I spent a good part of the late summer testing fishing kayaks. Standard molded, skiffs, foldable, inflatables and more. Part of my test was for my own benefit as I’m moving into kayak fishing more and more and I will be acquiring a kayak or two in the next year. And the other part was of course to provide our fishing community a resource to help them make smart purchases that fit the way they fish. One of the kayaks / skiffs I tested is technically listed as a paddleboard, but it’s a lot more than that to me as an avid angler. That inflatable skiff is the BOTE Rackham Aero.
In my initial experiences with inflatable paddleboards and kayaks, I was a little unsure about using them fishing because of the possibility a hook could puncture it, and you might be sinking out in the middle of the lake. But that’s not the case with today’s high end inflatables. I’ve tested 4 different brands, and can honestly say, I’m never worried about them popping. I know several anglers who throw big treble hook, hard swimbaits for bass in Texas and California who use nothing but an inflatable paddleboard and are never worried about it. And they land fish over 8 pounds all the time with giant baits with giant treble hooks thrashing boat side.
So let’s get into why I think a lot of anglers will find the BOTE Rackham Aero a great option for portable, small waters fishing.
SPECS ON THE BOTE RACKHAM AERO
The original BOTE Rackham Aero was a 10-foot, 4-inch stand-up paddleboard (SUP). The current model is a 12-foot, 4-inch model that comes with an inflatable seat, SUP paddle, heavy duty rolling bag, hand pump, fins and more. The board’s main feature is the removable Pedal Port that allows you to add their APEX Pedal Drive to give you a sit down pedal kayak/skiff. The APEX Drive is sold separately unless you buy the Rackham Aero Package. That package adds a ton!
You get the Apex Pedal Drive, a 5-piece Kayak paddle, a KULA cooler, a cooler rack, a Sand spear for anchoring. You would have the total package for any adventure with this kit. A lot of anglers like to sit on the KULA and fish and have drinks handy or to throw their catch on ice.
I like the inflatable seat setup and the rack for having rod storage. I tested with an APEX Drive and the two-sided kayak paddle. I just laid my rods in the channels next to my seat and threw a backpack behind my chair.
You inflate the BOTE to 10-15 pounds of pressure through two different sections. One is the main board section and you want to get it rigid to not only float better but to make it more durable as well. The second section airs up a slightly raised deck and sides that gives this inflatable some of the best stability I’ve ever seen in an inflatable. I’m a big guy at 6-foot, 1-inch and 250 pounds. So as you might guess, getting in and out of kayaks can be problematic. But I get in an out of the BOTE Rackham Aero like stepping on and off a dock. It’s a very stable platform. I stood up and fished in it as well.
UNIQUE QUALITIES OF BOTE RACKHAM AERO
When you install the APEX Pedal Drive you also get a steering rudder that is free to kick up should you go over anything. Now the pedal drive has a solid shaft, so you do have to be mindful that you have a piece of metal sticking out a foot below your skiff. But you will see in these photos that I took mine into the forest of standing and fallen timber and caught bass no problem in it. The really nice thing is it incorporates a prop drive so you can pedal in forward and reverse to back off an obstruction and go around.
The big thing I noticed was how wide it was. At more than 3 feet wide (38 inches), it’s as wide a paddle board as you will find which to me makes it more like a microskiff with its width, raised sides and added stability. The rudder control attaches easily to your seat and with velcro down the board. So you can steer left and right with the flick of a wrist.
It’s super maneuverable because it weighs nothing when you get it in the water. I carried it and the drive down to the water by myself no problem from my truck through the parking lot, down the ramp and into the water. Smaller folks will need a hand probably because it’s long and that makes it a little cumbersome if you’re not someone who lifts regularly.
The paddle stows in seconds by just sliding the paddle under your bungees in the front and laying it in the channel next to your seat. I had three rods in my channel plus a backpack behind me and a paddle on the other side as well as tools in front of me. So I was carrying a lot with no problem with space.
FISHING APPLICATIONS FOR BOTE RACKHAM AERO
I’ve fished open water on Kentucky Lake and smaller waters like little rivers and small lakes. I threw it in the back of my truck on my trek to Nebraska this month and fished a day out of it on a small timber lake over there. I had a ball weaving in and out of trees and snatching bass out of shallow wood cover in it. It drags easily although I am mindful to not do that too much on rough rock as you could wear down the material in spots doing that too much. But a scooch here and there is very doable in this rig.
The nice thing about inflatables, is when you get out of them, they are light as a feather and can drag over a couple of inches of water without issue. Just pop your Apex Drive up and go.
I stood and fished a few times but I prefer sitting down in this rig. I have a higher center of gravity so my balance isn’t the best. I think a smaller guy would be up and down all day in this inflatable no problem. But I can absolutely cook in this thing pedaling or paddling. It’s a very maneuverable, inflatable microskiff. So it gives you a lot of options as an angler.
OTHER PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH RACKHAM AERO
The model I tested is called the BOTE Rackham Aero Classic Cypress but there are three other styles to choose from. One thing you need to do on all of these is get the seat right for pedaling. And for the most part that means attaching the front and back straps at the right distance where you can pedal comfortably without the pedals too close or too far. You need to get that set on the bank and might take you a time or two to get it perfect.
You also want to get the seat back straps set right so you can sit comfortably without being leaned too far back. So be patient getting the seating just right. You can get it absolutely set right for your size, and it’s adjustable to fit big guys like me and smaller, shorter anglers just the same. The straps and hookup rings are all very solid and well done. And the whole process is very simple and easy to do. It’s just tightening and loosening straps for the most part.
Follow the directions and attach the pedal port and seats before fully inflating so you’re not redoing the setup process. For me I like to take and leave the pedal port and the rudder on the board when I’m done. I will detach the rudder attachment in the back and from the seat but will leave it velcroed onto the skiff. Then I just fold it in thirds to slide into the back of my truck. Then I will use the heavy duty roller bag to hold my pump, drive, paddle, life jacket and accessories. I deflate my board about half way to fold up and go.
The optional Mini Rocket Rack is nice to have a few extra rods. When I fish on lakes with a lot of trees above me, I don’t like to stand up rods, so I have been laying them down and just taking 2-3 rods on a trip.
For me personally, kayak fishing, especially with inflatable skiffs like this one, is about getting access to water you can’t access with other means. A small lake that’s too big to bank fish fully but doesn’t have a boat ramp is perfect for this type of application. If you’re a person who travels a lot for work and loves to fish, this is the PERFECT solution because you throw it in your truck or SUV and go. And if the situation comes up, you can be up and on the water in about 10-15 minutes.
An electric pump is very handing. They make a ton that run off your battery port in your car and can speed up the process and conserve energy when you have pedaling and paddling ahead. BOTE makes one called the AeroPump that is a bit pricier than some of the options you’ll find on Amazon.com.
For the money, I think the BOTE Rackham Aero is a great fishing investment to get you access to a lot more waters and the experience be enjoyable. I think the solid offerings coming out now in inflatables are going to give a lot more anglers access to waters they have not explored before. I know I have absolutely loved exploring new waters in this inflatable!
You can find the BOTE Rackham Aero inflatable SUP / skiff / kayak at these online locations: