Not sure which inflatable boat to choose? To start with, you need to decide if you really need an inflatable boat or a rigid boat. An inflatable boat is definitely preferable if any of the following things are important to you:
- You’re on a tight budget
- You don’t have a place to store a rigid boat
- You don’t have a boat trailer and have no desire to buy one
- You may need to fish in very shallow waters
As you can guess, most of my tips are in one way or another connected to those criteria. So here they are.
Factors to account for when choosing an inflatable boat for fishing
Definitely an important factor. You have to mind the capacity even if you fish alone, because you need that extra space for your fish and tackle, depending on your fishing technique.
Mobility and Storage
The main advantage of an inflatable boat it’s near effortless to carry. A folded PVC rowing boat is easy to carry behind your shoulders. However, exactly how easy, depends on the boat. After all, they are quite different.
A typical inflatable boat will take up little space in your trunk, some more, some less. However, rigid bottom boats are much bulkier and harder to handle, even though they are a bit safer.
While a rigid bottom can inconvenience you when not in use, it’s good to have when you’re actually fishing. The main advantage of a rigid bottom is that it allows you to fish while standing. You can also put heavy objects into the boat without fear of puncturing the bottom.
A rigid bottom also improves the speed of the boat significantly (especially with an outboard motor).
Two types of boat floor exist:
- A soft bottom is optimal when you need to carry it often or store it for a long time. Such simple boats are easy to assemble and store. Some of them have an inflatable keel, so they are easier to manage on the water. Also, a soft bottom has good thermal insulation.
- A rigid bottom is usually be constructed from plywood or aluminum, and it is always convenient when the boat is equipped with a motor. Hard bottom motorized inflatable boats
If you want a rigid inflatable boat, please note that the bow of the boat should a tipped up a little. This helps to extinguish the wave and prevents water from pouring into the boat. A rubber girth around the boat is also great for preventing that.
Anglers have to be on the move quite often on the water, especially when trolling fish. But for things like fly fishing and traditional spinning you have to use the anchor a lot to keep the boat moored and stop it from going adrift.
You may be wondering what it has to do with picking a boat. But bear with me, please. The reason it has to do with boats and not just anchors is that a boat should have an anchor eye. You will be able to get by without one, but an anchor eye will secure the anchor, and that is important in those places where the rope is in contact with the boat since it protects the PVC (or whatever material the boat is made of) from chafing. It’s a non-issue for rigid boats, but you have to be very careful with inflatable boats.
If the anchor eyes are welded, all the better. At least, the won’t give under the weight of the anchor.
A noncritical feature, but one that is essential for your convenience and thus important.
When fishing with a partner, you may bump each other’s knees or maybe the oars bump into one of you occasionally when rowing. As you can expect, that is completely inconvenient. The ability to move the seats away from each other to a comfortable distance is a feature that you should look for when choosing an inflatable boat for fishing with a partner.
If the oars are not for you and you want to mount a motor immediately after the purchase or sometime in the future, that limits the available options that you can choose from. You want a boat with a transom built into the frame. Its thickness should be no less than an inch. That setup should allow mounting pretty powerful engines as far as inflatable boats go. In horsepowers, it’s up to six. In addition, the transom is quite convenient for mounting auxiliary gear, such as fish finder sensors.
It’s good if the transom is framed lined rubber or plastic, especially where the motor is to be mounted. That should protect the transom from deformation. The transom must be rigid and stable, otherwise, your motorboat will start rocking.
That’s something you should pay attention to after the boat has been shipped to you. It’s all about quality control. The seams must be symmetric and uniform. If they are not, it’s a reason to suspect something’s off with the boat.
The seams also should be welded. You can find glued seams in some Chinese inflatable boats, and sometimes, you can find information about that in the product description. You should always choose a boat with welded seams instead. Glued seams are dangerous and, no joke intended, can put you in mortal peril. If you see glue drips on a newly bought boat, return it to the vendor.
Remember, glued seams are garbage, and they are a hazard in warm climates because they can just open up because of the heat and UV radiation.
Inflated boats with a motor mount have more airtight compartments inflated independently compared to a rowing boat. Two seaters usually have 3 autonomous inflatable compartments.
Usually, inflatable boats are made of reinforced PVC, typically 3, 4, 5 layers and more, the thicker, the heavier. But does that mean more reliable? No. The strength of PVC is indeed related to the density of all other factors being equal, but it depends on the structure of PVC. Did you know that the European PVC with a density of 850 g/m² has the same durability and reliability as the South Korean PVC with a density of 1100m²?
Also, many manufacturers are deceiving when describing how many layers their boats have. Many count the adhesive as a layer in and of itself. Some count the lining. That’s what I call deceiving, and that’s why I recommend avoiding those manufacturers. Or at the very least, count a few layers off and then consider the boat.
Another popular material is Hypalon. It is magnitudes better than PVC because it is resistant to high temperatures, oils, gasoline, UV rays, and sand. The bottom is typically lined with neoprene, separating the fabric layer from the base material.
PVC is durable, abrasion resistant, and also lightweight. It’s also garbage when it comes to heat resistant, and it does not resist UV radiation too well.
There are two types of inflatables boat tubes: O-shaped and U-shaped.
The O-shape tubes are designed for ponds and small water bodies. You can’t mount an outboard engine on such a boat, you can only install a low power trolling motor at best, which you may not be able to do.
The U-shaped tubes are divided into several compartments. Boats that have them also have an outboard boat motor mount already installed on their rigid transom. U-shaped tubes are great for traveling over long distances.
Valves are not quite as important but important nonetheless.
Overpressure protection valves are required for exactly that reason: to release overpressure automatically. It may come in handy on a hot day when the air the tube grows very hot as the sun is heating the boat, and that leads to growing pressure.
Draining valves are needed to release water that found its way into your boat.
Boats with lighted shades are less prone to being heated, which is good for summer. Additionally, fish can actually see lighter boats worse than it can see a dark boat.
A darker boat makes noticing dirt on it a little bit harder, and you don’t have to wash them too often.
Camo boats are more suitable for hunters than fishers.