Sit-in vs. Sit-on

-- Last Updated: Jul-11-10 5:29 PM EST --

Hello; I'm new to kayaking (other than renting them several times for easy river floats). My wife and I are in our mid-late 50's. I want to be able to fish once in a while (maybe - maybe not?). Looking for decent quality beginner rigs. My wife is petite, but I am 6'3" and 250 lbs. We each want a new kayak.

I know that most fishing rigs are sit-on, but of course they get you a little wetter (I assume). Most trips will be to shallow and wooded areas of the local lakes, and maybe some slow river trips. We won't be doing any white water or ocean trips. Looking for pros and cons for the two types and any recommendations for a big guy like me. Thanks!

Your petite wife should read
Friendlyfire’s review of the Hurricane Phoenix 120. I paddled one after reading her review, and it will be my next boat, eventually.

sit in vs sit on
I would go with a sit on, based on the fishing aspect of your desires. So much easier to manage all the gear and poles etc. They are slower and heavier than most sit in’s, in general,but almost always more stable. They are also usually very durable.

So you can get out there and play around on the water, do a little fishing, and some exploring. See if you really like it. There are tons of used models out there for next to nothing! Then if you realize you want to go further and faster, you can step up to a sit in model and be more confidant of your choice.

Re: sit on top
I have both. My wife and I purchased Wilderness System Tarpon sit on tops last fall. She has the Tarpon 120 (12ft.) and I have the Tarpon 140 (14 ft.). I weighed at the time 275. I am 6’. Go with at least a 14 footer for yourself. They are very stable and have lots of storage space. I just started fishing. I hardly ever get wet. They are self bailing. We just bought sit-inside for variety. I got an Eddyline Journey, and my wife got a Dagger Alchemy 14L. The Phoenix sit on top is very nice, and other brands to check out are Emotion and Current Designs.

What is your all year weather like
If it is warm year round, go with the sit on, but if it is cold in the winter, and you are planning on paddling through out the winter, get sit ins

jack L

The problem I have with most SOT’s is they are fairly limiting. They are too wide to start with, need the width because you sit so much higher on them. But the width limits the speed. And once autumn comes and the outside temps start to cool it’s hard to stay warm sitting completely exposed in one.

Bill H.

Sit on
is my vote. Fishing from a sit inside is a huge pain in the rear…not enough room! SOT’s allow you to move your legs (sidesaddle too) around, knees up/down, more stable, and more usable/bigger hatch/storage area in back. Check out a OK Prowler 13 or 15’, Tarpon 140, and others. Even if you don’t fish from it, I still prefer a SOT for all around use and at your size the sit inside will severely restrict your legs/feet…especially at your size. My SOT is my go-to boat for camping, touring, fishing, and photography.

Sot and sit ins
I am 6"4" around 250, and I have both a sot and sit in I love my sot (Wilderness Tarpon) and I also love my sit ins. Depending on any limitations, legs or hips, that you may have the sot is very comfy and will allow you to move your legs much more than a sit in. Everyone says the sot’s are slow but is this important to you? The other question is paddling, are you going to be paddling in colder weather? Just remember every one has differant likes and dislikes about thier boats. The best thing is to demo multiple boats and see what you like.

Another resource
If you really find yourself interested in the SOT do yourself a favor and check out which has a wealth of knowledge in it’s forum.


– Last Updated: Jul-11-10 10:18 PM EST –

They make fishing models and fishing 'attachements' for many others.

I got a 10' perception pescador this year and am 248lbs/6' tall and it's stable like an island. I can sit sideways no problem in mid river, turn around, whatever. I've not tried standing (yet). Supposedly one can get back on them in the water but my fat butt wont' quite get there (yet).
Plenty of room - two in-hull storage compartments plus a deck out back and you can put stuff 'in your lap' so to speak. If fishing was my goal I'd have gotten one of the fishing oriented ones.

I do agree they're a bit harder to get moving (compared to my 17' alum canoe anyway) and you do get wetter (which to me is 1/2 the fun of boating) but you can buy clothing to fight the chill if you push the seasons.

Go with what you need now . . .
You may eventually wind up with a pair of SOTs and touring kayaks (sit insides). We have both and use them to advantage, based on conditions:

Warm weather: SOTs or Touring, depending upon how we are using them. If we want to cover a lot of water (eventually, we will do some light expedition touring) in a shorter time, we use the touring boats. If fishing, getting off and on a lot (for stops, difficult docking, etc.) free-diving with snorkeling gear, we use the SOTs.

If you tend to have sore joints and muscles that may make boarding a sit-in difficult, an SOT may be ideal. When I’m sore, I use the SOT.

On our rocky NC rivers, we use the SOTs; on the sandy rivers in Florida, we have tended to use the touring boats - although, on the present trip, we took the SOTs.

When the weather is cooler/cold, we take the touring boats.

Consider emergency options: Use of touring boats will require more early development and practice of rescue skills (T-rescues, rolls, etc.) and you will need to be able to re-enter your touring boat if you venture from proximity to land. (It goes without saying, your touring boat needs bulkheads for flotation.)

If you dump your SOT, you simply flip it back over and crawl back on, so there will be less need for early complicated skills development. Remember, that your joints and muscles should not overly limit your capacity to deal with emergencies, like re-entry, and your choice of a kayak type should reflect your limitations as well as your potentials.

There are variations: there are some long and fairly fast SOTs out there and some sit-insides (rec boats) can be wider and slower than some SOTs.

So, figure out what kind of paddling you will do, where you will mostly do it and during what kinds of temperatures. These, along with your potential for skills development will play major parts in whether you go SIS or SOT.

Finally, consider what issues you may be facing with respect to your ability to deal with weight. Generally, touring boats are lighter; SOTs can be significantly heavier - requiring special car racking and carts to move them to the water - especially if you have fishing/diving gear.

One other unusual question about SOTs versus cockpit kayaks was brought to me yesterday. We had just pulled our SOTs out of the Silver River, near Ocala, when a guy asked me which boat would be safer around alligators - an SOT or one with a cockpit. I couldn’t come up with a definite answer, except that there would be trade-offs . . . maybe the kayak that least resembled an alligator would be the safest.

But not to worry, I told him. The ranger had told us the river only had gators up to a couple feet - and we had not even seen one gator during our paddle.

“Oh really?!!” he replied. He pulled out his camera and displayed a bunch of photos and video of a number of gators he had just filmed - some over 10 feet long. (Damn, what was that ranger thinking!) So, now, I am mulling over that final question myself.

I have both
but find myself going with the SOT more often.

It’s easier to “do things” from - fish, take pictures, snorkle, etc. Far more stable. Also easier access to gear while you’re on the water.

Speed can depend a lot on what actual model boat you select and not just on whether it’s a SOT or a traditional boat. I selected a SOT specifically with both stability and speed in mind. I have a Current Designs Altura and don’t see any appreciable loss of speed over my sit-in boat.

As for weather, I have a dry suit, so cold weather doesn’t stop my SOT paddling, at all. IMO, a SOT can be just as - if not more - versatile than a sit-in boat.

as a fellow big guy
the SOT is going to be more comfortable. Its easier to get in and out of, very stable for fishing. I have always gone with SOTs, but I am a bigger guy than you.

SOT for petite wife :smiley:
the Hurricane Aquasports SOTs (the Phoenix series) start at 38 lbs for the Phoenix 120, which is actually

11’3" bow to stern, and only 26" wide, which is on the narrower side for SOTs. The long, ultra fast SOTs like the Current Designs Zone and the ones made in Australia and South Africa are narrower.

Your wife will find she can handle a Phoenix 120 herself just fine, and w. her smaller size and lower center of gravity the 26" width will be great… w. good paddle technique this SOT is not at all slow! It’s in fact quick and very fun (yes, it’s my review here that sissy 103 references)

Be sure to treat her tp a good, light paddle w. carbon fiber in the shaft and blades.

The Phoenix also comes in a 130 which is 13 feet, and only a few lbs heavier, so if she likes to fish and wants a bit more room, she could easily paddle that one as well. You’d fit the Phoenix 160. Worth a demo at a paddle shop :smiley:

TRY before you buy!
As someone who has owned near a dozen rec/fishing yaks, and a guy who also goes 230#, I’ll offer this advice:

What is good for one person may not be good for you. Don’t buy blindly on advice. You really need to test paddle anythig you consider buying. Then buy what you fell comfortable in. ( I learned the hard way after plunking doewn $800 for a Tarpon Angler 140 which was supposed to be THE fishing kayak. Found it slow, sluggish, very wet (cockpit awash due to my weight) and I always felt like i was going to fall off of it. Hated it in 3 outings and sold it off the same year!)

Generally, from my experience/view as a fresh and SW fisherman:

SOT’s are "safer"a in that they are easier to get on/off of but tend to be slower, require more effort to paddle , ride wet and leave you exposed to the sun/ weather. With a SOT you sit a bit higher which improves visability but raises your center of gravity. I also don’t like the exposure of the SOT where I fish in “snake” areas.

Sit-in’s tend to be lighter, faster more efficient, feel initially more stable (for the same beam) and offer protection from weather, water, sun etc. ( I like sit-in’s with a BIG cockpit and use a sliding mini-skirt to cover the hole as/when required.

FWIW, My favorite “big guy” kayak is the Loon 138 hands down. For smaller folks ( or when I was smaller :-), ithe pungo classic/120. I’ve had my pungo and loon out fishing for hours in 4-5’ Ocean swells. Also been through 3’ boat wakes and have come up safe and dry.

Again, though, YOU and your WIFE need to go padding.


I’ve had 2 SINKs. Now I have a SOT
and canoes.

Big guy with bad back.