max Load Weight

Star (Inflatable Fishing Kayaks)

Model Length Width Max Load Weight

Wilderness Systems

Model Length Width Max Load Weight

( * The kayak weight mentioned by the manufacturer may not include features like the seat and pedal drive.)

Sit-In Fishing Kayak: Size, Weight, and Maximum Load Capacity

[Insert Sit-In Fishing Kayak Image Here]


Model Length Width Max Load Weight

Old Town

Model Length Width Max Load Weight


Model Length Width Max Load Weight

( * The kayak weight mentioned by the manufacturer may not include features like the seat and pedal drive.)

Final Thoughts on Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayaks vs Sit-In Fishing Kayaks

Sit-on-top kayaks offer convenience and ease of use that sit-in kayaks may lack. However, each style has its own advantages, and neither is inherently better or worse. The best approach is to make a decision after trying out various styles and brands to determine which type suits your fishing style.

If you’re looking to save money on a fishing kayak, consider purchasing one specifically sold as a fishing kayak or angler kayak. These kayaks already come with fishing accessories, making them more affordable compared to building a customized fishing kayak.

Remember to have fun and prioritize safety. Always carry the necessary kayak safety equipment.

Related Content:

  • Dangerous Creatures To Avoid While Kayak Fishing
  • Is Fly Fishing Hard To Learn?

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