The Ultimate Guide To Inflatable Fishing Boats
When I was a kid, our fishing options were limited.
We could fish from the bank or drag our old aluminum Jon boat from the barn out to the pond.
And if our aspirations took us farther than the farm pond, we had to get help.
It took at least two strong adults to lift the boat to the top of my parent’s minivan and strap it down for the ride.
Once we arrived, it was time to wrestle the boat out to the water.
By the time we finished loading and launching, we’d made enough noise to scare all the fish in the lake.
Every time, I thought, “there has to be a better way!”
The past few summers, I’ve been doing my fishing from inflatable fishing boats.
The versatility, access, and cost have finally allowed me to fish remote, awe-inspiringly ponds and lakes.
All without the headaches of a Jon boat!
So in this article, we’re going to deep dive into inflatable fishing boats, specifically:
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WHAT EXACTLY IS AN INFLATABLE FISHING BOAT?
An inflatable fishing boat is a fairly simple idea but it comes in many shapes, forms, and sizes.
Some are glorified innertubes. Other’s have a nice set of oars. While some can support a small outboard motor.
For example, there are:
- Float Tubes
- Stand Up Paddle Boards
- Sit On Top Kayaks
- Sit Inside Kayaks
- Small Pontoon Boats
These are all inflatable boats, but as you can tell, they are very different in design. As long as it is a boat that you fill up with air – it’s considered inflatable (no matter the design).
However, for it to be an inflatable fishing boat, it must also have design features with fishermen in mind.
The truth is, you can fish in anything from an old inner tube to a fully rigged whitewater raft.
5 GREAT REASONS TO GET AN INFLATABLE FISHING BOAT
1 – Lightweight & Portable
The most obvious reason is the lightweight and portable construction.
NO more struggling to get a small aluminum fishing boat out of the garage.
Imagine carrying a package the size of a large duffle bag to the next fishing hole.
STOP wrestling a Jon boat on top of the car.
2 – Skip The Busy Boat Ramp
Speaking of traveling, they make driving far easier and keeps your boat safer during travel.
SKIP the busy parking at a boat ramp.
No more wait your turn to get down to the water. Instead, go straight to the beach with your pump and get started!
Never waste an hour (or more) in the parking lot again; get fishing within minutes of arrival.
3 – Gain Your Driveway / Garage Space Back
Between fishing trips, a conventional fishing boat takes up a lot of storage space.
Inflatable fishing boats can pack down to a size that fits under the bed, in a spare closet, or on a shelf in the garage.
This means you can stop filling up your driveway or garage with a boat and trailer.
Even apartment dwellers can have a fishing boat at the ready for a weekend trip to the lake!
4 – They Don’t Scare The Fish Away
Lastly, there’s one benefit a lot of people overlook.
Inflatable fishing boats are QUIET!
If you drop something in the bottom of an aluminum boat, every fish in the lake will hear that bang.
Some fish easily startle.
Any unexpected noise can cause them to stop biting and to seek calmer, quieter areas.
But, if you drop something in an inflatable fishing boat, it quietly bounces.
The same goes for any rocks or logs you happen to bump into – no loud bang, just gentle a bounce.
5 – Very Affordable (especially for a fishing boat)
Lastly, most inflatables are much less expensive than conventional fishing boats.
If you’re just getting into boat fishing, it’s hard to justify the cost of a $15,000 bass boat.
But there are inflatable options for nearly every budget.
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KEY FEATURES OF INFLATABLE FISHING BOATS
There are some specific features common to fishing inflatables.
Understanding these features will help you narrow down your choices.
On Board Storage
Every regular fisherman knows fishing takes knowledge, patience, and the proper gear.
Sure, you can get away with a single rod, line, hook, and worm. But you increase your chances of success with more options.
Local bait shops understand this.
That’s why they offer thousands of different fishing options:
- Rods (various lengths, and rod strength)
- Line (different test weights, materials)
- Bait/Hooks (live baits, artificial baits)
- Tools (plyers, live wells, etc.)
Even the flyfishing purists can get loaded down with gear. Filling all their vest pockets with various flies, line clippers, and other odds and ends.
Managing all this gear in a boat can be a challenge. So the best fishing inflatables have storage built into the boat.
At the very least, rod holders keep your expensive rods and reels clear of the oars. And they also allow you to have a troll line out as you paddle.
Extra zipper compartments are great for small items. While a roll-top drybag or watertight box can keep your keys, wallet, and camera safe.
It’s far easier to fight an active fish if you can stand up and move around a bit.
For this reason, the better inflatables are designed for stability.
This often means a broader beam to prevent a sideways roll.
This stability allows you to shift your weight from one edge to the other without capsizing.
It can also mean the boat paddles a little slower than a narrower profile boat.
But it’s a price most fishermen gladly pay to avoid falling in the drink while fighting their catch.
When you’re out on the water, being able to maneuver the boat quickly can help in a wide range of situations.
In general, a shorter length boat will turn more rapidly and with less effort.
This allows you to slip around trees and work your way through twisting channels in the weeds in calm lakes.
Or it can help you dodge rocks and strainers if you choose to fish whitewater rivers.
Without a doubt, shorter boats can’t reach the same speeds as longer boats.
But being able to steer clear of obstacles – saving you from an unexpected swim!
The vinyl used in discount stores inflatable boats is incredibly thin. The material struggles to stand up to fishing excursions.
Hooks, fish spines, sharp rocks, and even the gravel on a launch pad can spell disaster for those weak materials.
The best fishing inflatables are made of heavy-duty materials.
They are often reinforced with fabric, to withstand the abuse of fishing.
Yet, even so, compared to an aluminum boat, you must treat an inflatable boat with a bit more caution.
So shouldn’t drop, drag, slam, beat, kick your inflatable like you can a Jon boat.
And while they are not as indestructible as aluminum boats, they will last with a bit of care.
Also, keep a patch kit handy, just in case.. Especially if your favorite fishing hole happens to have lots of sharp rocks or submerged logs.
INFLATABLE FISHING BOAT TYPES (with recommendations)
The market for inflatable fishing boats is growing fast. Which is great but all those options come with much confusion.
It seems like there are as many inflatable fishing boat options as there are fishermen.
But the right inflatable fishing boat for you depends on a number of factors:
- The type of water (pond, lake, river, ocean)
- Fishing technique (bobber, casting, fly)
- Group size (single, family)
- Kind of fish (catfish, bluegill, bass)
Float Tube Fishing Boat
When fishing solo in flat water or gentle streams, a float tube is a great option.
Float tube models range from a covered inner tube to a more modern U-shaped tube.
This design offers a wide range of seat options, rod and gear storage, and safety features.
In this inflatable fishing boat, you sit up to your waist in the water in a seat suspended inside the tubes.
Since much of your body is in the water the whole time, a float tube is best for warm waters. However, cooler water fishing is possible if you wear waders with the float tube.
Float tubes are among the lightest and most portable fishing inflatables.
Making them popular among fishermen in backcountry lakes.
One drawback of the float tube -you propel the boat by kicking your feet. This leaves you with limited maneuverability.
Any sort of current can make things a real challenge and expect slow progress in calm waters.
Classic Accessories Cumberland Inflatable Fishing Float Tube
This is one of the best float tube fishing boats for backpacking into the remote wilderness!
Why? First off, it has a 350-pound max capacity, but only weighs 14 lbs.
That means it’s ideal to take along to the remote backwaters. It even comes with adjustable carrying straps.
This inflatable tube rig also has a thick padded seat with an adjustable backrest. Keeping you comfortable and your main body up out of the water.
There’s also 2 fishing rod holders and 2 large cargo pockets.
Plus, it’s tough as hell.
Because it has an Abrasion-resistant PVC bottom and hydrodynamic hull shape.
Finally, there’s a large mesh stripping apron right in front of you. So you can work on your line and lure with ease. It includes an integrated fish ruler as well.
Stand Up Paddleboard Fishing Boat
Yes, you can fish from a stand-up paddleboard (SUP). But you must have an exceptional balance to pull off the feat.
For those gifted individuals, the SUP provides lightweight, portable fishing. Nearly as much as a float tube.
But this options provides some real advantages over a float tube.
It gives you a higher viewpoint, better propulsion, and less contact with the water (if you don’t fall off)!
Some SUPs come with rod holders, others rely on accessory rod holders.
It’s popular to have a small waterproof deck bag on the nose of the board for gear, keys, etc.
SUPs are great for flat water. But, there are some designs made for rivers, with shorter, more maneuverable shapes.
Aqua Marina Drift Fishing Inflatable Stand-up Paddle Board
The Aqua Marina Inflatable SUP is made with anglers in mind.
This rig is more stable than your regular stand up paddle board because it has 2 independent side chambers.
It has built-in rod holders and elastic bungee cords to keep your tackle box secure.
Finally, you also get a fishing cooler with this SUP. The cooler is the perfect size and height for this paddle board and also has a built-in seat.
Sea Eagle FishSUP 126 Inflatable FishSUP
This decked out fishing paddle board is the top of the line in the inflatable SUPs for fishermen.
Once inflated, this rig is 12’6″ long, 40″ wide and 6″ thick. Making it extremely buoyant and stable.
The deck size provides a huge surface area to get your rod ready and to fight aggressive fish.
It’s a lightweight fishing machine you can roll up and fit into a backpack!
But you can also add your own small trolling motor and it even includes a swivel seat.
Sit On Top Kayak Fishing Boat
One of the most popular kayak styles for fishing, a sit-on-top.
This type of inflatable fishing boat as the distinct advantage of being able to recover if you tip over.
That’s because the boat has no real “interior.”
Just flip a sit-on-top upright and climb back inside without having to bail water.
For those new to kayaking, this makes it far easier to feel confident. Since you can self-rescue if something happens on the water.
They’re also more maneuverable than float tubes or SUPs, especially in river waters. But they’re not designed for intense rapids.
The main drawback being you’re in constant, direct contact with water.
So cold water fishing can be uncomfortable without a wetsuit.
But, for warm water, gentle river fishing, you won’t do much better than a sit-on-top kayak!
Sevylor QuickPak Coverless Sit-On-Top Kayak
This grab-and-go kayak only takes 5 minutes to set up.
It measures at 8 feet 7 inches in length and 3 feet wide. Allowing it to hold up to 400 lbs.
Don’t worry about this rig leaking due to it’s integrated”Airtight System” design.
Finally, it comes with dual tracking fins for easier maneuverability!
Sit Inside Kayak Fishing Boat
If your fishing trends more towards rivers and some rapids, a sit-inside kayak is a great solution.
Some sit-inside boats are designed with a self-bailing floor. These can shed water after capsizing.
This makes it easier to get back inside and under control after capsizing.
They’re usually more stable than other kayaks since the paddler sits lower in the boat.
It also has higher sides and more floatation for whitewater.
Elkton Outdoors 2 Person Inflatable Fishing Kayak
This inflatable kayak is set up for fishing on just about any water – calm or rough.
This 2 person inflatable kayak can be ready in minutes. And blows up to 9 feet 8 inches in length and nearly 3 feet in width.
This kayak is made with 18 gauge rip resistant 1000D PVC.
Making it highly resistant to tearing due to fishing hooks or sharp obstacles.
Plus, it includes the following accessories:
- 2 adjustable seats
- 6-rod holders (2 verticles / 4 trolling)
- 2 sets of double-sided oars
- a double action pump with a carry bag
Finally, with 3 separate removable air chambers, you can quickly make adjustments or repairs.
Sevylor Quikpak K5 1-Person Kayak
This sit inside inflatable kayak is made from 24 gauge PVC construction. It also has a tarpaulin bottom and polyester cover.
Multiple chambers mean you won’t sink if one of the chambers gets punctured.
However, with Sevylor’s “Airtight System” it’s guaranteed not to leak!
This is an excellent kayak to customize and add all your favorite fishing accessories.
Pontoon Fishing Boat
This is a hybrid between a catamaran and a whitewater raft.
A pontoon is a GREAT option for fishing while on your next whitewater adventure!
The wide stance of the cataraft provides a considerable amount of stability. And the rowing frame allows for exceptional maneuverability and lots of gear storage.
Often enough storage for overnight camping gear.
Many come with accessory bags and even coolers and dry boxes!
Catarafts are bulky. They’re also cost more versus other inflatable fishing boats.
But for the right person, the benefits far outweigh these concerns.
A cataraft sits above the water. This makes it ideal for all water temps and most whitewater conditions.
They’re also far more comfortable for the rower than other inflatables. Since they include a well-supported seat and footrests for leverage.
Some pontoons even come with an anchor!
That way you can position yourself for excellent fishing, even in a strong current.
Classic Accessories Colorado XT Inflatable Pontoon Boat
This impressive rig comes with a seat mount and adjustable footrest to accommodate everyone; short or tall.
It has a versatile rod holder that can be mounted in six different positions.
This pontoon rig is tough due to its powder-coated steel tube frame.
You also get two – 7-foot aluminum oars to help you navigate choppy rapids.
Hold your position even in fast currents with a smart anchor system that includes pulley controls.
Finally, store all your gear and supplies in the rear storage platform, 2 insulated drink holders, and 20 pockets!
Aquos Inflatable Pontoon Boat
This is one hell of a fishing pontoon boat with an aluminum desk for standing; ideal for the bass fisherman out there.
This impressive rig features a large platform. Big enough for two anglers, yet still packs up easily and can fit into a car. So no trailer needed!
It has four individual chambers (including the two extra reinforced chambers) to provide exceptional buoyancy.
This is enough stability to allow two anglers to stand on the same side; it won’t capsize.
With full-size aluminum floorboards and stainless steel guard bar, this fishing boat can be modified as much as you desire.
It comes with a 360-degree swivel seat. One that offers plenty of back support and generous cushions.
Finally, you can (and should) add a motor to this inflatable fishing boat. It has an engine capacity of up to 6 hp and a 79 pounds maximum weight.
Raft Fishing Boat
If you’re fishing with more than one person, it’s difficult to find a small inflatable that fits everyone.
At this point, you have to get a bit larger, and the choice often leads to rafts.
Unfortunately, rafts tend to be the most variable in construction and durability. From sub-$100 boats to whitewater rafts costing over $5000.
You can find different rafts at nearly any price point.
For a few days a summer on a calm lake, many of the lower price rafts may suit your needs.
If you spend weeks every year on rougher waters, you’ll find durability issues on the lower end of the spectrum.
In this case, you’ll want to upgrade to a whitewater raft with a rowing frame.
You can even get a fishing platform frame for many of the specialty whitewater rafts.
These specialty rafts provide balance and a stable platform for casting and fighting.
These higher-end rafts also come at a weight cost.
One of the most important reasons for getting an inflatable fishing boat in the first place.
But the can still make sense for the right person, just make sure to account for that before you get one.
Intex Seahawk 4, 4-Person Inflatable Boat
This boat can fit up to 4, making it perfect to take the family fishing out on a lake.
Overall it measures 11 feet by 4 feet and can hold up to 814 pounds!
It’s made with super-tough 30-gauge PVC vinyl.
Making its construction resists abrasion and impacts.
Includes 2 air chambers for safety and 2 fishing rod holders at the rear.
It comes with welded oarlocks, oar holders, and a set of oars.
Or mount a small motor to the back of this boat instead.
Between the low price of this raft and the ability to customize it – it an awesome entry rig.
AIRE Tributary Twelve HD Self-Bailing Raft
Maybe you need something even bigger. Then you’ll need this beast of an inflatable raft!
This raft is 12 feet 4 inches long and 5 feet wide – allowing it to hold up to 6 – 200 lbs. adults.
The welded PVC outer shell seams and the internal urethane bladders are the foundation of this highly durable self-bailing raft.
Three main tube air chambers provide a safety margin in case of an accident, and zippered tubes allow for easy access to the bladders in case repairs are needed.
This is more of a whitewater raft than a fishing rig but, it can fit a large group in choppy water.
Finally, there are inflatable dinghy’s if you need extreme power propulsion.
This is an excellent option for larger lakes and coastal waters.
These inflatables are designed to hold a small to medium outboard motor on a rigid transom.
Many also include a reinforced floor, solid thwarts, and seats.
Plus, some have full oarlocks for rowing in close quarters or if you run out of gas.
Dinghies keep the occupants relatively dry – far more so than most inflatables.
This alone makes them the best bet for cold, coastal ocean waters.
Many designs also feature several grip points and rope handles,
These help swimmers get back into the boat in an emergency.
Inflatable dinghy designs rarely seem to have fishing specific features. However, most support accessory rod holders and other add-ons.
Due to their agility in harbors, inflatable dinghies are favorite tenders for sailboats.
They can land and launch from all but the steepest beaches, which can be helpful in an emergency.
Goplus 2 or 4-Person Inflatable Dinghy Boat
You can get this Dinghy in a 7.5-foot or 10-foot configuration.
This inflatable dinghy is made of 3 layers of 0.9mm PVC making it saline-alkali and sunshine resistance.
It includes a wooden hard deck for standing and can hold up to 400 lbs.
It has 3 separate chambers for safety in case one gets damaged.
Other features include:
- a light keel
- marine plywood transom mounts
- thick anti-collision strips (around the entire boat)
- marine sealant to resist leaks
- heavy duty grab and go rope
You can mount up to a 10 HP motor on this rig.
Newport 8-Feet 10-Inch Dana Inflatable Dinghy
The Newport Dana Dinghy is made with US Coast Guard rated 3x layer .9mm/1100D UV Coated PVC, and glued with advanced German engineered adhesives.
- sturdy carrying handles
- 3 stainless steel bow D-rings
- self-bailing drain plug
- Marine plywood transom mount
- Easy-Reach Grab Rope
This boat can hold up to a 10HP engine and speeds over 20 mph (conditions depending).
Here’s a video showing an inflatable dinghy fishing setup:
Inflatable fishing boats have made considerable advances in the past few years.
They’re moving from a novelty fishing option to an excellent tool for all serious fishermen.
Their lower cost, lightweight design, and compact storage make them an attractive option.
Just make sure you have a good pump!
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