I have been float tubing since about 1956… one way or another. I made all of my own float tubes until the mid-1970s. That’s when the first commercially made models started hitting the market. Since then I have been on an eternal quest to find the perfect float tube. Still haven’t found it. But I have found a few that mostly suit my needs and are comfortable from which to fish during a long day on the water. I readily admit that my requirements are probably different than the “average” float tuber. First of all, I am a big guy…6’ 3” and over 250#…too far over. So I need a craft that will float my bigness along with all the gear I bring on an “average” trip. That includes 5 rod and reel outfits, multiple lure boxes, drinks, bait, etc. Oh yeah, it also includes the PVC rod racks, utility (tool) rack and the tools…pliers, fish gripper, net, etc. Then there is the sonar setup…and the battery. All that stuff weighs a bunch. The past few years I have also been adding a 40# thrust electric motor and a series 27 AGM battery. The battery alone weighs 65#. But I have also added some boat bumper floatation under the front/back of my Fat Cat tube to keep that end of the tube from sinking out of sight. It works well enough that the tube floats level before I even climb aboard. And I still float plenty high with me and all my gear afloat.
While I do enjoy fly fishing, I seldom take fly rods out on my float tube any more. I am mostly a “warm water” species angler so my tackle is generally spinning gear…with a baitcast rig or two depending on the lake and the species involved. So I can carry and fish with multiple rods without worrying too much about “gift wrapping” myself in fly line. 2 Because I use a lot of larger lures and plastic baits I carry several different “trip boxes” in my tube on each excursion. I generally use the smaller sizes that fit easily into the side pockets on my tube…the 5” X 9” size…or similar. But I appreciate having side tackle pockets on my tube that will allow carrying larger boxes if desired. Some float tubes seem designed solely for fly flingers… and the pockets are either small or the larger pockets are divided into several small compartments. Not my style. Until about the year 2000 (Y2K) I had fished almost exclusively from round tubes. Fortunately, several manufacturers made them in “big guy” sizes…that took a 22 inch truck tire tube rather than the standard 20” tube. The smaller ones were rated at 250# weight capacity and I was able to still stay afloat in them. But the bigger ones provided more room and higher floatation.
In 2000 I bought a Trout Unlimited (Classic Accessories) Kennebec…a “minipontoon”. It was the first open-front craft I had owned. I loved being able to launch without having to step down inside a “donut”. But there were several things I quickly decided I didn’t like. One was the “stabilizer bar” that had to be in place across the front to keep the two sides from folding in on the angler. It was a pain when launching or beaching. Another thing was the wind factor. When the wind came up…even a little bit…the Kennebec had a mind of its own. It was a summagun to try to maintain a straight line while kicking…or to hold position while fishing.
About that time I began to notice a few Outcast Fat Cats on some of the waters I fished. I cozied up to a Fat Cat angler just coming in to shore the same time I was and barraged him with a bunch of questions…while looking over and lusting after his craft. I mentally observed that the V-shape would respond better to fin propulsion…and less to breezes. The object of my inquisition confirmed that…saying that he could very easily keep the breeze at his back to maintain casting position with just a few long slow fin strokes. I was also impressed with the design of the pockets. The ones on my Kennebec were the aforementioned large pockets divided into several wimpy fly-flinger sized pock-ettes. I had to creatively snip out the dividing walls on the Kennebec pockets to be able to carry my lure boxes. On the first Fat Cat I observed up close those pockets looked humongous by comparison. They were simple big zip-top enclosures that could hold a lot of stuff. One of the final factors in convincing me that I could no longer fish without a Fat Cat was the seat. As per the owner of the craft I was drooling over there was a lot less angler in the water…compared to “regular” float tubes. Even though my Kennebec was an upgrade from a donut, it still had a low-slung seat that kept my nether regions submerged. That was okay in the hot Arizona summers but not in the cold waters of late fall and winter. Even in Arizona the surface temps dropped to less than 50 chilling degrees. My wife and I have float tubed together since before we were married. Yes, we practiced premarital float tubing. Scandalous. Now, after many years of marriage, we were at the junction of the rest of our float tubing lives together. Should we take the next step…and move up to Fat Cats? It wasn’t really a question. We both recognized the apparent advantages. And we had the “net spendable” to handle it financially. So we went “all the way” and got the Super Fat Cats.
That was about 2002, while we were still living in Arizona. We enjoyed our wondrous new rides more on every trip…often remarking “remember when”, whenever we were discussing some feature or benefit of the Fat Cats in comparison to what we had experienced with our previous craft.
We moved back to Utah in 2004…to rejoin family and friends after 20 years of chasing an income with our employers in Arizona. Of course we brought our Fat Cats and introduced them to our old favorite Utah waters…and fishies. It has been a good reunion. Since our first purchase of the Outcast Super Fat Cats we have tried several other V boats and pontoons…framed and frameless. We keep coming back to the Fat Cats…as opposed to the Super Fat Cats. Why? Mainly cost vs comfort. Super Fat Cats cost more money but (to us) do not provide any better comfort to justify spending more. The difference in cost is because the Super models have inflatable (adjustable) seats…as opposed to the less costly foam seats of the regular Fat Cat. Otherwise, all sizes, materials and features are the same on both regular and Super Fat Cats. As a larger person…and an aging person with lower back problems…comfort is a biggie when it comes to float tubing. So you would think that the adjustability of an inflatable seat would have the potential for providing better comfort. Nay, not so. For one thing, an inflatable seat is subject to changes in temperature. It ain’t “set it and forget it”. You adjust the inflation just the way you want it before launching on a cool morning. But when the sun gets hotter the air in the inflatable expands and you got a harder seat. Or vice versa. You start out with a firm seat and cold water or a cold breeze shrinks and softens the seat. There is no way to adjust the pressure besides kicking back in to shore, getting out and adding or dumping air pressure from the seats. As Winnie the Pooh would say, “Bother”. Inflatable seats are also subject to pinhole leaks. In fact, the first Super Fat Cats we got gave us a lot of grief after a couple years of use. No big punctures or rips. Just little pinhole leaks that developed at a corner of a seam. Within an hour of launching…with the seat inflated just the way I wanted it…it would be getting soft and uncomfortable. That meant taking it apart and looking for leaks every trip. By the time I retired that tube my inflatable seat had Aquaseal patches on virtually every one of those corner connections.
Our second set of Fat Cats were just the regular ones…with the foam seats. We were pleasantly surprised to find that they were just as comfortable as the inflatable seats had been…if not more so. In fact, as we used them more we decided that they were actually more comfortable…and we didn’t have to mess around with pressure adjustment during the day to keep them comfy. Oh yeah, they never developed any leaks either. Over the years since, we have acquired other Fat Cats…some with the inflatable seats and others with the foam seats. Can’t resist a deal when fellow tubers wanna sell a pristine craft cheap. And our mutually agreed findings have held up. The foam seat Fat Cats offer all the weight capacity of the Super Fat Cats…and the nice big pockets…and are even more comfy (to us) than the Supers.
All that being said, comfort is a subjective thing. People have different ideas about what is or is not comfortable. And we are all built differently so we each fit our tubes differently. That which conforms nicely to an “average” human behind might be too firm or too soft for another. Our observations and findings are that while the inflated seats are designed to be more comfortable…through adjustable inflation…they are actually more problematic. In order to take full advantage of the adjustable comfort feature you have to be able to raise or lower inflation levels quickly and easily. Since the air valves are located behind the seats…at a low level…they are impossible to access without a return to shore and getting out of the tube to make the adjustments. And you will need a pump to ADD any air.
Many tubers might assume that the foam seats would be more rigid and less comfortable. Fortunately, that is not the case…as least with us. There is some bend and give in the seats…enough to create a bit of butt-cushioning conformity. And over time the foam actually develops a bit of a depression at the main pressure points. This results in customized form-fitting seats…more comfy than poorly adjusted inflated seats.