Inflatable drift boat vs. Pontoon boat

Jon Brengan

flyfishing addict
So here's my dilemma, after floating on the Sky a couple weeks ago I've had this overwhelming itch to get a boat that both me and my friends could fish from. The float I did was fairly quick since we ran out of time and daylight, but I need to be able to not only expand my fishing but also allow others that haven't been introduced to fishing to get that "itch" as well. Anyways - I got the OK from the wife, but I want to make sure I'm getting the best boat for me. I want to mainly fish rivers - moving water, but taking it to a lake is a possibility as well. I have limited experience w/ Toons, but have guided out of the drift-style inflatables in Alaska. I like that style more, because of the stability on the water. I want some advice to what others think about the drift-style vs. pontoons. I'm flyfishing not pulling plugs or drifting bait, but will be taking some spoon chuckers (im affeared) in the future then breaking them in to the joys of FFing. Just chime in with your opions please. Any favorites would be appreciated too.
I think a drift boat would be your best bet.

However, if you're set on an inflatable I think you'd be better served with a cataraft since you also would like to make it stillwater friendly as well. Outboard power is definately a possiblity with a cataraft.


Active Member
It depends on your situation. I have a 12 1/2-foot Achilles with a rowing frame and find it suits my purposes quite well. I don't have much storage space, so the deflatable raft and take-down frame make sense for me. Two fishing and one rowing seems to be optimal; a raft is more stable and has more useable space than a pontoon boat and is superior to a drift boat in bony water. Deflated, it fits easily in the back of my truck and my impeller pump inflates it in about five minutes. Not having to store, maintain and license a trailer also appeals to my cheapskate nature. A raft can also be launched in places you'd never think of trying to put a drift boat in the water.


Active Member
Having had driftboats, pontoon boats, and a cataraft, here's my .02worth.

First off, you have to draw the line on what you consider the difference between a pontoon boat and a cataraft. Usually it is determined by tube dia. But consider that bigger tubes are gonna have a beefier frame, add more weight, etc. You may find a few two or three person "pontoon" boats that don't require a trailer. But would you put your life, or the lives of others, at risk on what may be a borderline craft? May be. Not that they all are. Up to you to make that decision.

A conventional, self bailing, frame type raft, nice as they can be, does not get along well with studded boots.

Single person pontoon boats can be nice. But they are only one person boats.

Inflatables, contrary to what the uninitiated may think, do not survive being stored outside for long. And one large enough to accomodate two or three people is going to be a pain in the a$$ to disassemble and pack away after every trip.

Unless it is a mini drifter, a hard body drift boat will definately require a trailer. Aluminum or glass can live outside, all year long if necesssary. Wood? don't even think about wood for a first boat unless you can store it inside. And only then if you get a really good deal on a used one. A hard body drift boat will handle differently than a raft. It will be much more responsisve and require less effort to row.

In short, there is no such thing as the perfect boat. They are all specialized craft. And as such, they are all compromises for anything else. You just have to find what's right for you.
I have a 14' SOTAR inflatable raft, that I bought from Jergans this last spring. It has a self bailing floor and a NRS rowing/fishing frame. It works well with a rower and two fishing. Because the frame and seating are adjustable it works well with two people; one fishing all the time and one rowing and fishing.
Because of unforseen problems I did not have a trailer for the boat this season and found that it is not a pain in the butt to haul and inflate. The frame sits nicely on the back of the truck or would work on a roof rack. I can get to the river unload, inflate, strap the frame on and be on the water in 30 minutes including stringing my rods.
This boat is a blast I have become quite enthused about witewater rafting since I got the boat. It is extremely stable and forgiving in rough water. You have to really work at getting in trouble with it in anything under a Class 3+ water.
The floor is bullet proof but you wont want to wear studded boots in it. Is it the perfect boat? NO. If you want perfection you need to have 4 or 5 boats one for each best use.
I like what I got and did not have to mortgage the ranch to get it.
jesse clark


Be the guide...
If you only need room for one more, my approach may work. Since I fish alone 90% of the time, but like to take my wife, or dad, or buddy fishing from time to time, I ended up buying 2 nice one man pontoons. That way I can easily go by myself, and when i have company, they can take the other 'toon. Just another option to consider...