Types of Fishing Boats for River Fishing: From Kayaks to Dinghies

Types of Fishing Boats for River Fishing:  From Kayaks to Dinghies

River fishing is a great recreational activity that has evolved over the years. You now have the option to choose from different types of fishing boats and analyze which type suits your fishing style and needs the most. Anglers can choose from kayaks, dinghies, bass boats, pontoon boats, air boats, inflatable boats, aluminum “Jon” boats, etc. to get the right one for them in their next fishing adventure.

Here are some of the most popular choices when it comes to purchasing fishing vessels for fishing in the river. Check out the size, capacity, features, pros, and cons of each fishing vessel to come up with the right fishing boat for yourself.

1. Dinghies

Dinghies are small inflatable boats that are usually constructed using rubber. They consist of rowlocks and thwarts that serve as the oars and seats of the boat. Dinghies are commonly known as sailboats, rowboats, or inflatables. They are mostly powered by sails, oars, and small outboard motors. Whether a dinghy has an outboard engine or not, it is still a low-cost vessel as compared to many others found in the market.

dinghies fishing

A dinghy with an outboard motor is great for exploring faraway beaches and harbors. It is great for your holiday trip or your occasional fishing trips. Quite often, the dinghies team up with larger vessels and come in very handy in narrow areas where the larger vessel cannot navigate. This lets you explore the fishing possibilities in remote areas or areas where large boats cannot reach. Whether you want to get a dinghy as a companion boat when you go on camping or for shallow water fishing, a dinghy is often a great and cost-effective choice for getting your hands on some good catch.


A dinghy can be anywhere from 5 to 12 feet in length, and are normally less than 10 feet long. The dinghies for small yachts are quite small and can be about 2 meters (6 feet 6 ¾ inches) and come equipped with a blunt/ pram bow to get more width in a shorter length. The larger sized dinghies have an automatic bailer and cover to protect them from getting lost in the waters. These dinghies are towed with a tow cable that has a good enough length to put the dinghy on the back side so they do not bump into the yacht. The motor powered dinghies that are more than 8 feet long generally need a state registration sticker.


Dinghies have a capacity ranging between 2 to 5 persons. Generally having a maximum capacity of 5 passengers, the dinghies are rated based on their maximum weight, which amounts to the number of passengers they can carry. Many dinghies can be driven, sailed, or rowed by a single person, however, can carry 8 people upwards.


The dinghies are quite simple vessels that have a limited size. For this reason, they generally cost less than many other fishing vessels. They also do not need a large place to be stored – usually, your garage or trailer can offer ample storage space for them.

Each dinghy comes with the basic add-ons that are oars, seats, carry bags, and air pumps. If you are looking for a dinghy with motor, you need to consider the type of water you will be pursuing. If you frequently sail on rough water, get a dinghy that is compatible with higher HP motor. For calmer water, a 10 HP motor is adequate.

Setup Options

If you plan to leave your dinghy at various docks, you should invest in a lock and chain mechanism. Also, if you plan to store it outside, a canvas cover is a good investment to keep your dinghy as good as new.

Good For

Many dinghies act as shuttles to bigger vessels where the bigger vessels stay at anchor while the passengers go ashore. Some fishing spots have either unpredictable or shallow water that cause a threat to the deep hull. Furthermore, there are some docks that do not allow bigger vessels/ ships, and in such cases, dinghies are perfect to be used. A dinghy is an excellent flat boat that enables you to maneuver when fishing in shallow water as well as when you want to explore rivers and shores.

2. Inflatable Boats

When you think about rafting, the first thing that comes into your mind is an inflatable boat. An inflatable boat helps you overcome turbulent rivers better than any other fishing vessel. Although you may come out wet after your ride, an inflatable boat is perfect for navigating the freshwater rapids.

inflatable boats

If getting a bumpy ride or ending up being wet does not put you off, an inflatable boat can be a great investment that could help you catch some really good fish. Not all inflatable boats are lightweight. There are some sturdy options available as well, such as the rigid inflatable boats. The rigid inflatable boats have an aluminum or fiberglass hull that goes inside an inflatable exterior body. The best part about these boats is that these (RIBs) rigid inflatable boats are relatively much faster, bigger, and hence have a higher weight carrying capacity as compared to the standard inflatable boats.


Generally, an inflatable boat has a length of 15 to 25 feet. The rigid inflatable boats are bigger in size than the regular inflatable boats.


An inflatable boat can carry 2 to 6 passengers, plus the captain.


An inflatable boat is ideal for rivers. It is a trail-able vessel and can feature an outboard engine, stern-drive engine, jet engine, and paddle for their propulsion. They have a flat hull type.

The features of an inflatable boat vary from one vessel to the other based on the design, cost, and construction. An inflatable boat can be a proper sportfishing boat with a Bimini shade along with a bait tank. Since the inflatable boats are constructed using rubber, they are very sturdy and can last for a decade or even more, as long as you store them properly away from mice!

The best feature of going for an inflatable boat is that it is transportable and comes in different sizes to suit the anglers’ needs.

Setup Options

You can strap the inflatable boats to the roof of your car or can use the larger inflatable boats trailered to a cabin for a family weekend.

The inflatable boat’s cousins, the rigid inflatable boats (RIB) are outfitted with big motors where you can take advantage of the V-shaped hull and extra buoyancy and race around the waves.

Good For

Ideal for river fishing, the inflatable boats are great at handling rough water. They are good for transporting the anglers to some of the best fishing locations. In shallow water where the ship cannot go, you can cruise on your inflatable boat and exploring the fish and aquatic creatures.

3. Pontoon Boats

Pontoon boats are great means of catching fish from the river. They are generally equipped with smaller engines and are not very expensive. You must have heard a lot of praise about pontoon boats from anglers who love to spend leisure time on the river. However, you must follow the safety rules of the waterways and keep a close eye on the changes in the current. A sudden change in the current can make you change the way you handle your pontoon boat.

pontoon boats

If you are new to pontoon boats or have been fishing in the lakes, keep in mind that the environment is different in the river than in the lakes. That’s why you need to plan ahead and should always be prepared, especially if you are new to using a pontoon boat. The pontoon boats were not originally meant for fishing. However, since they offer a good amount of comfort and safety, pontoon boats are a crowd favorite when it comes to fishing with families or elderly people.

The pontoon boats are vessels that have a steady cruise and have high rails on each side and big decks. They often come with expandable Biminis.


The size of a pontoon boat can be around 16 to 30 feet.


With a huge capacity of 15 people, pontoon boats are a great choice if you like to go on fishing trips with your family or friends. Generally, it has a capacity of above 6 – the main limiting factor being the licensing.


These boats are great for inshore and nearshore fishing. A pontoon boat may have rod holders, navigational electronics, a live bait tank, safety equipment, along an outboard motor. They also often come equipped with a Bimini shade canopy.

The features that set a pontoon boat apart from the rest of the vessels include the high sides and super comfy seating. There is lots of room inside a pontoon fish for you and your family and friends to relax and enjoy fishing. Pontoon boats are trail-able.

Setup Options

Pontoon boats generally have smaller engines, and that is the reason why they are neither very fast, nor will they get you very far from the shore. This is one of the reasons why they are not considered serious fishing boats, but that does not mean you cannot enjoy a fruitful fishing trip in pontoon boats. In fact, many anglers disagree with this and believe they are great fishing boats.

Whatever the case is, you can always upgrade your pontoon boat to have a more powerful engine. When using a higher horsepower motor, your pontoon boat can have a higher speed along with offering you a relaxing experience. A pontoon boat is not very expensive; however, a motor upgrade will increase the cost.

Good For

If you miss the comfort of your living room when you go out fishing, you may consider going for a pontoon boat. Pontoon boats have couches and swivel seats that invite you to sit back and relax while the right fish comes to you. They have smaller engines but can be upgraded into engines with higher horsepower.

Pontoon boats are good for accessing skinny water as they normally have a low draft. These boats are highly stable, comfortable, and secure offering you a large room for seating, storage, and shade. Many pontoon boats are equipped with a large number of accessories including live wells, storage equipment, coolers, and rod holders. If your pontoon boat does not have any of these accessories, you can always add these items later to make your fishing even more relaxing.

4. Bass Boats

The bass boats are generally used by anglers in freshwater, and as the name suggests, for bass fishing. These boats have a lower freeboard and a V hull with an open bow. You will find most of the bass boats equipped with a powerful outboard engine and a high-tech navigation system. Not only that, a bass boat is very comfortable as it has seats that are designed for your long fishing trips. But all these features do not come cheap – they add to the overall price, and for this reason, a bass boat is more expensive than some other types of fishing vessels found in the market.

bass boat

However, the downside is that the bass boats cannot take larger groups of anglers, despite their heavy cost. If the price is an important factor, you can find many other vessels with a lower price that may be able to take a large group of passengers. However, if you fancy a boat with a low and sleek profile, a bass boat is what you need to get.


A bass boat generally has a length between 16 – 25 feet.


With a capacity of 5 people, bass boats can vary in capacity depending upon their sizes. Usually, a bass boat has a capacity of 2 to 4 passengers including the captain.


Bass boats are great for inshore fishing as well as lake fishing. Their features include an outboard engine, navigational system, live bait tank, trolling motor, fishing seat as well as a shallow water anchoring system.

Bass boats are high-tech boats that have a hugely open bow to cast from. Due to their comfortable seating, these boats are an angler’s dream come true for fishing adventures.

Setup Options

In order to make your bass boat experience more comfortable, go for swivel chairs that enable anglers to turn and twist in any direction they want without getting uncomfortable. This enables anglers to cast off the bow, port, starboard, or stern without having any limitation to their body movements.

A majority of bass boats come equipped with live wells and coolers that serve multiple functions. You can store your drinks and food items for your fishing trip, as well as keep your catch alive until you reach the shore.

You can also upgrade your bass boat by getting a GPS system and even a fish finder that can help you locate underwater fish.

Good For

Bass boats are fast and comfortable, and can well be an angler’s ultimate fishing machine when considering freshwater fishing.

You can use a small bass boat to get closer to the shore, navigate in the weed-filled areas, and enjoy fishing at the edge of a pond where you can find abundant bait as well as game fish hiding. Due to their intelligent construction and design, bass boats have a very low draft ratio and can take anglers to places where they might get stuck when using other kinds of fishing vessels. Not only fishing, but these boats are also even great for photographers to capture nature.

The trolling motor of the bass boat is a small electric motor fixed near the bow of the boat. The motor enables the anglers to move quietly in the water without scaring away the fish. This is quite helpful when fishing in extremely shallow water.

5. Air Boats

Although not technically considered as fishing machines, the air boats have been an iconic American fishing vessel and are vastly used especially in the south of the country. They give you a loud fishing experience on their unusual looking exterior. But do not get distracted by its construction, these boats are great for fishing in different terrains including wet grasslands as well as shallow waters.

air boat


The air boats have a general length of 12 to 18 feet.


Normally, an air boat can have a capacity of up to 5 people that includes 4 passengers plus the captain.


Ideal for backwater and inshore, the air boats are generally equipped with amenities including an ice box, rod holders, a fish finder, and even a trolling motor. They boast the biggest engine you can find on a fishing vessel which makes this boat stand out from the rest. The air boat has a flat bow for fishing and very comfortable chairs which are generally raised for your ease of fishing.

Setup Options

To upgrade your air boat in order to make it look like a new one, you can perform many changes including chemically restoring and cleaning up the aluminum hull. You can also turn this recreational air boat into a reinforced ice boat. You can convert the electrical system into advanced instrumentation, and add a radiator screen and prop guard. You can also add gussets and stiffeners and add double plate where needed.

Good For

The best part about using an air boat is that it lets your move in swamps and extremely shallow water no matter how weedy they are. These areas are the best place to catch fish.

Air boats are great for bow-fishing and gigging. They have a good room for putting lights on the deck. Although their elevated chairs can be a bit of a problem for anglers who are elderly, the seats are quite comfortable.

6. Aluminum “Jon” Boats

Aluminum boats have the advantage of being light in weight and small in size and are often the anglers’ favorite when it comes to fishing in lakes, rivers, or ponds. They also cost less and can be easily towed onto a trailer. If that’s not convincing enough, you can find aluminum boats in different styles to suit your fishing needs.

aluminum jon boats

The word “Jon” is used to highlight the small, simple, open, and flat-bottom boats. These qualities make the Aluminum “Jon” Boats very versatile. The best part is, as compared to the rest of the fishing vessels, these boats are the cheapest and hence the most popular ones among fishermen.

Different categories of aluminum Jon boats are used to catch different species of fish. For instance, the walleye boats are designed to target walleye fish, and certain boats target panfish such as crappie. The more targeted a certain boat design is, the less versatile it gets. However, some anglers have a targeted fishing style and prefer specialized boats constructed to cater to their specific fishing needs.


An aluminum Jon boat has a length of 8 to 20 feet.


Generally, these boats are good for 5 people.


The Jon boat generally has a design with a flat hull that rides over the waves. Instead of cutting through the waves as ships or boats with a V hull do, these boats ride over the water waves.

An Aluminum Jon Boat is extremely versatile. It is relatively light in weight and a very popular choice for anglers.

Setup Options

The Aluminum Jon Boats are extensively used for fishing, however, they are known for being utility boats. To set up your Aluminum Jon Boat for river fishing, you need to make some minute changes, for instance, adding coolers, rod holders, as well as swivel seats.

Good For

These boats are commonly used for shifting equipment, fixing the docks, inspecting retention walls as well as installing the emergency swim ladders at the beginning of the season. Aluminum Jon Boats are good for fishing, crawfishing, and other water sports activities. If you plan to fish in shallow waters, there can be no boat better than a Jon Boat.

7. Kayaks

A fishing kayak has basically two main models: a sit-on-top kayak and a sit-inside kayak. The kayaks are commonly used as fishing vessels and have room for a single person, and in some instances two people at maximum as they are quite small in size. This small size is an advantage as anglers can easily maneuver them through narrow and shallow water areas. They are also used for offshore big game fishing.

fishing kayaks

Most of the kayaks do not have a motor attached, so you need to be quite fit and active to paddle and operate one. Some anglers prefer a drift boat instead of a kayak. A drift boat is quite similar to a kayak except it has a room for more people and offers comfort as well as technology required to enjoy fishing. Having said that, kayaks are a great fishing vessel and you can use make them more comfortable and increase the storage for your belongings, depending upon your kayak’s size and internal space.


A kayak can have a length of 10 to 17 feet, and are most commonly around 12 to 14 feet.


Their capacity is generally 1 person per kayak, but some designs allow 2 people to sit inside.


A kayak is quite a straight forward vessel with rod holders. Some kayaks may have a trolling motor and an anchoring system for shallow water.

Setup Options

If you are a beginner, it is better to start with a simple kayak and choose the kayak fishing gear that will help you and your kayak. Once you get the hang of it, you can add in more equipment. Many fishing kayaks have built-in rigging. The good news is, if your kayak has a built-in rigging mechanism, chances are that also has all the things you need for your fishing trip.

Some anglers find paddling the kayak a serene experience while others do not want to test their stamina and prefer going for a motor-powered kayak.

Between the two types of kayaks, the sit-in kayaks give you better access to your fishing gear as compared to the sit-on-top kayak. Having said that, the sit-on-top kayaks are easy to get in and out of as compared to the sit-in kayaks.

Good For

Kayaks are great when you want to fish flats and mangroves. Since they are light in weight, they can be easily transported to far away fishing locations. This makes these quite little vessels ideal for fishing.

Kayaks are good for fishing in flats, backcountry, nearshore, inshore, and at times offshore as well.


Finding the perfect fishing boat can be a draining process. Purchasing a fishing boat is a huge investment and you do not want to select one without proper knowledge and research. Now that we have done the hard part of researching for you, ask yourself: which one of these fishing boats seems the best for you? Just compare the information and go get yourself your dream fishing boat!