Drift Boat vs Raft

Sean Visintainer - 07/01/16

Fly fishing out of a raft in northern idaho.

Comfort vs Versatility

Do you prefer the versatility of a raft, or the comforts of a drift boat? This topic might have even more opinion than which line works best on a Spey rod! In a perfect world you woold own both. There are times when each have their merits. If you are in the market for a new boat here are some things to think about and consider.

Raft Pros

  1. The major benefit of a raft is that you can go anywhere.
  2. High water, low water, no water, rocks, nice launches or no launches.
  3. The raft can go there and do it all.
  4. You can buy raft frames with platforms to stand on, or you can just stay seated and fish in the comforts of a chair.
  5. Rafts will slide through some skinny water and can take the beating of rocks (usually).
  6. Most modern rafts and frames do row pretty well and some preform great in the wind.
  7. When fishing very small rivers, rafts tend to be the boat of choice, they are great tools for fishing weird "off-the-beaten-path" places.
  8. Most rafts are capable of being carried into places or drug.
  9. Rafts can be broken down and rolled up for storage (although I woold never suggest this because it is such a pain in the ass)
  10. Rafts are safer in rough water, you are not going to swamp a raft, you can however flip a raft, so know your limits.

Raft Cons

  1. For storage in a raft you need a dry box and/or dry bags to keep items from getting wet.
  2. Rafts can be more sluggish on the water than a drift boat.
  3. Some are nimble, but some take a few more oar strokes to get moving from one side to the other.
  4. Wind can really blow a raft around very easily.
  5. While most "quality" rafts can take a beating there are some that are susceptible to tears and punctures.
  6. Frame parts and less interior space make it easier to snag fly line.

Drift Boat Pros

  1. Most drift boats are easy to row.
  2. They track straighter and hold their position well in the current.
  3. Wind effects them less than a raft. Drift boats tend to have less places that can snag fly line when casting.
  4. A lot of boats will have plenty of dry storage areas.
  5. Usually there is storage under the seats, but sometimes certain brands will have side storage areas as well or instead of seat storage.
  6. Standing up in a drift boat is more stable and secure.
  7. Winching up a drift boat onto the trailer is easier than winching or lifting a raft on a trailer.
  8. Setting equipment on the floor is much easier since the floors are flat.
  9. Some drift boats are designed to handle some whitewater, especially high sided models or weight-forward designs.
  10. There are low profile models as well for easier going rivers and windy situations.

Drift Boat Cons

  1. Drift boats can't go as many places as the rafts.
  2. While they will handle some skinny water, you are more susceptible to banging into rocks.
  3. When you hit rocks with a fiberglass boat... you can take a chunk out of it.
  4. Aluminum boats are more durable, but are cold in the winter and hot in the summer, as well as noisier when bumping into rocks.
  5. Drift boats don't necessarily require a boat launch, but they are substantially easier to get in the water if one can back the trailer right up to the waters edge when putting in or taking out.
  6. Depending on whether you have a high sided boat or a low profile dictates what type of water, again know your limits and know your boat's limits!


There is no right answer for the perfect boat. As with anything you will need to decide what types of fisheries you prefer to float, do they have boat launches or are you looking to drop in anywhere, how much water volume do the rivers have, and what qualities you would like in your boat to have. Let us know if we can help out, we have fished and owned many boats. If you decide you are in the market for a raft, let us know and we can help get you a boat from NRS or AIRE, two of the leading inflatable manufacturers. Hope this pros and cons list gives you a better idea of what boat you may like for your fishing preferences.

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