At first, inflatable kayaks and fishing may not seem like a logical pair. Sharp hooks and fish fins meeting an air-filled rubber boat could result in a deflating situation.
But this doesn’t hold true for the best inflatable fishing kayaks. Constructed of heavy-duty, practically puncture-proof vinyl, modern inflatables use multiple air chambers and drop stitch construction to improve performance and resiliency.
In fact, inflatable kayaks are so tough they make a great ride for bouncing down a rocky river or knocking around tree stumps. And, inflatable fishing kayaks are easy to store and transport. Granted, inflatables don’t handle as well as a traditional boats, and it’s harder to add accessories and fishing gear, but for anglers seeking a convenient and sturdy boat, an inflatable fishing kayak is worth a close look.
Top picks: Best inflatable fishing kayaks for 2024
Best Inflatable Fishing Kayaks
Mirage iTrek 11
Blackfoot Angler 160
Blackfoot Angler 130
Mirage iTrek 9 Ultralight
11' Sit-On-Top Inflatable Kayak
Inflatable Kayak 14.1'
FastTrack™ Angler 385fta Bixpy® Motor Package
Shop for inflatable fishing kayaks
Follow the links below to the Paddling Buyer’s Guide where you’ll find every inflatable kayak for fishing along with specs, prices, reviews and places to buy.
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Shopping for a used inflatable fishing kayak?
Buying a used inflatable fishing kayak requires a few more steps than looking at a hard plastic kayak. In addition to checking the working condition of the seat and accessories, you’ll want to carefully inspect the integrity of the vinyl and seams.
Before buying a used inflatable kayak, fill the boat with air and search for leaks, especially around seams. You can fix a hole in an inflatable kayak with a patch kit, usually included with the boat. As long as the abrasion isn’t in a crease or pocket that is difficult to patch, a good patch job should last as long as the surrounding vinyl.
Be sure the valves hold air and properly release pressure. In many cases, a broken valve can be replaced or repaired. Still, exercise caution when buying a used boat with a leaky valve unless you know it can be fixed.
Inflatable kayaks often come with an air pump. Be sure the pump is working and large enough to quickly and easily inflate the kayak. Check for cracks in the air pump chamber around the handle.
For more tips on what to look for when selecting a used fishing kayak, read our article How To Buy A Used Fishing Kayak.
Inflatable kayak buying guide
Inflatable fishing kayaks are a special species. To increase stability and capacity and accommodate casting and fishing, inflatables for fishing are larger and heavier than inflatables focused on touring or recreational paddling. The best inflatable kayaks for fishing have sturdy construction and a stable design with room for gear and tackle.
Inflatable kayaks allow anglers with limited storage or transportation options to get on the water. Even if you live in a small apartment or ride public transportation, there is a fishing kayak for you.
Adventurous anglers looking to reach distant fishing holes prefer the portability of an inflatable fishing kayak. Either carry the inflatable to the fishing grounds in the boat’s case, or inflate the kayak and drag it through the woods and over rocks, a lightweight, tough inflatable isn’t afraid of a beating.
Anglers fishing rocky rivers or dense swampy areas appreciate the damage-resistant vinyl skin when bouncing around and looking for fish. Rocks and trees can’t leave a scratch on an inflatable kayak and the air chambers actually absorb bangs and blows that might dent a rigid hull.
But every inflatable kayak isn’t a good fishing inflatable. Inflatable kayaks aren’t as easy to paddle on open water as a hard plastic boat. First, the bulky but light air chambers float higher in the water, exposing the boat to wind. And, less boat in the water reduces straight line tracking. With each paddle stroke, the boat is likely to move side to side. When it comes to inflatable fishing kayaks, we have high standards for fishability and performance and there are some design features that address shortcomings.
To start with, the best blow up kayaks for fishing have heavy-duty, puncture-proof vinyl skin. To further toughen up an air-filled boat, look for areas reinforced with extra layers of vinyl or even hard plastic patches to protect against wear and tear. For fishing, choose an inflatable kayak built with thick vinyl material like a river raft, not the thin plastic like a pool toy. Not only does the heavy vinyl make the kayak tougher, it makes the boat more rigid.
So, why all the fuss about rigidity? A rigid inflatable kayak paddles easier so it goes farther and carries more gear. The best inflatables for fishing use sturdy construction to maximize stiffness allowing the paddler to efficiently transfer paddling power to the water. A bendy, flexible inflatable absorbs paddle power and saps efficiency.
To increase rigidity and stability, the best inflatables for fishing use multiple air chambers. Each air chamber adds volume to increase capacity and allow the kayak to carry more gear. Also, multiple air chambers interact structurally to make the inflatable kayak stiffer.
The best inflatables for fishing also have drop stitch chambers, usually in the floor. Inside the drop stitch chamber, tiny threads connect the walls of the chamber to provide more structure and allow higher air pressure. This further increases rigidity, since a drop stitch air chamber is almost impossible to bend.
Inflatable kayaks for fishing have storage space to carry enough fishing equipment and gear for long days on the water. Look for space behind the seat to hold a gear crate and vertical rod holders.
While any inflatable kayak will get you on the water and into the fish, the best fishing inflatables have features to install accessories. Look for mounting plates, straps, molle loops, bungees and other attachment points for rod holders, tackle and gear storage.
Finally, the best inflatable kayaks for fishing have a comfortable frame seat elevated off the deck to keep the paddler dry. An elevated frame seat is like a lawn chair with a hard plastic or metal frame and soft, breathable, quick-dry webbed material. Frame seats are wider than soft seats for more space and support. A frame seat is also higher off the water to provide a better position for casting and working a lure.
While an inflatable kayak for fishing has all the bells and whistles an angler needs, the boat is still compact enough to pack into a portable case. The best inflatable for fishing has space in the case for the kayak, paddle and accessories. Shoulder straps and wheels make the case easier to move to the fishing hole. To travel farther with an inflatable kayak, choose a model that packs up small enough to check as luggage on an airline.
Are inflatable kayaks good for fishing?
For hopeful anglers with limited storage and transportation options, an inflatable fishing kayak can be the best option for chasing fish from a small boat. These boats shine in shallow, protected water away from wind and current or rough, rocky rivers where the boat can take a beating. Special inflatable kayaks made for fishing have mounting bases for accessories like rod holders and electronics. A frame seat and stable hull make the boats comfortable for all day fishing.
Inflatable fishing kayak reviews
There’s no better way to choose a blow up fishing kayak than kicking the tires and taking a test drive. The staff at Kayak Angler, our sister magazine, have run the best inflatable fishing kayaks through the gauntlet. We’ve rigged the boats for fishing, loaded them with gear and hit the water.
Our testing includes miles of paddling and hours of fishing in a variety of conditions and locations. This allows us to evaluate how the boat handles and how it performs for the intended angler and conditions. If you can’t get to the paddle shop or a demo day, take a test drive with our reviews of the best inflatable fishing kayaks.
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- Inflatable Kayak Review: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Elite