April 18, 2012
By Lance Egan
Small lakes and ponds are often packed with Trout, Bass, Bluegill etc...One of the most intimate ways to explore a stillwater is to fish from a small floating craft like a float tube, pontoon boat, kayak or canoe. While canoes and kayaks have some advantages, they both have two distinct disadvantages compared to inflatables. One, canoes and kayaks take up a fair bit of space when traveling. Two, they are propelled with paddles which means we are either paddling or fishing, but not doing both. Inevitably, we paddle up to a spot we want to fish, stow the paddle, get the rod in hand, cast to the desired location and the wind or current swings our floating craft around so we are no longer facing the direction of our cast or worse yet, it blows us away from the area we'd like to fish.
In a float fin tube we are able to put our back to the wind, kick with fins and hold our position. The drawback to a float tube is that we are limited to covering a smallish area (depending on our strength and stamina) since our only means of propulsion is the fins.
The best of both worlds is an inflatable pontoon boat. In a pontoon we have oars (or on some models an electric trolling motor can be added) to propel us moderate distances and fins to hold our position in the wind while retaining the ability to cast. (we can't cast well with a paddle or oar in hand) Also, many pontoons are capable of running rivers. Most river worthy craft are 8 feet in length or longer. While floating a river we again can benefit from a set of fins by kicking to slow our drift much like the oarsmen would do on a dory or drift boat. By slowing our drift we improve our presentation. We use the oars to maneuver through rapids but utilize the fins most of the float to enable us to fish while still maintaining control of the boat. Like the float tube, a pontoon on stillwater can maintain postition by putting our back to the wind and kicking with the fins leaving our hands free to fish.
I talk to many anglers considering an upgrade from the "old float tube" to a new pontoon. Many remark how they look forward to no longer needing to use fins. They soon find out (if they don't take my word for it at the shop) that a pontoon without fins is kind of like fishing without a hook.... Most days I'd opt to leave my oars home if you made me choose between the oars and the fins.
There are many great brands of inflatable craft. Check out the offerings from the links below to get an idea of the models and price points available: