Drift boats, skiffs, and full-sized rafts are great crafts from which to fish, but only if you have a friend or guide who can handle the boat while you fish (or vice versa). Fortunately, for single anglers, there are plenty of great options these days for Personal Fishing Crafts. And most of these one-angler boats can be packed up and toted along in the trunk of a compact car – or even tossed into the checked baggage section of an airplane.
This spring, we take a few of the latest innovations in Personal Fishing Crafts out and found a few we really like.
NRS Star Pike kayak
In recent years, there’s been a glut on the market of fishing kayaks, and of inflatable kayaks. But to date, there has been a dearth of good inflatable fishing kayaks. That is, boats that are lightweight, compact inflatables configured to work as a primary fishing craft. The boat engineers at NRS – folks who know a thing or two about inflatable river craft – filled this product hole with the new Star Pike Kayak. The Pike features two 10.5-inch side tubes for great stability and flotation and a self-bailing drop-stitched PVC-insert floor that handles up to 10 psi air pressure, making it as rigid and stable as a wood deck. The 12-foot, 8-inch boat proved stable enough that I could stand and cast without trouble – and I’m a clumsy 6’2”, 235-pound angler!
But standing to fish is a luxury, not a requirement. A raised aluminum frame folding seat gives the paddler the elevation needed for clear fly casting, and good sight fishing.
The Pike includes a small removable rigid keel skeg to help improve tracking on flat water and to give an extra bit of lateral stability. The boat also sports five Scotty Mount Bases so anglers can add optional add-ons such as rod holders and anchor systems.
16 strategically placed stainless steel D-rings allow numerous options for rigging your tackle crate and other gear. The Star Pike comes complete with a backpack-style carry bag, a two-stage air pump with integrated pressure gauge, a repair kit, and the folding seat. The boat, weighing just 45 pounds, includes a 3-year warranty. $1,095. Buy Now
Bote Rover Aero
Though it looks a bit of a schizophrenic, the new Rover Aero’s mash-up design works. With the maneuverability of a SUP, stability of a skiff, and mobility of kayak, the Rover Aero offers the best features of each. The boat proved to be a great option of slowly trolling for bottom fishing while prowling the shorelines of Puget Sound using the recommended 6 horsepower motor. Fly fishermen, meanwhile, found the Rover an incredibly stable platform from which to stand and cast to rising trout on quiet lakes. The boat can be maneuvered quietly but quickly using the long SUP paddle. We even put the Rover on modest moving water, drifting down the Yakima Canyon, controlling the boat in kayak fashion from the bucket-seat. In essence, the Bote Rover Aero stands as three unique boats in one compact inflatable package. The boat folds and stores small enough to toss into any car trunk. $1,999. Buy now
Oru Haven Tandem Kayak
While going solo is the key to most Personal Fishing Craft, sometimes “personal” means fishing with a friend. For this, the Oru Haven tandem kayak perfectly meets your needs. The Haven utilizes Oru’s trademark origami folding style to remain packable and portable – when folded and stored, the boat is roughly the size of an extra suitcase: 33 inches by 30 inches by 15 inches. When unfolded and set for paddling, the boat is a 16-foot open top kayak with two movable seats – or you can remove one for solo paddling. The boat proved incredibly stable on the wind-blasts waters Coldwater Lake on the flanks of Washington’s Mount St. Helens. It was handling the flowing tides of southern Puget Sound with ease and comfort.
The Haven weighs just 40 pounds, making it suitable for checked baggage – it would be a nice boat to tote along to places of like Maui or La Paz (inland side of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula) for paddling on semi-flat saltwater.
We fished out of the Haven with no trouble. Though not stable enough to comfortably stand, I found I cast with ease from my seat when paddling the boat solo, and when in tandem, the forward angler could lean forward into a kneeling position for a little extra height and reach in their fly cast. The Oru Haven proved itself to be versatile and functional, as well as strong and stable, in a wide variety of aquatic conditions. It’s also relatively light, portable, and fairly easy to set up – after practicing a few times and we could set-up and break-down in about 10-12 minutes. $1,999 Buy Now
Kokopelli Rogue Lite Pack raft
Small enough to fit into a small backpack, the Kokopelli Rogue sports big-raft performance. The Rogue proved ideal for backcountry fishing – we hauled it high into Washington’s North Cascades to float remote alpine lakes in pursuit of rainbows (trout), and we carried it deep into the Hoh Rainforest of Olympic National Park for a long float back out that wild river. We even toted it along on week-long rafting trip on Idaho’s Middle Fork Salmon to use as a play-boat in the fast water of that river. In every situation, the Rogue performed exceptionally well, with easy set-up, great maneuverability, good tracking, and impressive durability.
The Rogue Lite weighs a mere 6 lbs (includes inflatable seat panel, inflation bag, and inflation tube) and rolls down to just 12-inches by 7 inches. $825. Buy Now