These days, there are all sorts of craft available to help keen anglers get out on the water.
Particularly if you don’t want to spend a fortune on a traditional boat.
Kayaks, canoes, and float tubes, hardshells and inflatables, there are a lot of options out there.
And rising in popularity, is the pontoon boat.
As such, we’ve decided to put together this review of the best inflatable pontoon boats of 2023, so you have even more choice when it comes to the type of craft you can fish from.
But let’s begin with a quick guide to get you started.
Table of Contents
- Inflatable Pontoon Fishing Boats – What to Look For?
- The 6 Best Inflatable Pontoon Boats in 2023
- How to Choose the Best Inflatable Pontoon Boat for Fishing
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Inflatable Pontoon Fishing Boats – What to Look For?
Before you dive into the reviews, it’s a good idea to prepare yourself with some advice on what you need to look out for with this unusual craft.
Keep the following features and factors in mind as you check out the products below:
- Size and weight.
- Weight capacity and number of occupants.
- Frame/deck design.
- Fishing features and storage.
- Motor Compatibility.
- Registration and local ordinance.
Depending on what you’re looking for, there might be some other features to consider that are personal to you and your needs – but the bullet points above will help get you started.
The 6 Best Inflatable Pontoon Boats in 2023
How to Choose the Best Inflatable Pontoon Boat for Fishing
As many folks might not be as familiar or comfortable with inflatable pontoons as they might be with kayaks, let’s explore the features and factors you should be looking out for before purchase.
What is an Inflatable Fishing Pontoon?
A pontoon is a wide craft that uses two parallel hulls connected with a deck or frame in order to stay afloat. They come in a variety of different types, including catamarans, inflatables, and trimarans – with three hulls.
An inflatable fishing pontoon is exactly that – an inflatable version of a pontoon style boat that has several chambers you fill with air, and has been specially designed for fishing.
Commonly powered by oars rather than paddles, you can also mount trolling motors to a pontoon for effortless directional control and propulsion.
What are the Benefits of an Inflatable Fishing Pontoon?
Pontoon boats can be more stable than traditional craft, as well as being more buoyant thanks to their hull design.
This is especially true of inflatable models, which offer two durable, puncture-resistant, float tubes that provide excellent stability on the water – arguably better than most kayaks.
A fishing pontoon can be a great choice if you’re hunting big fish, and you need more width and stability to your craft in order to confidently land a monster.
Some pontoons also come with a hard deck, which makes them ideal for standing casts and reels, and more suitable for fly fishing.
They can be more affordable than most kayaks and other boats, as well as offering unbeatable portability and storage when not in use.
Pontoon inflatables also offer a lot of versatility, particularly if they feature a hard deck. And just like one of these cool float tubes, on certain models, you can use flippers on your feet in the water for added power and control.
Aside from fishing, pontoon boats can be useful for hunters, bird watchers, and wildlife photographers, thanks to their near-silent, stealthy operation.
Size and Weight
One of the most attractive things about fishing inflatables is their portability. The smaller and lighter the model, the easier this will be.
If that’s something that interests you, look for the more compact pontoons and pay attention to how much they weigh – particularly if they also come with a removable hard deck of some description.
Check the dimensions of the pontoon, both fully inflated and packed down. Will it fit in your vehicle – or will you need a trailer or roof rack?
Do you have the room to store it at home?
Remember, inflating and deflating these craft is one of its significant downsides compared to a hardshell, so you need to be aware of its size in both states, depending on when, where, and how you want to set it up and take it down.
And check out these cool travel fishing rods, that can be a great addition to your arsenal for the ultimate in fishing portability.
Weight Capacity and Occupants
As well as considering the total weight of the craft itself, it’s very important you know and understand its weight capacity when it’s out on the water.
Thankfully, because of their design, inflatable pontoon boats will commonly have a higher weight capacity than most kayaks.
This is advantageous if you want to bring along more gear, you’re catching big fish, or there’s more than one human on board.
You also need to decide if you want a solo vessel for fishing alone, or if you’d like the option of taking a buddy with you. Some pontoons are versatile enough to offer both.
Either way, you need to make sure the maximum weight capacity is going to safely take you, your gear, any fish you might catch, and a partner or four-legged-friend you might be out there with.
Having comfortable seating is one of the most important features of any decent fishing boat – and it’s here that a craft can stand or fall.
Take a look at these fishing canoes, for example, which often provide a spacious position with excellent field-of-view, but the seating is nowhere near as comfortable as some high-end kayaks.
This is where inflatable pontoons also excel – the seating in these things is arguably just as good as the kayaks – if not better.
Especially if the seating can swivel through 360-degrees for the best possible field-of-view and overall fishing experience as a result.
The ability to fish in all directions can knock spots off static kayak seats – no matter how comfortable they are.
Even if the seat doesn’t rotate, pontoon seating still offers the angler a wide field-of-view for casting and surveying the waters around him or her.
Look out for padded seating options that provide the best possible support.
But remember, you also need to make sure it’s going to be compatible with a life preserver, so take a look at these fishing PFDs and choose one that’s going to work in tandem with the seat.
Next, you’ll need to decide on the kind of deck or frame you want on your pontoon. For the most part, you have one of two options.
A powder-coated frame that fits on top of the float tubes is most commonly found in solo craft.
A fold-out aluminum deck is more synonymous with larger, two-person vessels.
Each has their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to size, weight, portability, space, and performance out on the water.
If you’re happy remaining seated, and/or you enjoy using flippers as a means of getting around, then the single frame design would be a good choice for you.
If you prefer the opportunity to practice standing casts and reels, you’re heading out with a partner, or you simply want more space, then a foldable deck should be on your radar.
I always say that in order for any craft to be considered suitable for fishing, it needs to actually have fishing-friendly features as standard.
For the most part, the pontoons in the review above all qualify, and they have at least one practical design catering for anglers.
Be on the look-out for storage options – such as baskets, zippered pockets, or fishing bags.
Stripping aprons are useful for fly-fishing in order to keep line out of the way.
Rod holders are very practical, and can be useful when baiting line and trolling for fish, as well as having somewhere to store your poles when they’re not in use.
Fish measuring tapes are a nice addition, so you can see the size of the monster you’ve landed at-a-glance. You could also pack one of these quality fishing scales to get an accurate weight reading, too.
A cast bar is a great inclusion for standing casts and reels, as well as providing extra stability and support when you’re on the water, as well as entering and exiting the boat.
But even if your chosen model doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles, look for a product that has the capabilities of adding aftermarket extras and accessories – such as these fish finders for small boats, for example.
And you can always do a spot of DIY and customize your pontoon to suit your fishing style.
Take a look at the video below to see a great example of one angler’s inventive pontoon modifications – using the Colorado craft in the review, above.
One of the downsides of inflatable fishing pontoons is that they’re nowhere near as fast as a good-quality kayak.
Unless, of course, you’ve added an outboard motor.
As such, it’s a very good idea to not simply rely on your oars as a means of propulsion, and you make sure your chosen craft is capable of handling a trolling motor – either gas or battery-powered.
I believe that all the products in this review have that option, but just be aware of their limitations when it comes to how much horsepower and/or thrust they will allow.
As a rule of thumb, most craft will take a 2-3 HP engine, or 30-55 lbs thrust trolling motor. But don’t quote me on it – make sure to double-check with your chosen craft.
And remember that some pontoon options are designed for use with kicker fins in the water, which can offer a silent way of fine-tuning your position, similar to that of a float tube.
Registration and Local Ordinance
Something that’s often overlooked with pontoon boats, is the need to have your craft registered with local authorities.
These laws will likely differ depending on the state you live in, so don’t forget to check what you need to do in your area before purchasing.
This is especially true if you plan on adding any kind of outboard motor to your craft. Failing to toe the line of local ordinance will cost you a hefty fine.
Make sure your registration documents are clearly displayed on your vessel – some pontoons might have a waterproof window in order to do so.
Inflatable pontoon boats are commonly cheaper than most kayaks, unless you’re looking at these excellent budget fishing kayaks, for example.
But for the most part, these pontoons are accessible and a great alternative to other craft.
Pontoons with fold-out aluminum hard-decks are more expensive, as are any models that are designed to be used by more than one person.
Before you dive in and spend a small fortune on a pontoon, make sure it’s 100% the right craft for you.
For all the benefits of pontoon fishing, kayaks are still more versatile, and you should take that into consideration before purchasing.
And when you’re ready to take the plunge, so to speak, always buy the best you can afford. It might be pricey now, but most keen, regular anglers see it as a worthwhile, long-term investment.
Are inflatable pontoon boats good for fishing?
Yes, they are. Inflatable pontoon boats make excellent fishing craft, because they are portable, near-silent, offering a good field-of-view, and are super-sturdy on the water.
They’re also spacious, and some offer the opportunity to do comfortable standing casts and reels from a stable, fold-out deck.
Which is better, a pontoon or a kayak for fishing?
Great question, and to be honest, it would take a whole article to weigh-up the pros and cons of each.
It just depends on your needs and the kind of fishing experience you’re looking for. Take a look at the video below, which shows them both in action side-by-side, and see if you can draw your own conclusions.
What is the smallest pontoon boat available to buy?
I think both the Classic Accessories Roanoke and Sea Eagle 285 might be able to claim this title. Certainly, the Sea Eagle is one of the lightest – if not the lightest on the market.
Remember not to confuse float tubes with pontoons. While they share similar characteristics, and float tubes are the lightest, most portable fishing craft you can find, they are different boats entirely.
What size trolling motor do I need for a pontoon boat?
Another good question, and another that would require a whole article dedicated to the subject.
It depends on so many factors, including the size and type of the boat, how much weight it’s carrying, where you’re using it, and the conditions you’re likely to face.
That list isn’t exhaustive.
In order to answer this question properly, I would advise you to check with the manufacturer and/or specifications of the particular boat you’re interested in.
Alternatively, you can check out this review of the best kayak trolling motors, which will have a buyer’s guide that might be able to point you in the right direction.
Fishing craft come in all shapes and sizes these days, each with their advantages and disadvantages, all vying for your consideration as your chosen vessel.
And the best inflatable pontoon boats for 2023 are no exception.
Let me know which model you’ve gone for and why, if you’ve decided a kayak would be more suitable, or if you simply have any pontoon experience you’d like to share with the community.
Tight lines everyone, and happy fishing!