Fly Fishing Personal Watercraft Buyer's Guide

Personal watercrafts are useful for a variety of situations. Fishing ponds or lakes from the shore can be frustrating, as it often seems that those rising fish are just beyond the reach of your fly. A float tube or pontoon boat is an easy solution. Wade fishing large blue-ribbon rivers can be next to impossible, but having a personal pontoon boat makes a drag-free dead drift through those hugely productive and low-pressured feeding lanes possible.

Float Tubes
“pontoonFloat tubes are excellent tools when fishing still water. They use bladders that can be inflated and deflated in a matter of minutes. This makes them extremely convenient, as they can fit in any vehicle and don’t require the maintenance of a large haul-with-your-truck boat. Many float tubes compress to fit into a backpack, so you can carry them to high mountain lakes where driving in is not an option. They are stealthier than large boats and allow you to get closer to fish without spooking them. If you decide that a float tube is the right watercraft for you, be sure to purchase a pair of flippers to go with it, as this will make moving yourself across the water easier and more efficient.

Float tubes come in an enclosed circular shape as well as U-boat and hydrodynamic designs. Enclosed tubes are often the least expensive and do fine in most situations. However, they float fairly low in the water, so traversing fisheries in them is more difficult.

U-boats float higher. This means you have to push less mass through water, making moving around the lake easier. Most U-shaped models have a stabilizing bar, stripping apron or both to secure and enclose the open front, along with a strap that goes between your legs and keeps you secure.

Hydrodynamic tubes float the highest and are the easiest to power through the water. Their V-shape cuts through water with ease. Just like U-boats, there is a stabilizing bar, stripping apron or both to secure and enclose the open front, along with a strap that goes between your legs and keeps you secure.

All float tubes have a manufacturer’s recommended weight capacity. Be sure to check it before making a purchase.

Pontoon Boats
Pontoon boats are highly versatile tools. They work in almost all situations float tubes do, and can be used to float anything from mythical blue-ribbon rivers to lazy bass ponds.

“pontoonA variety of boats are available. Trolling-motor capability, casting platforms, recliner comfort, powder-coated paint jobs, anchor systems, stripping aprons and cargo decks are all offered. Unlike float tubes, pontoons have metal frames, adding strength for swift travel, longer distances and moving water. The two frame types are aluminum and steel. Aluminum is typically the lighter, higher-quality frame. It is also more expensive, though.

The most common source of power for pontoons is oars. If you are going to be fishing water that is gradient-free with few to no boulders or other obstacles, using a pontoon with clamp-down oarlocks will suit you well. However, if you plan on fishing swift water with obstacles, having a pontoon with yoke-style oarlocks is a must. Also, in moving water with a gradient, having a pontoon 8 ft. or longer will help keep you safe.

While pontoons all have the same basic design, they vary greatly when it comes to construction and extras. Some are made from PVC, while others employ a Cordura® construction. PVC is more durable, resisting punctures from unseen obstacles. PVC is also UV-resistant, so it is less likely to weaken with exposure to the sun. However, if you aren’t going to be visiting treacherous water, Cordura® nylon is less expensive and works just fine.

Below is a list of things to consider when pontoon shopping:
• Motor mount
• Overall weight
• Assembled dimensions
• Unassembled dimensions
• On-board storage
• Anchor system
• Rear deck size
• Oar length
• Casting platform