Inflatable Boats for Fishing
Inflatable boats, as we know them, have been around since the 1930’s. It was then that a Frenchman, Pierre Debroutelle who was an engineer at the Zodiac company, invented one of the first prototypes for military use. When Zodiac turned it’s focus to recreational boating in the 1960’s, they became more popular with the general public, mostly fishermen. This explains why many people still say “Zodiacs” when they refer to inflatable boats. Over the past 60 years, this standard, Zodiac style, version of the inflatable boat is almost totally interchangeable with speed boats, bass boats, lifeboats, etc..
The most interesting aspect of inflatable boats, however, has occurred over the past 30 years. It is the development of specifically designed inflatable watercraft for the sole purpose of fishing. There is a simple, inner tube adaption that has become the float tube. You will find streamlined skiffs and other craft that 2 people can stand up and fish in. Some of these inflatables have frames and some are totally frameless. There seems to be no end to the variety of custom designs of inflatable water craft specifically made for fishing. We’ll try to sort through the many choices.
Types of inflatable Fishing Boats (Watercraft)
- Float Tubes – We’ll start with the smallest inflatable watercraft. Inflatable float tubes, also referred to as “belly boats”, are often used by fishermen to sneak into the hard to get to areas of a lake or river. They may look like a simple inner-tube with some straps on it, but modern float tubes are designed to be a top notch fishing craft. The design is, basically, a seat that is surrounded by a curved tube. The fisherman usually wears fins to allow for better movement in the water. Over the years float tubes have been streamlined for better self-propulsion and steering. The material is tough and punctures are not very common. Fishing from a float tube is becoming more and more popular, especially with fly fishermen. One “fly guy” from Southern Indiana, Jeff Carmichael, has written many articles and posted several videos on his web site about fishing from a float tube. Jeff’s YouTube channel has a number of videos that provide information about how to fish from a float tube.
- Rigid Inflatable Boats – Often called “Zodiacs”, regardless of the brand (kind of like how we still use the labels ‘Kleenex’ and ‘Xerox’ because they were the first of their kind). This type of inflatable boat is shaped much like a regular boat and can be used to do most of the same things ‘regular’ boats can do. From speed-boating to pulling water skiiers to fishing, a rigid inflatable boat is very similar to a traditional boat, only it’s inflatable.
- Inflatable Pontoon Boats – Pontoon style boats are a very logical adaption to an inflatable design. The similarity of the actual “pontoon” to most inflatable boat and kayak designs is painfully obvious. What inflatable pontoon manufacturers have done, though, is to design their crafts so that they can be assembled and dis-assembled for portability. Also, because of the pontoon design, plastic floors or metal bars have to be added to the configuration to make them fully functional. However, not all of the inflatable pontoon crafts have a ‘frame’. Sea Eagle, for example, has a frameless pontoon that uses very little metal or plastic. The design of the inflatable tubes creates the framework to hold the shape of the craft.
- Skiffs & SUP’s & Yaks & ….. Whatevers – Fishermen and women are fishing from all types of inflatable crafts. Over the past few years, fishing from kayaks, of all kinds .. inflatable and hard shell, has risen sharply in popularity. Now that SUP’s (stand up paddle boards) have integrated completely into the watercraft market, many people who prefer that style of paddling are using their SUP to fish from. Manufacturers have followed suit, creating specifically designed fishing kayaks and fishing SUP’s. Other unique designs of fishing crafts have also arrived on the market. Many have their own shapes and sizes and, honestly, are almost impossible to label as a skiff or a boat or whatever. They just fit into their own category … but you can fish from them!
We have sold a large number of fishing craft since 2006. Having said that, we don’t presume to know what features or style of boat/craft fits you. There are too many variations, bells and whistles, etc. to make a recommendation that you buy a specific fishing boat. We urge you to look over the features and designs to determine how they might fit into your style of fishing. What we will recommend are which manufacturers and fishing boats that have proven to be reliable to our customers. OR those products that are made by a reliable company that has a reputation for treating their customers right!
Float Tubes – Float tube use has decreased over the past few years. That’s happened despite the rave reviews of the sport by a small group of devoted, highly vocal, tubing disciples such as Jeff Carmichael. Even though these unique, quiet and rather inexpensive crafts enable the user to sneak up on unsuspecting fish, it could be possible that most fishermen prefer to not be “in” the water with their prey. Whatever the reason for the decline, several manufacturers that existed 10 years ago are no longer making float tubes. We used to sell Creek Company float tubes, but even though they made a very high quality float tube, they are now out of business. Currently, there are 3 main manufacturers. Only one of which do we have any experience with.
- Caddis – Good quality float tube. Priced at $179.99 and up … sold by Cabela’s.
- OutCast – Claim to be the best-selling float tubes worldwide.
- Classic Accessories – We sold this brand for a few years in the late 2000’s. Quality was an issue then. They are still in business today, so maybe they have worked out their quality control.
Rigid Inflatable Boats – Our main experience with this style of boat has been with Sea Eagle brand. They have two styles. We recommend either style, based on your needs. The SE-9 “Motormount” can be paddled by oars, as well. The Sport Runabouts are very similar to Zodiacs. They’re used for fishing, speed-boating, pulling water-skiers and as rescue boats.
- Sea Eagle SE-9 Motormount – 11 feet long – Up to 4 person capacity.
- Sea Eagle Sport Runabouts – Four models available from 10 and a half feet to 14 feet long. Tough, fast, multi-use boats.
- FastCat™ Catamaran – This is a rigid, high-pressure, all-drop stitch constructed, inflatable that is designed to offer a very smooth ride, due to it’s sleek construction. If you are frustrated by being bounced around by waves, back jarring rough rides, added fuel cost and lack of cockpit room, this Sea Eagle Catamaran could be your solution. The FastCat™ Catamaran is available in a 12 foot model (pictured) for one or two people .. or a 14 foot model for up to 4 passengers.
Inflatable Pontoon Style Boats – Sea Eagle is the most reliable market leader in pontoon style craft …. Here are those we recommend:
Capacity: One Person
Capacity: One Person
Capacity: Two Person
Capacity: Two Person
Inflatable Fishing Kayaks – Fishing from a kayak, rather than a traditional fishing boat, has become more and more popular in recent years. Because of their portability and stability in the water, inflatable kayaks are an excellent choice for kayak fishing. Due to their buoyancy, because they are filled with … ‘air’ … which is lighter than … ‘water’ (simple concept!), it is really difficult to capsize an inflatable kayak or inflatable boat, even in rough water. Sea Eagle offers two choices of fishing kayaks ….
- The Sea Eagle 350fx Fishing Kayak is made for 1 person. It weighs 48 lbs and it’s fully equipped with rod holder, non-slip drop stitch floor, etc.
- The Sea Eagle 385ft Fast Track Angler (in photo) was adapted from the popular Fast Track kayak and equipped for fishing. The Angler is only 45 lbs and it is available as both a one person or two person configuration. The drop stitch floor is firm enough to allow stand up fishing.
You can also find a good selection of inflatable fishing kayaks by Aquaglide and STAR on REI.com.
Inflatable SUP’s for Fishing – As we have mentioned on our SUP page, stand up paddle boards have become a large part of the overall paddling market. So it is no surprise that those who prefer SUPs as their favorite mode of water craft would want to use theirs as a fishing craft. Several manufacturers have responded by designing SUPs specifically for fishing. They have added rod holders, swivel seats, motor mounts and fiddled around with the width and length of the boards to ‘lure’ fishermen and women to their particular models. There are several good companies making stand up paddle boards for fishing, but we’re going to stick with recommending that you definitely take a look at Sea Eagle. We know that they back up their products with a 3 year warranty and their 180 day trial period is unmatched.
Sea Eagle FS126 Fishing SUP – This is a more traditional design. A single board that features a slip resistant surface and a “Swallow Tail” to provide better stability, buoyancy and maneuverability. The FS126 can also accommodate the extra weight load of a battery and electric motor. The beauty of this model is that there are 7 packages/variations available, based on the options you prefer, including a motored package. Another package allows this rig to accommodate two anglers, a two person SUP!
Fishing Skiff – One additional inflatable fishing boat worth mentioning is a newer design … the FishSkiff™ 16 foot long Inflatable Fishing Boat from Sea Eagle. It can be used by 1, 2 or 3 people, weighs 99 lbs and has a 1735 lb load capacity. You can run it with a 6 horsepower motor. On their web site, they describe it as … “Roll Up & Stow – Unroll & Go” since it actually ‘rolls up’. Just throw it in your car trunk!
Hopefully, we have been able to help you filter through some of the plethora of information available about inflatable fishing boats. Good luck deciding! I know there are so many choices out there. If you have any questions, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be happy to answer your questions.