Selecting The Best Inflatable Fishing Kayak | Great Days Outdoors

Selecting The Best Inflatable Fishing Kayak

One of the prime reasons we kayak anglers use traditional plastic kayaks for our fishing trips is because they are lightweight, very easy to transport, easy to load and unload, and are stable, maneuverable casting platforms. So, why don’t we think about taking the fine qualities of regular plastic kayaks and ramping them up even more with an inflatable fishing kayak?

We’re talk a kayak that can be loaded into a bag and checked in at an airport for a plane trip. One that can be backpacked to water where there’s absolutely no road access at all. A fishing kayak that weighs no more than 50 pounds and can be stored in the closet of a small apartment.

And before you think about “air mattress” and tune out, if you’ve had bad experiences with inflatable “boats”  before, let me assure you that today’s modern inflatable kayaks are not the same clumsy, hard to paddle and uncontrollable things that many of us who have tried old fashioned blow-up boats had to suffer with.

Inflatable Fishing Kayaks

sea eagle 385fta kayak
Sea Eagle 385fta FastTrack™ Angler Series

BOTE kayak
BOTE LONO Aero 12′6″

Elkton Outdoors Steelhead Inflatable Fishing Kayak
Elkton Outdoors Steelhead Fishing Kayak

advanced elements

Oru Bay ST

(Not an Inflateable, but just as packable)

Inflatable Kayak Construction Materials

We’re not going to say that a modern inflatable fishing kayak cannot be punctured by a sharp object, they can be. But most inflatable kayaks are made of multiple layers of tough, strong, flexible material that resists sharp objects very well.  As far as having to worry about a hook puncturing the inflatable kayak, you’d have to work pretty hard to get a hook through the material. These modern inflatables are tough.


fishing from kayak
Sea Eagle offers inflatable kayaks that are great fishing craft.

All inflatable kayaks have multiple inflation chambers which give the kayak its shape, and these separate chambers provide very safe and secure fishing. Even if something catastrophic happened and a chamber suffered a puncture, there will be plenty of other chambers to keep the angler safely afloat. Inflatable kayaks come with repair kits and patch material, but most of this stuff is never used.

Most inflatable kayaks sold today have skegs (a type of blade or rudder) which clip into channels built into the bottom of the kayak. These skegs help the angler keep the flat-bottomed inflatable kayak on track and make holding a good fishing position much easier. These skegs pop in and pop out quickly, and they can be removed when the boat is beached for loading after a trip.

One of the biggest considerations anglers who fish from an inflatable kayak must constantly keep in mind is that each specific brand and model of inflatable kayak will have very particular inflation requirements. And it is common for different chambers on a single boat to have very different inflation needs. If the kayak is not properly inflated- and the biggest problem is over inflation and the boat’s integrity can be compromised. Anglers will need to have a good pump.  Either an electric or manual will work fine as long as it has a gauge to measure correct inflation pressure. This is really too important an element to be left to chance or “it feels about right” inflation.

Down here on the Gulf Coast where the summer sun can be brutal, a kayak which is properly inflated in the cool of the morning may become overinflated during the heat of the day if the boat is left sitting on the beach in the sun. Anglers will need to inflate their kayaks to the proper pressure and then make sure that the correct pressure is maintained.

Potential buyers of inflatable kayaks will want to look to make sure their kayak is built using “drop-stitch” construction. This method of assembling the parts of the kayak involves very many tiny threads which connect the parts of the kayak almost seamlessly and allows higher air pressure for a more rigid final shape.

Inflatable Kayak Fishing Features

When we look at the current, best inflatable kayaks for fishing , one great improvement over older “blow up boats” is the seating. Newer inflatables have seating at least as good as solid plastic kayaks, and in many cases, superior in comfort and fishing ease. Many inflatable fishing kayaks have elevated stadium-type seating which puts the angler in a good position for seeing fish and making casts.

stand in inflatable fishing kayak
Modern inflatable kayaks are solid and rigid enough for anglers to safely and easily stand and fish.

Many present day inflatables have rod holders and other accessories which either come with the boat or which can be added. And many inflatable kayaks can be fitted with either a trolling motor or a small outboard. 

In fact, many or not most of the inflatable kayaks designed for fishing use are strong and rigid enough for anglers to stand and fish quite securely and safely.

Paddling the Kayak

Because of the inflatable kayak’s light weight, they tend to paddle very easily and move well.  In fact, inflatables may be quite superior to larger, heavier plastic kayaks for most fishing applications. Inflatable kayak anglers will want to try out several puddles with different lengths to find the paddle which moves the inflatable kayak best. The paddle which comes with a new inflatable kayak purchase may not be the best one for a particular angler’s use.

Some kayak builders, like BOTE, sell several pedal-drive models of inflatable kayaks for fishing purposes.

Just Like Plastic Kayaks – Except Different

Inflatable fishing kayaks are really quite similar in many ways to regular plastic boats. One of the biggest things inflatables have in common with traditional kayaks is that when we go to purchase one, there is a wide range of prices, features, and options that must be considered. Seating options, paddle and power options, and such things as rod holders and coolers can be added to both kinds of kayaks.  Both kinds of kayaks can be very effective fishing boats.

BOTE inflatable fishing kayak
The new BOTE LONO model inflatable kayak offers lots of neat add-ons to make fishing even better.

A big difference between the two types of kayaks is that because of the shape of the hull on most inflatable kayaks, there needs to be some sort of underwater appendage such as a skeg or fin which will help keep the inflatable kayak tracking straight. Inflatable kayaks tend to have smooth, flat bottoms whereas many plastic kayaks have built in chines and other full-run edges which help keep the kayak on track. These skegs, which can be added to the inflatables are often built so that they can be easily applied to the hull and then removed when the boat is beached. This is a little bit of added action for anglers, but it’s not hard to do as it’s a quick operation and it makes a huge difference in the handling of the inflatable kayak.

One of the biggest similarities between inflatable fishing kayaks and plastic kayaks is that in general, when an angler buys a boat, she or he gets what they pay for. Very cheap low end kayaks, of either kind, will not offer as many features and will probably not be as comfortable and effective as a fishing tool. And while paying more at the front end of a kayak purchase may be a bit painful, the great fishing which will come from a better designed and made inflatable kayak will soon make the higher cost pain go away. 

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