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Ready to reel in some big catches and get closer to the fish?
Having your own fishing vessel can make all the difference, and kayaks and inflatable pontoons are two popular options for fishing in shallow waters, lakes, and rivers.
But which one is the best fit for you?
Let’s find out!
One of the key features of a fishing kayak is that it’s stable. Most fishing kayaks are designed with a high level of stability to handle lakes, slow-moving rivers, and calm bays.
There are also fishing kayaks that are designed to handle rougher waters and ocean conditions. It all depends on the hull design.
In order to fish comfortably and safely, kayaks need to have a stable hull so that when you’re reeling in your catch, you don’t tip over.
However, this is why kayaks may not be the best choice if you want to target large, powerful fish, as big fish could still flip your kayak or pull you overboard.
Some fishing kayaks are so stable that they have standing platforms so that you can stand up to fish more comfortably. A standing deck can be a great feature to have on a fishing kayak and one that you may not find on your average inflatable pontoon boat.
Kayaks generally pack a lot of storage space into their compact design. Most fishing kayaks will have a rear cargo deck with enough space for a crate or cooler.
Some kayaks will also have the added benefit of dry storage hatches. These hatches can be ideal for storing gear below deck for safety and to keep it out of the splash zone.
You may also find center hatches, center consoles, tackle storage spaces, cup holders, and even under-seat or seat-back storage. Most fishing kayaks, but not all, will usually have built-in rod holders so you can easily organize your fishing rods on the deck.
An important benefit of a kayak is that it can move across the water easily. By design, kayaks are generally efficient over the water. The long, narrow shape of a kayak helps to cut through water and waves.
Fishing kayaks tend to be wider than other types of kayaks, so the efficiency tends to be affected somewhat. But the overall design of a kayak still means it can be easy to paddle, and can be easier to propel than a shorter, wider boat like a pontoon.
The low-profile design of the hull also means that kayaks are generally better able to handle windy conditions than other types of boats that sit higher in the water. Similarly, this design lets you sit closer to the water, for improved paddling and easy retrieving of your fish with a landing net.
Kayaks also tend to be very easy to maneuver using a paddle, so you can easily paddle through narrow rivers and around rocks or logs.
Kayaks can be great boats for a range of different activities. As well as fishing, you can enjoy paddling for recreation while you explore your local waterways. You can also load up your kayak for an overnight camping trip or a multi-day paddling adventure.
Some fishing kayaks can also be great if you want to bring along your dog. You usually can’t bring a dog on a pontoon, as there is often no place for them to sit comfortably.
Fishing kayaks come in both solo and tandem options, so it’s possible to paddle and fish with a partner if you choose.
Another aspect of the versatility of a kayak is that it can handle various water types. Kayaks can perform well on small and large bodies of water, as well as flat and moving water. You’ll also find that you can paddle in very shallow conditions and through weeds and narrow spots.
Kayaks that are designed specifically for fishing often have lots of excellent features to make your fishing adventures more comfortable. These features can include fishing rod holders, tackle tray storage, anchor trolley systems, and various other features.
Gear tracks can also be commonly found on many fishing kayaks. These tracks can let you easily install electronics and other accessories without having to drill into the boat. So you can easily customize your boat to suit your needs.
Some fishing kayaks will also have features designed to improve tracking, maneuvering, and control in moving water, such as rudder systems or skegs.
Most fishing kayaks, especially those at the higher end of the price scale, have an elevated seat. This can be more comfortable for fishing, as it lets you sit with your knees bent but you can still stretch out your legs when you want to.
The higher seating position can improve your visibility over the water, as well as making you more visible to other vessels.
Portability is one of the key features of an inflatable pontoon boat. The fact that it’s inflatable means you can deflate it to transport it inside the trunk of your car or on the backseats. You can also store it more easily, such as in a closet at home.
This means you don’t have to invest in expensive accessories to get it to and from the water. You can inflate it when you get to the water.
This could give you an added advantage for your launch locations, as you could carry the pontoon into more remote backcountry locations.
However, while most of them are generally lightweight compared to fishing kayaks, there are some pontoons that are pretty heavy, so you may need a second person to help you carry it if you’re hiking into the backcountry.
Pontoons, by design, are generally pretty stable. The long air chambers at either side of the craft add buoyancy and stability to the seat in the center. This means you’ll probably feel pretty secure and stable while seated.
Inflatable pontoon boats are generally designed for flatwater conditions. So a pontoon can be great for fishing in slow-moving rivers, lakes, or ponds.
They may not be so good on rough water and they’re not recommended for fishing in the open ocean.
Because most inflatable pontoons don’t have a deck, as such, the storage space tends to be limited to the air chambers on either side, the frame, and the seat.
Some of the better, more expensive pontoon boats have rails along the tops of the chambers, which can be useful if you want to add other accessories or electronics. But your mounting options could be limited and adding anything to the rails may get in the way of your paddle or oar when you start moving.
Many inflatable pontoon boats often have a storage basket that’s positioned behind the seat. This can be good for holding a fishing crate or a cooler with rod holders.
You can usually find space to store all your essential fishing gear on a pontoon but you might find you don’t have a lot of room for additional gear. For example, they’re probably not the best choice for a multi-day fishing trip.
Pontoon boats can usually be pretty comfortably in terms of the seat. The seat is positioned in the center of the two air bladders and lets you sit slightly above the air chambers.
Inflatable pontoons vary by design. Most pontoons have foot braces for your feet but no deck. This means you usually can’t stand up (unless you have some skills), as there is no platform to stand on.
Most inflatable pontoons have a sturdy chair, with the better pontoons often having chairs that swivel. A swiveling chair can be useful for fishing, as it can let you face the fish no matter what way your boat is facing.
Because inflatable pontoons can be ideal for fishing in shallow rivers, they can make great fly fishing boats.
Many pontoon boats have several storage pockets that can be perfect for storing flies and other tackle. Some will also have rod holders built-into the frame.
The elevated position of the seat can also give you extra room and height to cast your line effectively.
The lightweight inflatable nature of a pontoon means you should be able to easily move it around obstacles in the water if you need to. The durable material on the two air bladders means it should be able to handle occasional knocks and grazes against rocks.
Kayaks Vs. Pontoon Boats: Features Compared
Kayaks and pontoons can both be excellent boats for fishing and they each have their pros and cons. So when it comes down to the main features that you want for a great fishing trip, which one is the best? Kayak or pontoon?
Having decent space to store your equipment is essential on any fishing trip. Both pontoons and fishing kayaks are designed to offer storage space for fishing gear.
The amount of storage space will tend to vary between models. This will be the case for both kayaks and pontoons.
Generally, a fishing kayak will have more space for gear than a pontoon and will also sometimes offer dry storage space, such as a sealed hatch.
Some pontoons will have cargo decks that may hold larger items such as a fishing crate or a small cooler. Most fishing kayaks will have a cargo deck or tank well for crate storage.
Kayaks will also usually offer more storage options for smaller items, with tackle tray storage, a center console or a small hatch for valuables.
Pontoons are often limited to small storage pouches, which may not be as convenient for organizing your gear.
Another benefit of a kayak is that you might have room for camping gear for an overnight trip, so you can extend your fishing adventures. There might also be room to bring along your dog on some kayaks.
The Winner: Kayaks because they have a lot more deck space with more options for storage.
While you can get some pretty expensive fishing pontoons, fishing kayaks are generally more expensive and can run to very expensive. So if you’re on a tight budget and want an affordable way to get out on the water, a pontoon could be a better choice.
You may also find that it’s more expensive to transport a fishing kayak compared to transporting a fishing pontoon. Kayaks will often need a roof rack to safely transport them on your vehicle.
Inflatable pontoon, on the other hand, can usually be transported in the trunk of your car. So you don’t need an expensive roof rack or trailer.
The Winner: Pontoons because they tend to be less expensive than kayaks with similar features and they require less equipment for transportation.
Pontoons and kayaks are both designed to be incredibly stable, making them ideal for fishing.
Pontoons, by design, have exceptional stability on flatwater and can be a good choice on slow-moving rivers.
Most fishing kayaks are built for flatwater stability but some are designed to handle rapids and ocean waters.
Some kayaks will be stable enough to stand up on for easier casting. You probably won’t be able to stand up on most pontoons, as there is often no deck to stand on.
However, in terms of initial stability for a beginner to feel comfortable and less tippy, a pontoon can probably feel more stable.
The Winner: Pontoons because they are wider and can feel less tippy on flatwater. However, for rough water or ocean fishing, kayaks are probably the winning choice.
Both pontoons and kayaks are pretty portable vessels compared to a bass boat, for example.
An inflatable pontoon is probably going to be easier to transport and move than a heavy fishing kayak. A fishing kayak will require a roof rack or possibly a trailer. A pontoon can easily fit in your car and be carried down to the water.
However, if you opt for an inflatable fishing kayak then it can be just as easy to travel with as an inflatable pontoon.
The Winner: Pontoons because they can be deflated and carried in the trunk of your car (however, so can inflatable kayaks).
The level of comfort in a pontoon or a kayak will depend on the quality (and usually the price tag).
Higher end kayaks and pontoons will generally offer more comfort than those at the lower end of the price scale.
Better fishing kayaks will often have roomy decks with elevated seats. Framed seats with breathable mesh padding can often usually be found on quality fishing kayaks. Many kayak seats in this style can also be adjusted to recline and can usually move up and down to suit your height preference.
Some pontoons at the higher end of the scale will feature swiveling seats with padding for added comfort.
You may be able to move around more in a kayak and stretch your legs, which you might not be able to do in some pontoons as your feet may be limited to the foot rests.
The Winner: Kayaks because you have more room to spread out and stretch your legs.
Because of the width of most pontoons, they can be more difficult to move with a paddle or oar.
Kayaks, on the other hand, can be easier to maneuver with a paddle, making them ideal for all types of water, including small rivers and streams, as well as areas with weeds.
Pontoons, however, might be easier to move around obstacles in a river where you would need to portage a kayak. Pontoons can be pushed or pulled over shallows or other hazards, which can be quicker than portaging a heavy kayak full of gear.
Kayaks also tend to be quicker over the water, which can mean you get to your honey hole faster and with less effort.
Both kayaks and pontoons usually have the option of adding a trolling motor for increased speed and power over the water.
The Winner: Kayaks because they can be easy to control and easier to paddle in a wide range of conditions.
Customizing your fishing boat can be fun and can let you tailor your vessel to suit your style of fishing. Kayaks can be ideal for customizing as there are many aftermarket accessories and mounts that you can add to the deck.
With a pontoon, you may not have as many options for customizing your boat because it’s inflatable. This means you may be restricted to the types of mounts you can use.
Some mounts for kayaks require you to drill into your hull, which you obviously won’t be able to do with an inflatable pontoon.
Many inflatable pontoon boats will have mounts built into the hull so that you can add your own accessories and electronics. This can let you easily install a fish finder or GPS device.
With a hard shell fishing kayak, you may find that you have plenty of mounting points already installed. Gear tracks, for example, can offer versatility and let you mount any accessory easily and quickly.
Many fishing kayaks will also have additional mounting points to let you install a trolling motor or additional rod holders, or even a livewell.
The Winner: Kayaks because they have more options for installing additional accessories.
One of the most important features to consider when choosing a boat for fishing is how easy it will be to actually fish from. Both pontoons and fishing kayaks are generally easy to fish from.
Pontoons tend to have elevated seats, giving you a good vantage point for sight fishing and letting you sit higher above the boat for easier casting. This can make them ideal vessels for fly fishing in particular, as you have an elevated position and there can be less chance of your line getting snagged on the boat.
Fishing kayaks also often have elevated seats which can let you cast more easily and comfortably.
An added advantage of some fishing kayaks is that you can often stand up on the deck if you want to get a better angle or get more power behind your cast.
The Winner: Kayaks because they have more space to move around and stand up.
Whether a kayak or inflatable pontoon is better for fishing will probably be down to personal preference and whichever vessel meets your needs the best. Both boats have excellent advantages.
But if you’re looking for the ultimate fishing vessel in a range of environments, with comfort and options for customization, then a fishing kayak is probably the best choice.
What’s your opinion? Let us know your thoughts. And remember to share this with your angler buddies to see what they think.