Float Tube vs. Pontoon Boat


Few things can impact the success and enjoyment of fly fishing more than having a way to get out on the water.  Whether you are fishing rivers or lakes, having a way to float the river or get out on that lake will usually make your day more productive and fun.  Often, anglers start with a float tube or pontoon boat since they are both fairly inexpensive and don’t require a lot of storage space like a drift boat does.

The purpose of this article is to help anglers decide whether a pontoon boat or a float tube is best for them.

Float Tubes

First, let’s look at the float tube.  Float tubes are great in small lakes and ponds and are fun to fish from.  They are easy to transport and store, and are quite inexpensive.  Here is a list of the pros and cons of float tubes.

Float Tube Pros:

Purchase some backpack straps and pack your tube into lakes only accessible by trail.
Easy to store
Since there isn't a frame, it is easy to pack them in the trunk of a car, in a utility tote, etc.
Much easier to make and therefore much less expensive.

Float Tube Cons:

Not advisable for rivers
Since you're limited to fin power, you can't move fast enough.  Also, since your legs are in the water, your ankle getting caught in a log or between rocks could be your last fishing trip ever.
Wind can be hard to fight in a float tube and really get tiring fighting it all day.
Float tubes move pretty slow on the water so you're confined to a smaller area to fish in the lake than with a pontoon boat.

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Pontoon Boats

Pontoon boats offer most of the advantages of a float tube, but also give you the ability to use them in rivers.  They also are much more mobile in lakes, giving you the ability to quickly row from spot to spot.  They also have their disadvantages, such as costing more money and slightly harder to transport and store.  Here are some pontoon boat pros and cons to think about.

Pontoon Boat Pros:

With basic rowing skills, pontoon boats are great in rivers and can even go down small rivers where drift boats can’t.
Since you can use the oars with a pontoon boat, you can cover lots more water. In lakes, fish a spot, then row over to another spot, etc. They are also much nicer on windy days since you can row against the wind instead of having to kick like you would in a float tube.
Use fins for lakes
Once you row to the spot on a lake where you want to fish, then put your feet in the water with fins on and fish with “hands free mobility” to move and fish, correct for wind, troll, etc.
Out of the water
Pontoon boats are more enjoyable way to fish a lake all day since you sit a bit higher and are almost entirely out of the water.
Rod Storage
If you like to fish with more than one fly rod on hand, pontoon boats are easier to store a second rod out of the way of your fishing.
Most pontoon boats come with an anchor system which is handy on both lakes and rivers.
Pontoon boats also have more room for storing tackle, and extra jacket, a small cooler, etc.

Pontoon Boat Cons:

Harder to store
Although pontoon boats break down small enough to put them in a large box, they do require a bit more room to store at your house and are obviously a bit harder to get to and from the lake/river. Most guys don’t break the frame down completely because it does take a bit of work to put them all back together each time.
Less Portable
A typical pontoon boat weighs approximately 60 lbs so just picking them up and carrying them doesn’t work very well for any kind of distance. Many pontoon boat anglers purchase a wheel to help them wheel the boat to a lake, which helps a ton, but still won’t help you on that little trail where you need to hike in a mile.
More Expensive
Since now we’re talking frames, oars, and more material, pontoon boats cost more.

Shop for Pontoon Boats


As outlined above, both pontoon boats and float tubes have their advantages and disadvantages. The float tube is a clear winner if hiking through the woods to small, out of the way lakes is what you want to do. If you enjoy rivers and most of the lakes you fish have easy access where you can get your car close to the lakes, then perhaps the pontoon boat is the way to go.

Hopefully this article has shed some light on which boat is best suited to the kind of fishing you want to do. If we can answer other questions or help you choose a float tube or pontoon boat, give us a call, email or check out the boats on our web catalog.

Pacific Fly Fishers


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