When the temperature drops, and the fishing hole is far away from the launch, it’s time to grab a sit-inside kayak that offers more protection from the elements.
Many anglers don’t give sit inside kayaks their due, but they have a lot going for them. To start, the sitting position is lower. This makes them more stable and allows the paddler to use a shorter paddle for a more efficient stroke. Also, a spray skirt for the cockpit and sealed bulkheads offer more dry storage for gear. Most appealing, a sit-inside kayak is made with less plastic so it is lighter than a similar-sized sit-on-top kayak.
Many anglers prefer a hybrid sit-inside with a wide beam to increase stability and a frame seat and wide cockpit for improved comfort. The best sit-inside kayaks for fishing have rod holders, space to mount accessories and easy-access tackle storage.
Top picks: Best sit-in fishing kayaks for 2023
Best Sit-Inside Fishing Kayaks
Argo 100XP Angler
Loon 126 Angler
Island Voyage 2
Shop for sit-inside fishing kayaks
Follow the links below to the Paddling Buyer’s Guide where you’ll find every sit-inside fishing kayak available along with specs, prices, reviews and places to buy.
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Shopping for a used sit-in fishing kayak?
Since sit-inside fishing kayaks aren’t as popular as sit-on-top models, it may be more difficult to find a used boat.
When looking at a used sit-inside kayak, inspect the hull for holes, cracks, weak seals and other damage. One way to test a water-tight hull is to fill the bottom of the kayak with water and look for leaks. Also, check bulkheads for leaks that might compromise dry storage.
Sit-inside kayaks for fishing have a frame seat elevated off the bottom of the boat. Be sure the material is not ripped or stretched out and all adjustments and components are working.
Sit-inside kayaks for fishing often have accessories like rod holders, bungees and a gear console. Research a newer model of the used boat to assure all parts and accessories are included.
For more tips on what to look for when selecting a used fishing kayak, read our article How To Buy A Used Fishing Kayak.
Sit-in fishing kayak buying guide
Anglers looking for a lightweight, versatile and efficient kayak with dry storage and a protected cockpit should consider a sit-inside kayak.
The best sit-inside fishing kayaks are not necessarily traditional sit-inside kayaks, but instead more of a hybrid of a sit-on-top with a larger cockpit. A larger cockpit provides for more space to cast a fishing rod, rig lures and land fish.
Many hybrid sit-inside kayaks have a comfortable, elevated frame seat covered in breathable mesh that offers more support and space than the molded or low-profile seats in a recreational sit-inside that’s focused more on paddling efficiency than fishing.
To accommodate rod holders and electronics as well as carry tackle and fishing gear, a sit-inside for fishing has flat areas on the deck to hold bases and gear tracks while bungees and tie-downs for gear and tackle are within reach.
Most hybrid sit-inside kayaks are 12 to 13 feet long to balance tracking and speed with maneuverability. A shorter 10-foot boat is easier to paddle into small areas and shallow water. A smaller kayak is also lighter so it is easier to carry and paddle. The tradeoff is a shorter keelline, which makes a 10-foot kayak more difficult to paddle straight for a long distance.
Hybrid sit-insides for fishing are wider than recreational boats. Compared to a recreational sit-inside with a 24- to 28-inch width, a 30- to 35-inch-wide boat is more stable.
Most sit-inside kayaks for fishing are made with rotomolded or thermoformed plastic that’s tough enough to bang around and beat up. If the plastic is damaged, it is easy to repair.
Sit-on-top vs sit-in kayak for fishing
Long before the sit-on-top kayak, people were paddling sit-inside kayaks. Like the name says, the paddler sits inside the hull of the kayak instead of on top of the hull like a sit-on-top. The advantage is a lower paddling position that is more efficient and stable. Sit-inside kayaks are lighter than a similar sit-on-top kayak. Many anglers prefer the enclosed cockpit on a sit-inside to protect them from the elements.
A sit-on-top kayak offers more options to rig with electronics, fishing gadgets and accessories. Sit on tops are generally more comfortable. Not only do they offer more space, many sit-ons have a wide, cushy seat. For fishing, a sit-on-top is higher off the water making it easier to cast and work a lure.
Can you fish from a sit-in kayak?
Here are a few tips for fishing from a sit-in kayak. First, a sit-in’s seat is lower to the water, so it is harder to cast underhand or work a lure with the rod tip pointed toward the water. To overcome the low position, practice side-arm casting and pitching the lure. While working a topwater lure or twitchbait with the rod tip close to the water, hold the reel at eye height or higher for the proper angle.
To rig a sit-in kayak for fishing, mount an elevated rod holder near the front of the cockpit and elevated or flush-mount rod holders behind the seat. Use bungees behind the seat to hold a tackle box and gear bag to the deck. To install a fish finder, mount the control unit in front of the cockpit and run the transducer cable through the hull to the transducer mounted in the stern.
Sit-in fishing kayak reviews
There’s no better way to choose a sit-on-top kayak than by kicking the tires and taking a test drive. The staff at Kayak Angler, our sister magazine, have run the best sit-inside fishing kayaks through the gauntlet. We’ve rigged the boats for fishing, loaded them with gear and hit the water.
Our testing includes miles of paddling and hours of fishing in a variety of conditions and locations. This allows us to evaluate how the boat handles and how it performs for the intended angler and conditions. If you can’t get to the paddle shop or a demo day, take a test drive with our review of the best sit-inside fishing kayaks.
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