Selecting the Best Pontoon Fishing Boat
If you’ve ever ridden aboard a modern pontoon boat, it’s easy to see why these platforms are so popular. They’re roomy, comfortable, incredibly stable, and a good value compared to the average bass boat. Add a nice stereo, an onboard grill, a couple of rod holders, tackle storage, and a swivel fishing chair, and it becomes even better. A dedicated fisherman can turn anything that floats into a fishing vessel, so going from pontoon boat to pontoon fishing boat is an easy transition.
The concept of a large floating platform has been around for many centuries. However, many boaters credit Mr. Ambrose Weeres for the first modern-day pontoon design when he welded together a few steel drums and attached a wooden platform on top. He wanted more room to carry his entire family when he traveled and fished one of the many lakes in his home state of Minnesota.
Ambrose began his company in 1952, and by the end of that decade, aluminum pontoons started to replace those steel drums. Also, it wasn’t long before upholstered seating and additional luxury options increased their popularity.
The last few decades have seen tremendous innovation in pontoon design, especially with the addition of a third pontoon. This additional tube has increased stability, improved planing, and allowed increased speeds.
Some of the better-designed models on the market can now achieve “plane” in two seconds and reach speeds of over 50 miles per hour in just 10 seconds when powered by two 300-horsepower outboards.
Several manufacturers now offer smaller no-frills models, while others come standard with luxury options designed for saltwater use. In addition, there are dozens of layouts, color schemes, and technology add-ons available.
Pontoon decks make terrific casting platforms, which helps explain the continued introduction of new pontoon boats for fishing every year. Fishing models offer all of the great benefits of a regular pontoon boat, with options designed to please the entire family, especially the anglers.
I usually contact the folks at Buck’s Island Marina when I have any watercraft questions. The family-run business was selling and servicing boats and trailers before Mr. Ambrose Weeres welded up those first steel drums for his pontoon boat.
They are a family-owned business that has sold over 10,000 boats and serviced more than 100,000, so the folks at Buck’s Island Marine in Southside, Alabama must be doing a few things right. I spoke with their sales staff about some of the features that define a fishing pontoon and what brands they recommend.
Buck’s Island sells and services the Crest and Bentley line of pontoons from 20 to 28 feet in length. Both brands have designs that will allow you, your family, and several friends to enjoy water sports or relax in comfort, and their fishing models make it possible to do all that and catch fish.
Fishing Pontoon Features
Fishing pontoons don’t look much different from your typical pontoon boat. Nonetheless, the addition of live wells, tackle storage, and other hardware and electronics allow an easy transition to catching fish. The addition of a few discreet rod holders, along with a fish finder and tackle storage, can make a significant difference in how well an angler can find and catch fish.
Crest Fishing Pontoon Boats
Crest manufactures their boats in Owosso, Michigan. They also offer salt-shield protection for fishing along the coast.
They produce two fishing models in their Classic line of boats with either two or three tubes and two or four fishing chair options from 20-24 feet.
A dash-mounted Garmin +4GPS unit comes standard, along with refrigerated cup holders. In addition, they are pre-wired for the addition of a trolling motor.
Bentley Fishing Pontoons
Bentley Pontoons is located in Lexington, South Carolina and offers three fishing models (200/220/240) that vary primarily in length. Each is available in two bow, two stern, or four-seat configurations.
Standard features include a dash-mounted Humminbird Helix 5 and live wells, bait stations, and rod storage. In addition, there is a conveniently located trolling motor plug near the bow, close to the small trolling motor-friendly gate.
A few additional components can take a pontoon boat to the next-level fishing platform. Below are a few items that can turn an average pontoon boat into a serious fishing barge;
Adding a bow-mounted trolling motor is probably the first option most fishermen will want to consider. Buck’s Island installs whatever make and model the customer chooses at the time of purchase.
Several models have longer shafts and quick-detach mounts that make installing and removing a snap. Choosing a motor that’s compatible with your favorite fish finder is a must to take full advantage of the newer GPS and auto-pilot features.
Going with a wireless model has the added benefits of remotely raising and lowering your motor. In addition, you can steer your boat from anywhere on your deck with the optional wireless foot control.
The general rule for calculating how much thrust you need is to figure the weight of your boat, fully loaded, and add two pounds of thrust for every hundred pounds of vessel weight. It’s better to have too much power than too little. A 90-pound thrust 24V trolling motor should be adequate for boats up to 20 feet in length, and a 50-60 pound thrust motor should be fine for those in the 16-foot range.
Most fishing models come with the option of either two or four swivel fishing chairs. There is also a convenient open deck section in front of the bow or stern railing to make netting a catch much easier.
The two-chair models are usually positioned at both front corners, but if you like to troll or fish spider rigs for crappie, rear seating is a must. In addition, the better-designed models offer a more open floor plan to allow unobstructed travel from front to back.
Several fishing models come with dash-mounted fish finders, and mounting an additional screen or two is an easy task because of the inherent roominess and mounting options available.
The best fish finder for your pontoon boat is probably the one that matches your budget and fishing style. The species you fish for, and the types of lakes or rivers you’ll be floating will help you decide what features you need.
Several companies offer saltwater resistant models, so a sonar with coastal charts and graphs would be necessary for that environment. Also, a better quality unit that integrates with all your onboard systems would be a better option for saltwater use.
A suitable rod holder capable of securely keeping your rods safe and out of the way is an excellent addition that most fishing models have installed. They are conveniently positioned near each fishing chair, and other rail mounting systems are available that make additional storage an easy fix.
Swapping lures or rigging hooks is more convenient when you have tackle-friendly storage areas near your fishing chair. An excellent option provided on most boats is a low-profile storage console near each seat for tackle boxes.
The large deck of most pontoon boats allows for numerous storage and live well options. Depending on chair locations, fishing pontoons can have live-wells convenient to the bow or stern-mounted seats.
If you’ve been intrigued by the idea of a roomy, stable boat that has something that appeals to every member of your family, a fishing pontoon might be just the right solution.
Newer three-tube configurations offer increased stability and speed and allow everything from diving platforms to skiing and tube riding. When you combine the convenience of a nice rail-mounted grill and a couple of comfortable swivel chairs and rod holders, you have one of the most versatile boats ever to float our waterways.
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