The 9 Best Sit-in Fishing Kayaks – Why Choose a Sit Inside Kayak for Fishing?


It’s no secret that sit-on-top kayaks tend to be the preferred choice when it comes to fishing.

But that’s not to say there isn’t a place for sit-inside kayaks, too.

With that in mind, we take a look at the best sit-in fishing kayaks on the market – and we think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

A full buyer’s guide will follow.

Let’s get stuck in.

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fisherman with sit inside kayak preparing for fishing trip

Why Choose a Sit-in Kayak for Fishing?

Now, that’s a very good question, as more often than not, it’s the sit-on-top variety that holds some significant advantages over their sit-in counterparts.

However, sit-in kayaks do have a few notable plus points they can bring to the table.

In a nutshell:

  • They are generally smaller/slimmer and much lighter than sit-on-tops, which makes them easier to transport.
  • They’re better at handling waves and whitewater. In fact, they’re capable of better performance across the board when it comes to speed and tracking.
  • With a covered deck, they offer more protection from the elements, so you’ll stay warmer and drier than you would using a sit-on-top. You can use a spray skirt with many models, too.
  • They tend to be cheaper when it comes to the price point – all things being equal.

Keep reading for a full buyer’s guide following the reviews, but for more information on the head-to-head, you can check out this article on sit-in versus sit-on-top kayaks for fishing.

The 9 Best Sit Inside Kayaks for Fishing

Bonafide EX123 Sit Inside Fishing Kayak

Bonafide EX123 Sit Inside Fishing Kayak

There are a few companies in this review listed as the best kayak brands in the world, and Bonafide are certainly up there, so let’s start with them.

The EX123 is a stunning sit-inside fishing machine, a highly versatile craft that can also be used for recreational paddling and kayak camping.

Regarded as the “SUV” of fishing yaks, it offers tons of storage space, with a deck dashboard, stern hatch well with bungee, molded cup holders and storage trays, and more.

The sleek hull design offers excellent tracking and speed through the water, and yet still boasts adequate stability for standing casts and retrievals.

And the elevated seat is positioned higher than most other sit-in versions, giving you a better field-of-view with this hybrid-style design.

Pros

  • Two flush-mounted rod holders.
  • Duel skid plates.
  • Deck traction pads.
  • Choice of colors.
  • Attractive aesthetic.
  • Super-stable in the water.

Cons

  • At the more expensive end of the range.
  • The heaviest kayak in the review.

Takeaway

This is nothing short of a stunning fishing kayak that offers the best of both worlds with a sit-in and sit-on-top mashup that could well be the SUP for kayak angling that it claims to be.

But before you set off in this beauty, you should go through this kayak fishing checklist to make sure you have everything you need for a successful day on the water.

Old Town LOON 106 Angler Kayak

Old Town LOON 106 Angler Kayak

The oldest kayak and canoe company in the world makes some of the finest sit-inside kayaks known to humankind, so you might expect them to come up with a few good fishing options, too.

Of these, the best is undoubtedly the Loon 106 Angler, a beautiful recreational/fishing kayak that offers all the advantages of the famous Old Town Loon with the addition of fishing-friendly-features.

The extra width adds stability to a zippy hull line, and the ACS2 seat is reportedly the most comfortable sit-inside experience you can have on the water.

The next-level work deck features a USB port and built-in storage, and with flush-mounted rod holders and an anchor system, this could well be the best sit-inside fishing kayak going.

Pros

  • Name to trust.
  • Paddle clips.
  • Drain plug.
  • Thigh pads.
  • Bow and stern storage bungees.
  • Click-seal hatch with bulkhead.

Cons

  • Pricey.

Takeaway

I think Old Town makes some of the most attractive kayaks that ever set sail, and the Loon Angler is no exception. And that removable work deck is so convenient for using tools and tackle, like these excellent saltwater fishing pliers. Another home run from Old Town – and it won’t be the last.

Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 Sit-In Kayak

The Pungo 120 from Wilderness Systems is another versatile recreational kayak that can be kitted out to suit the preferences of the angler.

It’s one of their best-selling models as a result, and features an ingenious dashboard system that can be customized depending on what gear and tech you require.

Add one of these next-level fish finders, articulated rod holder, GPS, sport camera, and more. And it even has a dedicated watertight hatch for a battery pack to power electronics.

The Phase 3 AirPro seat is super comfortable, fully adjustable, and provides ergonomic support for the lower back, while the sleek hull design ensures it performs as one of the best in its class no matter the conditions.

Pros

  • Sleek, lightweight design.
  • Rear hatch with sealed bulkhead.
  • Adjustable footrests.
  • Two cup holders.
  • SlideTrax accessory rails.
  • Thigh braces.

Cons

  • No pre-installed fishing accessories.
  • Expensive.

Takeaway

This is an extremely popular recreational kayak that will suit anyone who wants to enjoy a number of water-based adventures, including touring, kayak camping, and fishing. Bear in mind you need to add your own fishing features aftermarket, though, and don’t forget a travel fishing rod to save on space.

Perception Sound 10.5 Sit-In Fishing Kayak

Perception is renowned for making some of the best entry-level recreational kayaks out there, with affordable quality and performance as standard.

Ideal for beginners and intermediate paddlers, the Sound 10.5 sit-inside kayak is a versatile craft that features a dashboard that’s compatible with accessory mount systems, so you can customize your center console how you see fit.

The Tri-keel hull offers excellent stability and smooth steering, while the comfortable, ergonomic zone seat provides all-day-long support where you need it, with quick-adjust footrests to accommodate paddlers of all sizes.

And when you consider the price point, this looks like a very tasty option indeed.

Pros

  • Affordable quality.
  • Large rear tank well with bungee.
  • Two molded fishing rod holders.
  • Front and rear molded handles.
  • Durable and lightweight design.
  • Ideal for larger users.

Cons

  • Dashboard accessories sold separately.

Takeaway

For this price, there’s a ridiculous amount of features and performance packed into the Perception Sound, so much so, that it’s probably the best sit in fishing kayak under $500 on the market.

And that large tank well is just crying out for one of these awesome fishing coolers – so what are you waiting for?

Lifetime Payette Angler Sit-In Kayak

Lifetime Payette Angler Sit-In Kayak

Known for their budget-friendly kayaks (follow that link for some good fishing options on the cheap) Lifetime offers this basic but very affordable sit-in yak that’s just under 10 feet in length.

At only 44 pounds, it’s one of the lightest yaks out there, making it easy to transport and store.

Constructed of UV-protected high-density polyethylene, it’s super strong and durable, with two flush-mounted rod holders, and an articulated rod holder in the center console within convenient reach.

Inside, there are multiple foot rests to accommodate paddlers of all sizes, and the large cockpit is easy to access, with a high seat back for additional comfort.

Pros

  • Great price point.
  • Storage hatch with bungee.
  • Paddle holder straps.
  • Stability chine rails and stable bottom.
  • Easy-carry handles.
  • Molded cup holder.
  • UV protected.

Cons

  • As basic as they come.
  • Short on storage space.

Takeaway

An excellent no-frills fishing kayak that has everything you need to get started at a price you can afford. You don’t need all the bells and whistles to catch fish – and this kayak is the perfect example of that. Just remember you also need to protect yourself from those UV rays with a decent fishing hat.

Old Town Canoe Trip 10 Deluxe Angler Kayak

Old Town Canoe Trip 10 Deluxe Angler Kayak

The Old Town Trip angler kayak is a super-fun little craft that’s another highly versatile recreational boat.

At 10 feet long, it’s lightweight and compact, with a stable hull and foot brace system to help you feel steady – even when you’re in a bit of chop.

It has two, flush-mounted rod holders built-in, with a large storage hatch to the stern for stashing extra belongings, such as one of these awesome fishing jackets.

Made of single-layer polyethylene, it’s very durable, and has a molded cockpit tray for added convenience – including a cup holder for beverages.

And with comfort-flex seating and thigh pads, you can be sure of a comfortable fishing experience all day long.

Pros

  • Name to trust.
  • Affordable price point.
  • Anchor trolley system.
  • Molded paddle rest.
  • Bungee deck webbing.
  • Attractive blue finish.

Cons

  • Not compatible with a rudder.

Takeaway

A terrific little play boat that can handle still lakes and slow rivers, as well as some whitewater with a bit more pep.

Probably one of the best compact fishing kayaks out there, it’s very easy to transport and store. But if you’re looking for the ultimate in portability, check out this review on the best inflatable fishing kayaks, instead.

Pelican Argo 100XR Cosmos Sit-in Kayak

This Pelican recreational sit-in kayak is a thing of beauty.

The Argo 100XR Cosmos has been lovingly designed and made with a patented RAM-X material, which basically means it offers a high molecular weight, with a top layer of advanced resin, that provides extra strength and durability while remaining lightweight overall.

Even if the boffins have come up with more confusing technology, in simple terms this is a solid kayak that combines a spacious cockpit with a super-comfortable chair that’s not a million miles away from a premium sit-on-top seat.

And it’s portable, meaning you can remove the seating from your kayak and use it to relax around the campfire after a full day’s fishing.

Pros

  • Great price point.
  • Stylish design and finish.
  • Super lightweight yet durable.
  • Rear storage hatch.
  • Paddle parks.
  • Drain plug.
  • Rigging racks for accessories.
  • Cup holders.

Cons

  • No fishing features included at sale.

Takeaway

I’m in love with this kayak, and I’m considering adding it to my fleet, not least because of that ingenious chair, and its attractive design in general. And while it doesn’t initially come with any fishing features, it’s designed to be fully customizable, so you can always add rod holders “et al.” aftermarket.

Perception Flash 9.5 Sit-In Fishing Kayak

The Perception Flash has been designed with beginners in mind, a compact and lightweight kayak that comes in at 9.5 feet in length.

It’s a tough little craft, extremely durable and stable, with dual tracking channels that help keep you on course, and ensures it’s very easy to paddle.

Perception have added two, molded rod holders for your convenience, with an easy-to-access dashboard as a working tackle deck.

A large, 10-inch storage hatch in the stern can help keep any extra gear dry, and inside the cockpit you have adjustable foot braces for accommodating paddlers of all sizes.

And the high back padded seat should keep you comfortable for fishing, exploring, or simply letting the world drift by until your heart’s content.

Pros

  • Excellent price point.
  • Ideal for beginners.
  • Molded carry handles.
  • Highly portable.
  • Rear drain port.
  • Paddle park.
  • Choice of colors.

Cons

  • No bulkhead with the storage hatch.

Takeaway

A kayak designed for a lot of fun, perfect as an entry-level craft that just happens to have some rod holders included to keep anglers happy.

And since space is at a premium, why not try it with one of these excellent telescopic fishing rods? Pick up one of them, and you’ve got a great kayak fishing/camping combo.

Vapor 10 Angler First Light Kayak

Vapor 10 Angler 10 ft First Light Kayak

There was no way I was going to leave out the Old Town Vapor 10 Angler in a review on the best sit-in fishing kayaks.

Made from a durable polyethylene construction, it offers excellent stability and tracking through the water, with a large, spray skirt compatible cockpit that’s easy to enter and exit.

An anchor trolley system is built in for securing your craft when required, and two flush mounted rod holders can be found within easy reach.

The comfort-flex seat is padded and fully adjustable, and the molded dashboard is perfect as a workstation for tackle.

A paddle rest keeps things hands free, and a large tank well to the stern is ideal for storing extra gear and equipment for your adventure.

Pros

  • Name to trust.
  • Affordable price point.
  • Bungee deck webbing.
  • Built-in carry handles.
  • Drain plug.
  • Excellent tracking and paddling.
  • Ideal for beginners.

Cons

  • None to speak of.

Takeaway

Another brilliant fishing kayak from Old Town that offers superb performance in the water, with the pilot enjoying a roomy, comfortable cockpit experience that’s suitable for larger anglers. And don’t leave home without a pair of these practical fishing gloves which will also protect your hands while paddling.

How to Choose the Best Sit-In Kayak for Fishing

Below, you’ll find a handy buyer’s guide that covers all the things you should be looking out for when choosing the best sit-in fishing kayak for your needs.

fisherman with a fly rod in sit-in kayak fishing

Size and Weight

Once you’ve decided to try a sit-in kayak, choosing its size and overall weight is probably your next priority.

Sit-in yaks tend to be slimmer than their sit-on-top counterparts, but not necessarily longer. The thinner and longer the kayak is, the faster it will go, and the better it will track through the water.

However, it won’t be the most maneuverable, which is why you’ll notice whitewater kayaks are generally stubby little boats built to turn on a dime.

Less bulk also means less weight, and as mentioned, one of the main advantages of sit-in kayaks is they are usually much lighter and easier to transport than other versions.

As a rule of thumb, I would say you want to be looking at yak around 10-12 feet in length, weighing in the region of 40-50 lbs.

That’s just a guideline though, and you’re not really going to find much difference in performance between these yaks when the margins are so small.

And when it comes to fishing, you’re not really looking for a world-beating speed machine, just so long as it can handle the conditions you’re out in, and you can manage to get it to and from the water easily.

Seating

One of the downsides when it comes to sit-in kayaks versus sit-on-top versions is their seating. In short, they can leave a lot to be desired.

Sit-on-top yaks have the space to be kitted out with the latest metal-frame lawn chairs for the ultimate comfort, but with sit-in kayaks you tend to be lucky if you get a decent padded seat.

However, there are plenty of exceptions to the rule, and sit-inside kayaks that have improved on this – so look out for options with the best possible seating configuration if this is something that concerns you.

And remember – you can always customize and upgrade your yak with more comfortable seating options aftermarket. That’s what I did with my sit-in touring yak, and it made a vast improvement and stopped my backside going numb.

orange fishing kayak on blue sea on summer

Performance

A major plus point for sit-in kayaks is that they are much more adept at handling whitewater, choppy and tidal conditions, and anywhere things might be flowing with a bit more pep.

While this isn’t always necessary for fishing, it’s nice to have in case you do encounter it, and it makes sit-in kayaks much more versatile as a result.

Generally speaking, they’ve got sit-on-top kayaks beat when it comes to performance. They’re much faster and more maneuverable – all things being equal.

So if you want a craft that can handle it all, and be capable of landing a catch while you’re at it – then keep your eyes open for sit-inside fishing kayaks with a hull designed for improved performance.

Fishing Features

While it’s true that sit-on-top kayaks tend to offer more scope for fishing friendly features, there’s no reason that sit-in yaks can’t hold their own with a few useful additions.

Flush-mounted rod holders are probably the most common feature, but look out for accessory-tracks and railings in some models, so you can add your own gear and equipment.

You should still be able to add articulated rod holders, GPS, fish finders, sports cameras, and anything else you fancy if you choose a good sit-in fishing kayak in the first place.

They work best when they maximize the comparatively small amount of space, and some include ingenious center consoles and/or cockpit work decks for such possibilities.

Most sit-inside kayaks will also be compatible with a spray skirt, which means you can stay extra warm and dry in more challenging conditions.

And don’t forget to look out for those paddle holders. A true fishing kayak is going to be pretty useless without them.

Storage Options

Likewise, sit-in kayaks tend to be a bit shy on storage space – and the lack of a large, stern tank well can put some anglers off.

But that’s only if you’re the type of person who wants to pack a full fishing crate or cooler, or a large saltwater tackle bag, for example.

Most sit-in fishing kayaks will still have excellent storage hatch options, and enough space to stash everything you need for the day.

But unless you’re in a large touring kayak, or one of these premium pedal drive fishing craft, the emphasis is going to be on traveling light with less tackle and gear.

Try using one of these space-saving fishing kayak nets to help you land your catch.

Plus, you can always find some additional storage options and workstations on one of these excellent fishing PFDs – which offer the additional benefit of being able to save your life.

In the end, you might well find that is far more enjoyable and rewarding than bringing along the kitchen sink.

fisherman wearing camouflage with kayak going toward the river

Cost

As previously mentioned, sit-in fishing kayaks are commonly much less expensive than their sit-on-top cousins.

Which is why they make a great choice for anyone on a budget, or anyone who is looking for a versatile kayak that can handle multiple conditions while still providing the opportunity to catch fish.

Of course, there are those hybrid models that are typically more expensive, but for the most part, you don’t have to hand over thousands of dollars for a decent sit-in fishing kayak.

Summary

I hope, like me, you were pleasantly surprised at the merits of the best sit-in fishing kayaks on the market, and now understand they most certainly have a place in the paddle sport world.

Let me know which model you’re considering and why – or any other plus points I might have missed when it comes to these versatile craft.

Tight lines everyone, and happy kayaking!

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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