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What is an Inflatable Boat?
It’s important that we’re on an even keel from the get-go, so we should address the terminology so as not to cause any confusion.
There are many types of inflatable “boats,” including float tubes, kayaks, and even some stand up paddleboards.
But for the purposes of this article, we’re going to be focussing on rafts, dinghies, and pontoons.
Now that we all know what we’re talking about, let’s briefly explore their advantages, and why you should be considering an inflatable boat for fishing in the first place.
Perhaps the most obvious plus point is portability and storage. You don’t need a large driveway and trailer with one of these inflatables, and it won’t take up all the space in your garage.
Likewise, when it comes to getting to and from the water, you can just throw the thing into the back of your vehicle and be off at a moment’s notice.
Inflatable boats are much more lightweight than their hardshell or aluminum counterparts, which also ensures that putting in and taking out will be easier along the water’s edge.
And you can do that almost anywhere – there’s no need to wait for a boat ramp to become available.
If it’s silence and stealth you’re after, inflatable boats have you covered. You don’t have to use loud, smelly motors that disturb the peace, and the hull in general is much quieter in and on the water.
But even if you do use one with a motor, you can still switch to paddles or oars, ensuring you don’t spook any fish – or anyone else who happens to be enjoying a relaxing day in the great outdoors.
When it comes to maintenance, you’ll find the inflatables to be very durable these days, and you might be surprised to learn they won’t get damaged as easily as a hardshell if you hit an obstacle.
Last but by no means least, inflatables cost considerably less than typical hardshell craft or bass boats – which can often set you back thousands of dollars.
It’s fair to say they have a lot going for them and are well worth your consideration, so let’s take a look at what’s available.
A more in-depth buyer’s guide follows the reviews.
Speaking of features, this heavy-duty fishing inflatable from Saturn just might take the crown when it comes to what they’ve added to upgrade this 2021 model.
Designed specifically for fishing, it can easily be used for snorkeling, scuba diving, or any other watersport recreational use.
It’s been made with a super-tough German Heytex PVC for strength and durability, with an aluminum floor for rock-solid standing casts and retrievals.
Then it’s just about how much awesome stuff can they cram in, with rod-holders, an inflatable keel, extra-wide protectors, aluminum benches, drain valves, and more D-rings than you have accessories to attach them to.
Probably the best inflatable fishing dinghy available right now.
Packed with quality features.
Very tough and durable.
Oars, pump, and repair kit included.
Detachable bow motor mount for electric trolling motor.
Rowing oar holders.
On the heavy side.
A premium-quality inflatable fishing dinghy that’s as tough as they come while absolutely jamming in useful features across the board. And just as durable, are these saltwater tackle bags – so don’t head out without one if you like fishing in more challenging conditions.
We can switch things up again now with this pontoon inflatable boat from Classic Accessories.
The Colorado is a popular fishing craft that’s been made with an abrasion-resistant PVC bottom, a tough nylon top layer, and a powder-coated steel tube frame for use in saltwater conditions.
A stowable transport wheel adds an ingenious way to help you get to and from the water, while a removable stripping basket and gear bags provide plenty of fishing friendly features when you’re out there.
It has a maximum weight capacity of 400 lbs, which you could easily fill considering how much storage room there is, while the detachable padded seat offers the best comfort for all-day angling.
Great price for what you get.
Loads of storage options.
Insulated drinks holders.
Bronzed oar locks.
Two-piece aluminum oars included.
Choice of colors.
The oars aren’t the best – really for motor use only.
Quite possibly the best inflatable pontoon boat for fishing on the market, this is a highly rated, spacious, and fun fishing craft that will certainly give you a work-out if you’re not using a trolling motor.
And there’s plenty of storage room on board for all your kit, including these saltwater fishing pliers, so you’ve no excuse for leaving anything behind.
Our next Sea Eagle offering is this compact and highly portable fishing package.
The PackFish 7 is a popular option for anyone who is really short on space, as this one-person craft is like a step-up from a float tube design.
As such, it’s super-lightweight at just 26 lbs when using the floorboard, and made with a durable 1,000-denier PVC-coated polyester that’s built to last.
Like most quality inflatables it has more than one air chamber just in case you’re unlucky enough to get a puncture when you’re out there, and rods and paddles can be stored using the industrial-strength Velcro tabs on the sides.
Further rod holders allow for trolling, and it even has fish rulers printed on the sides, so you can measure the beast as soon as you manage to land it.
Zipper pouches for storage.
Durable grab handles.
Tracking strips for stability.
Removable, inflatable seat.
Bag and pump included.
Low weight capacity/storage options.
Might be a bit uncomfortable for larger/older anglers.
If weight and portability are your primary concerns, then this little craft from Sea Eagle should definitely be on your shortlist.
This is perfect for traveling, and you should pair it with one of these practical travel fishing rods, so you can squeeze in a spot of cheeky fishing while on your business trip.
Here we have another quality dinghy-style inflatable, with the Sports Boat’s Swordfish model.
With an attractive, sleek design, it’s 10.8 feet in length, with extended rear pontoons and transom area that allows for a higher maximum weight capacity and larger motors with balanced stability.
The drop-stitch air flooring is super stable and reversible, so you can choose the look you prefer, with a teak deck effect as a stylish choice.
Aluminum bench seats are included, with a removable seat cushion and bag also thrown in for good measure. Made from thick, 1100 denier reinforced PVC material.
The boat is UV, oil stain, and puncture-resistant, and is fully United States Coast Guard approved.
And you’ll be up and ready to venture out inside ten minutes with this highly portable inflatable fishing boat, and take up to five people with you on your next adventure.
Rugged and durable construction.
Suitable for multiple conditions.
Front towing D-rings.
Aluminum oars, bag, and foot pump included.
Compatible with a 15HP engine.
This beast of an inflatable boat has been built to last – and look good while doing it. While it’s a little more expensive than some other options in this review, you’re probably not going to get much better than this at its current price point, and when it comes to performance, this is going to leave everything else in its wake.
This tank-like raft is almost like something you’d see Navy SEALs storming a beach in, and it’s certainly suitable for sneaking up on unsuspecting fish like a deadly military operation.
Highly portable, it fits perfectly in the bed of a pick-up fully inflated, or you can simply blow it up at the water’s edge when you get there.
Five glue-on deck mounts are included for rod holders and other accessories, and it also comes with two fly rod holders already built-in.
It’s trolling motor compatible, so you don’t have to rely on oar power all the time, and it’s super-sturdy in the water which makes it perfect for standing casts and reels.
And that’s certainly helped by the unique inflatable lean bar located at the bow of the craft, which will give you even more confidence for when you’re landing a monster.
Lightweight and easy-to-carry.
Super tough and durable.
Frameless cargo pockets.
Anchor lock with deck mount.
Comfort swivel seats.
Another beast of a watercraft that still manages to be only 102 lbs in weight, this is easily the best inflatable raft for fishing on the market. And that super strong and sturdy lean bar is a great addition that might well seal the deal for anyone who isn’t that confident standing on the water.
I might have spoken too soon in awarding the best inflatable raft for fishing, because the Stealth Stalker 10 from Sea Eagle is also a strong contender.
This is a superb option that’s incredibly lightweight and portable, yet designed to be used by up to four people with a 1200 lbs load capacity.
This is largely thanks to the oversized air chambers, which can also allow you to venture into shallower waters where other boats can’t go.
The frameless design can be stowed and transported with ease, and there’s plenty of fishing-friendly features on-board, including Scotty rod mounts, fish rulers, and four rod holders as standard.
Compatible with a motor and a canopy, you can kit this craft out to suit your needs, and there’s plenty of money-saving packages for extra convenience at the checkout.
Durable and lightweight.
Raised oar locks.
Two open/close floor drains.
Attractive hunter green finish.
Protection from choppier waters.
Swivel comfort seating.
Things can get expensive depending on your chosen loadout.
This is an awesome inflatable fishing raft that has so much going for it – and what it doesn’t have, you can add later. Highly customizable, the Stealth Stalker is suitable for multiple conditions, you can take it anywhere, and it’s just a whole lot of fun.
Another budget-friendly fishing inflatable now with this one-person boat that has been designed for lake fishing.
Tough and durable, it has been made from a 1000-denier three-ply fabric that is PVC coated to provide stability and agility, and it features a kayak-style seat for an elevated field-of-view and extra comfort.
The catamaran-style hull also improves upon its stability and performance on the water, and there are two oar locks on each gunwale for power and control when you’re rowing.
But if you don’t fancy using oars, a rigid transom is located at the stern of the boat that can accommodate a lightweight trolling motor, for effortless stalking in waters other craft are unable to venture.
Affordable price point.
Carry bag, pump, and gauge included.
Super lightweight and compact.
Flush-mounted rod holders.
Oars not included.
A great option if you’re looking for a quality, single-occupant inflatable boat, and you’re on a budget. It makes a nice alternative to a kayak, with the bonus of being compatible with a trolling motor.
There’s no canopy option, so you might want to wear one of these protective fishing hats if you’re going to be out there in the sun.
The Outdoorsman inflatable fishing boat from Solstice offers even more affordability, and is capable of accommodating up to four people (although that’s very much overkill for fishing purposes).
Made from heavy-duty reinforced vinyl, it has welded seams for extra strength and durability, and suitable for use in a variety of conditions.
The hull design has been bolstered to improve stability, and it comes with two sets of oar locks, making it easy to row from both main seating positions.
Inflating and deflating is speedy thanks to the Boston and compression valves, and the dual inflatable cushion seats are comfortable enough for this style of craft.
Two fishing pole holders are conveniently located, and it can actually accept a two horsepower gas or electric motor to the stern for extra power.
Lightweight and portable.
Inner hull grab lines.
Bow and stern handles.
Rugged, durable construction.
Oars and pump not included.
A simple but effective fishing raft that offers a versatile recreational experience at an affordable price. Just make sure you’re always wearing a certified fishing PFD – no matter how cheap or expensive your craft is.
Made as a collaboration between fishing stalwarts Orvis and outdoor specialists NRS, this is an exciting prospect when it comes to inflatable angling craft.
Suitable for tackling choppier conditions and whitewater, you can take this versatile boat where others fear to go, with a special hull tube design that not only batters through the waves, but also offers more room for storage in the bow and stern.
Aside from its unique performance capabilities, it also offers an eye-catching loadout, with a high back swivel seat for fishing, and a lower seat for rowing, built on a lightweight frame.
Four air chambers are encased in heavy-duty PVC with state-of-the-art seam welding, which ensures you stay afloat in the unlikely event of a puncture.
All in all, this is one awesome inflatable fishing raft.
Versatile use in all conditions.
Aluminum oar locks.
Anchor system and rope.
Solid, inflatable, drop-stitch floor.
Oars and super-pump included.
Durable carry handles.
Exorbitantly expensive for what it is.
When it comes to premium inflatable rafts, this joint offering from Orvis and NRS is up there with the very best. Perfect for tackling a spot of whitewater, perfect for fishing a lazy lake, perfect for just about anything.
This just smacks of quality, but the price tag is more than a little eye watering.
As far as pricing goes, I think we’ve found the two inflatable fishing boats that are the most polar opposites possible.
This offering from budget inflatable specialists Intex is easily the cheapest inflatable fishing boat out there (without sacrificing quality – at least).
A versatile recreational craft suitable for calmer waterways, it’s been made with a heavy-duty, puncture-resistant PVC, with an inflatable I-Beam floor for extra rigidity, and contains three air chambers just in case you do get a puncture.
It’s also the lightest option out there by far, which makes it a breeze to take to and from the water, and yet it has a very respectable weight capacity of 790 lbs.
This is perfect for taking on your next family vacation, and you can sneak away and throw a rod in when the kids are finally asleep.
Outstanding price point.
Very highly rated.
Suitable for up to three people.
Oars, pump, and repair patches included.
Gear pouch for storage.
Two fishing rod holders.
Grab lines for safety.
Oar holders and rotational oar locks.
It’s not going to be the most durable boat out there.
Not the best option for serious or regular anglers.
This Intex inflatable boat is the very definition of excellent value – just check out some of those reviews if you’re not convinced. And it’s even compatible with a small trolling motor, so as a versatile recreational and fishing craft – you really can’t go wrong at this price point.
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any more innovative, Sea Eagle manages to come up with this “Foldcat” inflatable fishing boat.
With two pontoons made from 1000 Denier reinforced materials, with quadruple overlap seams, it’s as airtight, tough, and durable as you would come to expect from the inflatable specialists.
But the real genius lies within the patented folding frame design, which offers a rock-solid fishing platform without the need for nuts and bolts.
It also ensures it’s one of the sturdiest inflatable fishing boats with minimal setup time, and you’ll be ready to go in under five minutes.
And the casting bar included offers extra peace-of-mind for standing casts and reels, on what is surely one of the most stable inflatables out there.
Solid, durable construction.
Very sturdy on the water.
Transom motor mount.
360-degree swivel seating.
Raised oar locks.
Four Scotty rod holders and mounts.
Bow and stern carry handles.
Setup time a little “inflated”.
Not suitable for whitewater.
As an alternative to a more traditional raft, dinghy, or kayak, this is a clever inflatable that offers excellent stability thanks to its pontoons.
But the folding frame design is just brilliant, ensuring it’s a highly portable craft you can get to the water’s edge with ease.
How to Choose an Inflatable Boat for Fishing
There are plenty of factors to consider when you’re in the market for an inflatable fishing boat.
Read on for some great tips and advice on what to look out for.
Materials and Durability
Perhaps the two biggest concerns with inflatable boats is how long they’re going to last, and how puncture-resistant they are. This boils down to what they’re made of – and how they’re made.
These days, most inflatable boats are constructed out of one of three materials – PVC, polyethylene, and Hypalon (or derivatives thereof).
They might also use aluminum flooring or framing – which is often powder-coated for anti-corrosion protection in saltwater.
The longevity of each will depend on the quality of the craft itself, but Hypalon is the preferred choice of the US Military and Coast Guard, so that’s head-and-shoulders above the other materials when it comes to durability.
That said, reinforced PVC and/or polyethylene is more than capable of standing up to the rigors of the great outdoors, and look for craft with electronically heat-treated seams for extra strength.
Check out the video below for some detailed information on how to ensure your inflatable enjoys the longest life possible with a bit of care and repair.
Type of Inflatable
“Inflatable boat” can be a broad term used to describe a number of different watercraft.
However, as mentioned in the introduction, I’ve chosen to focus on the three types I most associate with the word “boat.”
Comfort is very important when it comes to choosing the right kind of fishing craft for your needs, and you’ll notice that different types of inflatables have different types of seating.
You can find vessels where you simply sit on the deck, boats that use aluminum slats as seats, inflatable seats that are often removable, lawn-chair-style frames, and premium swivel chairs in more expensive models.
And speaking of expense, the better the seating, the more you’ll have to pay.
So, take this into consideration when deciding what is important to you. More often than not, you need to think about how physically fit you are, as well as your overall size.
Please don’t cram yourself into a tiny cockpit with a really uncomfortable seat just because it’ll save you a bit of money. Life is too short for that kind of nonsense.
Inflatable boats can offer a lot of space for storing extra gear and equipment, and some models are capable of handling high weight capacities, so you can bring even more stuff if you so choose.
However, they don’t have dedicated tank wells or storage hatches like kayaks do, so you’ll need to look for boats that offer other means of securing your belongings while you’re out on the water.
Check for boats with D-rings that you can lash your gear to, as well as under seat storage spaces if the craft offers raised seating positions.
You can always try using one of these kayak fishing tackle boxes, as some of them will work just as well with inflatable boats as they will on a kayak.
And I highly recommended getting a good quality fishing dry bag – to help protect your valuables and devices when you’re out there.
How you power the craft is another important consideration.
One of the main differences between inflatable boats and inflatable kayaks is the former are more commonly powered with gas or battery motors, while the latter will use a double-bladed paddle.
It’s essential you understand which boat is compatible with which motor. You don’t want to end up having a super-powerful engine weighing down the back of a tiny raft.
Check to see the maximum amount of horsepower each vessel is compatible with – if you’re 100% set on using a gas powered motor.
Alternatively, if you’d rather take things down a notch, make sure the craft has the option of adding a trolling motor. With that in mind, it will also need somewhere you can stash the battery pack.
At the very least, an inflatable boat needs to have a good set of oars, with quality oar locks to allow a smooth rowing cycle. The last thing you want is the oars floating off down the river.
And you never know when something might go wrong with the engine, or your motor battery dies to leave you stranded.
Remember, you need to have a modicum of fitness to manually pilot an inflatable boat – even more so than a kayak. They just don’t track nearly as well, are considerably slower as a result, and take a lot more effort to move.
As such, most anglers who choose to use an inflatable boat will be doing so with a suitable motor on board.
Fishing Friendly Features
You can fish from almost any watercraft, but it certainly helps if it comes with some decent fishing friendly features at the point of sale.
Of course, you can always feel free to kit out any inflatable boat to be an angler’s dream, but if you’re not so hot on DIY, or you’re just looking for convenience, it’s a good idea to look out for some FFFs as standard.
Rod holders and accessory mounting options are perhaps the two most popular additions, and the option of adding one of these awesome fish finders becomes much easier – for example.
Many inflatable boats come with a fish measuring ruler built-in, which makes things super-easy for an at-a-glance guide to the size of the whopper you just landed.
Oar parks are essential, so you can keep them out of the way when not in use – and close to hand in case of a problem if you’re using a motor.
Most of all, you’ll be looking to keep your hands free as much as possible, so you can actually get on with fishing, and spend less time worrying about the boat itself. Anything that helps you do that is a bonus.
Stuart is passionate about travel, kayaking, camping and the great outdoors in general. He's not quite as enthusiastic about angling as his father was, but out of the two of them, he's yet to hook his ear lobe while fly-fishing, which he sees as an absolute win.