Featured Image Credit: Scott Beutjer Fishing
My first exposure to kayaks was as a young boy in Alaska as they educated us on the lifestyles of the Eskimo hunting for whales. These kayaks were typically constructed by creating a frame from whalebone or lightweight wood, then stretching the skin over this frame and sealing it with whale fat to keep it watertight. These were all custom and built to fit the owners, and were used to hunt and fish for food. The finished product was what we know as a sit inside design; it was what was known. Fishing in a sit on top kayak wasn’t even considered yet!
Inuit man and his kayak. Photo Credits: http://collectionscanada.gc.ca
The Beginning of the Sit On Top Kayak Movement
While the initial commercial introductions were geared to the whitewater crowd, this is no longer the case. New markets opened up and the manufacturers adjusted to become more competitive. This changing demand led to better designs for white water, sea kayaks, the occasional kayaker, weekend anglers and tournament anglers. Now, just about any style of kayak is available; sit in, sit on, hybrids.
While you will see a few anglers in sit in kayaks on the tournament trails, especially local events, hardcore tournament anglers will opt for the ‘sit on top’ styles. These sit on top styles are becoming increasingly advanced offering more deck space and storage. The primary reasons to consider a sit on versus a sit in would be the extra storage and accessibility to gear, measuring/photographing fish and comfort.
Photo Credits: Caney Fork Outdoors
The newer sit on top kayaks, designed primarily with the angler in mind, allow room for mounting accessories, rod storage and offers tackle storage space. On tournament days, you can find kayakers carrying as many as ten rods and several tackle bags in addition to the newest depth finders and GPS devices; these require rod holders and mounting locations to keep them all easily accessible. With sit in kayaks, there is a lot of room inside, but limited space on the surface. This lack of deck space makes your gear less accessible during a day on the water. You are basically sitting in the entrance to all of your storage locations, blocking access, instead of spreading your equipment across the deck.
The Benefits of a Sit On Top Kayak
I personally find the biggest issue with a sit in kayak is measuring and photographing fish. Once you have finally landed the catch of a lifetime, you want to get it on your measuring board, photographed and released as soon as possible. With a sit on top version, you have the ability to set your board up on one side of the kayak with the fish facing downward. I also add a net to the side the fish is facing; if you have ever tried to measure a bass in a kayak, you have lost at least one to the same motion…it curls, raises its tail, then ejects itself over the side. I often see guys doing this in their lap (your choice), and with the sit in kayak, you are forced to do this across the opening or on the smaller deck in front of your body. I have lost too many large fish on tournament days to not take all precautions possible.
All fish seem to try and escape with the same motion from a measuring device!
Kayak fishing tournaments can be a few hours or all day. Some online events will even find anglers spending the day and most of the night paddling or pedaling across miles of water to find bass. I don’t know about everyone else, but I like to be comfortable. Sitting inside a kayak on a small pad with my legs extended in front of me for hours would leave me unable to get out at the end of the day. The new higher end sit on top kayaks come equipped with seats that are as comfortable as a recliner; adjustable bottom, back and lumbar support. Many can even be removed and used at a campsite to substitute for a lawn chair if needed.
Now, I will tell everyone that before you choose any kayak get out on the water in it. Don’t spend five minutes doing donuts off the end of the ramp or dock; pedal/paddle it for some distance, stand up, move around and think about what you are going to do in it. What will you take with you and where will you place it? Are you going out for minutes, hours or even days on end?
Think very seriously about what fits you. Maybe you want to hunt seals or whales, maybe you are more of a whitewater enthusiast or just maybe tournaments are your future. Sit in it, on it and beside it; then make the choice.
This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert
Become an ANGLR Expert and apply here.