Plenty of anglers don’t have the space to store a big kayak or the vehicle needed to transport one. And whether you live in a small apartment, drive an economical car, or just aren’t sure that you can handle the weight and encumbrance of a hard shell, an inflatable might be just the thing to get you on the water.
But don’t worry: the inflatable kayaks in this article aren’t expensive pool toys, and each is a capable fishing machine that can shrug off sharp rocks, branches, and shells without a fuss.
Below, you’ll find a complete buying guide as well as reviews of some of our favorites inflatable fishing kayaks.
Quick glance at the best inflatable fishing kayaks:
Table of Contents (clickable)
Material: 550 denier PVC
Weight: 44 lbs.
Length: 10’ 8”
Capacity: 400 lbs.
Perhaps more paddleboard than kayak, what’s certain is that Hobie’s Mirage ITrek 11 is a very hard contender to beat. Fast, stable, sturdy, and comfortable, there’s a lot to recommend about the ITrek 11 for serious anglers.
Hobie uses 550 denier PVC on the hull, and while that’s pretty tough stuff, I’m comfortable saying that the Sea Eagle is sturdier. That said, very, very little will threaten this Hobie with a puncture, and you can be confident taking this ‘yak into challenging situations.
By design, the ITrek 11 is ridiculously stable. Standing is almost as easy as it is on dry land, and I’d rate this as the best option for sight fishing or fly angling on this list.
Hobie’s attention to detail is excellent, and they certainly spent plenty of time on the seat. Rigid, comfortable, and high, it’s ideal for all-day adventures and provides a commanding view of the water. For many, it’s already high enough to allow side arm fly casting, and despite the raised center of gravity, the ITrek 11 feels like it’s nailed down.
This Hobie comes standard with MirageDrive GT, a pedal-powered fin system that generates ridiculous torque and speed. Easily much faster than a paddle, it’s great for getting where you need to be and surprisingly capable at fighting current and wind. Paired with the included rudder, this is really an effortless inflatable to “paddle,” and the one that I think is the closest to hard shell performance.
Deck space is plentiful, and with a 400 lb. capacity, you can pack whatever you think you’ll need. And while this kayak doesn’t offer any built-in fishing features, packing rod holders and tackle are simply not an issue--nor, for that matter, is bringing along a real cooler.
Overall, I’d say I’m really impressed. The only thing that I don’t like about this awesome inflatable is the price, but then, as in most things, you get what you pay for.
Material: 1100 decitex reinforced PVC
Weight: 39.7 lbs.
Length: 12’ 6”
Width: 3’ 3”
Capacity: 750 lbs.
Sea Eagle’s 380X Explorer is a high-performing fixture on white water, and adventurous paddlers have probably heard of this inflatable’s legendary performance on hull-crushing rapids. And while not designed specifically for anglers, this tough, dependable, easy-paddling kayak is certainly an option to consider.
Large enough to offer tandem seating, the 380X Explorer sports an incredible 750 lb. capacity. Even with two adult anglers aboard, there’s room and floatation for hundreds of pounds of tackle, making this inflatable an ideal choice for multi-day fishing expeditions.
For solo anglers, space is more than abundant. If you can fill this kayak with tackle, I’ll be impressed!
Designed for Class IV rapids and all the punishment sharp rocks and branches can dish out, the 1100 decitex reinforced PVC that Sea Eagle uses on the 380X is simply amazing. As far as I know, there’s no inflatable on the market that can compete in pure durability, and I’ve no question at all about how this kayak will handle hooks and other sharp objects.
Handling and tracking are acceptable, but nothing to write home about when compared to a hard shell. That’s not a criticism: there’s simply no way to get that kind of performance from an inflatable. Rigidity is good, seaworthiness is excellent, and you’ll find the 380X among the least sluggish of the inflatables.
Stability is beyond excellent, as by design, the edges of this ‘yak are buoyant. Standing is no issue, and for fly anglers looking to sight fish, this can be a deal-maker.
If there’s a downside to the 380X Explorer for anglers, it’s the lack of built-in features for fishing. But a little creativity can solve that issue and may be well worth the effort given the overall quality of this inflatable kayak.
For anglers looking for an inflatable tandem, this is simply the best option on the market.
Weight: 45 lbs.
Length: 10’ 6”
Capacity: 400 lbs.
Advanced Elements’ Straitedge Angler Pro is an innovative inflatable that places the needs of fishermen front and center.
While not forthcoming about the basic material of this kayak, the combination of a rigid drop-stitch floor and plenty of aluminum-tube reinforcement adds up to exceptional rigidity. In practice, whether you're standing to cast or paddling against a strong current, you’ll find performance is excellent.
The fin box improves tracking a lot and serves as a mounting point for an optional electric motor.
As a nice touch, Advanced Elements placed a handy fish ruler on the floor, something every angler will appreciate.
The anodized aluminum and fabric seat provides all-day comfort, in no small part because it’s pretty high off the water. No worries there, though: as with most inflatables, stability is excellent, and you won’t feel tippy in the least.
I would recommend a slightly longer paddle, however, as the combination of seat height and beam are going to make reach an issue.
I mentioned innovative design at the outset, and those exposed aluminum tubes at the bow don’t just add rigidity. They also function as generic 1” rail mounts for a variety of accessories like rod holders and electronic mounting points. If it attaches to a 1” rail, you’re in business.
For many anglers, that’s huge, as customization can really enhance your experience on the water. Want to rig your ‘yak for trolling? No sweat. Want to run a fish finder? Easy. Need a nice flat surface for rigging tackle or cutting bait? Simple.
The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
Overall, I’m pretty impressed by the Straitedge Angler Pro, though I’d still like to know the material they construct this inflatable from.
Material: Nitrylon synthetic rubber over 1200-denier polyester
Weight: 46 lbs.
Length: 12’ 3”
Capacity: 441 lbs.
Innova’s Halibut is the inflatable on our list that looks most like a pool toy--there’s no question about that--but don’t judge a book by its cover.
Composed of synthetic rubber and tough polyester, it offers real-world durability and is forgiving of impacts and pokes. Innova uses fiberglass plates to create rigidity and a hard surface for seating and mounts, but I’m not sure I’d try to stand in this kayak. There’s just not enough there to provide footing, though your mileage may vary.
While secondary stability is excellent, meaning that you really won’t tip this ‘yak up on its side, primary stability is just so-so. Standing in this inflatable will create disturbing motion, and many anglers won’t feel fully in control.
That’s not necessarily a deal-breaker, but this probably isn’t the best choice for fly anglers and other sight fishermen.
That weakness notwithstanding, this is a well-thought-out kayak, and from a removable skeg to a mount for a fish finding transponder, Innova clearly had anglers in mind. The soft, inflatable seat has rod-holding pockets on the rear, and the front mounting plate easily accommodates electronics and a cannon-style rod holder.
Our verdict? The Advanced Elements Straitedge Angler Pro is probably the better choice for fishing--and it costs a bit less, too.
Until I started researching inflatable fishing kayaks, I wouldn’t have considered one seriously.
Like you, I was pretty sure that they couldn’t stand up to punctures from hooks, let alone sharp branches, jagged rocks, stumps, or an accidental poke from a fishing knife.
But I was dead wrong!
Inflatable kayaks can be tough, durable, and extremely puncture-resistant. How tough? Two examples should suffice to answer this question. Both Navy S.E.A.L.s and professional whitewater guides use inflatable boats in the most demanding conditions.
That’s because the best inflatables are constructed from incredibly robust materials, feature multiple air chambers, and sport air-tight valves. Often, they’ll have a covering made from layers of really tough rubber or PVC, and though not puncture-proof, they can take more of a beating than you probably imagine.
And because they’re filled with air, they can shrug off hard impacts that might crack a hard-shelled kayak. They can also survive abrasions and pokes from rocks, stumps, and branches. If they couldn’t, you wouldn’t see them on white water and in naval assaults.
The myth that these are overgrown pool toys can be put to bed, but let’s be honest. People don’t buy inflatables because they’re tougher than hard shells, but well-made inflatable ‘yaks can stand up to the worst you’ll dish out.
As in most things, though, you get what you pay for. If you want ultra-tough, prepare to see the price gap between an inflatable and a hard shell shrink.
US Special Forces Combat Rubber Raiding Craft:
inflatable boat vs class 5 rapids:
This is where inflatable kayaks really shine. Because they’re inflated for use and pack down to a reasonable size, they’re ridiculously easy to transport compared to a hard shell. Have a long drive to your next fishing adventure, but you only own a small car? Need to ride the bus to the local lake? Have a bad back and can’t handle lifting 90 pounds overhead to load a ‘yak onto your car?
Inflatable kayaks are relatively light and far more transportable than their hard-shelled alternatives. And they take up no more space than a large sleeping bag, making them easy to store in an apartment or a small home. They’re also a snap to toss in the trunk of your car for a day on the water. Try that with a 14-foot hard shell!
This is another area where inflatable kayaks are fantastic. Because they tend to be a bit wider than hard shells, and because they’re positively buoyant at the edges, they’re very, very stable.
In fact, these designs are often more resistant to tipping than most recreational kayaks. They’re also generally easy to right and re-enter from the water. This combination makes them some of the safest boats around.
shows instructions for re-entering inflatable kayaks and demonstrates stability:
Inflatables are plenty durable and ultra-transportable; that’s where they’re at their best. But tracking, speed, and handling aren’t their strong suits.
While the very best of the bunch can get close to the performance of a hard shell, there are two basic physics problems that bedevil inflatable kayaks.
Practically, the difference you’ll notice in an inflatable is that it’ll be harder to paddle and more difficult to keep moving in a straight line than a similar hard shell. They’ll also tend to waggle more with each paddle stroke.
Most offer a fixed or detachable skeg to improve handling and tracking. But generally, as with questions of durability, you get what you pay for here, too.
There’s a bit more upkeep required with inflatables in comparison to hard shells.
A final thing to consider is that you’ll need a few minutes to inflate your ‘yak before you hit the water. This is not as big of a deal as you might think, and it takes little more time than unloading a hard shell from your car or truck.
Inflatable kayaks are an ideal way to experience the excitement of angling. Easy to store and simple to transport, the best of the bunch are truly capable fishing platforms that can hold their own with hard shells.
We hope that this article has helped you pick the right model for you, and as always, we’d love to hear from you if it has.
Please leave a comment below!