Times have changed. Not too long ago, inflatable kayaks had a stigma of poor quality and couldn’t come close to replacing rigid kayaks. Now, they have taken the market by storm. Inflatable fishing kayaks offer an excellent substitute for hard-shell fishing kayaks.
This article will guide you through what makes a good fishing kayak, how an inflatable kayak might benefit you compared to a traditional kayak, and everything you should consider before buying a kayak.
Everyone has their preferences when it comes to a fishing kayak. Some people like an open floor with as little gear as possible. Other people enjoy cramming as much gear onto the kayak as possible.
However, out of all the possible differences in opinion, high-quality fishing kayaks must all have a few common characteristics. The first is safety. The “fishability” of the vessel is another. The last one we will mention is comfortability.
The essential characteristic of any kayak is how well it keeps you safe. Your safety on the water matters most. Safety can mean many things, but a general rule to keep in mind is that stability offers safety.
The more stable a kayak is, the safer it will be, but if your kayak were to flip, you want it to flip back upright easily. If you go with a sit-on-top or sit-in kayak, you will also want the kayak to be easy to enter from the water.
If you’re unable to fish out of your fishing kayak, you bought the wrong one. A fishing kayak should be designed around fishing. Despite the kayak manufacturer having anglers in mind during the design process, one will have to adapt one’s fishing style to the kayak.
Fishing from a kayak is not the same as fishing from a larger boat or the bank. This is why the fishability of a kayak matters. Several features determine Fishability.
The ease of fishing movements while on the kayak. These movements can be casting, setting the hook, or leaning over to net a fish. If your kayak doesn’t allow for these basic fishing motions, you don’t have a fishing kayak.
Fishability also includes how customizable the vessel is with accessories. The more you can customize your fishing kayak to fit your style, the more you will enjoy fishing from it. We will discuss accessories later in the article.
You will be on the water for hours at a time. You might as well be comfortable. Being as comfortable as possible will allow you to stay out fishing longer and enjoy it more.
The kayak seat will be the main contributor to your comfort. Ensuring the seat is a proper height, adjustable, and provides a cushion will help you reach the maximum level of comfortability. Having the option to stretch your legs, whether by standing or sitting, also helps add to your comfort.
If you were only to keep these three things in mind while purchasing a fishing kayak, you would be well on your way to buying a quality kayak.
Take a look at this guide for more in-depth details on how to choose a fishing kayak.
By definition, an inflatable fishing kayak offers features specifically designed for fishing that uses inflated tubes of air to float.
As the name suggests, inflatable fishing kayaks use trapped air to stay afloat, similar to a pool toy. Unlike pool toy floaties, they are rugged and often need a pump to air up. You will get highly light-headed trying to blow up a kayak with your mouth and lungs!
Kayaks are often lumped into four broad categories, touring, expedition, whitewater, and recreational. We would like to add a fifth, fishing.
Ready to fast forward to purchasing? Jump over to top picks for inflatable fishing kayaks!
Meant for long paddling sessions on large bodies of water, touring kayaks offer an incredible paddling experience. However, they do not make great fishing kayaks.
When you think of week-long river rafting trips, you’re thinking of an “inflatable expedition kayak” on a large scale. These week-long trips can be made using single or double-person kayaks instead of a raft. You can use one of these kayaks for fishing. However, there are better options.
Designed to go where most anglers and fish prefer not to go, whitewater kayaks do not make great fishing kayaks.
Recreational kayaks are probably the closest to a fishing kayak. Meant for day trips on many different types of water, modern recreational kayaks are where modern fishing kayaks can trace their origins.
Lastly, we come to the fishing kayaks category. Often, it is difficult to see the differences between a fishing and recreational kayak at a glance. Upon further inspection, the differences are apparent. Fishing kayaks offer features that benefit anglers that other kayaks don’t need to provide.
Inflatable fishing kayaks have many advantages that should factor into your purchasing decision. Many of the features on an inflatable have huge benefits, such as:
As mentioned above, a stable kayak offers more safety. A stable kayak also provides a better fishing experience. When you can stand in the kayak and fish, this opens up a whole new arsenal of tactics you can employ while fishing.
Inflatable kayaks are stable because they are wide and flat bottomed. The sides being filled with air also allows for a more stable experience.
One of the biggest pros is the ease of transport and storage of inflatable kayaks. Because they were designed to be inflated and deflated, you can transport them in the trunk of a car and store them in a closet.
You don’t need a trailer or SUV to transport these types of kayaks. Nor do you need a garage to store them in because they are so compact when deflated.
Fishing kayaks are customizable to fit your style. You can have an open deck space with few accessories or deck your vessel out with fishing accessories. Not only does an inflatable kayak offer traditional kayak fishing accessories, but you can also add motors.
Electric or gas-powered motor mounting accessories are available to purchase for specific brands. Some brands offer sails you can also install to harness the power of the wind.
When compared with rigid kayaks, inflatables are less expensive. If you’re on a budget or unsure you will like kayaking, purchasing an inflatable will allow you to experience the benefits without the initial upfront cost.
The lower cost allows you to spend more on accessories or more fishing gear!
The most surprising pro on the list to most people is the durability of inflatable kayaks. They don’t pop easily like pool toys because they are made from much more robust materials. The drop stitch floor protects against rocks, sticks, and even pet claws.
Taking pets out in kayaks and paddleboards has gained popularity in recent years. While many people are reluctant to take their dogs in an inflatable kayak, you shouldn’t have to worry about durability if you purchase the yak from a quality company.
Hard-shell kayaks are often heavy and require you to drag them to the water from your vehicle. An inflatable can easily be carried to the water without worrying about dragging it over rocks and sticks.
You can now see the reasons why these were all benefits. Let’s move on to the cons.
Of course no one item of gear is perfect and there are also drawbacks of owning a blow up kayak, including:
Despite the many benefits of inflatable kayaks, there are some significant cons. Let’s discuss why these could alter your purchasing decision.
Since inflatable yaks are wide and not aerodynamic, they cannot sustain the speeds of a rigid-frame kayak. While fishing kayaks are not known for their speed, inflatables are even slower.
Installing a motor will help with increasing the speed, but it also increases the overall cost. Therefore, often negating the pro of a lower price point.
Inflatables have more drag, so in the wind and current, they are more challenging to maneuver. The lack of control makes fishing especially difficult. You will spend more time fighting the wind and current than you will be fishing.
The lack of control can be frustrating for any angler but very much so for beginners and might discourage them from kayak fishing.
While air pumps are increasing in speed, they still take several minutes on average to fully inflate a kayak. Once the kayak is inflated, you can carry it to the water and begin loading it with your fishing and kayaking gear.
Deflating the kayak also takes a little time. Not as much as inflating, however.
If you’re just testing out kayak fishing, purchasing a cheap model might sound like the best option. Keep in mind the quality of the products increases with price. If you want a kayak with all the bells and whistles, you will have to pay for it.
This type of kayak doesn’t take up much storage space, but it does require you to dry it before storing it COMPLETELY. Otherwise, you will end up with mildew and mold covering your kayak that compromises the materials.
It can be tedious to make sure all the water is dried off of the kayak, but if you plan to keep it long-term, it’s well worth the extra effort.
Inflatable angler kayaks are durable, but they have a shorter lifespan than plastic, wood, or fiberglass kayaks. You might save money up-front by buying an inflatable. However, keep in mind it won’t last you as long as another style.
With that being said, the lifespan can still be years when properly maintained.
Now that you’re aware of the pros and cons, let’s discuss the similarities between inflatable and hard-shell kayaks.
Dismissing the apparent differences until the next section of the article, let’s begin with the similarities of each type of kayak. Customizability, stability, and comfortability can be found across the board for both kayak styles.
Both blow-up fishing kayaks and traditional fishing kayaks offer many features to help make the kayak best suit your style of fishing. Often the only limiting factor is your budget.
Each style has multiple brands that all offer unique advantages at differing sizes and price points. You have the option to purchase additional kayak fishing accessories that help make your fishing experience more enjoyable with both styles.
Each style accomplishes the problem of stability differently, but they both manage to offer exceptional stability. Many models in each type offer the ability to stand while fishing from a kayak.
If you’re not comfortable standing in a kayak, you still benefit from the additional stability because you can handle rough water. You won’t have to be as concerned with flipping your kayak while performing basic fishing motions.
The most comfortable kayaks will be the high-end kayaks for both styles. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a comfortable kayak in every price range and type.
Fishing kayaks are known for their comfortability because anglers spend many hours fishing and need extra comfort.
Many of the differences are evident. You have to inflate a blow-up kayak before using it, worry about puncturing an inflatable kayak, and hard-shell kayaks are heavier. There are however some less obvious differences.
With a traditional rigid fishing Kayak, you can unload your kayak, place your fishing gear on it, and head out to your spot reasonably quickly.
An inflatable fishing kayak will take longer to set up because you have to unload the kayak, inflate it, take it to the water, load your fishing gear, and then head out to your fishing spot.
Depending on your situation, these differences might not be enough to affect your final buying decisions.
If you plan to kayak in saltwater often, you will need to rinse both styles after each use thoroughly. However, an inflatable kayak will need to dry before you store it fully. A rigid kayak will not have to dry thoroughly. Either style can get a hole. Patching a blow-up kayak is much cheaper and easier than repairing plastic or wooden kayaks. Fiberglass kayaks are also simple to fix.
The weight differences are drastic, with the average hard-shell fishing Kayak weighing more than 65lbs and the average blow-up fishing kayak weighing less than 45lbs.
On average inflatable kayaks are less expensive than rigid kayaks. However, each style offers a range of prices to meet most budgets.
If you wanted to, you could transport an inflatable kayak by bicycle. Most people transport them by the trunk of their car because you can deflate them and compactly fold them.
For a rigid kayak, you will need to strap it on your vehicle or purchase a kayak trailer to transport it.
This is a significant advantage blow-ups have over traditional yaks.
While inflatable kayaks are improving their handling abilities, they still struggle against the wind and current because they are lightweight.
Hard-shell kayaks are molded to be more aerodynamic to handle the wind and current. Because they are relatively light, the wind and current can still affect them.
Anglers love their fishing accessories, and it shows with the available options for inflatable fishing kayaks. Trolling motors, gasoline motors, fish finders, rod holders, and many others can be added to your kayak to improve your fishing experience.
Several companies are beginning to design trolling motors specifically for kayaks. There are many benefits of adding a trolling motor to your kayak. A trolling motor will maintain a faster speed than you can paddle for a longer distance. They are mostly quiet and rarely spook fish.
Trolling motors add weight to your kayak because they need a battery to power them, and batteries are heavy.
You can also purchase mounting kayak accessories for small gasoline-powered motors. These motors will help you gain more speed, but they also add to the weight and scare off fish while they are operating.
Sometimes they are built-in. They are also a separate accessory and no matter what, rod holders are a game-changer while kayak fishing.
They help keep your rods from getting tangled, stepped on, or getting knocked overboard.
A must-have for kayak fishing is an anchor. It can be a traditional anchor or a shallow water anchor/ push pole. Having the ability to stay in one spot without excessive paddling or motoring increases your odds of getting a bite while fishing.
Specific models of blow-up fishing kayaks can be used in tandem. This is great if you have a family you want to bring along on your adventures. However, there are times when the size of a two-person kayak is disadvantageous.
If you enjoy fishing alone and rarely bring another along, then a single-person kayak will work great for you! However, if you have a family or a friend you intend to bring along regularly, we recommend looking into an inflatable tandem fishing kayak.
Q: Are inflatable kayaks good for fishing?
A: Yes! While they are not as efficient as traditional kayaks, inflatable fishing kayaks can provide excellent fishing opportunities.
Q: Do Inflatable kayaks puncture easily?
A: A quality inflatable kayak will not pop easily. If you buy a cheap one, it will risk easily popping if you come across sharp objects.
Q: Are Inflatable kayaks worth it?
A: Yes! Especially if you are on a small budget or have storage or transport limitations.
Q: Is it okay to leave an inflatable kayak inflated?
A: No. It’s best to deflate it. This relieves pressure on the seams and valves.
Q: How long do inflatable kayaks last?
A: If you perform proper maintenance and purchase a quality kayak, it should last you more than five years.
Q: How long does it take for an inflatable kayak to inflate?
A: Using a foot or hand pump should take about 5 minutes, depending on the size of your kayak. With an electric pump, it should take about 3 minutes.
Q: Where should I store my inflatable kayak?
A: In a DRY, cool area.
Q: Will a fishing hook pop an inflatable kayak?
A: Rarely. Most blow-up kayaks have a thick enough outer shell that a hook shouldn’t pop it. However, if the hook is large enough and sharp enough, it can potentially pop the kayak.
Q: Can you put a trolling motor on an inflatable kayak?
A: Yes. Depending on the model, certain brands offer the option to install a trolling motor.
Q: Can one person use a two-person inflatable kayak?
A: Yes. While it might be a little more challenging to maneuver, one person can undoubtedly paddle a tandem kayak.
Wesley Littlefield is an outdoor writer, a lover of kayak bass fishing, husband, and father. When he is not writing, he is spending his time outdoors making lasting memories with his family.