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Drift Boat or Raft?

Mike Hodge

I got my first boat nearly a decade ago. I've owned four in all, eight or so if you count canoes and kayaks. My latest acquisition is a raft. The Rocky Mountain 130 SDS is my second raft. The first was a Flycraft, which was sold to make room for a Hyde drift boat. So I've gone from a raft to a hard boat and back to a raft.

Why? Which is better? Well, it depends. Let's look at a few factors.

1) Comfort. The drift boat wins hands down. The hard bottom makes it easier to stand, cast and even switch seats. The raft is akin to fishing on a water bed. The stitched flooring in the RMR 130 is much firmer than the Flycraft, but you can't beat a drift boat for stability --- or storage for that matter. On my Hyde, life jackets had their own compartment. On my new raft, I'll have to make room with an extra cooler or plastic bin. Rod storage could be another obstacle and another likely expense as I add on to the frame.

2) Durability. Not even close. You can bang a raft into an infinite number of rocks and come out unscathed. Drift boats can take a few knocks here and there, but if you're in shallow water or inexperienced on the oars, the raft is the vessel of choice. Thank goodness I learned how to row in the Flycraft.

3) Rowability. Rafts win on durability. Drift boats, because they're more hydrodynamic, row better. On a deep, fast river with just a few rocks to dodge, I like a hard boat.

4) Versatility. Rafts can be launched just about anywhere. You don't necessarily need a boat ramp. Needless to say, you're not going to hoist a drift boat off the trailer and through the brush. You need decent water, some sort of ramp to service a trailer.

To sum up, had I not left Asheville, where I often fished the South Holston, I would have kept the Hyde. But now that I'm in Sylva, the inconsistent water levels of the Tuckaseegee call for a quality raft. Essentially, the water you fish dictates your choice of watercraft. There is no perfect boat. Buy what fits your situation and fish it without regret.

-Mike Hodge


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