Great Lakes fishing guide, Chris LeMessurier has collected an impressive fleet of kayaks. “Too many, according to my wife,” he laughs. But one boat holds a special place in his heart. “I started out in a Wilderness Systems Pungo 120,” he remembers. In fact, he still has the spunky little sit-inside in the garage.

Today, LeMessurier is more likely to take his sit-on-top kayak. But he still admires the lightweight simplicity of the Pungo 120. “It was cheap, too,” he chuckles.

These are the same reasons many anglers choose a sit-inside for their first kayak. And manufacturers are offering better options for fishing to introduce a new generation to the sport.

Showing Off The Sit-Inside Fishing Kayak

At the demo day during last summer’s Paddlesports Retailer tradeshow, Luther Cifers, CEO of Bonafide Kayaks, grabbed my arm and whispered into my ear, “I got something to show you.” He dragged me around a corner and pointed to a bright red sit-inside kayak shaped like the Millennium Falcon. This was not your grandfather’s SIK.

Cifer’s prototype became the EX123, a sit-in kayak with the stability of a sit-on-top. He explains, “We wanted to build a boat that’s perfect for efficient, confident and comfortable paddling, great for overnight and multi-day trips, and of course, have advantages specific to fishing.”

They hit those notes with unique designs like a frame seat, rear hatch doubling as a tackle crate platform and HyCat hull from their sit-on-top boats. “Wrap it up in a lightweight grab-and-go platform putting the simplicity back into kayak fishing.”

Cifer’s reasoning has inspired a new generation of sit-inside kayaks with traditional performance and modern comfort and convenience. One of the first kids on the block was Old Town Canoe’s Loon 106 and 126.

The Advantage

Lead designer Bob McDonough points to the advantages of a sit-inside. “The boats are lower to the water for better stability and use less plastic to cut weight.” Imagine cutting a man hole in the deck of your sit-on-top and removing the plastic.

The Disadvantage

The disadvantage is less comfortable seating and limited deck rigging. Bonafide’s solution is a pimped-out frame seat found in their sit-on-top models.

Cifers knows comfort is one of the first priorities for anglers looking to fish all day. Sitting in the bottom of the kayak is great for stablility, but can make it difficult to enter the boat.

Old Town went the other way, developing their ACS2 seat for the Loon then installing it in their Trident sit-on-top boats. McDonough points out, “Adjustable leg and back support in a 3-D molded seat is more comfortable than the flat frame seat.” The Loon also has a large cockpit opening for easy entry.

Continuing To Improve The Design

To improve rigging options, modern sit-insides include a dashboard in the cockpit to keep rod holders, electronics and tackle within reach. Cifer’s design team turned the rear hatch into a platform molded to fit a full-size tackle crate.

The biggest advancement is in performance. Recreational sit-inside kayaks, under 12 feet long, can be squirrely, but new designs favor stability.

Cifers says, “Our focus was on a standable sit-inside”. Their catamaran-style hull improves tracking and stability without cutting speed. Both Old Town’s Loon and Jackson Kayak’s sit-inside Kilroy are designed for stand-up fishing.

Pouring new energy in the traditional sit-inside design is bringing a new generation of anglers to the sport while offering old salts a familiar platform with modern features. Cifers explains, “The EX123 fits nicely beside a $7,000 fishing rig,” offering serious anglers a second boat for quick trips or hosting guests.

At Old Town, McDonough adds the Loon is finding friends with traditional paddlers. When I asked if traditional meant older he got quiet, then pointed out the boats are easier to cartop and carry to the launch.

With more comfortable seats, better performance and modern rigging in a user-friendly package, the latest generation of sit-inside may be your grandfather’s next kayak.

Back to basics.
Photo: Courtesy Wilderness Systems


  1. While I can’t state for certain, your acknowledged bold statement implies that the new improved sit in kayaks are for everyone. This past year, for the first time in my life, I became an active and accomplished member of the Poseidon club. This was something I was able to avoid for the first 58 years of my life, but it finally caught up in my 59th year. While out fishing with my girlfriend we managed, quite easily to flip over. I’m not convinced at 59 for me and 6? For her (trying to be politically correct;), that our egress out of a SIK would have been as easy. The older I become the slower my reactions are and it becomes much more difficult to get out of tight or restraining areas. But to be fair I have not yet tried them, however I am Leary.


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