Sit-on-top (SOT) fishing kayaks are some of the most popular kayaks for fishing thanks to their open-top design that allows for incredible maneuverability when casting and reeling. Of course, throw in the added bonus of vast amounts of storage space, and you’ve got an ideal fishing vessel that you can easily transport to your favorite fishing waterway.
And if ease of transport, adequate storage space, and an unobstructed deck aren’t selling you on a sit-on-top fishing kayak already, then we’re here to tell you that kayaks are also a fraction of the price of traditional fishing boats.
You can launch your SOT from most shores, whether that be on a lake, river, or ocean, and as you aren’t climbing into a relatively small cockpit, mounting and dismounting is a breeze.
Sit-On-Top fishing kayaks come in both inflatable and hard shell varieties, and you can even get some that are pedal or motor powered to improve your speed and performance on the water. If you’re just beginning your kayak fishing journey, then check out the best fishing kayaks. And for some must-know fishing tips, head over to the top 10 fishing tips.
Sit-on-top fishing kayaks are designed to be comfortable, simple, and stable, so you can spend extended time out on the water, taking in the beauty of your surroundings while reeling in your catch for the day. Many SOT fishing kayaks offer vast amounts of storage spaces for your tackle boxes, coolers, and personal belongings in the form of bungee compartments, molded-cut outs, and sometimes even dry hatches.
Along with storage spaces, sit-on-top fishing kayaks also have built-in adjustable and fully removable seats that can be repositioned to fit paddlers of all heights and sizes. Typically, a hard shell sit-on-top will also feature scupper holes that will drain the water from your kayak to keep the deck dry at all times.
If you’re opting for an inflatable sit-on-top fishing kayak, then your kayak will be made up of numerous air chambers that you can inflate and deflate through air valves on the kayak’s deck. The reason inflatables have numerous air chambers is so that if one does happen to puncture, = you’ll still have backup chambers filled with air to get you back to land safely.
With so many options on the market, it’s hard to decide which fishing kayak would be best for you. We’ve put together a list of some of the best fishing kayaks and the things you should consider before purchasing.
If you’re ready to get the ball rolling, keep these below features in mind.
Hardshell sit-on-top fishing kayaks are usually made from molded polyethylene as it is extremely strong and sturdy. If you’re adamant about purchasing a hard shell SOT fishing ‘yak, then pay close attention to the density of the polyethylene, as the higher the density, the stronger and lighter the kayak will be.
Inflatable SOT fishing kayaks, on the other hand, are made from polyvinyl chloride, which is fused together by a process called drop stitching. Inflatable fishing kayaks are much more durable than they sound, so there is no need to worry, your fishing hook isn’t going to pop a chamber if the two come into contact. Similar to hardshell kayaks, the higher the denier of the PVC, the more heavy-duty and long-lasting your ‘yak will be.
All kayaks, regardless of their shape, size, or material, come with a maximum weight capacity that should never be exceeded. Fishing kayaks thankfully have some of the highest weight capacities of all kayaks as they’re designed to hold not only the paddler but also heavy fishing gear, personal belongings, and of course, fish.
It’s always best to calculate your weight along with the weight of your fishing equipment and compare it to your kayak’s limit. Your kayak should ideally have more capacity than you’ll ever need, as if you overload it, you’ll find it extremely difficult to maneuver and paddle through the water.
Sit-on-top fishing kayak weight capacities can vary from 250 lbs all the way up to 600 lbs, so there definitely is an option for everyone.
Sit-on-top fishing kayaks typically range from 10 to 13 feet in length, with the longer varieties being faster and better at tracking. Shorter SOT fishing kayaks, however, can still paddle at considerate speeds with the added benefits of increased maneuverability and lower weights.
When deciding on your kayak length, think about the amount of gear you’ll be taking with you, your height, and if you favor speed or maneuverability. For anglers who compete in fishing competitions, then a longer kayak would be better as the time it takes paddling to your fishing spot makes all the difference. But, if you’re just a recreational fisherman, then a shorter kayak will cause you no issues.
Sit-on-top fishing kayaks are some of the widest kayaks out there, as they need to be stable for anglers to cast their line and reel in fish from a standing position. Wider hull kayaks are going to give you a more stable platform, but they do slightly compromise the kayak's speed. Alternatively, narrower kayaks will increase the kayak’s speed, but they will be less stable, so that decision will ultimately come down to your kayak fishing experience and how balanced you are when paddling, reeling, and casting.
As well as being some of the widest kayaks on the market, sit-on-top fishing kayaks are also some of the heaviest, partly because of their increased width and partly because of the features included to make fishing easier.
Smaller kayaks with more basic features will be lighter, easier to transport, and easier to handle than larger kayaks with additional features, but those additional features may make all the difference to you.
Sit-on-top kayaks designed for fishing tend to have ample amounts of storage at the bow and stern end of the hull. Take into consideration how much gear you actually have and find a kayak with enough storage space to accommodate it.
Rudders are completely optional when kayaking, and most kayaks will come with, or at least give you the option to add on a rudder if you wish. Rudders help with the kayak’s tracking, so if performance is important to you, it may be worth purchasing one.
Pedal sit-on-top fishing kayaks will come fitted with a rudder as the rudder is how you’ll steer the kayak in absence of a paddle.
Some SOT fishing kayaks come kitted out with built-in features and optional additional features such as rod holders, fish finders, and mounts for cameras or other fishing equipment. Kayaks with these extra features will weigh more than bare-bone models, so the decision mainly comes down to you and your fishing preferences.
As sit-on-top fishing kayaks are some of the widest kayaks on the market, they’re also some of the most stable. SOT fishing ‘yaks need that extra stability in order to allow the angler to fish from both a seated and standing position.
The answer to whether sit-on-top kayaks or sit-inside kayaks are better for fishing will come down to your own preference and the waters in which you’re fishing in.
Many anglers will agree that the open deck of a sit-on-top is the most convenient for fishing as it provides them with enough room to move around, cast, reel, and store their gear. With that being said, an ocean fisherman or an angler who lives in a cold climate may lean more towards sit-inside kayaks as the enclosed cockpit provides protection from cold weather, cold water, and splashes from waves.
Sit-on-top fishing kayaks are hands down the easiest type of kayak to get in and out of. A SOT’s stability, along with the fact you’re simply climbing onto the deck with no obstructions, makes mounting and dismounting a sit-on-top kayak a breeze.