Kayak fishing has quickly evolved over the last ten years into a mainstream style of fishing. The greatest difference between fishing kayaks and other kayaks is generally in the way they are rigged with an elaborate array of fishing accessories attached into a relatively small area. The ease with which these accessories could be added to a regular kayak soon led to the development of a separate line of kayak models designed specifically for the angler. Yet even with all of these popular advancements, there is now another style of kayak that is becoming more and more popular among avid kayak fishermen.
The inflatable kayak was once often thought of as a toy as compared to other kayaks, but the inflatable kayaks of today are not anything like their early counterparts. Previous inflatable models were sometimes as light and flimsy as an average swimming pool raft. The modern inflatable kayaks have proven to be extremely safe and are available from quality manufacturers. They are known to be quite durable and puncture proof. So while there are both pros and cons with inflatables, as there are with any other style of kayak, the cons seem to be an acceptable trade off in return for the advantages that are available in no other type of fishing kayak.
First, a look at the cons. Inflatable kayaks are somewhat more difficult to paddle and maneuver, and in general lack the speed of a rigid kayak. This might make a big difference if purchasing a kayak for touring, but in kayak fishing, speed is not really that big of a deal. Kayak anglers spend most of their time sitting still in one spot or possibly drifting while casting and retrieving, rather than paddling along at full speed. Another consideration is that it may be more difficult to add the numerous accessories most individuals like, which is widely known as “rigging”. On rigid kayaks, it is relatively easy to drill a mounting hole into the deck of the kayak and add just about anything a person might want.
A short list of common accessories would probably include such things as rod holders, tackle box mountings and compartments, bait containers, and a wide variety of electronics such as fish finders, GPS, cell phone holders, marine radios, air pumps for bait tanks and running lights. Obviously, it is not advised to drill holes into an inflatable kayak! However, many enterprising DIY riggers have found that a few plastic “D-rings” and some duct tape will make a handy group of mounting and attachment points on an inflatable kayak. One of the latest and greatest discoveries among self-rigging enthusiasts is that a heavy duty plastic cutting board, normally for kitchen counter use, can be bungee corded to an inflatable kayak which then makes an excellent hard surface for mounting the normal electronics.
So what exactly is it that is causing such an uprising in the popularity of inflatable kayaks? The number one reason is portability. An inflatable fishing kayak can be folded into a carrying pack and easily backpacked to remote fishing areas that no other boat can be taken to. Most inflatables can be purchased with a carrying pack that can either be used as a back pack, or as a shoulder bag, and taking them to remote fishing spots is no more trouble than taking along an extra tackle box. Most fishermen have a well kept list of those secret and remote fishing spots that can only be reached by a long hike. Carrying any type of watercraft by hand to those sites has simply never been an option.
After years of only being able to walk around the edges and do some shore fishing, those sites have now become opened up to getting out on the water where the big ones are. The slight inconvenience of having to inflate your watercraft before getting started is easily compensated for by being the only person there with a fishing kayak. The average person can easily take an inflatable kayak to places where they would not even consider carrying a rigid kayak or canoe.
To seal the deal on the rising popularity of the inflatable kayak, there is a long list of additional pros. Their light weight not only makes taking them along on a hike a definite plus, but also makes a nice difference in getting the kayak out of your vehicle and to the shoreline even when you are able to drive right up to the launch. On average, an inflatable kayak will weigh about half that of a similar sized rigid kayak. Even many tandem inflatable kayaks weight less than single rigid kayaks. There is no need for a trailer or roof rack, since they easily will fit into the trunk of even a compact car, or into the back seat. This ability to fit into a small space adds another big benefit, storage of your kayak in the off season. While storing your rigid kayak in the winter months usually means either having sufficient garage space, a storage building, or an outside rack or cradle of some kind, a deflated kayak will usually need no more storage space than that of a cooler. Finally there is the price consideration. Inflatable kayaks are generally about half the cost of a similar sized rigid model. The additional savings of not having to also purchase a roof rack or trailer has influenced many fishermen to become kayak fishermen when price is their main consideration.