drift boat or raft?

i am 18 and planning on buying my first boat of some sort, I live on the yakima river but i also want to get into steelheading on the kick and methow, any sugestions of what kind of boat i should get? i have about 5k, any insite whould be greatly appretiated thanks
rafts are more versatile then drift boats for more water but take more set up time etc... drift boats are ready to go, just launch and your good.

i have a db and it suits me very well, i've fished out of 2 different rafts and they are a blast too. The rafts dont have the platform a db has, you can get fishing frames, but you dont have the storage or compartments you can get with some db's.

i put an electric motor on my db for stillwater

you live in eburg - go stop by a few fly shops and ask the guides, most of the shops have clacka and a few have hydes, they are very fundamentally different in their designs, you should figure out what you like best for yourself

Pm sent.

I had a raft for 12 years and it served me well. I kept it inflated and trailered it. When I went on week long trips I was always concerned that someone would steal it or take a knife to it. Five years ago I bought a claka at the sportsman show. Wish I had bought a drift boat 12 years earlier.

With the raft I had to store everything in dry bags. The DB has all the storage I have ever wanted. I never had a hard bottom nor a knee rest in the raft so it was a bit touchy to stand.

Mine is 15'. In hindsight I probably would go to 16'. The 15' is a little tight for the guy or gal in the back, but it is usually just the wife and I or another single with me.

Whatever you decide I am sure you will enjoy fishing from it as much as I have over the years.

I have spent alot of time, doing way to much research on this subject. If you really want to blow your mind start looking into pontoon boats. Anyway with 5k you can find a nice DB. /so price is not an issue. Storage is the major issue. Storage on the boat, storage at your home, etc. I chose a raft because I don't want to store a boat, plus i wanted to take my tent trailer and bring my boat as well. I also wanted to take my kids whitewater rafting in the summer.
So write down five things that are important now and maybe in your near future. You'll know. Both are great and have advantages over the other. Hopefully it doesnt take you two years like me to pull the trigger. Good luck


Active Member
depends on where you want to fish, how long a trip you plan on taking, whether or not you like to fish from the craft you are in or plan on getting out and so forth.

a raft is a freightliner! you will be able to pack more stuff than you thought possible on a raft. long trips, this is the best bet for certain.

if you choose to fish from your floating craft, the DB is probably more versitile in this regard. it will have limitations in carrying capacity but only if you are making long floats.

if you are doing day trips, carry a minimum amount of stuff, maybe one other person, really enjoy floating, getting out and wading. think about a cataraft, the true ferrari of floating craft. this is THE boat for skinny, rocky water ways. anything you have the balls to go through, a cat will take it and still keep on tickin' :D
I went through the same thought for 3 years til I finally decided to go with a lifetime of boating and be able to hand it down to my grand children, so I went with a WF Clackacraft drift boat.

I made a list of at least 20 pros and cons, and the drift boat won.

Good luck!

Here is an inspiring photo to help you decide...


...has several mistresses.
Driftboat vs. Raft, a timeless problem!
A drifter, as the above states, drop it off the trailer and you are set, a raft, almost the same deal.
Here are my observations........DB-Stay more dry, store more gear and carry more people, low water is the issue with a DB, if you are addicted as you state, you will soon be hauling your ship to MT and ID or OR for that matter, get into early or late season and you are painting rocks with the bottom of your DB.
RAFT-Low water, takes one person to drag it ashore and around anything that blocks you, self bail raft holds water, so when you row you are moving water as well, same with a sealed bottom in rain. Smokers can burn a hole in your raft, less storage, less GVW to add to the mix and you wont paint any rocks.
With 5K to burn, check out the AIRE rafts or the Hyde Contender. All fit into your price, Red's on the Yak has a Contender.



Piscatorial Engineer
If you want to run white water, get the raft. If you want a fishing platform, get the hard boat. I have spent a lot of time in both. I am a fisherman, so I own the drift boat, this isn't my first either (I am 54 yrs old). IMO, the drift boat wins hands down - for me. You may have different priorities.

If I were in your shoes, knowing what I know now, I would beg, borrow or steal enough to get an aluminum drift boat, and I would have a hitch on every vehicle I own from here on out, doesn't matter what it is. (For a while I pulled mine behind a 4 cyl Peugeot)

I finally got a 8hp long shaft for it. I used it for salmon in Tillamook and Nehalem bays, I crabbed out of it, I used it on maybe 2 dozen nw rivers including the 125 mi. of whitewater of the Middle Fork Salmon River in Idaho, I duck hunted out of it, I fished sturgeon and shad out of it, I rowed it at night for steelhead at the mouth of the White Salmon, and lots more. I sold my first one to buy a car for my second son, one of the worst mistakes I ever made, but that's another story. Now I have another drift boat, another aluminum boat.

I would get the aluminum because you will never wear the chines thin like you will with glass, and you can use it until it looks like it should go in the recycle bin, and then use it a lot more. Over more than 30 years of owning boats up to 32' twin diesel, I have never used another boat as much as I have my drift boats, and I have fished from Belize to Alaska. Now, I can own pretty much any boat I want, and I own one - the aluminum drift boat.

Pretty hard to go wrong with one of those.
I agree with the vast array of input and experiences that have been shared. The most important item is to purchase one early in your life as you are doing so that you can experience years of enjoyment and use. Over the years, I have gone off the deep end. I started with a Woolridge alluminum 16 foot drift boat 35 years ago. The boat is still in great shape after 1000s of trips. If you go the DB way - go aluminum, it will last for ever. Fiberglass is more quiet and warmer but will not last half as long no matter what the manufacturer says. I love the driftboat for its easy of launching, set-up and fishing stability. That being said, I also own two rafts - 13 foot self-bailing Outcast and a 14 foot self-bailing Sotar. The reason I got the rafts were to float more heavy whitewater rivers and to be able to carry alot of gear. I believe the rafts are much better on rivers like the Deschutes, Middle Fork of the Salmon etc. They increase safety by a bunch. You can definitely use a driftboat on these rivers but one small mistake and you flip your boat, possibly lose all of your gear and in some cases your life. The raft gives you a huge margin of error. All that being said, you should have good to excellent rowing skills to tackle more demanding rivers no matter what boat you use.

I would recommend that you make a list of how and where you are going to use the boat. The prioritized list should help define your choice.

If I had to choose one boat, I think I would go with a 13 foot raft because of its versatility. It can do everything that a drift boat can and then tackle multiple day trips, big whitewater, and increase the safety margin.

Good luck in your decision making and many years of fun and safe river floating - See you on the river!


Piscatorial Engineer
There is another factor I neglected to mention. A raft is a piece of disposable equipment. That is to say it has a useable lifespan. Over time, use, environment and UV will take its toll, and your raft is destined for the waste heap. An aluminum drift boat may also have a life, but it is definitely longer than yours or my lifespan.

I disagree about versatile. True enough, you can take it in just about any body of flowing fresh water, but it tends to fall short in a lake and in tidewater. I have never seen anybody fishing or crabbing from a raft in tidewater. From the investment standpoint, and I know this from experience, you can plan on selling the aluminum drift boat for what you paid for it, unless you wrap it around a rock.

I have rowed both raft and drift boat down the Middle Fork Salmon River in Idaho, and the pucker factor was higher in the DB, but it was more fun.

The testosterone factor is definitely higher with the DB.

Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member
I agree with Citori (man, I need to get to know this guy better, another whitewater guy who also does DB's). Driftboats are way more versatile IMHO. Mostly on the points he's mentioned (and no people, it's not an AKA account of mine lol). I've seen alot more driftboats in use in different settings then a raft. I've also ran DB's in whitewater, and it's alot more unnerving then an inflatable (with the DB, when you go under you're sunk, with the inflatable you'll come back up, not always upright but up LOL).

But fishmaster, I will disagree about the "I can do everything a driftboat can". Try sidedrifting or plugpulling (I know, it's a flyfishing site, but it's stuff a DB does) as well as a DB, especially an aluminum. Just won't happen as well (and I've done it in a maravia and an older Aire raft). Not all DB's are the same, nor are Rafts. It's almost impossible really to do a DB vs raft comparison, since there are different styles of tubes and styles of DB's out there. Now, if you were to say "Which do you prefer, a maravia Ranger SB or a 17' willie guide DB?", well that would narrow comments down a bit. But not all DB's are created the same, nor are rafts.

I'd say go and find people who have similar DB's and rafts you want to buy. Try rowing them and see which you prefer? It's the best way, because nobody can truly tell you what you'd like except you.
Drift boat - row upriver
Raft - row down river

Everyone I talk to about rowing a raft just laughs at me. At least you can row a drift bow up a seam to re-run the drift.

Latest posts