Are SOT Kayaks Safe For Fishing In Cold Water?

Cold Water Safety in SOT Fishing Kayaks?
This article first appeared in the context of offshore kayak fishing, but we decided to reedit it, and offer the information in the context of cold water fishing, which is hazardous as well, and can sometime be even more dangerous than the ocean when paddling and fishing are considered.
The problems described, as well as the conclusions, are essentially the same.

The following personal SOT kayak capsize report was posted on a Connecticut fishing blog by an offshore kayak angler. In his capsize report, that angler specified the brand name and model of his top-of-the-line, 34 inch wide SOT fishing kayak, but in this article these names are replaced by the phrase “SOT fishing kayak” because the problem described here is not particular to that SOT kayak brand or model, and it concerns all SOT fishing kayaks.

That SOT kayak capsize report was detailed and well written, and they reflect a general problem that SOT kayak anglers report, but SOT kayak vendors don’t seem to be too anxious to address. The writer took care of adding his advice to the detailed facts he described in his own words:

· I noticed waves splashing over my bow and around my FWD hatch, then draining into the wet well. Wave frequency was every 4 seconds, or so.
· I didn’t hear any unusual sounds, but the wind was blowing and my hood was up.
· I wasn’t worried because my [SOT fishing kayak] had seen much rougher seas and wind.

· Shortly after… I noticed that my Kayak wanted to tilt to the left twice
· This had never happened before.
· I wasn’t sure why it did this but I decided to make a direct course to the closest part of the island (15º more to the left)
· Now 30 ºoff the seas, the first small wave that hit me capsizing my Kayak.
· I remember saying to my self, “This can’t be happening, my yak is 34” wide…
· When I got back to the surface (Thank you PFD) I said to myself “What is the next step?” I turned my yak over. This was the easiest part of this self-rescue.
· After righting my Kayak I went to clime back into the cockpit (I snorkel often from my YAK) and noticed the draft was low
· Looking into the cockpit I noticed the water level in the wet well was at the bottom of the upper decal (in-front of the drive). This is about an inch higher than when I am sitting in the YAK. (estimated 35-40 gallons of water.
· At this point I realized that I was not going to be able to de-water with the small sponge I had onboard.
· (Dude has done this for a long time)
· At this point I started swimming (towing my [SOT fishing kayak]) to the Island that I was heading for. (58º water temp). Current was flowing out carrying me to the left.
· I remember that from Boy Scouts!
· As I swam I noticed that I was being set to the left, at one point I remember reminding my self to stay focused on my swimming as not to miss the island.”

After reading the entire report, the first question that comes to mind is -”How can water get inside a sealed SOT kayak hull?”

The answer is that SOT fishing kayaks have a number of typical weaknesses:

1. A Weak Parting Line: Nearly all SOT kayaks are rotationally molded. This means that molds used for molding such kayaks have a top part and a bottom part, which have to be perfectly adjusted to each other every time before the mold is put in the oven. A less than perfect fit can result in a kayak with a hull that’s weak along the line where its top and bottom parts meet, which is called the Parting Line. In some cases a poor fit in the mold can result in tiny holes along the parting line. Parting line weakness and holes are not easy to discover. This is particularly dangerous because a SOT’s parting line is close to its waterline, and it’s often below waterline.

2. Weak Scupper Holes: SOT kayaks have scupper holes molded into their hulls. Because of the geometry of the SOT hull and problems of heat distribution during the rotational molding process, it’s hard to make the walls in the scupper holes’ area very thick. This results in scupper holes whose walls are usually thinner than in other parts of the hull. Strain on the scupper holes can cause cracks along the parting line within them, and get water to leak into the hull. Such cracks in the scupper holes can appear after using them as stakeout pole points, attachment points for wheeled carts, through inadequate storage, and in sometimes just after using them normally.

3. Wear and Tear: SOT kayaks, like other kayaks, can develop wear-and-tear holes in their hulls in the course of normal usage. Such holes can be caused by cracks, cuts, deep scratches and punctures, but they are particularly dangerous when they occur in this type of kayak because its closed hull makes it difficult to detect them, whether on water or on shore.

4. Deck Gear and Storage Hatches: All fishing kayaks are outfitted with deck gear, especially rod holders, and they all feature storage hatches, which are basically holes in the hull. Outfitting a SOT kayak requires drilling holes in its hull, and attaching the gear with either bolts or rivets. Any hole in a Polyethylene hull presents a potential problem because it’s hard to seal effectively. Over time bolts can become loose and make the holes lose their water tightness. This problem is particularly dangerous in SOT kayaks for two reasons: One is because their decks are so close to the waterline, and the second being the fact that the closed hull makes it harder to detect leaks.

Unlike kayaking, which involves being constantly on the move, kayak fishing is more stationary. This fact is important because when you paddle a kayak that’s partially filled with water it handles differently from a dry one, but the difference is hardly perceptible when you’re not paddling. That is to say that the chances of you detecting a leak in a SOT kayak’s hull while you’re fishing from it are smaller than if you paddled it, or if you fished from another kayak that does not feature a closed hull.

Read more about fishing kayaks’ design >>

Fishing Kayaks That Make Sense – For a Change

Fishing from kayaks is great in principle, but most kayak fishermen have realized by now that in practice sit-on-top (SOT) and sit-in kayaks (SIK) leave much to be desired in terms of comfort and performance. Our patented W Fishing Kayak solves these problems at their root, and offers you both optimal performance and the best fishing experience.

Stability: The Fundamental Factor

Your fishing kayak should offer you enough stability to fish and paddle standing in full confidence, even in saltwater – simply because fishing and standing go together.

Watch demo movies.

The key is the patented combination between the stabler catamaran design and the fact that your feet reach deep down to the bottom of the hulls, below waterline, and you use your legs for balance and control.  For more information read our Fishing Kayak Stability article.

Comfort In Absolute Terms: Your Own

Can you imagine a less comfortable fishing position than the traditional, kayaking position a.k.a. ‘L position’?

It is so unusual and uncomfortable that it causes fatigue, circulation problems, leg numbness and back pains that no foot braces or cushioned kayak seat may eliminate.

Our W Fishing Kayak’s patented, high saddle and spacious cockpit offer you the freedom to switch anytime between numerous, comfortable fishing and paddling positions including standing, sitting, riding, kneeling and a variety of intermediary positions. To learn more visit our Ergonomicspage, and this new blog about kayak fishing and back pain called ‘Painless Kayak Fishing’.

As Dry As In A Real Boat –

Sit-in and sit-on-top fishing kayaks hardly offer you enough protection from the elements, whether those are wind, waves or spray. Continuous exposure results in the infamous ‘wet ride’ or ‘soggy bottom’ experience, cold, itch and even skin inflammation a.k.a. ‘diaper rash’.

You shouldn’t get wet just because you’re fishing from a kayak: Our W Fishing Kayak protects a 200 lb user with 13 inches of free board. Furthermore, the W Fishing Kayak’s saddle is self draining in case some rain or spray get inside the cockpit. For additional info see: surf & ocean

Improved Casting

From the riding position you get more power with casting or spinning, and you can throw to longer distances than ordinary fishing kayaks allow you:

Riding with your legs on both sides of the  saddle and your feet positioned at the bottom of the deep hulls gives you a solid and confident feeling, and enables to put all your body legs included into the cast.

A Real, Full Size Cockpit and More Storage Than Any Kayak

The new W500 fishing kayak offers more storage than any kayak.

A sit-on-top (SOT) kayak is in fact a paddle board with a deck, but it features no real cockpit, while traditional, sit-in kayaks generally have small, low and uncomfortable cockpits.

Our W fishing kayak features the most spacious, versatile and snug cockpit.

Easy Tracking And Turning?

Problem solved: Traditional (monohull) kayaks need to be very long to track well and very short to turn well. If you want such a kayak to do both you need to equip it with a cumbersome rudder, which distracts and impedes you.

Our patented W Fishing Kayak tracks like a catamaran, and yet you can easily lean it into the turn and make sharp turns. This is why you’ll never need to use a rudder again.

Launch, Go & Beach Anywhere

Launching and beaching ordinary (monohull) fishing kayaks can often be too difficult, especially in the surf, moving water and/or in cold water. In addition, both sit-in and SOT kayaks are very limited in going over submerged and surface obstacles.

Practically, this often means that good fishing spots are inaccessible to you, and you need to paddle longer distances just because your fishing kayak isn’t mobile enough.

These problems and others are eliminated in our W Fishing Kayak by the fact that you can raise or lower its bow anytime you need to by simply moving fore and aft along its longitudinal saddle.

Watch demo video

Unless you launch your W Fishing kayak in the surf you don’t need to step in water since you don’t have to enter its cockpit from the side, and you can always do it from the back or the front.

Big, Dry & Accessible Storage

Adequate storage (or lack thereof) in fishing kayaks is an annoying problem for many kayak anglers.  Sit-in kayaks offer a very restricted storage space in the cockpit that’s accessible but not really dry, and little storage space in hatches that are neither accessible nor particularly dry.  Sit-on-top (SOT) fishing kayak models have no real cockpit to speak of since they basically are paddle boards, which means that apart from hatches all a SOT offers in storage terms is its exposed deck, where any added weight increases your instability.

In comparison, our W Fishing Kayak offers over 10 cubic feet of dry and always accessible storage space in its cockpit and hulls. You can take plenty of gear on board and store heavy gear in the bottom of the hulls without creating any stability problem.

A Longer Fishing Season

Water and/or weather conditions are not always favorable for kayak fishing with a regular sit-in fishing kayak, and even less so with a sit-on-top fishing kayak.  This is true not only in colder regions that our blog specializes in, but in warmer climates as well.

With your W Fishing Kayak keeping you dry and well protected from the elements, and with the ability to launch, go and beach in more places than any kayak you can keep fishing as long as there’s some open water out there.  You can also go fishing on windy days since our W Fishing Kayak tracks better than regular kayaks do.

The Surf? -Now It’s Fun!

Like most kayak fishermen and other paddlers you may think the surf is not a good place to be in with a kayak. This is true for sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks because of stability, maneuverability, exposure and seaworthiness issues.

However, with your W Fishing Kayak you’re likely to enjoy launching and going in the surf, and maybe even playing in it. More in the demo movies and surf & ocean sections.

Guests On Board Your Kayak

One of the joys of owning a fishing boat is having guests on board, but ordinary fishing kayaks are limited in this regard.

Our W Fishing Kayak cockpit offers enough room for up to two adults as long as none of them is too heavy. Children are not a problem even standing up!…

Is Your Kayak Really Portable?

Compared to other boats one of the main advantages of fishing kayaks is their portability, but an ordinary fishing kayak is in many cases too long to fit in the truck bed of a pickup truck, and if you want to attach it safely to your car top you’d need to invest in a ‘kayak rack’.

Our W Fishing Kayak is short enough to be attached in the truck bed of your pickup truck, and you can nest up to four of them on top of any regular car rack without needing a special kayak rack.

Why Is Speed Good For You?

The ordinary sit-in and sit-on-top fishing kayak is basically a wide, over hyped and expensive recreational kayak. Its extra width inevitably makes it slow, which is not a problem unless you want to paddle longer distances and/or in less than perfect water and weather conditions.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted us a utility patent for ergonomic and hydrodynamic innovations that we incorporated in our W Fishing Kayak design, so you can go faster and enjoy longer fishing trips.


Kayak Outriggers, Anybody?…

You may be thinking about outfitting your fishing kayak with outriggers in order to improve its stability, so consider the following:

Short outriggers slow your kayak down considerably since they have to travel at several times their hull speed, thus creating high resistance.

Outriggers in the back of the kayak offer no support when you lean forward, and outriggers won’t solve your ergonomic problems, storage issues etc…

And of course, outriggers are notorious for getting your fishing lines entangled.


Anchoring a regular fishing kayak on its side might make it tip while anchoring it at the bow might make it dip. However, our W Fishing Kayak is stable enough to be anchored from its side, has a bow that’s high enough not to dip, and can also be anchored from between its hulls.

Other Small Fishing Boats, I.E. ‘Real’ Motorboats

Unlike other small fishing boats such as wide canoes and dinghies, if you happen to lose your balance while standing up in the W Fishing Kayak you’re likely not to not fall overboard but rather find yourself seated in the stable Riding position – See demo movies and ergonomics . And besides, you can motorize your fishing kayak, in and the case of the w500 and W502, the results outperform bigger motorboats, to some extent, in the sense that you’re not required to use a trailer, and the motorized W kayak offers a higher degree of mobility than bigger boats do.

All That Kayak Fishing Stuff You Don’t Really Need

From Old Fashion to Modern Fishing Kayaks

This article examines a list of kayak fishing products that are considered a ‘must’ by traditional kayak anglers. It will determine how and why these products came into being, and whether a modern kayak anglers needs to purchase them at all.
First, you may be interested to know that that although kayak fishing websites feature forums and blogs filled with comments, those are posted in many cases by fishing kayaks manufacturers’ sales reps, as well as fishing kayak brands’ pro team members and other affiliated personnel, such as store owners and employees. In fact, most kayak fishing websites and online discussion forums are either managed or sponsored by kayak and fishing gear manufacturers and distributors, which means mainly kayak stores.
As for the so called kayak fishing magazines, those completely depend on kayak fishing gear manufacturers (mainly kayak brands) to advertise in them, and therefore must comply with the ‘party line’ pretty much dictated by the big kayak brands.
Is it any wonder that under such circumstances kayak fishing is a sport that’s always been gear oriented? kayak anglers are continuously being pushed and tempted to purchase new kayak fishing gear, whether it’s necessary or not.

A SOT or Sit-In Fishing Kayak

A SOT kayak is a recognized code name for a paddle board. Such paddle boards are outfitted with footrest and a seat that has a backrest, the purpose of which is the keep the angler and the board in constant contact with each other, and by that make it possible or the angler to paddle the craft, and fish from it. Fishing SOT kayaks are wider than normal SOT kayaks, and are equipped with fishing related gear.
Do you need a SOT or Sit-In fishing kayak? We think you don’t since these kayaks are simply not good for paddling, and certainly not adequate as fishing platforms, simply because they are neither stable nor comfortable enough, as they are neither dry nor safe enough, or offer sufficient storage, mobility and fun.
Bottom line: You don’t need a SOT or Sit-In fishing kayak, and if you want to fish from a kayak, just get yourself a cheap recreational kayak and rig it with one or two rod holders.
If you want to fish from a kayak that offers full stability, real comfort, safe stand up fishing and paddling, sufficient and adequate storage, dryness, mobility and stability – get a W fishing kayak.

A Kayak With a Pedal Drive

Currently, three kayak brands offer pedal drives for some of their fishing models. Two of them offer drives activated by rotational motion of the legs, similar to biking, and featuring a standard, rotary propeller.
The third drive is activated by push pedals, and features a flapping propeller going back and forth in the water.
Although small pedal propelled watercraft have been around since the nineteenth century, they’ve never become very popular for a number of reasons that are as valid today as they were a hundred years ago:
Every watercraft has its hull speed – a number that means that propelling that boat above a certain speed would require a disproportional effort relatively to the actual acceleration. The shorter the hull, the smaller its hull speed number. Typical kayaks have a hull speed measured in a few mph (miles per hour). On top of that, old fashion fishing kayak hulls are relatively wide, which increases water resistance, and makes them much harder to propel at higher speeds.
Pedal drives get their power from our legs, which are much more powerful than our arms. At first glance, that would mean that a kayak powered by your legs would go much faster than if you powered with your arms, that is with a paddle, but that’s not exactly true:
Your fishing kayak is designed to move at a speed that’s lower than its hull speed, since your muscles are a very limited source of power that needs to be carefully preserved, or you’ll get exhausted.
If you wanted to get your kayak to go a little faster than that, you’d have to invest much more power than the relatively small increase in speed you’ll acheive, but unless you’re a well trained cyclist, your legs simply can’t sustain such effort for a long time.
That is to say that in the long run you’re not likely to be going significantly faster with a pedal drive powered kayak, because you’ll get tired after pedaling a short distance.

Between the rotational drives and the push-pedal one, the latter has a less efficient design, for the following reasons:
1. Rotating pedals enable conserving momentum, and push pedal don’t. Practically, it means you’re wasting more energy pushing pedals than turning them.
2. Similary, a rotating propeller enables conserving momentum that flapping blades lose each time the blade goes left and right.
3. A rotating propeller is more efficient, and therefor can be smaller, and thus would increase the kayak’s effective draft by less. In other words, flapping blades are no good in shallow water. On top of that, they’ll tend to ‘harvest’ seaweed more that a smaller, rotating propeller.

As for hands free fishing, it is little more than a myth cultivated by kayak vendors, since obviously, you need to steer your pedal propelled kayak with your hand while your legs are pushing or turning the pedals. This leaves you one free hand, but not really, since the pedaling motion makes it harder for you you maintain your sitting position in a kayak, so you often have to stabilize yourself by holding the hull with one, or two hands – If you observe pedal yakkers, you’ll often see them pedaling this way.

And last but not least: pushing and turning paddles in a kayak can’t be done without getting some support for this powerful action. In bikes, the support is offered vertically, by pushing against your own body weight that’s right above the pedals, but in a kayak, your legs are pushing horizontally, and they get their support from pushing your lumbar spine (that’s lower back) against the backrest of your seat.
This is not good for your back, to say the least, and one more reason why you don’t want to use this piece of kayak fishing stuff, let alone pay a premium for a fishing kayak that features such a device.  More reading on pedal drives for kayaks >>

Kayak Outriggers

SOT and sit-in kayaks are not stable enough for paddling and fishing standing. You may want to add a pair of outriggers to such a kayak, but you don’t to do it if you’re using a W-kayak, that’s more stable without outriggers than a SOT kayak is outfitted with outriggers.
In other words, you don’t need this piece of kayak fishing stuff.

A Rudder

Traditional fishing kayaks are wide, which makes them track poorly, and therefore make you lose time and energy paddling in zigzag, and battling wind and current. This is why you’ll find many vendors offering fishing kayaks with previously installed rudders in them, and others who recommend that you install a rudder in your kayak, if it doesn’t already have one.
But do you want a rudder at all? -Rudders are expensive, and need constant attention and manipulation to be effective. A rudder will slow you down, and if you paddle or fish in shallow water, your rudder will eventually get entangled in seaweed, or simply hit the bottom.
So why bother with a rudder and waste money and time on it? When you paddle a W-kayak you don’t need a rudder at all, since W kayaks track much better than old fashion sit-in and SOT kayaks.
Again, a rudder is another piece of kayak fishing stuff you don’t really want, or need.

A Kayak Seat

A kayak seat is the quintessential example of useless and expensive kayak fishing stuff that you’d better do without.
It goes without saying that if you own an old fashion sit-in kayak or SOT kayak, you must be connected to it by means of a seat and footrests, or else you’d be unable to stay seated and control your kayak. But being seated in any expensive kayak seat would still demand that you stay seated in the L position for long hours, with no alternative way to seat. Therefore, you’ll be building up pressure in your lower spine, and you’ll feel most uncomfortable after a while, realizing why kayaking is often synonym to back pain (yakback).
However, here again there’s a better solution: You don’t need a kayak seat in a W kayak, and you can be perfectly comfortable paddling it and fishing from it without having to waste your money on yet another piece of useless kayak fishing stuff.

Storage Hatches

Most fishing kayaks come equipped with at least one hatch, which is basically a hole in the hull, with a lid that’s supposed to be watertight. Kayak fishing stuff vendors would offer you to buy special ‘improved’ hatches for your fishing kayak, but do you really want to use hatches in the first place?
Being a cavity in your kayak hull, the hatch should always be closed when you’re on the water, for safety reasons. Hatches are rather small when you look at them from a storage perspective, which is basically what they’re supposed to offer, although they are often placed in such a way that makes it impractical for the kayak angler to reach them when they’re on the water.
In contrast, W kayaks offer several times more storage space in their hulls and cockpit, and you that storage space is always dry and accessible to you when you’re on the water.
Conclusion? Forget about hatches – they’re just more kayak fishing stuff you don’t want to mess with.

A Kayak Rack for Your Car

A car rack that’s specially designed to carry a kayak might seem like a cool thing to have, and it’s being promoted as one of those articles you’d better purchase for your fishing kayak. However, besides being expensive, this thing actually prevents you from loading other stuff on top of your car, and it just stays up there unless you take it off.
Do you need this kayak fishing stuff item? -Not of you have a W kayak, since those are guaranteed to fit any car rack, from any manufacturer, and they don’t require a special kayak rack.
Save your money for buying useful stuff!

A Crate for your Fishing Kayak

What’s a fishing kayak without a crate? Kayak anglers have gone so used to rigging their kayaks with crates that some of them would do it automatically to their new W kayak, although doing so is totally unnecessary: Old fashion sit-in and SOT kayaks offer too little or no storage space, even for non demanding kayak anglers. For this reason kayak anglers found it necessary to use crates on their kayaks, but W kayaks offer unlimited storage space, which makes a crate redundant.
Besides, crates catch wind, and make it harder to paddle and steer the kayak.
The bottom line is: You don’t want a crate, and you don’t need to rig your W kayak with all that above listed outdated kayak fishing stuff.

Not a Good Winter for Northern Kayak Fishing

What a winter it was!

We got slammed by big, early snow storms in December, and since then have had a particularly snowy and cold winter, with ice covering lakes and rivers.

Now it’s snowing again – Not serious, really, but enough to discourage any angler planning to take their kayak out and fish the recently de-iced nearby lake, or river.

But kayak anglers had a long time to dream, and plan, and work on rigging projects for their kayaks, and it looks like the coming fishing season is going to be interesting.

Maybe some have decided that fishing out of a traditional sit-in or SOT kayak is no longer an option for them, and enough is enough…

Anyway, one needs to be patient these days – Hold your breath – spring is near, and in fact it’s already here, if only according to the calendar…

What Northern Kayak Fishing Is About

Kayaks were invented by Inuits, who are people living in the arctic circle. But kayak fishing as a recreational sport, or outdoor activity, is largely a southern phenomenon, meaning it became much more popular in the Southeastern, Southern, and Southwestern regions of the United States, than in the Northern, colder regions.
In sum, considering the fact that SOT kayaks, and even sit-in kayaks offer too little stability, comfort and protection from the elements, and considering these facts also imply a lesser degree of safety for the angler, it is easy to understand why the numbers of kayak anglers in the north are far less impressive than they are in the south.

Kayaks were invented by Inuits, who are people living in the arctic circle. But kayak fishing as a recreational sport, or outdoor activity, is largely a southern phenomenon, meaning it became much more popular in the Southeastern, Southern, and Southwestern regions of the United States, than in the Northern, colder regions.

Florida, the sunshine state and world capital of fishing, is also the world capital for kayak fishing, with the biggest number of kayak anglers, kayak fishing guides, kayak fishing clubs, websites, dealers, online forums, etc.  Texas comes second, and then other southern states.

No wonder many people think of a fishing kayak as a ‘yak’, that is a sit-on-top kayak, or SOT, in short.

The situation is much different in the northern part of the country, and in Canada, where the idea of kayak fishing hasn’t been accepted with much enthusiasm, because of the different climatic conditions, including colder weather and water.

Let’s face it: Capsizing your kayak in cold water is anything between a very unpleasant incident and a very risky business, because of the danger of hypothermia. Even being constantly splashed and sprayed by cold water is unpleasant and potentially hazardous, especially on cold and windy days, and that’s pretty much what fishing from a kayak (sit-in or sit-on-top) means up here in the North, unless you’re willing to accept a kayak fishing season that’s limited to two months: July and August, and in the very northern states even that would be stretching it…

In sum, considering the fact that SOT kayaks, and even sit-in kayaks offer too little stability, comfort and protection from the elements, and considering these facts also imply a lesser degree of safety for the angler, it is easy to understand why the numbers of kayak anglers in the north are far less impressive than they are in the south.