Given that kayaks have received timely recognition as fishing craft, I cannot be persuaded that an inflatable boat does not also have its niche in the highly mobile angler's armoury.
Both craft share virtues of portability and excellent function but not every one has room for a kayak in their garage or shed. And while the kayak needs a roof rack or trailer to get it from place to place, the inflatable craft stores into a smaller package for transportation. Both craft have on-water stealth capability with the inflatable also able to take an outboard or transom mounted electric motor with ease. Stability is also assured with inflatable craft and with today's high tech materials in use these sort of craft have a bright future.
After taking a look at Wilson’s line of inflatables, which range from the 230 (2.3m long, 1.37m wide) to the 290 (2.9m long, 1.51m wide), I'd suggest that these handy boats, with their modest price, are going to win a lot devotees.
A glance at data on the 230's carry bag reveals that it weighs 30kg, somewhere around the weight of the next big fat barra I'm going to take on the fly rod. Don't laugh, that's only 5kg heavier than the last one and those Monduran barra have been growing since last October.
While on the barra fishing topic the inflatable 230 would be a very handy impoundment barra boat as it's very quiet under way and with an electric motor on the transom, would be able to slip into out of the way sorts of places that I like to fish.
It's constructed from four overlapping layers of tough, PVC coated, 1100 Denier Polyester fabric with specially reinforced seams, so it should be snag resistant as well.
Graham Wilson and I set up the 230 for my review at Colmslie on the Brisbane River. It took only 10 minutes to completely set up the craft from scratch by inflating it with the pump in the kit. The pump provided is the one for the job, no electric models thank you. Once the 230 was inflated it took shape as a conventionally-styled inflatable boat with twin sponsons but what impressed me was the high bow of the 230 plus the fact that the transom was actually built into it (which is the same for the other three craft in the range) and that the transom was quite rigid.
The floor of the 230 also interested me. I expected it to be soft and flexible under foot, but it had a strong feeling that was almost rigid. Enquiry revealed that it was constructed of an outer layer of thousands of criss-crossed polyester threads which, when inflated from within, became expanded to form a hard, solid surface. The floor also featured a non-slip pattern that I saw as a very sensible feature.
Oars are part of the kit and when attached to the 230’s rowlocks, they can not work free. The design of the rowlocks allowed each to pivot upwards so the oars might be clipped neatly along the side of the boat and out of the way when not required for use.
Last job before setting up a motor on the transom and launching for trial runs was the fitting of the cross seat into a special pocket on the inside of each sponson. The seat is marine grade timber and once clipped into place it will stay put, adding to the rigidity of the craft.
With a 2.5hp Yamaha four stroke outboard on the transom, the little 230 performed admirably on the Brisbane River and easily came up onto the plane. Stability was impressive and the craft proved almost impossible to tilt in any given direction.
I'd see the 2.5 as an ideal motor for the 230 but I noted that it is rated for engines up to 4hp so I guess it comes down to the intended workload. No doubt many of these craft with their 350kg payload will serve as tenders for larger craft and the extra horses on the stern will earn their keep.
Carrying the fully rigged 230 to and from the water was not difficult as sufficient front and rear handholds are provided to make the task easy with one person on each side.
There is a strong case for this inflatable boat so we'll recap what's on offer. Made from modern, extra strong, material it should give years of service with a bit of care. As a two person rig the 230 has ample stability, an excellent amount of freeboard, and boasts an impressive 350kg carrying capacity. When not in use it will stow at home in all sorts of places and could be taken to a fishing area in the boot of a sedan.
Set up and on the water in minutes, it would travel easily into fishing spots where it's shallow draft might give it a substantial edge on wary fish. With the petrol outboard or an electric on the transom it could access some very handy places with the back up oars on hand for the ultimate in stealthy approaches to our finny friends.
The Wilson range of inflatable craft, which come with aluminium oars, rowlocks, pump, repair kit, carry bag and seat can be seen at Cunningham's Marine (07 3284 2342) and Stones Corner Marine (07 3397 9766). Price for a 230 inflatable plus Yamaha 2.5hp four stroke outboard is around $2690.Reads: 2550