5 Advantages and Disadvantages: Sit-in vs Sit-on-top Fishing Kayaks

Jeff A Sep 01, 2023
23 People Read
Logo: A Crimson Arrow - Explore the Great Outdoors
Table of Contents
  1. Advantages of Sit-in Fishing Kayaks
    1. Protection from the Elements
    2. Stability and Performance in Rough Waters
    3. Storage Capacity for Gear and Equipment
    4. Maneuverability
    5. Speed
  2. Disadvantages of Sit-in Fishing Kayaks
    1. Limited Visibility
    2. Water Accumulation
    3. Discomfort
    4. Capsizing
    5. Lack of Ventilation
  3. Advantages of Sit-on-Top Fishing Kayaks
    1. Ease of Entry and Exit
    2. Standing on Deck
    3. Versatility and Flexibility for Fishing
    4. Spacious Open Deck
    5. Navigating Shallow Waters
  4. Disadvantages of Sit-on-Top Fishing Kayaks
    1. Exposure to the Elements
    2. Wet Conditions
    3. Inefficient Traversal
    4. Limited Gear Storage
    5. Unsuitable for Cold Weather
  5. Conclusion
  6. Kayak Fishing Links and Resources:
    1. Kayaks and Kayak Equipment
    2. Fishing Equipment

First Published on 06/27/2023

When it comes to choosing the perfect kayak for your fishing excursions, one of the most important decisions that you'll be faced with is whether to choose a sit-in kayak or a sit-on-top kayak. Both options have their own set of advantages and disadvantages, and understanding them can help you make an informed choice.


In this article, we'll dive into the world of sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks, exploring their unique features, pros, and cons. Whether you're a seasoned angler or a beginner looking to explore kayak fishing, this guide will provide you with valuable insights to help you make the right decision.


Sit-in kayaks offer a traditional design with an enclosed cockpit. They provide a sense of protection with a lower center of gravity. On the other hand, sit-on-top kayaks offer an open deck design. This allows for greater freedom of movement and easy entry and exit.


Throughout this article, we'll discuss five key advantages and disadvantages of both sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks. We'll cover aspects such as stability, maneuverability, storage options, comfort, and more. By the end, you'll have a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each type, allowing you to choose the kayak that suits your fishing style and preferences.

Advantages of Sit-in Fishing Kayaks

Protection from the Elements

Sit-in kayaks provide modest protection from the elements due to their enclosed cockpit design. The cockpit acts as a shield, keeping you somewhat sheltered from wind, rain, and waves. This can be particularly beneficial in cooler or adverse weather conditions, allowing you to stay drier and more comfortable during your fishing trips. The added protection can also help extend your fishing season, enabling you to venture out in less favorable weather while maintaining a level of comfort and safety.

Stability and Performance in Rough Waters

Sit-in kayaks offer increased stability and enhanced performance in rough waters, making them a reliable choice for challenging conditions. The lower center of gravity and snug seating position in a sit-in kayak provide better balance, allowing you to navigate through choppy waves and currents with greater stability. With improved stability and performance, sit-in kayaks give you the confidence to tackle rougher waters, explore new fishing spots, and handle unpredictable conditions with ease.

Storage Capacity for Gear and Equipment

One of the key advantages of sit-in kayaks is their larger storage capacity. Sit-in kayaks typically feature spacious enclosed compartments within the hull, providing ample room to store your fishing gear, equipment, and personal belongings. These compartments are often watertight, keeping your items dry and protected from water. With the additional storage space, you can bring along more tackle boxes, fishing rods, safety equipment, and even camping gear for extended fishing trips. The enhanced storage capacity of sit-in kayaks allows you to be well-prepared and organized, ensuring that you have everything you need while on the water.

Maneuverability

Sit-in kayaks offer excellent maneuverability, allowing you to navigate through narrow channels, tight spaces, and intricate waterways with ease. The design of sit-in kayaks, with their lower profile and narrower hull, enhances their agility on the water. This makes it easier to make precise turns, change direction quickly, and navigate around obstacles. Whether you're fishing in winding rivers, small lakes, or densely vegetated areas, the maneuverability of sit-in kayaks provides you with better control and the ability to access fishing spots that may otherwise be challenging to reach. This versatility gives you the freedom to explore diverse fishing environments and maximize your opportunities.

Speed

Sit-in kayaks are known for their speed, allowing you to cover more water and reach your desired fishing locations more efficiently. The streamlined design of sit-in kayaks, with their sleek and narrow hulls, helps to reduce drag and increase overall speed. This means you can paddle with less effort and achieve higher velocities, enabling you to explore larger bodies of water. Whether you're targeting a specific fishing spot or looking to cover more ground, the speed advantage of sit-in kayaks can help you save time and energy, enhancing your overall fishing experience.

Disadvantages of Sit-in Fishing Kayaks

Limited Visibility

One of the disadvantages of sit-in kayaks is the limited visibility they offer compared to sit-on-top kayaks. Sit-in kayaks have a closed cockpit design with a lower seating position, which can restrict your line of sight. The cockpit rim and the kayak itself can obstruct your view, making it challenging to spot fish or observe your surroundings. This limited visibility can be particularly problematic in situations where you need to be able to safely navigate and avoid obstacles. While some sit-in kayaks may have features like clear view panels or adjustable seating positions to mitigate this issue, it's important to consider the potential impact on your fishing experience.

Water Accumulation

Sit-in kayaks inherently pose the potential for water accumulation inside the cockpit. The closed design of sit-in kayaks makes them more susceptible to water entering (and not freely leaving) the cockpit, whether from paddle drips, waves, or rain. This can result in the discomfort of water pooling around your feet or seat. Sit-in kayaks may require frequent bailing or the use of a bilge pump to remove excess water in the worst conditions. Additionally, if the kayak capsizes, water can enter the cockpit, making it more difficult to recover and re-enter the kayak. It is important to be familiar with kayak re-entry techniques and practice in-water recovery. Proper kayak outfitting, such as using sprayskirts and bilge pumps, can help mitigate water accumulation issues, but it's essential to be aware of this potential drawback when considering a sit-in kayak for fishing.

Discomfort

There is the potential for discomfort during extended fishing trips using a sit-in kayak. The enclosed cockpit design of sit-in kayaks can limit your ability to change positions and stretch your legs, leading to discomfort and stiffness over time. The fixed seating position and restricted legroom may not provide the same freedom of movement as sit-on-top kayaks. It's important to consider your comfort needs, especially if you plan on spending long hours on the water, and to choose a sit-in kayak with an adjustable seat and ergonomic design to help alleviate potential discomfort.

Capsizing

Sit-in kayaks have an increased risk of capsizing compared to sit-on-top kayaks. Sit-in kayaks have a closed cockpit design where your legs and lower body are enclosed, which can make it more challenging to recover in the event of a capsize. If the kayak flips, water can enter the cockpit, and you may need to perform a wet exit to escape. This requires practice and skill, especially in challenging conditions or when wearing a sprayskirt. While proper kayak skills and safety precautions can reduce the likelihood of capsizing, it's important to be aware of this risk and consider your comfort level and experience when choosing between sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks for fishing.

Lack of Ventilation 

One last potential drawback of sit-in kayaks is limited ventilation. Air circulation within the cockpit can be restricted, especially during hot and humid weather conditions. The lack of proper ventilation can lead to discomfort and stress from heat, making your fishing trips less enjoyable. It's important to consider this factor, especially if you frequently fish in warm climates or during the summer months. Taking regular breaks, staying hydrated, and wearing breathable clothing can help alleviate some of the discomfort.

Advantages of Sit-on-Top Fishing Kayaks

Ease of Entry and Exit

One of the significant advantages of sit-on-top kayaks is the ease of entry and exit they offer. Unlike sit-in kayaks, which require you to lower yourself into a confined cockpit, sit-on-top kayaks have an open deck design that allows you to simply step onto the kayak and sit on top of it. This makes it much easier to get in and out of the kayak, especially for beginners or those with limited mobility. Whether you're launching from a dock or the shoreline, the hassle-free entry and exit of a sit-on-top kayak provide a more convenient and accessible experience for anglers.

Standing on Deck

The advantage of sit-on-top kayaks having improved stability, allows anglers to stand on the deck while fishing. The wide and stable design of sit-on-top kayaks provides a solid platform that gives you the confidence to stand up and cast your line without worrying about losing balance. This feature is especially beneficial for sight fishing, as it offers better visibility and allows you to spot fish more easily. Standing on the deck of a sit-on-top kayak provides anglers with a more versatile and flexible fishing experience, enhancing their overall enjoyment on the water.

Versatility and Flexibility for Fishing

Sit-on-top kayaks are known for their versatility and flexibility, making them an excellent choice for fishing enthusiasts. The open deck design of sit-on-top kayaks provides ample space for anglers to customize their setup according to their fishing needs. You can easily add various accessories such as rod holders, fish finders, and tackle storage systems, making it convenient to organize your gear and have everything within reach while on the water. Additionally, the open deck allows you to change positions, adjust your seating, and even move around the kayak more freely, providing a comfortable and adaptable fishing experience.

Spacious Open Deck

A notable advantage of sit-on-top kayaks is their spacious open deck design. Unlike sit-in kayaks that have an enclosed cockpit, sit-on-top kayaks offer a large and open deck space for anglers. This spacious deck provides ample room for you to move around, stretch your legs, and find a comfortable position while fishing. It also allows for easy access to your gear and equipment, making it convenient to reach for your tackle box, rods, or other essentials. The spacious open deck enhances your overall comfort and freedom of movement, providing a more enjoyable fishing experience.

Navigating Shallow Waters

Sit-on-top kayaks excel in navigating shallow waters. The design of sit-on-top kayaks typically features a flatter hull and a shallower draft, allowing them to glide effortlessly over shallow waters without getting stuck or scraping the bottom. This capability gives you the freedom to easily explore areas that may be inaccessible to other types of watercraft, opening up a whole new realm of fishing opportunities. 

Disadvantages of Sit-on-Top Fishing Kayaks

Exposure to the Elements

While sit-on-top kayaks offer many advantages, one notable disadvantage is the increased exposure to the elements. Unlike sit-in kayaks that provide some degree of shelter with their enclosed cockpit, sit-on-top kayaks leave you more exposed to the elements such as wind, sun, and splashing water. This exposure can lead to a higher chance of getting wet, especially in rough or choppy waters. It's important to consider weather conditions and dress accordingly, as well as use appropriate sun protection. However, some anglers actually enjoy the refreshing feeling of being closer to nature and the ability to easily cool off on hot days. It's a trade-off to consider based on your preferences and the conditions you'll be fishing in. It is also important to note that gear and equipment located on the deck are exposed to the elements as well.

Wet Conditions

Expanding on the previous point, sit-on-top kayaks have the tendency to encounter wet conditions during your fishing adventures. Since sit-on-top kayaks have an open design, you're more likely to get wet from splashes, waves, or rain compared to sit-in kayaks. This can be a key consideration if you prefer to stay dry or if you're fishing in colder climates. However, many sit-on-top kayaks are equipped with scupper holes or self-draining systems that allow water to drain out of the kayak, minimizing its accumulation. Additionally, wearing appropriate waterproof clothing and utilizing splash guards or spray skirts can help reduce the impact of wet conditions. It's important to be prepared and take necessary precautions to stay comfortable during your fishing trips.

Inefficient Traversal

Sit-on-top kayaks are relatively inefficient at traversal compared to sit-in kayaks. Due to their wider and more stable design, sit-on-top kayaks generally have a slower speed and less efficient tracking. This means you may have to exert more effort and paddle more frequently to cover the same distance as a sit-in kayak. The wider hull and elevated seating position can create more drag, making it harder to maintain a straight course or paddle against strong currents. However, it's important to note that sit-on-top kayaks excel in other areas such as stability and versatility, which may outweigh the slight decrease in efficiency for some anglers. It's essential to consider your specific needs and fishing conditions.

Limited Gear Storage

One potential drawback of sit-on-top kayaks is their limited gear storage capacity compared to sit-in kayaks. Due to the open design and lack of enclosed compartments, sit-on-top kayaks typically offer less dedicated storage space for your fishing gear and equipment. This can be a consideration if you have a large amount of gear or if you prefer to keep your equipment protected and organized. However, many sit-on-top kayaks feature deck rigging, bungee cords, and attachment points that allow you to secure and store essential items on the kayak's surface. Additionally, there are aftermarket accessories such as gear crates, waterproof bags, and rod holders that can help optimize storage options for sit-on-top kayaks. It's important to carefully plan and prioritize your gear needs to ensure you have everything you need within the available storage space.

Unsuitable for Cold Weather

A last potential disadvantage of sit-on-top kayaks is that they may be less suitable for cold weather conditions compared to sit-in kayaks. Sit-on-top kayaks have an open design, which means that you are more exposed to the elements, including cold air and water. This can result in a colder and potentially uncomfortable experience, especially in colder climates or during colder seasons. However, if you plan to kayak in colder conditions with a sit-on-top kayak, you can take measures to stay warm by dressing in appropriate layers, using insulation pads or seat cushions, and wearing protective gear such as wetsuits or drysuits. It's important to consider your local climate and personal tolerance to cold before choosing a kayak type for cold weather fishing.

Conclusion

In conclusion, both sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks offer distinct advantages and disadvantages for kayak fishing enthusiasts. Understanding these pros and cons is essential in making an informed decision based on your personal preferences, fishing style, and local conditions.


Sit-in kayaks provide enhanced protection from the elements, increased stability and performance in rough waters, larger storage capacity for gear and equipment, potential maneuverability, and better speed. On the other hand, they come with disadvantages such as limited visibility, water accumulation, potential discomfort, the risk of capsizing, and a lack of ventilation.


Sit-on-top kayaks offer ease of entry and exit, the ability to stand on the deck, versatility and flexibility for fishing, a spacious open deck, and the capability to navigate shallow waters. However, they also have their downsides, including exposure to the elements, wet conditions, potentially inefficient traversal, limited gear storage, and unsuitability for cold weather.


It's important to remember that the "best" kayak ultimately depends on your personal preferences, fishing style, and the specific conditions you'll be facing. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. It is recommended that you try out different kayak types, if possible, before making a final decision. Consider renting or borrowing kayaks, attending demo days, or seeking advice from experienced kayak anglers. This hands-on experience will help you determine which kayak suits you best and enhances your fishing experience.


Always prioritize safety, comfort, and enjoyment when choosing a kayak. By weighing the advantages and disadvantages, considering your individual needs, and taking into account the local conditions, you'll be well-equipped to select the perfect kayak that allows you to fully immerse yourself in the wonderful world of kayak fishing.

Kayak Fishing Links and Resources:

Kayaks and Kayak Equipment

Fishing Equipment

Table of Contents
  1. Advantages of Sit-in Fishing Kayaks
    1. Protection from the Elements
    2. Stability and Performance in Rough Waters
    3. Storage Capacity for Gear and Equipment
    4. Maneuverability
    5. Speed
  2. Disadvantages of Sit-in Fishing Kayaks
    1. Limited Visibility
    2. Water Accumulation
    3. Discomfort
    4. Capsizing
    5. Lack of Ventilation
  3. Advantages of Sit-on-Top Fishing Kayaks
    1. Ease of Entry and Exit
    2. Standing on Deck
    3. Versatility and Flexibility for Fishing
    4. Spacious Open Deck
    5. Navigating Shallow Waters
  4. Disadvantages of Sit-on-Top Fishing Kayaks
    1. Exposure to the Elements
    2. Wet Conditions
    3. Inefficient Traversal
    4. Limited Gear Storage
    5. Unsuitable for Cold Weather
  5. Conclusion
  6. Kayak Fishing Links and Resources:
    1. Kayaks and Kayak Equipment
    2. Fishing Equipment