Sit-On-Top vs Sit-In Kayak – Which Is Better For Fishing?

Sit-On-Top vs Sit-In Kayak – Which Is Better For Fishing?

The sit-on-top vs sit-in kayak debate is one that seemingly never ends. Ultimately, they both have their pros and cons, and a lot boils down to your preferences.

However, when it comes to fishing, which one is arguably better?

In this article, we will compare the two types of kayaks and see how they measure up when it comes to fishing, including performance, storage for your fishing gear, and more.

Let’s get into it.

Sit-on-Top vs Sit-in Kayaks: What’s the Difference?

Sit-on-Top vs Sit-in Kayaks: What’s the Difference?

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First, let’s quickly break down the difference between sit-on-top vs sit-in kayaks.

Sit-on-top kayaks are different from most kayaks and canoes in that they don’t have a cockpit in which to sit in. Instead, kayakers sit on top of the kayak, which is flat and wide, designed for ultimate stability.

Sit-in kayaks, on the other hand, do have a cockpit that you climb into. In that sense, they are more traditional.

Sit-in Kayaks

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There are certain benefits and disadvantages to both sit-on-top and sit-in kayaks. For example, sit-on-top kayaks tend to be a bit heavier, but due to their design, they are also more stable.

Sit-in kayaks, on the other hand, offer better performance and speed.

While there are many blog posts discussing and comparing sit-on-top vs sit-in kayaks, this article will focus on their applications to fishing in particular.

Benefits of Sit-on-Top Kayaks for Fishing

Benefits of Sit-on-Top Kayaks for Fishing

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My choice for fishing is a sit-on-top kayak, hands down. The reason for that will become clearer as you continue scrolling through this article – you’ll see that sit-on=top kayaks simply have more pros than cons while sit-in kayaks offer fewer advantages to fishers.

So, let’s focus on the reasons to choose a sit-on-top kayak for your kayak fishing expedition.

Better Stability

Stability might not always be your #1 priority when kayaking, but it certainly is when you are fishing. You need to have a stable surface on which you can stabilize yourself while reeling in a fish, for example – if it’s a heavy fish, you will have trouble if your kayak keeps rocking back and forth or is about to capsize.

Sit-on-top kayaks have better stability due to the fact that they are wider and flatter. It will be a lot easier to fish when on a sit-on-top kayak – you will also have a higher center of gravity.

A sit-in kayak, on the other hand, has a lower center of gravity due to the cockpit.

Sit-in kayaks do have edge stability – in other words, you can tip them over toward the edge, and they will be less likely to capsize. Overall, though, the sit-on-top kayak is the winner when it comes to stability – it’s possible to stand on the kayak and fish, although that does depend on the water.

In rough and choppy waters, you’ll have a much more difficult time maintaining stability with a sit-on-top kayak, although that would be the same for any water vessel.

Easier to Get Back Into

Easier to Get Back Into

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You can fall out of any kayak, especially in rough waters or if you are standing on it and trying to reel in a big fish. The advantage of sit-on-top kayaks, however, is that they are flat and incredibly easy to get back into.

It’s a lot easier to reenter a sit-on-top kayak simply because it has a flat deck. Furthermore, they won’t fill with water – for reasons I will explain soon.

Therefore, you won’t have to worry about draining the kayak after getting back into it, even if plenty of water splashed onto it.

Reentering a capsized sit-in kayak is not as simple. It requires technique, skill, and experience, and I would recommend practicing it before getting into dangerous waters.


A sit-on-top kayak is less likely to sink than a sit-in kayak. A sit-in kayak has a cockpit that can fill with water, while a sit-on-top kayak does not.

On the other hand, a sit-on-top kayak will get wet much quicker, mainly due to the fact that it has a flat deck, and water will simply splash on it. However, manufacturers have come up with ways to approach this problem.

Most sit-on-top kayaks, for example, come with scupper holes. These are special drainage holes built into the deck of the kayak that are designed to let water drain from the kayak’s deck (the water will only drain from these holes and not enter due to their design unless the water is very rough and choppy).

These scupper holes are strategically placed, and they may come with plugs that you can use to plug them as needed. You don’t always need to use the plugs, although if the water is choppy and the holes are letting water enter the wrong way, you can use these plugs to prevent that.

Better for Beginners

Better for Beginners

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If you are a beginner kayaker, even if you have gone fishing many times before, I would recommend that you get a sit-on-top kayak, as it involves a smaller learning curve compared to sit-in kayaks.

There are several reasons for that, but it mostly has to do with the extra stability and the open space. The stability means you won’t have to worry as much about balancing yourself, and the extra space gives you more room to move around – you’re not stuck in a tiny cockpit.

That gives beginner kayakers better peace of mind.


Finally, sit-on-top kayaks do tend to be cheaper than sit-in kayaks, primarily because they are easier to manufacture. Sit-in kayaks have a more complicated design and tend to be more expensive.

There is also a very wide range of sit-in kayaks. Sit-on-top kayaks tend to be made of polyethylene, which is a strong plastic that is not too expensive.

However, sit-in kayaks can be made from anything. We have a whole article on the most common types of kayak materials, but they include things like fiberglass, which can be quite expensive, so the price of a sit-in kayak can really vary.

Sit-in Kayaks Pros

While I generally prefer sit-on-top kayaks for fishing, sit-in kayaks do have some advantages as well, so let’s go over them.

They Have Better Performance

They Have Better Performance

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When choosing between sit-on-top and sit-in kayaks, you are going to have to sacrifice either stability or performance. Sit-in kayaks don’t offer the same stability as sit-on-top kayaks, but they do offer much better performance and speed.

They are simply more agile and quick, and it’s easier to paddle them without tiring yourself out. It is also easy to maneuver them, turn around, and turn to the side.

Having a cockpit means that you can use your legs to help you steer and control the kayak. Many advanced kayakers like that – they feel like they are one with the kayak, giving them better control.

However, when it comes to fishing, is performance more important than stability? Not really – performance is more important for other types of kayaking trips, but for fishing, you want to be as stable as possible.

They Have More Storage Space

They Have More Storage Space

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Sit-in kayaks usually win when it comes to storage, as they might have enclosed hatches where you can store your gear.

That’s not to say that sit-on-top kayaks don’t have sufficient storage. They usually have an open space in the rear where you can put your equipment and gear, and you can secure them in place using bungee cords and ropes.

However, you should be using a dry bag to keep them safe, as they will get wet due to the constant splashing of water.

Sit-in kayaks are superior overall for storage. Sit-in kayaks made for fishing, in particular, might have extra storage space to allow for extra fishing gear.

Still, it’s a close call. Accessing your gear might be harder on a sit-in kayak compared to a sit-on-top kayak, and storing long fishing rods might also be difficult.

You Won’t Get as Wet

You Won’t Get as Wet

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On a sit-on-top kayak, you’re almost guaranteed to get wet. Water will splash all over you, and if the day is cold and the water is cold, it can be quite uncomfortable.

Of course, there are ways to get around that problem. For example, you can certainly wear a dry suit to protect yourself.

Another idea that works for many people is raising the seat on the kayak to prevent water from splashing on your upper body.

However, in a sit-in kayak, you just won’t get as wet, simply because you have an enclosed space to protect you.

You Won’t Get as Sunburned

You Won’t Get as Sunburned

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Another disadvantage of sit-on-top kayaks is that you are more likely to get sunburned – your legs, at least. In a sit-in kayak, your legs will be protected in the cockpit.

Your entire body is exposed to the elements when on a sit-on0top kayak, on the other hand.

Therefore, I recommend making sure you have strong sunscreen and applying it to your shins before heading out on the water. You might also consider choosing your clothing carefully.

They Are Lighter

They Are Lighter

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Another big advantage of sit-in kayaks, at least as they relate to transportation, is that they tend to be a lot lighter than sit-on-top kayaks.

Sit-on-top kayaks are heavier and may require two people to carry, depending on the weight of your specific model, while sit-in kayaks are usually easy to transport by yourself – you can often just carry it over your shoulder if you are strong enough.

So, Which Kayak Is Superior for Fishing?

For fishing, I would generally go with a sit-on-top kayak for these reasons:

  • You will have an easier time staying stable and standing up to fish
  • It is easier to move around, which is important when fishing
  • It is better for beginners
  • It is safer
  • Most importantly, for many, sit on top kayaks are cheaper

How to Choose the Best Kayak for Your Fishing Adventure?

How to Choose the Best Kayak for Your Fishing Adventure?

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Whether you decide to go with a sit-on-top or a sit-in kayak, there are certain features that should be at the top of your list when looking for a fishing kayak. Here is what to look for when buying or renting a fishing kayak.

Choose the Appropriate Width

To ensure stability, I recommend that your fishing kayak be at least 30 inches wide. Kayaks that are slimmer than that won’t have as much stability.

Furthermore, you should look for other features that indicate stability, such as a flat-bottomed hull. I would recommend avoiding a V-shaped hull because it tends to be more likely to tip to either side, preventing you from moving around as freely as you might like.

Figure Out How You Will Transport It

Another big deal is your transportation capabilities – in other words, how you plan on transporting your kayak. If you have a car or another vehicle, it should be easy to install racks on your roof to transport your kayak.

However, if you find it challenging to lift heavy items, go for a lighter kayak, such as a sit-in kayak, or look for an assisted lift system that will make it easier to get your kayak on top of your roof and back down.

Alternatively, if you don’t own a vehicle or can’t install racks on your roof for whatever reason, you may even consider using an inflatable kayak.

Inflatable kayaks these days are often pretty durable and stable, and they can thus be used for fishing without a problem. There are even inflatable kayaks designed specifically for fishing, complete with rod holders for your fishing rods and extra storage space.

Inflatable kayaks are incredibly easy to transport because you can deflate them and fit them into the trunk of your car or a carrier bag and take them with you easily.

They also tend to be very affordable, but I would recommend looking for a model that is specifically designed for fishing or has extra stability and only use it in stable, calm waters – not in rough or choppy waters.

Consider the Color

You may wonder, what does the color of your kayak have to do with anything? It’s not like the fish are more attracted to a certain color – or are they?

I would recommend getting a bright-colored kayak simply for safety reasons. If you are in a group, it will be easier for your buddies to spot you from far away.

Furthermore, if there are a lot of motorboats in the area you are going fishing, it will also make it easier for them to see you and avoid a collision.

Check the Weight Limit

It’s important to check the weight limit of any kayak you purchase and ensure it has the capacity to carry you and your fishing gear, as well as any camping gear or other equipment you may be carrying.

Weight limits are there for a reason. Kayaks are designed to be buoyant, up to a point – if you exceed the specified weight limit, there is a chance they will sink.

I also recommend not going over 80 percent or so of the weight limit. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

If you are two people, I would recommend getting a tandem kayak. A tandem sit-on-top kayak will have two seats for both of you, and it will be designed to withstand the weight of both of you as well.

If you are planning to take a dog or another pet with you, make sure the kayak specifies that it has that extra space and weight capacity for a dog – many kayaks do.

Check the Warranty

Always check the warranty and return policy of an item before you purchase it. A 60-day return policy will ensure that you have enough time to return the kayak if it has some problem or doesn’t fit your needs, and a warranty will help you get a replacement or refund if there is some defect in the kayak down the line.

Check Reviews

When purchasing a kayak from Amazon or another website, always check real user reviews before buying it. Specifically, look for what other fishers have said.

Does the kayak offer sufficient stability for fishing? Is it easy to fish in this kayak?

On Amazon, in particular, browse the questions and see what people have answered. Usually, the answers come from prior customers or from the seller, so you can learn a lot of information from those questions.

Consider Renting First

Finally, another word of advice – consider renting a kayak before buying one if it’s your first kayak. That way, you can get a feel for the kayak before committing, and you can even try out a few different types and styles of kayaks – or kayaks made of different materials – before you make a purchase.

If you can’t find a rental, buy a used kayak as your first kayak instead of investing more money into a new one.

Wrapping It Up

I would generally go with a sit-on-top kayak for fishing instead of a sit-in kayak, especially if you are a beginner. However, it’s always important to check reviews and the warranty/return policy before purchasing any kayak.

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Sit-On-Top vs Sit-In Kayak - Which Is Better For Fishing?

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Peter Salisbury

Pete is the Owner of Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, he grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him skiing in the mountains, reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.

Welcome! I’m so glad you are here :-) I’m Pete. I am the owner of I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, I grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When I am not out on the water, you can find me skiing in the mountains, reading my favorite books, and spending time with my family.