When you think of inflatable boats, it might conjure up images of cheap rubber rafts that kids used to splash around in at the seaside.
But the technology has come a long way since then.
If you’ve not explored the latest and greatest means by which to catch more fish – then you’re missing out.
So, take a look at this review of the best inflatable boats for fishing in 2022 – and prepare to have your mind blown.
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.
You can check out this article on the best inflatable kayaks for fishing, and head over here for the best float tubes – if that’s what you would prefer.
And there’s also some excellent inflatables in this review of the best SUPs for fishing, too.
Why Choose an Inflatable Boat for Fishing?
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.
The 13 Best Inflatables for Fishing 2022
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.
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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.”
You can check out this article on inflatable boats versus inflatable kayaks to see a more detailed explanation of the differences with each.
In this article, we’ve covered:
Identified by an air chamber that encircles the whole craft, rafts typically do not use outboard motors, and are more like a floating platform powered by oars.
They’re certainly not the fastest boats in the water, but they can usually accommodate a lot of people and/or gear.
Rafts are commonly the most affordable of the three options, but there are more expensive, highly-durable models that are made with premium materials.
Dinghy inflatables are designed to be used with a trolling or outboard motor, and are recognized by their pontoon-style stern with solid transom.
Ideal for use in larger bodies of water – including coastal environments, you can reach crazy speeds in an inflatable dinghy given the right motor.
They nearly always have aluminum seating slats that are placed perpendicular to the hull, with a reinforced floor that is usually reversible and/or removable.
Pontoon inflatables – are of a catamaran style, with two distinct air chambers on either side of the craft that offers unbeatable stability on the water.
They’re also highly maneuverable, and very comfortable given their raised seating position and foot bars for rowing.
The type you choose depends on a number of factors, including the conditions in which you’re fishing, how you want to power your craft, and how many people you want to take with you.
Size/Number of Occupants/Portability
Inflatable boats tend to be wider than they are longer – especially when compared with some kayaks.
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You’ll find that they’re not often much larger than 10 feet from bow to stern.
This makes them super-stable, but they’re not going to be all that fast unless you’re using a motor.
The wider deck space will also afford you room to move around – as well as the chance to carry more occupants if you so desire.
That’s just not possible in most fishing kayaks – unless you’re using one of these tandem models, which some anglers prefer for the extra space.
The size of the inflatable should also be considered when it comes to how portable the craft is going to be. Will it fit in the back of your vehicle – or are you likely to need a trailer?
Bear in mind that you’re not going to be able to stand in all of them – so check to see if that’s possible if it’s something that is essential to your fishing technique.
And take a look at these articles on the best rods and reels on the market – in case you fancy an upgrade with your gear.
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.
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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.
And before I forget, take a look at this article on the best kayak anchors for fishing – which will also come in handy for all small boats.
As you can tell from the review, when it comes to price, inflatable boats vary wildly.
This is actually pretty awesome, as it ensures the sport is accessible to all, as there’s an affordable option out there for everyone.
You don’t have to spend the megabucks to get out there and enjoy fishing from an inflatable boat.
But if you are looking for alternatives, you can always check out this budget-friendly fishing kayak review.
Remember to buy the best you can afford, while suiting it to your own experience and skill level, as well as how often you’re actually going to use it.
And get something good the first time – as it seriously helps the planet by cutting down on waste.
I hope this article has encouraged you to consider the best inflatable boats for fishing in 2022. I don’t know about you, but I’m seriously impressed by the current technology.
They just keep getting better all the time.
Let me know which model you’re considering and why in the comments below.
Stay safe out there, tight lines, and happy fishing!