By Brent Watters –
To sit in or to sit on? That is the question many freshwater anglers ask when considering purchasing their first kayak. In the end, it comes down to personal choice but it’s good to understand the differences and potential pluses and minuses.
Kayak fishing adds a whole new dimension to the activity of fishing; especially if you have been staring off out onto the distance waters from the shore itching to reach potential honeypots. Your kayak presents you the opportunity to experience many new environments that in many cases difficult if not impossible to reach. That first ride out, and any ride out for us die hards, is filled with excitement.
If you’re going to dish out anywhere from $200 to $600 (the comfort range for most of us average guys) for a kayak, then you’ll need to do some homework and make your investment work for you. You can find some good deals on Craigslist and fishing and kayak forums, but for a good condition kayak you will be challenged to find a deal under $200.
Alert: If you don’t like to get wet, then maybe a kayak is not for you. The ability to always stay dry is the wrong consideration when considering these your options. No matter while getting in the water, out the water or simply being on a kayak, odds are you are going to get a somewhat wet and this is especially true for sit on tops due to the drains located on the floor of the kayak.
Sit Inside Kayak (SIK)
Like the name says, a SIK is designed for you to sit inside the cockpit of the kayak. This is achieved by sliding in the cockpit and straightening legs under the deck. You are literally sitting partially inside a tube. Typically, SIK have a wider base offering more stability. Improved balance is also made possible by a lower seat which allows your body to serve as the center gravity.
The cockpits themselves vary in size, with some having slightly wider and longer openings. SIKs are big sellers and a driver for this is their ability to provide added protection from the elements, such as sun and rain than sit on top kayaks (SOT). A skirt is usually provided with the kayak, or can be purchased, that goes around the waist and seals the inside of the cockpit from the elements.
Another consideration is water inside the kayak due either to rain, splashing or a tip. In a SIK, if water gets inside the cockpit a pump, sponge or scoop is required to bail the water out. The other option is getting to a water depth where you can easily stand and tip the kayak to dump the water out. If you tip, you should be trained on how to either roll the kayak to an upright position while remaining seated or practice sliding out quickly. This is especially true in deeper and more rugged waters. There are safety courses that can be taken to practice these maneuvers.
Sit On Tops (SOT)
In the last ten pus years the SOT kayaks have become the most popular paddle craft for fishing. SOT offer stability and decent speed. A huge added bonus is that SOT Kayaks are hard to sink.
In addition SOT kayaks offer more space to move during those times when one must maneuver aggressively to pull in the catch.
Sit on top kayaks are designed for sitting on top the cockpit, which is molded into the kayak, with your body resting on top and with legs and body exposed. Unlike a sit inside kayak, sot kayaks are designed with scupper drain holes that allow water to drain easily. This provides some mental relief especially when yakking in more aggressive waters or during rainfall.
Boarding a SOT kayak is relatively easy. The best methods are to pull the kayak sideways and begin to slide and lower yourself on it. You can also slide over it if you don’t mind getting wet. Sitting kayaks offer the ability to spread your legs either hanging over the sides, sit cross legged or in a slightly more circular manner.
There are some SOT designed with wider bases that allow for standing, which is great for getting a better visual. If you tip the kayak you simply fall and swim (with your personal flotation device (PFD) device of course) back to flip the kayak back and slide back on (a little practice does not hurt).
In either case take into consideration length. As a general rule, a well-designed hull, with a longer the waterline, the faster a kayak I capable of going. Also, longer kayaks tend to tract better. Simply put, the kayak will remain on course of the direction you wish to travel in. This is where length of travel on the water becomes a consideration. However shorter kayaks are easier to load and unload when cargo is a consideration.
How you’ll transport your kayak is another consideration and what physical act are you capable of performing loading and unloading your craft on and off your vehicle. Where and how will your store your kayak? This makes weight another consideration. The longer the kayak, the more it will weigh versus a shorter kayak made of the same material. Generally speaking, SOT tend to weigh a bit more because of the added material needed to construct the shell.
It’s always best practice to try out for size the kayak you are considering. Determine what is your comfort level in each situation. How well are the seats constructed? Always look for good cushioning.
Take into consideration all the elements along with your feel for personal preference, your wallet and your first investment should be a good one. No matter what you choose, you are going to love the new fishing experience a kayak brings. And let’s face it, they are just downright fun because remember, catching the fish is only half the fun!
EZ Angler Winner: The SOT Kayak
Based on our freshwater fishing experience in your typical lakes and ponds, SOT Kayaks offer anglers more leg room and physical maneuverability by being on top of the kayak rather than inside. In most cases the longer and narrower a kayak is the faster it can be paddled. Sure, SIKs do typically go faster but in today’s market there are some speedy SOTs and most of us are trying to enjoy the day and not looking for speed when fishing, unless tournament fishing. In cases where tips and capsizing occurs, SOTs are built to prevent flooding or sinking and allow for an easy return back onto the craft. SOTs also offer a double hull which means there is more potential storage space to accommodate cargo such as mini live wells, carriers and other items for day trips on the water.
Photo by Jeff Feverston / photos.com