Choosing a Fishing Kayak: Sit-on-Top vs. Sit-Inside [Video]

Should you choose a sit-on-top or sit-inside kayak for fishing? Bending Branches  ProStaffer, Chad Hoover, shares his take on the differences…


As Chad says right at the top of the video, he fishes from a sit-on-top kayak, so that’s his preference. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t advantages of a sit-inside model.

Let’s take a look at both:

Advantages of a Sit-on-Top Kayak for Fishing

One of the big advantages of a sit-on-top kayak for angling is it gives you the option of standing up while you fish. Another is the wider seat, and still another is the overall functionality of these kayaks designed for fishing.

With more surface space, sit-on-tops have plenty of options for attaching gear, electronics, cameras, or anything else you may want as part of your everyday fishing experiences.

Another major advantage is the ability to get in and out more easily. If you get out often to pull your kayak over rocks in a river, or for other reasons, it could important to you.

Finally, a sit-on-top kayak requires much less skill as a kayaker to be safe on the water. If you should flip, this type is much easier to get back onto than a sit-inside when you’re in the water. And you won’t need to worry about bailing water out.

Advantages of a Sit-Inside Kayak

One big advantage of a sit-inside model is its lighter weight. It’ll be easier to carry and load on your vehicle.

Another advantage is you’ll stay dryer in cold conditions because it provides more protection from the elements. You still always need to be “dressed for the swim” though—always dress for the water temperature in case of a capsize.

There’s more waterproof storage in a sit-inside model, due to its fore and rear storage areas. Keep in mind, though, you’ll almost certainly have to get out of your kayak to access them.

Sit-insides are more streamlined than sit-on-tops. That plus their lighter weight makes them easier and more efficient to paddle, especially over long distances.

sit on top fishing kayak
(photo courtesy of Jason Schall)


Necessities When Using a Sit-Inside Kayak

With a sit-inside, you’ll need specialized training for wet exit and re-entry so you’re safe on the water. Unless you’re willing to learn these skills and have the extra gear (bilge pump, paddle float), you’ll be safer paddling a sit-on-top.

If you prefer the sit-inside model, take some kayak courses from an ACA instructor so you have the skills and knowledge to handle emergency situations.

If you choose a sit-inside kayak, you’ll need to know how to remove water in case you swamp. You definitely want to keep a bilge pump accessible, and may need to either beach your flooded boat to get rid of that water or take care of it while in the water.

Because you’ll be seated all the time with a sit-inside, be sure the kayak you invest in has a very comfortable seat.

With this type of kayak, it’s very important you buy one from a retailer who knows kayak fishing and has a good selection. It’s best if you can try one out before you buy it, as you’ll be spending a lot of time in this boat. You want it to fit you very well.

Your Paddle Choice for Each Model

Because a sit-inside kayak puts you closer to the water and the boat is narrower, you’ll need a shorter paddle. Conversely, a sit-on-top kayak often sits you higher up, which means you’ll need a longer paddle.

If you have both types of kayaks, you won’t be able to use the same paddle. The length difference will be too much, even for an adjustable-length model.

We hope that helps you make your choice for the best type of kayak to suit you and your fishing needs!

fishing kayak
(photo courtesy of Courtney Bennett)


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