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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

54 Models Considered
9 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
173 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best inflatable fishing boats

Last Updated June 2019

Whether you’re on a weekend excursion with friends or an extended family road trip, one of the most enjoyable outings is getting in a bit of fishing. If you’re on a river, lake, or ocean, you are likely to need a boat. However, not everyone has a fishing boat readily available.

Both freshwater and ocean fishermen find inflatable fishing boats an attractive alternative to traditional fishing boats. Inflatable fishing boats are portable and versatile, and they require little in the way of storage space. In most cases, inflatable fishing boats are significantly less expensive than traditional watercraft in terms of not only the purchase price but also insurance, licensing, transportation, storage, and maintenance.

What’s more, if fishing isn’t your main recreational activity or you don’t have the space or resources required to store or transport a traditional fishing boat, an inflatable boat is an ideal solution. An inflatable fishing boat will carry all your fishing gear as well as additional fellow anglers.

If you’re interested in a safe, portable fishing boat that’s easy to transport, read on to learn more about inflatable fishing boats. We also invite you to check out our favorites.

Inflatables are constructed with multiple tubes filled with air. If one tube is damaged and springs a leak, the air in the remaining tubes will keep the inflatable afloat. For their size, inflatables are the safest of all watercraft.

Inflatable fishing boat safety

The first question the majority of inflatable boat buyers ask is, “ Are inflatable fishing boats safe and reliable?” The answer is a resounding yes. You may wonder if an inflatable fishing boat could suffer a puncture on a rock or other sharp item, but fear not: utilizing oversized inflatable tubes, inflatable fishing boats are exceptionally buoyant and difficult to capsize because of their low center of gravity.

Inflatable fishing boats combine rugged durability, cutting-edge design, and progressive technical features. They are every bit as safe, and in many situations, even more seaworthy than traditional fishing boats. Where a hard-sided canoe or rowboat may tip over when one tries to re-board from the water, a swimmer can climb aboard an inflatable fishing boat with ease.

Inflatable fishing boat materials

Inflatable fishing boats are made from one or more of the following materials: PVC, polyurethane, and neoprene combined with a rubber called chlorosulfonated polyethylene, or CSM.

The two most common materials are CSM and neoprene. CSM is especially strong. On its own, CSM is not able to hold air, but when combined with neoprene, it is airtight.

DuPont marketed CSM under the brand name Hypalon until they discontinued their rubber in 2010. However, throughout the boat trade, the neoprene/CSM combo is still often referred to as Hypalon.

While each synthetic material has distinct advantages, there are also disadvantages to consider. Selecting the wrong material can make the difference between a fine day of fishing enjoyment or one fraught with problems.

CSM pros and cons

  • CSM stands up well to scrapes and scratches should the boat scrape against hard surfaces. It’s not as resistant to damage as polyurethane, but it is more robust than PVC.

  • Offering excellent UV tolerance, CSM does not harden, crack from sun exposure, or deteriorate over time like PVC. However, the color in the coating is not sun-proof and will fade with prolonged sun exposure.

  • Impervious to oil or fuel spills, CSM is not damaged by exposure to most chemicals, but because the material is porous, it does get dirty fast. On a happy note, CSM is stain-proof and cleans up nicely.

  • CSM is easy to repair.

  • CSM is the most robust and durable boat coating, but it is also the most expensive.
     

Neoprene pros and cons

  • Neoprene exhibits excellent chemical stability, maintaining outstanding physical toughness and flexibility in all types of weather. Neoprene does not downgrade due to the effects of ozone, sun, or temperature.

  • Demonstrating outstanding resistance to tears and damage caused by flexing or twisting, neoprene fabric is the primary material used in the manufacture of wetsuits — hence the nickname “scuba knit.”

  • Some people, allergic to thiourea residues left from production, experience contact dermatitis when handling neoprene.

CAUTION

RIB inflatable boats offer high speed coupled with stellar handling. However, an increase in power often creates a false confidence that may lead to boating accidents.

Types of inflatable fishing boats

There are two basic types of inflatable fishing boats: soft inflatable and hard-sided inflatable.

Soft inflatable fishing boats

Soft inflatable fishing boats are soft-sided without a solid floor. These are a breeze to store and transport: RU fishing boats (also known as roll-up inflatable boats) inflate and launch quickly. These boats are like dinghies in that you do not have to remove the floor for storage. Often utilized as tenders to a larger vessel, the RU boat design uses wooden slats encased in fabric. It isn’t necessary to remove the wood slats for storage.

Fitted with a transom, an RU inflatable fishing boat can support a small outboard motor. An RU is perfect for exploring a meandering river or small lake, but because these boats do not plane, they do not provide the speed or power required for rough water, thereby limiting their use beyond flat-water travel or in-harbor forays.

Hard-sided inflatable fishing boats

Hard-sided styles and designs used for fishing include inflatable tenders, dinghies, platoon boats, rafts, and kayaks.

Sports boats, also known as SBs, are inflatables designed with a removable rigid floor fabricated from aluminum, composite plastic, or wood. Stringers running fore and aft keep the craft in alignment utilizing stringers for stiffening. When an SB inflates, the stretched fabric bottom assumes a shallow V-configuration, allowing the SB to move faster and navigate in tighter areas than its RU counterpart.

High-pressure (HP) boats are similar to SBs, but they exchange a wood or plastic floor for an inflatable high-pressure floor. Also known as an air-flow, inflatable boats with a high-pressure floor combine performance and portability in an inflatable fishing boat that is lightweight, compact, and highly maneuverable. With a small outboard motor, this type of boat planes at an acceptable speed. And when you’re ready to head on down the highway, the inflatable high-pressure floor deflates and rolls up securely for storage and transport inside the HP.

For the ultimate in performance and strength, rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) feature a moderate or deep reinforced deep-V hull. These boats smoothly handle rough water and rough treatment, such as the abrasion and weight of diving gear and tanks, poles, and picnic baskets. Topside inflatable tubes make RIB boats especially buoyant and stable. However, they lack the portability of other configurations, and you can’t stash your fishing boat in your vehicle trunk or backseat.

Using state-of-the-art design, engineering, and technology, RIB inflatables with aluminum deep-V hulls are widely used in the commercial fishing trade, and they are the preferred vessel for humanitarian relief, search and rescue, and military and law enforcement applications.

EXPERT TIP

Before determining the size and style of inflatable fishing boat that’s right for you, you have to decide how you want to transport your watercraft.


Staff  | BestReviews

Questions to ask before choosing an inflatable fishing boat

How fast do you want to go?

Whether you want to take a leisurely float on a lazy river or race against the tide in the open ocean, there is a size, speed capability, and price range of inflatable fishing boat to fit every need and pocketbook.

Do you want an inflatable fishing boat that can plane?

If you want speed and performance, an inflatable fishing boat that can plane is a must, especially if you desire to waltz over the water at more than five miles an hour. If you want your boat to plane, a semi-rigid or rigid boat floor is essential. An inflatable fishing boat’s floor construction is the primary factor affecting ease of assembly and storage, and the rigid design is needed for optimum performance.

For fishermen seeking speed and a sleek design, an inflatable fishing boat with a rigid deep-V high-performance hull crafted from aluminum, plastic, or fiberglass is an excellent choice. However, keep in mind that an RIB must be trailered or stored off-season on davit mounts.

How often will you use your inflatable fishing boat?

How much money you choose to invest and the type of boat that fits your needs more than likely depends on how much time you plan to spend using your inflatable. You may want a lightweight, single-person raft you can stash in your backpack to explore a hidden alpine lake you discover while hiking. Or, you may want a boat on which you can spend all your leisure time with a line in rough waves, saltwater fishing for lingcod.

How will you transport your inflatable boat?

If you are going to transport your boat in the back of your pickup or trailer it to the launch location, look for an inflatable fishing boat that can withstand scratches, scrapes, bangs, and bumps. Models with a reinforced rock guard around the hull provide increased durability.

Inflatable fishing boat prices

When considering inflatable fishing boats, you will find a broad spectrum of prices based on quality of workmanship, materials, size, weight, and style.

Inexpensive: You can find a low-cost inflatable fishing boat that seats one person for around $75. Most fishing boats in this range are lower in quality but can be expected to last a year or two. Many manufacturer’s offer up to a three-year protection plan for an additional fee of around $5.

Mid-range: A two-to- four-person inflatable sport tender with an aluminum frame, marine wood flooring, aluminum bench seat, and accessories costs around $1,200.

Expensive: Commercial-sized inflatable fishing crafts designed for extreme recreational fishing adventure can cost more than $35,000 without the motor.

DID YOU KNOW?

Most inflatable fishing boats are substantially lower in price than their traditional counterparts.

Tips

  • Inflatable fishing boats, manufactured from CSM and neoprene, are stronger and more durable than those made from polypropylene.

  • If you plan to pair your inflatable with an outboard motor, be sure to select a boat with a transom strong enough to support the weight of the motor.

  • Make sure your onboard gear includes a fast-loading self bailer, paddles, rod holders, a repair kit, and exterior lifelines.

Other products we considered

The two-person Outcast Osg Striker Raft by Outcast Gear caught our eye for its rugged durability, quality of workmanship, and comfort. The BRIS Inflatable Boat Inflatable Rafting Fishing Dinghy Tender Pontoon Boat is also a sturdy, multi-use, inflatable fishing boat: an excellent value for the money. The Bris 10.8 features an inflatable V-keel, 18-inch tubes for enhanced stability in tight turns, and a 10 HP engine that can reach speeds of more than 20 miles an hour.

The sleek white design, exceptional rear buoyancy, and fast planing on takeoff make the Inflatable Sports Boats Manta Ray Model 270 a handsome inflatable that can really get up and go. With extended rear pontoons and a broad transom, it provides weight support and stability for a large outboard motor.

Inflatable fishing boats perform well in all types of weather conditions.

FAQ

Q. Are inflatable fishing boats built to last?
A.
The lifespan of an inflatable fishing boat is dependent on the materials used in the construction of the craft, exposure to the elements, and how the inflatable is stored. A high-quality inflatable, utilizing CSM and neoprene could last for 15 years or more with proper care and storage. Inflatable fishing boats built with PVC that are used in hot and humid climates can deteriorate beyond repair in as little as three to five years.

Q. What is the top speed of an inflatable fishing boat?
A.
The speed of an inflatable fishing boat depends on the design of the inflatable and the size of the outboard motor used to propel the craft. A soft-bottom or RU-style inflatable, because it cannot plane, can only navigate at a top speed of less than five miles per hour. A six-passenger RIB with a deep V-hull can achieve speeds of 70 knots or up to 80 miles an hour, depending on weight and size.

The team that worked on this review
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Katie
    Katie
    Editorial Director
  • Marlene
    Marlene
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor

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