The Best Sit-In Fishing Kayak (2018)

When we go fishing in a sit-in kayak, we want a boat that handles well and makes our fishing trip easier.

Picking the right fishing kayak means picking one that can help carry fishing equipment, comfortable enough for long hours in the water, and can handle water conditions suitable for fishing. Our best recommendation is the Sun Dolphin’s 12-Feet Aruba.

Reviews of the Best Sit-In Fishing Kayak

Our Top Pick: The Sun Dolphin SS Aruba

The Sun Dolphin SS Aruba tracks well and handles great in both calm and mildly choppy water. Although it’s not built for river fishing, it can do everything a fisher needs for a kayak fishing trip. The Sun Dolphin Excursion comes in two sizes: 10-feet and 12-feet. The 10-feet SS Aruba is great as a starter sit-in kayak, but it lacks flush mount rod holders. It seems to be more for recreational use as well. We recommend the 12-feet because it tracks better, is built for fishing, and can carry more weight due to its extra length. It also comes at a very affordable price.

Here is what the Aruba comes with:

  • Three different sized storage compartments
    • A portable accessory carrier (PAC) in the stern of the boat, with a removable sealed storage and bungeed space
    • A bungeed, covered console in front of the kayaker, similar to the glove compartment of a car
    • A front sealed hatch storage with a bungeed bow deck
  • Three flush mount fishing rod holders
    • Two holders facing away from the back of the kayaker
    • One holder on the lid of the covered console
  • Padded seats for back and butt support
  • Thigh pads for leaning your legs comfortably along the side
  • A large open cockpit for a sit-in fishing experience
  • Light-weight design weighing in at 41 pounds (19 kilograms)
  • A maximum weight capacity of 250 pounds (113 kilograms)

As a roomy and comfortable sit-in kayak, it can be great for both touring and recreational trips. The removable sealed storage in the stern can store iced coolers or large tackle boxes. The covered console can hold a pair of sunglasses or phone. The sealed hatch in the front is a bulkhead that can keep equipment placed inside dry. The Aruba does not come with a paddle. A paddle must be ordered separately.

The Inflatable Choice: Intex Challenger K1

We have seen a few other fishers on YouTube use this inflatable sit-in kayak. The Intex Challenger K1 might not track the greatest, but it can easily maneuver on the water. The kayak also lacks rod mounts for holding fishing rods, but you can improvise by using the bungeed cords in the bow to temporarily hold your rod. The inflatable nature of the kayak makes it easy to get started. It makes for a great beginner-friendly fishing kayak.

Here is what the Intex Challenger K1 comes with:

  • One bungeed deck on the bow for carrying gear
  • A manual hand pump
  • One adjustable 84-inch aluminum paddle with plastic blades
  • A maximum weight capacity of 220 pounds (100 kilograms)
  • Light-weight design of 28 pounds (12 kilograms)

It’s a relatively basic inflatable sit-in kayak, but it does the trick. It is a buoyant boat that can support most people. Although it lacks a lot of storage, many fishers opt for the Challenger K1 for its ease of use, light-weight portability, and speedy launch into the water. You can also use it for recreational or touring calm waters, lakes, and rivers. The K1 does not handle well in the ocean due to the stronger waves. If you want a fishing rod holder, you can always create your own do-it-yourself (DIY) rod holder for the Challenger like this one YouTuber:

For more details about the K1, you can check out our review here. There is also a tandem two-seater Challenger K2 model available that is also popular.

How We Picked

There are several items a kayak had to check off:

  • It must have flush mounts. Not just any flush mounts. Good quality flush mounts that can properly hold a fishing rod. There is a limitation to how much space we can work with. If we want to fish, we need to carry our fishing rods with us. The way to do so is with at least one flush mount rod holders.
  • The cockpit is large enough. A cockpit hole too narrow or small makes it difficult to enter and exit the kayak. It can also be very dangerous if your boat capsizes. The width helps larger build individuals fit, but the length is what makes the difference between getting in and out of the cockpit comfortably. There is no right size fit all. However, there is too small and that is not fun for anyone.
  • The seat has comfortable padding. If we are going to sit out in the open water for long hours, we may as well sit comfortably. Cheaper sit-in kayak models tend to leave out the padding for the butt. Although the seat can be easily replaced for better cushioning, the least we want is proper padding to start.
  • There are sufficient storage compartments. We want to be able to carry our gears, like a tackle box or a waterproof duffle dry bag. Having enough storage compartments let us bring additional items like personal items, fishing attire, food, and equipment. If we plan on fishing for long hours, want to make it comfortable and enjoyable.
  • Light-weight and easy to carry. Unless fishers intend to go into rough water territory, the kayak can be light-weight in design and built for easy transportation by hand. This makes for an easy start and end of any fishing trip.