Sit-In vs. Sit-On-Top: Which is better for kayak fishing?

The days of the angler loading up his aluminum boat, puttering his outboard motor over to a set of lily pads and dropping anchor are now few and far between. There is a new wave of fishing vessel taking the world by storm.

Kayak angling has become more and more popular in recent years. That’s due to the fact that they are easier to transport, more durable than ever, and best of all you don’t need to pay for a yearly boat or trailer registration.

They also allow you to approach spots other anglers in larger vessels can’t get to and you can do it quietly, which is something the old aluminum boats were not as capable of.

However, when you look at the market you may notice two different types of kayaks. The sit in kayak (SIK), and the sit on top (SOT).

To the novice it may not seem like much, if any, difference. But they both have pros and cons, and below we’re going to talk about what those might be.

Why Even Fish out of a Kayak?

Before we dig too deep let’s discuss why you should even be fishing from a kayak. There are a plethora of reasons and many of these have led to the boom that we are seeing today.

Kayak fishing is affordable

Kayaks can range in price from $180 all the way up to $2000+. So, if you’re tired of fishing from the shore but are having a hard time justifying the price of a boat then the kayak is a great way to go.

Easier to maintain than a boat

Besides washing off any dirt or mud that may have splashed on it, there is not much maintenance required. As long as it treated well and not thrown around, then you have a good chance of your kayak lasting a very long time.

Hit hard to reach spots

kayak fishing

A kayak is going to get you close to anywhere you want to go. It can easily roll down a river, paddle on the saltwater marshes, cruise the back of small creeks, and even take if offshore to catch big game. Whatever kind of fishing you want to do they make a kayak for it.

Stealth: silent and deadly

Perfect for sneaking up on spooky fish. You can silently paddle into an area and drift down to where the fish are without scaring them. As long as you’re careful to not to bang your paddle against the side, then you’ll be good to go.

Easy to stow

Unlike a jon boat, you can store a kayak in most places without taking up too much space. This is due to their lightweight, slender size. It can easily be stored in a shed, basement, garage, or even a back porch. Perfect for someone who does not have a lot space.

What’s the Difference Between a SIK and SOT Kayak?

The obvious answer is that one allows you to sit in the hull (SIK), and allows for a skirt to be placed around the outside which will protect your lower body from the water and sun. The SOT has no shell outside of you, and you are exposed to the elements.

The SIK would be useful if you’re fishing during cooler and windier parts of the year, and the extra protection of the hull will keep you warmer during the day. These are also easier to carry than their counterparts, as you can rest the cockpit comfortably on your shoulder.

An issue that arises with the SIKs is that if something happens and you flip over, then it’s possible that the hull can fill with water and sink. Which means you’ve lost your kayak as well as all the gear you brought with you.

The SOT is much more stable and easier to get in and out of. The majority are even wide enough that you have the ability to stand and cast.

They have a generous amount of storage space as well, as there is almost always an area directly behind and in front of the paddler that is big enough to hold either a cooler or a large fishing bag.

Man paddles a sit on top fishing kayak decked out with all the fishing gear
Image by Jols from Pixabay

These kayaks come equipped with small holes, called scuppers, that allow water to drain through them, which means there is no way for them to sink.

They are also very easy to get in and out of, which means you can slide off and take a dip in the water to cool off if the fishing is slow, or you can get out and wade and then hop right back in.

The SOTs are also more affected by the wind so be prepared to get blown around a little bit more during windy conditions. These are also heavier than the SIKs and can be more difficult to transport and stow.

What To Look For When Purchasing a SIK or SOT

There are several factors to consider before purchasing a fishing kayak.

Are you a minimalist fisherman who brings only the items you need?

Or do you like to have a tackle box full of lures, three different rods, as well as electronics, wading staff and anchor?

The good news is that whatever you need, chances are there is a kayak for you.

Gear Storage

The vast majority of SOTs will have areas designated for storage in either the front, back, or both. Because of the stability of a SOT you can easily turn around to access your tackle box, cooler, or bag.

The SIK will also contain two storage areas: one in front and one behind the angler. Depending on the model one of these is typically a dry storage area used to hold whatever you don’t want to get wet, while the other is an elastic band that is large enough to hold a regular sized tackle box or something smaller.


The SOTs are much more stable than their counterparts. They are designed similarly to a surfboard and many of them are designed with anglers in mind.

They are stable enough that you are able to stand and get a better look at the water before casting — perfect for both the spin cast fisherman and fly fisherman.

Even if they do flip over, you can easily roll them back while you’re in the water.

You also don’t have to worry about the water filling the boat and losing all of your gear. Because of the scupper holes the water drains instantly, and as long as you have your gear tied down you should be ready to get back to fishing in no time.

The SIKs might not have the stability needed to stand and cast, but they have better control and maneuverability when paddling.

These can fly around the lake from spot to spot and allow the angler to cover a lot of water quickly and efficiently.

If your SIK flips over you could have a serious issue on your hands. This will need to be flipped back over as quickly as possible, especially if you happen to be on moving water such as a river.

Another downside to a SIK is that they are much more difficult to get back into than a SOT.

Most reputable kayak organizations recommend that you practice how to climb back into a SIK in a controlled environment before taking it out onto a river or lake.


This is dependent on what the angler wants in a kayak. There are several options of both SIK and SOT that offer a wide range of comforts.

For instance, if you want to be able to move your body freely and have the ability to sit or stand in multiple positions then the SOT wins easily. You have the ability to either cross your legs, dangle one or both feet in the water, stand, kneel, or even sit side saddle comfortably.

Because of the design, the SIK is limited in space, which means you are essentially stuck sitting in one position for the day.

Sit on Top Kayaks: The Clear Choice For Kayak Fishing

Both the SIK and SOT have their advantages and disadvantages. However, when it comes to which is the best for fishing, the SOT comes away the winner.

The SOT wins because of:

  • Better stability
  • Better gear storage
  • Unsinkable
  • Easier access to gear
  • Easily hop in and out to wade

Of course, it depends on what your needs are as a kayak angler but the SOT seems to be a step above the SIK in all of the major categories.

The biggest argument that could be made for a SIK is that the hull adds extra protection from the elements such as wind and water, which is beneficial if fishing during the cooler months. This is easily fixed with a SOT, though, by wearing a few extra layers as well as waterproof pants.

Man sits on his sit on top kayak fishing in a grassy marsh
Image by skeeze from Pixabay

However, when you’re fishing, having the ability to exit the kayak to give your legs a stretch or to wade a piece of water is a much larger factor than you would think. Being trapped in a SIK for a full day without having the option to get out and move can become extremely tiring and uncomfortable.

Also, because of the extra area for gear storage you have the ability to pick and choose exactly what you want to use that area for. You can do the same with the SIK, but with such a limited area you have to begin to narrow down your choices.

Many SOTs allow space for a crate that you can fill with gear. From there you can begin to attach any number of accessories, from rod holders to sonar. The other open area could also be used to hold something larger like a cooler or live well.

If you’re looking for a great SOT kayak check out the Perception Pescador Pilot.

It comes equipped with good storage areas, rod holders, and a removable seat that is made from mesh to ensure you stay cool on those warmer summer days. the Pescador also has a pedal drive so you can pedal along while fishing.

The Perception is a great place to start looking for a SOT. Start there and you can begin looking for kayaks with features you need and meet your price point.

(Note: For a more complete review of the Perception Pescador Pro, check out this previous BAKLife article here: 6 Spectacularly Spacious and Sturdy Kayaks Big and Tall Paddlers Will LOVE)

When Would a Sit Inside Be a Better Option for Kayak Fishing?

The SIK’s benefits include:

  • Greater control and maneuverability
  • Faster
  • Protects angler from elements

If you’re a speed fisherman who only has a limited amount of time to hit the water then this will work well for you.

The SIKs are faster and maneuver better than their counterparts so if you only have an hour to fish the this will allow you to quickly and effectively paddle around the water hitting all of the hot spots.

Because of its maneuverability these are effective on rivers that are narrow, windy, and have some areas of whitewater.

Realistically though, if you’re going to be going through rapids fast enough to need a SIK then you shouldn’t be using it for fishing.

Protecting an angler from the elements can be great in very cold and windy weather. If you’re going to be fishing in these conditions and need a kayak, then this can be your best option because of the extra protection that the hull provides.

However, keep in mind that kayaking is a water sport. If you truly don’t want to get wet then be prepared to also purchase a skirt for the hull which then cuts your gear storage roughly in half. At that point it might be in your best interest to look at purchasing a different type of vessel.

Final Thoughts

The great part is that a lot of outdoor companies are now making gear and electronics specifically for kayak angling. No longer do you have to buy an expensive bass boat or clunky jon boat just because you want sonar or a trolling motor.

And because of how close you are to the water you feel more in tune with what’s happening around you. You’re able to see insects settling on the surface and fish rising to them. And, it gives you access to areas that most other anglers, whether travelling by foot or boat, would not be able to get to.

If you are limited on time and need something to access areas of the lake or river faster or need to maneuver around whitewater, then the SIK would be perfect for you.

But, how much faster are you really getting to your favorite spot on the lake? And how often are you encountering whitewater? Make sure to keep those thoughts in mind when purchasing.

Again, kayaking is a water sport so if your only reason to get a SIK is because you don’t want to get wet then you might be better off purchasing a boat or re-thinking purchasing a water craft in the first place.

If you’re looking for a kayak to fish in then there is no question that the SOT is the one more apt to do so. It hits everything you need from amount of gear storage to stability.

When selecting your fishing SOT, make sure to shop around and really think about what is most important to you.

Do you want extra areas for gear storage?

Are you more concerned with having a wider model for better stability?

Look around, ask questions, and I guarantee you will be able to find a model that will fit into your budget.

Sit-In Vs. Sit-On-Top: Which is better for kayak fishing?
Article Name
Sit-In Vs. Sit-On-Top: Which is better for kayak fishing?
In the debate between sit in vs sit on top kayaks for fishing, we've declared a clear winner! Find out which is best (plus our pick for top fishing kayak).
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Board and Kayak Life
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7 thoughts on “Sit-In vs. Sit-On-Top: Which is better for kayak fishing?”

  1. I’m lovin’ it! I actually just read like three of your posts today. So that means you better keep writing more, because I am going through these like they’re going out of style.

  2. Hi Really great post! On the fishing side of it all I have a Wilderness Systems 140 Commander Kayak that I have put through it’s sea trials here in Newfoundland Canada. This boat is what they call a Hybid that is extremely stable. I have used it continuously on the Atlantic Ocean fishing for Northern Cod. Even in ocean swells where the boat is a sit inside I navigate the Bay’s very safely. It is true that each style of Kayak has pros and cons however this boat has a tonne of room and very stable in ocean swells. Your low center of gravity in this boat is the difference here than with the sit on tops. Also if the sea state is such that conditions are questionable. Stay on shore is safest bet. It doesn’t matter if it is a SOT or SIS. Also if you are pulling a four foot Northern Cod over the side of your Kayak you need the big cock pit on the Commander to throw it between your legs.. Also the sit inside is a lot lighter and easier to shoulder to pack over a rocky beach. You have to be able to handle the boat yourself..


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