Float tube, kayak, pontoon boat

Float tube, kayak, pontoon boat

Viking Lars | Saturday, 2 July 2016

I have been a frequent user of float tubes for 20 years - and I still am! A few years ago I added a kayak to my fishing, and that too is a great way of getting around and accessing places rarely visited by anglers, and lately, I've added a pontoon boat to what is now a small armada, according to my better half.

Each craft has it's advantages and drawbacks, which I'll very briefly cover here:

Float tube
Advantages: It's light weight for longer carries to hard-to-get-to waters. It's fast to get ready for fishing and if you get one of the better ones, it's quite comfortable for long days on the water. Deflated and properly packed it'll fit into almost any car and can even be carries on train or bus if you don't have a car.
Takes a reasonable load, but not much.

Drawbacks: It's not fast, in fact, it's slow and paddling against the wind can be very hard work. One's submerged and waders and good insulation is imperative, even on warmer water. Your feet stick down meaning it's not always easy to fish and sail on low water (anything over a foot-and-a-half is fine). Slow means limited reach.

Advantages: It's fast on the water, meaning very for reach. With stabilisers, I can stand up, which means longer casts, visible strikes, better fish spotting. I tend to use mine more for transport, and whith just the kayak and a paddle, it's can be quite fast to deploy.
It carries a heavy load if you're out on an overnighter on the beach or the lake, and even loaded, it's still quite easy to paddle.
It has a very low clearance, so you can paddle over shallow water. Depending on model, I think most kayaks are quite comfortable.

Drawbacks: Not exactly lightweight, although some are much lighter than others. Mine weighs around 30kg and then comes stabilisers and other add-ons, depending on how I use it on that particular day. It's also relatively fast to setup once at the water. I transport mine on top of the car and with the right technique, it takes less than ten minutes to load and secure it to the roof. Total setup time at the water depends on whether or not I use stablisers, motor etc, but anywhere between 20-30 minutes when it's fully rigged for fishing.
One major drawback is sensitivity to wind when fishing. If it's windy you need very frequent corrections or learn to use a drogue, which compensates some.
You need a trailer or transport it on the roof of the car, and all the extra gear takes up a lot of space in the car.

Pontoon boat:
Advantages: Combined paddling and rowing capabilities makes it more or less perfect for fishing - showcased in today's video. Rowing gives it reach and speed and paddling allows moving and correction while fishing.
It's relatively light weight - my particular model weighs in at 20,5kg including oars. To this is of course added any tackle you bring. It's relatively fast to setup - with a bit of routine it's ready to go in less than 15 minutes.
High seat position, which makes casting easy and you really only have the lower part of your legs in the water, which makes it easier to stay warm.
It's more sensitive to the wind than a float tube, but in fact easier to paddle with your feet, so that compensates for that.
It takes a good load (170kg for my model), which also makes it great for a night or two on the water.
It doesn't take up much space in the car. I can pack mine and all the gear into the trunk of my Skoda estate wagon and have the rear seats available for all the tackle.

Drawbacks: Well, not many, actually. It's heavier than the tube, so not overly heavy, although I wouldn't want to transport on a train or bus. It's more expensive than a tube - yet, cheaper than many fishing kayaks.
It's not quite as fast to get ready as the tube, but still, it takes less than 15 minutes.
Once setup, it's best to be relatively close to water. It's not overly heavy, but it's not exactly a handy 25kg to lug around either.

Recommendations? Get one of each - I like all three! Forced to choose one, I'd definitely go for the pontoon boat. It really combines all the advantages into one craft. Mine is a Danish product - an Anderson Pontton Boat, model Speedster. It really is built to very high standards and a well thought through product. For instance, I only need to install/remove 4 pins to seyup/take down.