Best Sit-in Fishing Kayaks

by Richard Dravick

April 14, 2019

Best Sit-in Fishing Kayak

A common question is whether to get a sit-in or a sit-on-top fishing kayak. This is especially true when you are new to kayaking. Both types are designed to be used for different types of fishing and other activities. Mainly though it comes down to your preferences. Some fishermen swear by their sit-in kayak while others will only use a sit-on-top kayak for their fishing adventures.

Today we are focusing on the Best Sit-In Kayaks.

But First, What is a Sit-In Fishing Kayak?

A sit-in kayak is just as the name indicates; the kayaker sits inside the kayak as opposed to on top of the kayak. It has an opening where the kayaker can get in and out quickly. This type of fishing kayak dates back to the Arctic and Sub-Arctic people thousands of years ago.

Although invented for hunting and transport, the sit-in kayak is also preferred for fishing because of the ample storage space for your fishing equipment.

Sit-In (SIK) vs. Sit-On-Top (SOT) Fishing Kayak

Let’s see what the differences are between these two types of kayaks and which one may be better for you.

SOT fishing kayaks have their seats molded on the structure of the kayak such that the fisherman will be sitting on top of the kayak. They have easy entry, and exit and the kayaker can easily adjust their sitting position much more freely than with a sit in kayak.


A SOT kayak will keep you less protected from the water as there are not sides to keep the water out.. But they come with self-bailing holes to allow the water to drain away as you paddle. If you are fishing in a SOT, you’ll have the freedom to put one leg out in the water as you reel in fish. But because of the high center of gravity, SOT kayaks tend to be less stable than SIK.

What’s more, SOT kayaks are much slower and less maneuverable than SIK.

With the Sit-In Kayak you’ll find that they give you a drier ride as you are in an enclosed cockpit. It is also much more comfortable since you won’t be exposed to the elements.


SIK offer users a sense of security since you’ll not feel like you are about to fall into the water. SIKs are generally unsinkable because of the double hull construction which traps air inside the inner and outside walls.


SOT kayaks don’t go deep into the water thus they don’t glide or track as well as SIK. They have wide hulls which give them the initial stability, but they don’t pick up speed because you’ll have to find a way to brace your feet for perfect strokes.

SIKs function better because they are lighter, they glide faster, and they pick up speed better than SOT kayaks.

Buying a Sit-In Kayak: Things to Consider

If you have already determined that you want a sit-in fishing kayak, then you’ll want to look at a few factors before bringing selecting your perfect kayak.

1. Length of the Kayak

A SIK with a long hull is faster than one with a short hull. Long SIKs have less initial stability making them less maneuverable than one with a short hull.

However, a SIK with a long hull has great secondary stability making it more stable on rough waters than one with a shorter hull. This means they are not stable on flat water as one with a short hull.

If your local waters are rivers, lakes, or the ocean opt for speed over maneuverability. But if you’ll be fishing in backwaters, ponds, or creeks, maneuverability is way better than having speed. It all depends on where you plan to go fishing.

2. Skill Level

If you are just starting out, you’ll need a wide kayak that gives you better stability as you learn the basics of kayaking. Since a sit-in is already a comfortable design, look for one with a shorter hull. For starters, you’ll again want to go to flat waters instead of rougher waters.

Veteran kayakers can handle a long kayak. As the longer kayaks are faster you will get to your fishing destination and back to shore sooner.

3. Type of Construction

The materials that your kayak is made of will have a large impact not only on price but on performance as well. For example, a kayak made from polyethylene is heavier than one built out of composite or fiberglass. Polyethylene is a tough material making it excellent if you are fishing around oyster beds and along rocky shorelines. This type of kayak will require more energy to paddle so you will want to take that into account.

Wood kayaks are lighter than polyethylene kayaks. Their hulls are stiffer thus they take less energy to paddle.

Plywood kayaks, on the other hand, have stitch-and-glue designs. They have hard chines giving them better secondary stability for higher performance in rough waters.

Composite kayaks have the most efficient hull designs. They are made of Kevlar and fiberglass to make the kayak as light as possible. They are the fastest on water and require the least strength to paddle. These are however the most expensive sit in kayaks.

4. Storage

Storage space on a kayak is always valuable. As a fisherman, you’ll want a kayak with enough room for your fishing gear. These include paddles, fishing rods, knife, reels, etc. Look for a model with integrated storage in the hull. You can also look for a kayak with external molding where you can store coolers or other containers.

It’s always good to think about everything you’ll need to bring for fishing so that you can visualize the space they will take up in the kayak.

5. A Comfortable Seat

Kayak fishing means sitting in one spot for hours. Many kayaks come with plastic seats or molded holes for seats. You may want to look at kayaks that offer seats with extra padding or with enough room where you can bring your own seat pad. This will help minimize fatigue and backaches.

6. Propulsion

If you want to have your hands free, a pedal kayak provides that convenience over the traditional paddling kayak. A pedaling kayak is easy to steer over long distances, but it is heavier and more expensive. A paddling kayak is efficient over a short distance plus you can add a trolling motor if you need to go longer distances.

Sit-In Fishing Kayak Setup

Space is always limited on a kayak. Be it a sit-on-top or a sit-on model; you’ll need to know how to set up before heading out.

First, you’ll want to identify the things you’ll be bringing. You’ll also need to have them within arm’s reach, so it’s advisable to sit in the kayak as you put things away so that they are always reachable.

Rod Holders

All fishing kayaks will come with rod holders, but sometimes there may not be enough. If you are retrofitting the rod holders, remember the fishing rod is your principal fishing equipment. To ensure that your rods are out of the way, it’s good to install them behind the cockpit.

You can install two rod holders on either side of the hull by drilling holes the size of your rod holders. Bolt the rod holders in and use sealant where they attach to the kayak.

Shop Related Products

Fish Finder

No one wants to fish blind. A fish finder isn’t necessarily for finding fish, but it will help you find depth and place a lure more effectively. You can easily glue a transducer to your kayak if your kayak does not come with pre drilled transducer holes. The next thing will be the mounting bracket which you’ll need to have a perfect line of sight to so that you can see the fish finders screen. Lastly, you have the option of using rechargeable batteries for power which you can easily store in the hull of the kayak.

Fish Storage

You can buy a fish bag which is designed to be filled with ice. They conform to the kayak’s bow and can open and close easily.


Don’t forget a sponge for a sit-in kayak. When your kayak takes in water, a sponge will offer the easiest method of draining the kayak while on board.

Personal Floatation Device (PFD) and First Aid Kit

Last but not least, a PFD and first aid kit are items that you should never go fishing without. The law requires that you are always in well-fitting PFD. Be sure to take one for kayak fishing. A first aid kit is so small it should easily go in the hull.

Top 3 Best Sit In Fishing Kayaks

1. The Sun Dolphin Sit In Fishing Kayak - Best Overall

Known for their high-performing outdoor recreational products, the Sun Dolphin Brand is a company to watch for their high quality kayaks and other items. The company has three of the most popular sit-in fishing kayaks.

These include the Sun Dolphin 10ft Excursion, Sun Dolphin SS 10ft Excursion, and the Sun Dolphin 12ft Excursion.

These sit-in fishing kayaks carry some distinct features for the most memorable fishing expeditions. You’ll have a kayak that has a large open cockpit. This means that no matter your height, you can adjust your position to be best positioned when paddling your kayak. The Excursion 12 ft. model is the most ideal for tall people as you’ll have enough leg room, unlike the 10 ft. kayak model.

The Excursion model comes with a raised adjustable seat, protective thigh braces, and adjustable foot pedals. It gives the most comfortable fishing position so you can paddle faster and even get to spots where you couldn’t usually go.

Sun Dolphin offers kayaks that track well. They are all good in rivers and lakes as they have a long length and a sit-in design. The Excursion model is also maneuverable meaning you can easily get into small crooks and crannies by the shoreline where fish frequently hide. It can handle swells and waves, and you’ll be glad it has raised sides to help keep you dry in rough water.

When it comes to the construction, these kayaks all feature a rugged, high-density, polyethylene construction. It is UV-treated minimizing the damage from exposure to the sun’s rays.

Storage is also plentiful with these models. They have two flush mounts and one adjustable flush mount for fishing rods. The rod storage is an advantage since it is not a standard feature in many sit-in fishing kayaks. They also have a hands-free electronic console where you can store electronics like rechargeable batteries or your cell phone.

We like that it has a stern storage compartment that can store larger gear. Your kayak will be supplied with a Portable Accessory Carrier (PAC) which fits in the stern. It is a functional unit for dry storage. The PAC features a hatch where you can keep accessories like life vests, tackle boxes, phones, etc. There’s extra tackle storage behind the swivel rod holder in the 12ft model.

Sun Dolphin Excursion 10ft

Sun Dolphin Excursion Sit-in Fishing Kayak

Weighing in at 41lbs. this is the lightest of the three sit-in Excursion models. It has a capacity of 250lbs making it enough for only one person and your fishing gear. You’ll love that it is 13 inches high so you can lean in and reel in big fish without risking tipping over the kayak.

Sun Dolphin Excursion 10ft SS

Sun Dolphin Excursion SS fishing kayak

The SS is much like the previous model only that it weighs 44lbs. and it can handle more gear since it has a weight capacity of 280lbs. This kayak has a shorter height of only 11 inches, but it is also very stable when leaning in. As much of your time will be spent fishing rather than trying to be the fastest kayak, the wider hull keeps it stable even when you are standing still.

Sun Dolphin Excursion 12ft

Sun Dolphin Excursion 12-Foot Sit-in Fishing Kayak

This 12ft model is the longest of the three. It is great for tall people and for taking you to all the secluded spots you’d like to fish. It can take more gear as it comes with a weight capacity of 395 pounds. You’ll have a wide seating area where you can move your legs freely. Overall, it is useful for those who like more speed. It includes all the storage you need from the front storage hatch to the covered console and PAC. However, it does not have a beverage holder.


  • Large, adjustable seat
  • Protective thigh pads
  • Multiple storage areas
  • Flush mount and swivel rod holders
  • Includes paddle holders


  • It is not supplied with the paddles
  • It will need a little more effort to paddle

2. Riot Kayaks Enduro 12 Kayak - Best for Savvy Kayakers

Riot Kayaks Enduro 12 Angler Fishing Kayak

Described as a flat water kayak, the Enduro 12 Angler is one of the longer sit-in kayaks. It is highly maneuverable but also short enough for easy handling. This kayak has a wide cockpit area where you can sit comfortably and brace your feet correctly for powerful paddling. It gives you enough room to move freely around the cockpit or feel comfortable if you just choose to sit in one position.

This kayak includes two storage areas to keep your fishing gear dry. These are the two sealed bulkhead compartments that provide dry storage in the bow and stern. They make it harder for the kayak to take in lots of water helping to keep you dry and having to bail less water out of the kayak. This way, you can enjoy your fishing trip instead of getting busy with a sponge every few minutes. Even if you were to tip this kayak, the bulkheads will provide additional buoyancy such that it is more manageable to flip and you can get paddling again quickly.

This kayak features two rod holders and one swivel rod holder. It also comes with one paddle holder to prevent the paddle from falling overboard. A retractable Track-Rite Skeg system is also included in the Enduro model. It comes in handy to improve tracking and maneuverability. With the foot braces, you’ll be able to position yourself so that you won’t be using all your effort to paddle this kayak.

Construction of the Enduro model is from molded polyethylene. This is resilient plastic which is exceptionally durable. This kayak will last a long time with minimal care. It has a reasonable price tag and yet it is very stable. However, you should remember to spray it with UV-Protectant.


  • Adjustable foot braces
  • Stern and bow sealed bulkhead with a rubber hatch
  • Rod and paddle holders
  • Thermolite hatch covers
  • It has an anchor trolley system
  • 350lbs maximum weight capacity
  • Retractable Track-Rite Keg System


  • The back of the seat is not the most comfortable
  • The dry hatch lid can give you a hard time closing

3. Old Town Canoes 10ft Vapor Kayak - Best for Beginners

Old Town Canoes & Kayaks Vapor 10 Recreational Kayak

If you are just getting into kayak fishing, the Vapor Kayak is one great kayak to start your fishing excursions. It is a compact, single-user kayak that’s only 10ft. long. The relatively short hull makes it easy to transport to the water. It turns readily requiring minimal effort to paddle.

This kayak while short is comfortable. It features an adjustable, flex-padded seat that is suitable for all-day fishing. It comes with knee and thigh pads to prevent friction with the body of the kayak. Better still, it has a Glide Track Foot Brace system which provides secure footing. It helps to ensure your body is in the correct sitting posture for efficient paddling.

The adjustable seat allows you to personalize your comfort with every stroke. The seat cushions are quick to dry so you can be ready to go fishing quickly even after a day of rain or rough water. The cockpit comes with more convenience features which include a cockpit tray, molded paddle rest, and beverage holder. You’ll also like that this kayak is made from an open cockpit that is easy to get in and out.

The stern has an open cargo well. This means you’ll have to bring a dry bag to store your gear. The lightweight design of this kayak is because of its UV strengthened polyethylene building materials. It has drainage plugs over the cockpit to ensure you are always dry. This is a favorite kayak among fishers and recreational enthusiasts alike. We hope it gives you an easy time on your next fishing trip.


  • Provides solid cushion for the thighs and knees
  • Comes with an anchor system behind the rod holders
  • Streamlined hull glides easily over the surface of the water
  • Built-in spaces offer convenient storage
  • Small turning radius is easy on novice kayakers


  • Suitable for only flat water kayaking
  • It is a bit expensive compared to other kayaks in its class


Sit-in fishing kayaks are not new to the market. But they have been revolutionized by some sophisticated designs that make them excellent for fishing. It can be hard to figure out which models suits you best, which is why are showing you the best kayaks that we have found.

You’ll find a sit-in kayak for the novice like the Old Town Vapor or one created for the veterans like the Sun Dolphin 12ft. model. There are all-around models made to suit your specific needs whether they are strictly for fishing or for fishing and going out on the water for a sightseeing adventure. These kayaks are created with stability, comfort, and speed in mind.

Every angler will want have one of these kayaks for their next fishing expedition!

About the author 

Richard Dravick  -  I created this site to help people who like myself enjoy kayaking and fishing. Kayaking allows you enjoy all the great themes of nature that are around us everywhere and combining this with fishing can create some of the most memorable times in life.
Please let me know if you have enjoyed these reviews and if you have thoughts on what you would like to see for future reviews so that I can keep the content fresh.

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