Are Inflatable Boats Good for Fishing?

fishing rod mounted in a built in rod holder for an inflatable boat

Having never fished from an inflatable boat before, I remember being pretty skeptical when I first gave it a shot. What I’ve learned since has opened my eyes to a whole new world of fishing.

So, are inflatable boats any good for fishing? Many inflatable boats designed just for fishing offer puncture resistance, rod holders and even trolling motor hookups. In comparison to hardshell boats, inflatable boats offer many advantages when it comes to portability, storage and offers great performance on the water for a low entry price.

While I’m definitely a huge fan of inflatable boats for all of their unique advantages for fishing, the truth is they’re not a perfect fit for every situation.

When an inflatable boat is a good option for fishing

If you’re anything like me, when you were first looking for a fishing boat you’re almost exclusively looking at hard-shell boats. The problem for me was twofold: I certainly didn’t have the storage space for a hard shell boat, and I didn’t think I could afford it. This is where inflatable boats came to the rescue for me.

inflatable boat deflated and folded up in the trunk of a red SUV
There’s a lot to be said about being able to pack a boat in the trunk of your car…

The single most significant advantage to buying an inflatable boat for fishing is the lack of storage space that you’ll need. With hardshell boats, you need somewhere to store it, something that can haul it (such as a truck or SUV), and something like a trailer to mount the boat while in transit. For me, all I could think about was all the expenses that would add up if I could somehow get it hard shell about in the first place. For an inflatable boat, all I needed was a little bit of storage space and a trunk of a car.

Fortunately, virtually all vehicles that aren’t smart cars have enough room to transport an inflatable boat from your house to your favorite fishing hole. This was a significant advantage for me and one of the biggest reasons why I decided, in the end, to go with an inflatable boat. It made life so much easier for me.

Another big advantage of an inflatable boat for fishing is that the portability allows me to fish in locations that I could never dream of with a hard shell boat. For example, my brother and I took my Seahawk 4 inflatable boat fishing on a lake one mile into the National Forest that didn’t have any trails leading up to it.

And while I’ll readily admit that a mile was a bit too long to haul that large of an inflatable boat, it allowed us to have this great experience of fishing a remote lake without having to drive 12 hours to visit the Boundary Waters.

This is one of my favorite parts about fishing with an inflatable boat: it’s a wonderful tool that allows for great adventures that you might not otherwise experience. So feel free to get creative here and test out some lakes you might not have considered otherwise.

view of thick trees while fishing a remote lake from an inflatable boat
The view from our inflatable boat when we fished this remote lake more than a mile from the nearest road.

The last great advantage of buying an inflatable boat for fishing is that your money is going to go a lot further than if you were trying to buy a hard shell boat. As I mentioned above, you don’t need to have a bigger car or a trailer to haul it or a garage to store it in the meantime. All you need is a car with a trunk. For me, this meant that an inflatable boat would allow me to go fishing in the ways that I wanted to that much quicker and wouldn’t require me to save up money for years.

Better yet, with a little bit of creativity and DIY, you can make significant improvements to an inflatable boat by adding features such as a custom plywood floor or seat holders or a battery box for a trolling motor. The possibilities are endless, and the customizations don’t always require anything more than a jigsaw, some sandpaper, and maybe a hot glue gun. As I love building things and enjoy taking the time to customize things for my needs, this was a big plus for me.

Is it safe to have sharp hooks in an inflatable boat?

For an excellent reason, one of the first things anybody thinks about when they consider buying an inflatable boat for fishing is whether they’re going to puncture it with their hooks. This is indeed understandable, but it’s important to know that there are many inflatable boats designed just for fishing so they include very durable materials of construction that would be able to withstand a poke from a fishing hook. A good rule of thumb is to look for rod holders or other types of fishing add-ons when trying to find an inflatable boat that would be good for fishing. You might not believe it until you see it, but these inflatable boats that are built for fishing use much heavier materials then you might initially expect.

two fishing poles and a tackle box laying in an inflatable boat on a lake
Though there is more risk when compared to a traditional fishing boat, modern inflatable boats are designed with thick materials that can withstand exposure to your fishing gear.

With that said, it would be smart to be a little bit more wary of your sharp objects like hooks while fishing in an inflatable boat. Yes, they are built to handle sharp hooks, and they should be fine, but it would be prudent to be a little bit more cautious in comparison to when you’re fishing from a hard shell boat. I know I’m certainly more aware of where my hook is, and I do my best to keep my tackle box clean and closed while fishing in my inflatable boat. It’s just common sense, and nobody wants to experience a puncture while out on the water.

When would an inflatable boat be the wrong choice for fishing?

Alright, so we’ve established that there are many situations in which an inflatable boat is an excellent option for fishing. But obviously, there are certain situations where it just makes sense to invest in a real hard shell boat. So what are those?

First things first, if you’re buying a boat with the expectation of a lifetime of use, an inflatable boat probably isn’t for you. With proper care in storage, you can expect most inflatable fishing boats to last from 5 to 10 years. Sometimes they last longer, but I wouldn’t bet on it, especially if you hope to use it frequently. For this reason, I think would be probably better to invest in a hard shell boat if you are expecting a lifetime of frequent use.

pumping up an inflatable boat with a a hand pump, with feet holding the base of the pump
While the setup of an inflatable boat can definitely be streamlined, there are some things that will always take time.

The other thing is that while inflatable boats are great for portability and don’t need a ton of storage space, the truth is that they’re going to involve more setup every time you use it. You’re just not going to leave an inflatable boat tied up to a dock on a lake that you have a home or cabin on.

So if you’re in the situation and you are looking for a boat that you can tie up to your dock, having an inflatable boat would make fishing a massive pain in the butt and is going to lead to you fishing less than you want. Nobody wants that, and the truth is that if you’re in the scenario and you’ve already invested in a lake house or cabin, you’re probably not going to be considering an inflatable boat, to begin with. So go out and invest in a proper hard shell boat. You won’t regret it, and you’ll spend that much more time on the water doing what you actually want to do: fishing.

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