Sit-On-Top Vs. Sit-In Kayak For Fishing: Which Is Best?


The available range of modern kayaks to fish from gives us choices which means we can choose the best kayak for our fishing preferences and styles. When we consider the sit-in and sit-on style kayaks, which would be the best for fishing?

A sit-on-top kayak is better than a sit-in kayak for fishing and has more advantages. It is more stable, has adjustable seats, plenty of storage, drains water quickly, and allows you to walk or move around. A sit-in kayak can be confining, difficult to exit from if flipped, and harder to reenter on the water.

Whichever one you ultimately decide to choose, each has its strong points and weaknesses. Although the sit-on-top kayaks are more popular and my personal choice to fish from, there are plenty of people who choose a sit-in kayak.

Is A Sit-On Kayak Or A Sit-In Kayak Better For Fishing?

Fishing from a kayak can open up a whole new world of fishing and expand your fishing possibilities. Fishing from a kayak is also tons of fun, and if you enjoy kayaking as much as you enjoy fishing, you can combine the activities and have twice the fun on the water!

Sit-On-Top Kayak

When looking to purchase a kayak for the express purpose of using it for fishing, there are a few characteristics of each type of kayak that you might want to know about to make the correct kayak choice for your needs.

Let’s examine the characteristics of sit-on and sit-in kayaks from a fishing perspective, and it will become apparent to you which type of kayak would suit you the best!

Fishing Kayak Stability

Stability is a characteristic that is important to consider when selecting a kayak for fishing purposes. When fishing, you want a stable platform. You do not want to worry about your balance or the kayak tipping over while you are casting or fighting your fish.

Sit-On Kayak Stability

Sit-on kayaks are significantly wider than most sit-in kayaks. This gives them better initial stability when climbing into or getting out of the kayak.

A sit-on-top kayak also raises your center of gravity. A higher center of gravity is one reason these kayaks need to have a wider or broader hull.

This wider hull and the high center of gravity are great for flat, calm water. Still, when the water becomes a little rough and choppy, you can feel a little unstable on a sit-on kayak, especially if the swells become high and choppy because you are sitting higher in the kayak.

For more information on kayak stability read my article: How Stable Is a Fishing Kayak?

Sit-In Kayak Stability

The sit-in kayak has less initial stability on the water, making it more challenging to keep your balance getting into and out of the kayak.

However, the lower center of gravity gives the sit-in kayak superior secondary stability. Making it more maneuverable and stable in turning the craft and easier to stay upright in rough water.

The narrower hull makes the sit-in kayaks easier to paddle with less effort. They are quicker on the water than their sit-on counterparts.

At the same time, speed is generally not a concern when fishing. Rough water may be a concern if caught on open water during a storm. You would be happy to be in a sit-in kayak in this case.

While the initial stability may seem like a problem, you can learn to overcome these difficulties and compensate for the balance issues on flat water, which soon becomes second nature.

Maneuverability and low center of gravity are two reasons you will see whitewater kayakers predominantly use sit-inside kayaks for their adventures!

Ease Of Learning To Kayak

When you are fishing from the kayak, you need to feel as comfortable aboard your kayak as possible. Then you can focus your attention on fishing rather than kayaking.

If you are going to fish from any type of kayak, you need to learn how to paddle your kayak, and just like learning to ride a bike, there is a learning curve associated with getting comfortable in your kayak.

Sit-On Kayak Ease Of Learning

Sit-on kayaks are the easiest type of kayak to quickly learn the basic skills of kayaking and fishing, especially in calmer, flat water. The skill with these types of kayaks comes with handling them in rough water.

You will learn your kayak quicker and feel more comfortable in a sit-on kayak, and it allows you to fish more at ease since you are on a stable platform! Plus, the sit-on kayak is more forgiving to the kayaker!

Sit-In Kayak Ease Of Learning

A sit-in kayak will take longer to get your sense of balance in. However, it’s like learning to ride a bicycle! Once you acquire the skill, you can do it without having to think about it.

Sit-Inside Dolphin Kayak

The amount of time it will take to learn to be comfortable in a sit-in kayak will definitely be longer than on a sit-on kayak.

Kayaking Safety

Any time you go out on the water, safety needs to be an important part of your mindset.

You don’t want to become one of the statistics of fishing accidents out on the water; it is just not worth it. Both kayaks are safe to use out on the water if you are a competent kayaker and know how to swim.

Never take a kayak out on the water for fishing or any other purpose if you don’t know how to swim.

If you haven’t learned or aren’t a strong swimmer, Is Kayak Fishing Safe For Non-Swimmers? 7 Best Tips! might be an article you’d want to check out!

If you are a beginner in a kayak, there are safety aspects for each type of kayak that you should know about to choose the best one for you.

Sit-On Kayak Safety

A sit-on kayak may not be very stable in rough water conditions, but if you do happen to topple over, there are a few features of this type of kayak that are of benefit to you.

The kayak will not sink since most sit-on kayaks have a sealed hull and scupper holes to drain the water from the kayak!

Learn more about scupper holes: What Are Holes in a Kayak For? Should You Plug Them?

You can use the kayak as a floatation device. Even if you struggle to get back aboard the kayak, you can hang on to it, and it will keep you afloat!

A sit-on kayak is much easier to climb back aboard after you have fallen off than a sit-in kayak, which requires quite a bit of skill and strength to get right.

Sit-in Kayak Safety

A sit-in kayak has an open hull that you sit inside, and there are no scupper holes to drain out any water which gets inside the kayak. This means that if you fall out of or flip the kayak, it can fill up with water.

Once the kayak fills with water, it may no longer work as a possible floatation device to help you stay afloat, and it could also begin to sink.

If the kayak fills with water, there is no way to empty the water boat unless you can stand in the water to tip the water out of the kayak. This means that you will have to swim for shore while towing your water-filled kayak or to abandon the boat and head for shore.

A sit-in kayak is significantly more difficult to get back aboard after you have tipped over. Getting back in can be done, but it takes a lot of practice and a fair amount of strength.

Kayak Storage Space

Let’s face it, as fishermen, we love our gear, and therefore we need a place to stow all this gear when we go out fishing on our kayaks.

We take rods, bait, lures, spare tackle, knives, pliers, hook removers, and more, probably enough gear to fill a small garage! And now we need to fit this in a kayak?

Wilderness Systems Kayak Krate

When you enter the world of kayak fishing, you need to become a minimalist fisherman. Fishing light means only taking a couple of smaller storage boxes of lures instead of carrying entire numerous tackle boxes full of lures with you!

Both types of kayak have storage space, but you will need to be able to cut down your gear when kayak fishing.

Sit-On Kayak Storage Space

Most sit-on kayaks, especially those designed specifically for fishing, will have a storage compartment or two, but the space in these compartments will be limited.

If you intend to keep some of the fish you catch, you will probably need to dedicate one compartment to house a fish bag with ice to preserve your catch and prevent it from spoiling.

This will generally only leave you with one other compartment to stow gear, limiting your options somewhat. Most sit-on kayaks will have straps on the top of the kayak where you can secure other storage items such as an ice cooler chest or a live-well to keep your catch fresh.

Here are two related articles that address these issues!

Sit-in Kayak Storage Space

Sit-in kayaks will have open areas in front and behind the kayaker while they are seated. Your legs often block easy access to these items upfront, and the seat makes it difficult to reach behind you.

 Also, if you want to keep clothing items or food and drink dry, you may want to invest in a dry storage bag.

While the sit-in kayak gives you the capacity to take plenty of gear with you, it also has the potential to lose more gear should your kayak happen to flip over.

Protection From The Elements

When you are out fishing on the water, you may think it is a lovely sunshine day, but that sun can quickly start to cook you out on the water.

The wind can pick up while you are out on the water, and if the temperatures are cold, getting wet with the wind blowing may make your fishing trip very uncomfortable.

Protection From The Elements On A Sit-On Kayak

Because you are sitting on top of the kayak, the kayak itself offers you no protection from the elements at all. You are exposed to the sun, the wind, and you will get wet in rough water.

The sun’s effect is enhanced when you are out on the water, and you can receive a bad case of sunburn from a relatively short time out on the water. You will have to protect not only your upper body but your lower body as well.

When the wind blows, and as evening approaches, you will feel the effects of the cold much quicker being exposed on the top of the kayak.

Protection From The Elements In A Sit-In Kayak

A sit-in kayak offers significantly better protection from the elements than a sit on kayak. Protection from the water is further enhanced if you seal the opening around you using a spray-skirt. A spray skirt prevents water from entering the kayak, making your lower body wet.

A sit-in kayak offers better protection from the sun because you have less of your body exposed to the sun. Wear a long-sleeved shirt and apply sunscreen to your exposed skin.

The windburn is less of a factor with a sit-in kayak since your legs will be inside the kayak. Likewise, water entering into your kayak, combined with the wind, is less likely to be a wind chill issue for you.

Best Kayak For Fishing Recommendation

For fishing, the sit-on-top is the preferred fishing kayak! According to numerous surveys, sit-on-top kayaks are favored by kayak anglers close to a 3:1 margin!

“Another number that clearly demonstrates a sea change in how we fish is the ratio of sit-on-top kayaks versus sit-inside—71 to 29 percent.”

Men’s Journal

Take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each, and decide which kayak is the best for you. Both kayaks are great for fishing, so that the choice would come down to your personal preference.

If you are a beginner, my recommendation would be a sit-on kayak.

Two Fishing Kayaks

When fishing in colder regions or rougher water, it may be best to start with a sit-in kayak. I would recommend a good dry-suit or waterproof clothing for either kayak!

If your swimming skills are not what they should be, then a sit-on-top kayak would be the better choice. You can easily reenter the kayak, and it also has good floatation!

Should You Buy A Kayak For Fishing?

Kayak fishing is a great way to expand your fishing opportunities, and kayaks have numerous advantages over using a normal fishing boat.

  • No boat registration fees for paddlers
  • Don’t need a license to operate a kayak
  • No fuel costs
  • Easier to transport
  • Easier to launch
  • Easier to load up
  • Does not disturb the fish
  • Reach fishing spots boats can’t access
  • Stored easily in a garage
  • No expensive storage fees
  • No need for expensive insurance policies

Conclusion

If you are reading this article to decide whether you should try kayak fishing or not, then that is an easy question to answer. Just do it! The choice should be which kayak is best for your needs rather than whether you should fish from a kayak or not.

Even if you do other forms of fishing, fishing from a kayak will bring a new dimension to an activity you already enjoy and enhance the experience.

Find an appropriate kayak for yourself and give it a go, you won’t look back, and you will be questioning yourself why it took you so long to explore this kind of fishing adventure!

Have fun and stay safe out there!

Mike Rodman

Mike enjoys fishing all year round, from fly fishing small streams in Wyoming's higher mountains to kayak fishing the lower altitude lakes and reservoirs. Mike also has a passion for ice fishing. When he has spare time, he'll be found at his rod bench building custom fishing rods.

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