Sit-on vs. Sit-in Kayak for Fishing – Your Complete Guide

There are few decisions as important as deciding between a sit-inside vs. a sit-on-top kayak in the world of fishing. This is a decision that should be made with care and consideration.

If your goal is to get up close and personal with some fish, then one of these options could work better for you, depending on what kind of experience you’re looking for.

This article outlines what to look for and consider when choosing a sit-on versus sit-in kayak for fishing.

Most fishing kayaks include:

  • A dry storage area for keeping your belongings free from water
  • A small console that houses a few fishing rods, tackle, and other essential equipment
  • Some of the most advanced models even have a small fish finder
  • a comfortable seat with back support and padding for long days on the water

What is the difference between a Sit Inside vs. Sit on Top Kayak?

A sit-inside kayak has a large cockpit in the middle where you sit.  Some have bulkheads installed to help keep the water from coming in and swamping the boat.

Because of the cockpit, a sit-inside kayak gives your lower body some protection from the elements, but it’s much more confining than its sit-on-top counterpart.

As an angler, you don’t have as much room to maneuver with a sit-inside kayak as a sit-on-top kayak. So you sit lower in the boat and the water, and you sit in a cockpit, as mentioned earlier. 

A sit-on-top kayak has an open deck and allows the angler to fish straight out of the boat. Some sit-on-tops have built-in storage areas that allow you to keep more gear handy.  It’s essential to keep in mind that you are entirely exposed to the elements with a sit-on-top kayak as an angler.

You have a lot more room to roam and cast on a sit-on-top kayak. Many SOT kayaks are designed for the angler to stand up and fish. These boats tend to be very stable and are easier to get on and off of.

Sit on top kayaks also have to scupper holes in the bottom of the boat, so they are called “self-bailing.” If water enters the boat, it will exit through the scupper holes

A sit-inside kayak does not have scupper holes, so the angler will have to bail the water with a hand pump or sponge manually.

For more detail on sit-inside vs sit-on-top kayaks check out our article here.

Sit inside Kayaks are usually more maneuverable

A sit inside generally offers better protection from the elements in rough conditions. They are also more challenging to enter and exit compared to a sit on top. However, you will gain some maneuverability and speed while fishing.

Sit-on-top Kayaks offer greater freedom

An angler using a sit-on-top kayak will have a lot more room to move which is important to casting and reeling in a big fish.  However, some models can tip over if not used properly, and they will have to consider water entering the cockpit.

There is a lot of deck space to house fishing gear or other essentials like a cooler. In addition, SOT kayaks generally give the paddler a lot more freedom to move around since you are not confined to a cockpit.

Considerations for choosing a sit-inside kayak vs. a sit on top kayak

When comparing the pros and cons of a sit-inside vs. sit on top kayak, consider your own abilities as a paddler, how you like to fish, what kind of angling experience you are looking for.  

The weather conditions can also play a factor. If you live in a warm-weather climate and don’t mind getting wet, a sit-on-top kayak is perfect. On the other hand, if you want more protection from the elements, a sit-inside kayak might be the way to go.

Where to buy a fishing kayak and what to look for

When choosing your kayak, it is essential to buy from a trusted seller that offers excellent prices and service. When buying a new sit on top or sit inside kayak, see if a demo period allows you to thoroughly test the seating position and stability before making any purchase.

If you don’t know if you want a sit-inside or sit-on-top kayak, check your local area to see if there are shops that rent kayaks. Renting is a great way to help you determine which option is best.

Ensure the kayak has enough fishing accessories, like rod holders, gear tracks, or a built-in holder for a fish finder.

New vs. used fishing kayaks?

When buying a used kayak, check the hull’s rigidity and test how it responds in different conditions. Also, check that all fittings and lines are intact and not worn out. You might also want to consider a warranty for any damage that may have occurred while the kayak was in their possession.

Although buying a used kayak can be a tricky proposition, you can save a lot of money if you find a good one.

How much storage space do you need?

When buying your fishing kayak, make sure it will fit all your fishing needs, like how many rods you can carry.  Many kayaks come equipped with tracks and space for gear. If you need to, you can modify the kayak to fit your needs.

Determine how much space you need, as kayaks come in all lengths and sizes.  Fishing kayaks can vary in length, for example, 10.5 feet to 13.5 feet.  Both sit inside kayaks, and SOT kayaks are available in many different lengths.

Depending on what type of water you will be fishing on, how much gear you need will determine what size kayak is good for you. Keep in mind, a kayak has limited space and has a weight limit.

How will you transport your kayak?

It doesn’t matter if you have a sit-inside fishing kayak or a sit-on-top fishing kayak. Transporting a kayak is often overlooked.  Kayaks are heavy and awkward to move. 

You always need to consider how you will get your kayak to and from the water. If you have room for a car-top carrier, that is a great option. If not, think about getting a roof rack.

If you are interested in learning more, here are some ways to transport a kayak without a roof rack.

Consider a kayak cart

Whether you choose a sit-inside kayak or a SOT kayak for fishing, a kayak cart can make a huge difference and help make your kayaking experience easier. Some fishing kayaks are very heavy, which makes a kayak cart important. Also, lugging a kayak to and from the water can be a chore. 

Click here to read more about kayak carts and how to use one. If you are in the market for a kayak cart, check out this article for our comprehensive guide.

What kind of fishing do you like to do?

It’s important to think about what kinds of fishing you enjoy most before buying a kayak. Different kayaks are better suited for different kinds of fishing, and some are designed with specific styles in mind.

Think about where you like to fish and how far you want to paddle.  Do you need your kayak to be able to stand up in the water?  Are sit inside or SOT more suited for the fishing you enjoy doing?

What kind of conditions are you going to be encountering while out on the water?  A sit-inside kayak gives you more protection from the elements but can limit your mobility.  But sit inside kayaks are typically easier to maneuver, are faster and more nimble than a SOT kayak. So if you are in a hurry to get to the next fishing hole, a sit-inside kayak might serve you well.

Storing your fishing kayak can be challenging

As mentioned earlier, kayaks are heavy and awkward to move and lift, making storage tricky. However, if you have a storage shed or garage, that’s a great place to store your fishing kayak to keep it out of direct sunlight.

If you can’t store your kayak indoors, there are options for storing a kayak outside as well. In addition, we have plenty of articles on storing kayaks you can read:

How To Store A Kayak The Right Way

Master The Art Of Storing A Kayak Outside

Best Way to Store a Kayak in The Garage

Outfitting a fishing kayak

Whether you choose a sit-on vs. sit-in kayak for fishing, outfitting your vessel is fun, and it’s a critical part of catching fish.

You can read our complete article on outfitting a fishing kayak here. In short, you need to make sure you have plenty of rod holders that are accessible and other gear like a milk crate, cooler, fish finder, GPS, etc. 

You can add many great accessories to a fishing kayak, and many kayaks are already set up. 

Sit inside kayak vs. sit on top fishing kayak price 

Price is always an important factor when it comes to making a big purchase. A fishing kayak is no different. You can pay a lot of money for a fishing kayak, depending on what it is made of, how big it is, and what bells and whistles are included. 

It’s important to shop around and set a budget based on what features you want or need. If you can wait until the offseason, you might be able to score a better deal as stores want to clear out their old inventory. 

Conclusion – Sit-on vs. Sit-in kayak for fishing

Kayaking is a fun activity to engage in on the water. Kayaks come in two styles: sit-inside or sit-on-top, and both can be used for fishing.

There are a lot of things to consider when purchasing a sit-on-top or sit-inside fishing kayak. However, if you are looking for something easy to move and very stable, the sit inside option might be your best bet.

A SOT kayak is probably your best option for those who want to spend more time fishing and have more freedom of movement. Also, when deciding to buy a fishing kayak or looking for a new one, take all the things discussed in this article into consideration.

If you decide to go with a SOT kayak, check out our huge guide on how to choose the right fishing kayak for you.

If you are considering buying a new kayak, take the time to research before making a purchase to suit your needs the best.

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Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.

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About the author
Steve Morrow
Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.