Inflatable kayaks are great boats for fishing. Modern inflatable fishing kayaks provide a stable platform for casting and come with fishing-specific features and mounting options. You can use them on ponds, lakes, rivers, and sheltered ocean bays.
Fishing involves lots of sharp, pointy things. Pair sharp items with inflatable objects and what do you think of? A balloon going pop, most likely!
Bearing this in mind, are inflatable kayaks good for fishing?
The answer is yes — with caveats. I wouldn’t recommend fishing in a bargain-basement $150 kayak from Walmart. A good quality inflatable kayak that’s designed for fishing is another matter.
These kayaks use tough materials and advanced technology to create a stable platform that feels more like a rigid boat than a blow-up bathtub. They come with flexible mounting and storage features, so you can customize your setup.
Read on to find out more about the pros and cons of inflatable fishing kayaks and get your questions answered.
Fishing From an Inflatable Kayak
If you’re looking at an inflatable kayak for fishing, it may be because you want a boat that’s easy to store and transport.
Inflatable kayaks win hands-down over hardshells in this regard. They’re lightweight and fold down to a suitcase-sized package that you can pull on wheels or carry on your back.
This isn’t the only advantage that inflatables have over hardshell kayaks. But there are downsides, too.
Here are some of the pros and cons of using an inflatable kayak for fishing, compared to a hardshell kayak.
Advantages of an Inflatable Fishing Kayak
- Packs down for easy storage.
- Fits in most car trunks.
- Can be taken on public transport (including airplanes).
- Very stable for fishing.
- Easy to customize your setup.
- High seat position for better visibility.
- Generous weight capacity for transporting fishing gear.
Disadvantages of an Inflatable Fishing Kayak
- Time-consuming to deflate and pack away.
- More likely to be affected by wind.
- Slower and more cumbersome to paddle.
- No built-in dry storage.
- Shorter lifespan than a hardshell kayak.
When choosing an inflatable for kayak fishing, cost matters . If you want an inflatable kayak that’s good for fishing, you’ll need to budget at least $500, and ideally, up to $1000.
The key difference between a $500 kayak and a $1000 kayak is the quality of materials and construction. More expensive models have a high-pressure drop-stitch floor that’s rigid and stable enough to stand up on. They also have more fishing features and opportunities to customize your rig.
If your budget won’t stretch to a quality inflatable kayak, you’ll be better off in a cheap hardshell kayak than a cheap inflatable kayak.
Are Inflatable Boats Safe for Fishing?
Don’t worry about accidentally puncturing your kayak with your fishing hook or knife. It’s best to take care with your equipment, but modern, high-quality inflatables are very difficult to puncture.
Sea Eagle even drove over its Explorer kayak in a Jeep to prove its durability:
Unlike hardshell kayaks, inflatables bounce off rocks and other obstacles. This means you’re less likely to damage them in the water. You can even take some models on whitewater rapids.
That said, you don’t want to get complacent. I’d suggest always taking a repair kit with you when kayak fishing, just in case the worst does happen.
Inflatable Kayak Materials
A few very cheap kayaks are made from vinyl, but I’d recommend steering clear of these as their lifespan will be as short as a birthday balloon.
Most inflatable kayaks are made from PVC, the quality of which can vary. As a general rule, if you pay more, you’ll get thicker PVC and a more durable boat.
Inflatable Kayak Design and Construction
Inflatable kayaks usually have at least 3 air-tight compartments. This means that if one gets punctured, the other two compartments will keep the kayak afloat.
Punctures aren’t the only thing to watch out for. Cheap kayaks may have weak seams or valves that are prone to leaking.
The best way to avoid these issues is to buy a quality kayak from a reputable manufacturer. Welded seams are stronger and more reliable than glued seams.
Can You Take An Inflatable Kayak on the Sea?
You can take an inflatable kayak on the sea in certain conditions. As with everything in life, there’s a balance of risk and reward. Taking any kayak on the sea can be dangerous if you don’t have the right skills and equipment.
In a calm, sheltered bay with no strong currents, you should be fine kayak fishing in an inflatable. (Assuming you have a durable model.)
The open ocean is a different story. Inflatable kayaks sit higher in the water than hardshells. This makes them harder to control in extreme conditions. Wind affects them more, and they can be harder to paddle.
If you do decide to take your kayak out on the sea, make sure it’s resistant to saltwater, and don’t forget to wash it down when you get back to shore.
How Do You Use an Inflatable Fishing Kayak With a Trolling Motor?
If you want to use a trolling motor, it’s worth looking for an inflatable kayak that has a built-in mounting point. The Sea Eagle 385fta FastTrack and the Advanced Elements StraitEdge Angler Pro are both motor mount compatible.
If your chosen inflatable doesn’t have an appropriate mount, there are various DIY options including this $2 motor mount.
Do Inflatable Kayaks Have Fishing Features?
Some inflatable kayaks have built-in fishing features. Others can be adapted to carry a fishing rod, tackle, and other fishing gear. If you want a fishing-specific kayak, look out for the following features.
Elevated Seat Position
An elevated seat gives you better visibility and makes casting easier. It also makes it simpler to move between standing and seated positions. Framed seats are usually more comfortable and keep your butt dry.
An elevated seat position makes fishing easier, but it can make paddling harder, especially if you’re paddling into the wind. A height-adjustable seat, such as the one in the Aquaglide Blackfoot Angler 130 inflatable kayak, gives you the best of both worlds.
Rod and Paddle Holders
You won’t get very far fishing without your fishing rod. Holding your rod between your knees while paddling isn’t an ideal setup, so you’ll need something to ensure you aren’t at risk of losing your gear. Rod holders keep your rods safe and leave your hands free to paddle, sort your catch, or eat your lunch.
Vertical rod holders are useful for storing your rods. Angled holders are ideal for trolling. A multi-purpose swivel rod holder suits almost every style of fishing and gives maximum flexibility.
Some fishing kayaks come with built-in rod holders. Others have mounting plates or frames that you can attach holders to. Mounting points are more flexible than built-in holders as you can decide which type of holder you want to mount where.
You’ll also need some way of storing your paddle while you’re fishing. A paddle holder keeps it securely out of the way and makes sure it won’t go overboard. The best kayaks (fishing kayak or not) will give you the option to fix your paddle to either side of the kayak.
Mounting Options for Fishing Accessories
Mounting plates aren’t just for your fishing rod – you can also use them to attach accessories such as a fish finder, GPS, camera, or phone. You can even get a cup holder attachment for your morning coffee.
Storage for Tackle and Bait
Kayak fishing involves a lot of gear. Inflatable kayaks tend to have a higher capacity than hardshells which is good news for anglers.
Most fishing kayaks have space for your fishing gear in the bow and stern. Some have spray skirts that offer protection from waves and rain, though it’s best to store anything you want to keep dry in a dry storage bag.
Inflatable kayaks are hard to capsize, but it’s best to tie everything down in case the worst happens. Bungee cords are great for securing dry bags. You can use D-rings to lash down a bait cooler or tackle box.
Can You Modify an Inflatable Kayak for Fishing?
If you’re on a tight budget, you could modify a recreational inflatable kayak for fishing. This may allow you to spend a bit extra on getting a quality kayak made from durable materials. It also means you can add the features you want, rather than paying for features you don’t need.
As you can’t drill into an inflatable kayak to add features, you’ll need to get creative with your mods. In this video, an angler adds a wooden floor to the Intex Explorer K2. This is used as a base for the modifications:
If you have limited DIY skills, focus on what you really need. Rod holders are pretty essential for kayak fishing and are easily constructed from PVC pipes.
Often, cheap kayaks feature low, uncomfortable seats. However, it’s easy to fit a new seat to make things more comfortable. You may also want to use a foam pad to boost the height of your seat to give you better visibility and make it easier to cast.
What Are the Best Inflatable Fishing Kayaks?
In my opinion, the BOTE Lono Aero is the best inflatable fishing kayak you can buy. It’s made from military-grade PVC, so you don’t need to worry about punctures, and it has all the features you need for a comfortable day’s fishing.
The only downside is that it’s expensive, particularly once you add on all the accessories.
The NRS STAR Challenger is a sit-on-top kayak with a minimalist design. It’s very stable, has a comfortable raised seat, and is almost half the price of the Lono Aero.
From tandems to budget buys, you can find the best fishing inflatable for you in this guide.
I hope I’ve given you a good overview of the pros and cons of using an inflatable kayak for fishing. My recommendation for the best inflatable kayak is the BOTE Lono Aero, because of its superior build quality and its ability to adapt on the water. In a matter of seconds, it can transform from a quality fishing kayak to a stand up paddle board – giving you multiple paddling options.
If you’ve any other questions about inflatable fishing kayaks, pop them in the comments below.
Inflatable kayaks are great for fishing — as long as you pick the right one. Check out my guide to the best inflatable fishing kayaks for more information and recommendations.