Float Tube and Inflatable Pontoon Oars & Accessories
As mentioned, some early float tubers propelled their craft with paddles. That was largely frustrating and ineffective. Round tubes tend to spin around in place rather than making forward progress. Serious tubers seldom used paddles after good fins became available. Some tooners still carry a single paddle on board, along with the oars, for emergency use if an oar is lost or broken…and to fend off unwelcome intrusions from wild critters. They also serve as push poles in shallow water.
Oars are one of the major differences between float tubes and pontoons…besides basic shape. Tooners also sit completely up out of the water on their shallow draft craft. Oars allow tooners to launch in shallower water and to cover more water more quickly with less overall expenditure of energy. For many years float tubers were held back by the natural limitations of their fin powered systems. Even the most stalwart tuber is only able to effectively fish a limited amount of water. Fins alone cannot provide much speed or range. When the first fishing-oriented pontoons hit the market they were eagerly accepted by frustrated tubers who felt the need for speed.
Tooners can operate on larger bodies of water and fish farther from their launch areas. Those who want to troll can use oars to achieve at least a modest trolling speed and the speed can be maintained far longer than any float tuber could ever hope to last. Even the toughest tooners can’t tow water skiers but their fishing potential is much improved. Most pontoons include rowing systems with oars and oarlocks. Pontoon oars are generally
lightweight aluminum…some with two-part connections and adjustable length. Take apart oars break down for transport and storage and are quick and easy to set up before launching. You do not have to be a skilled “oarsman” to propel your pontoon around a lake but it pays to practice until you can make your craft track smoothly in a straight line. If you have never used oars before it is suggested that you take a couple of shakedown cruises, without tackle, to get the hang of your new ride before trying to fish from it. You will pick it up even faster if you can get some good instruction from a fellow tooner who is experienced on the oars.
Once you become proficient at rowing you may want to acquire an “upgrade” set of oars. Those that come with most pontoon systems are the “get by” models rather than oars designed for maximum thrust and efficiency. After you know enough to appreciate the differences you can shop for sturdier oars, with larger blades, with different designs, etc. The shopping process becomes easier if you can try a set on your craft (or someone else’s) before you buy. Perhaps the main “downside” to having oars on your craft is the additional protuberances that can interfere with uncluttered fishing. Oars are big and bulky. They can get in the way.
Most tooners “ship” the oars while fishing…bringing the blade part up out of the water and resting it on the rear portion of the pontoon. That generally leaves the handle part sticking outward and towards the front of the craft. This creates a potential obstacle for you to dodge while casting or battling fish. If you are working a fly line those oar handles have an insidious way of grabbing flies or loops of line. One partial solution is to take the oars out of the locks when not in use. Once you arrive at your targeted fishing area you should be able to use fins to maintain position and make short relocation moves, at least in still water. Lift the oars out of their holders and lay them either across the back of your craft, or along the top surface of your pontoon.
Some tooners install small Velcro strips or bungee cords to temporarily secure the oars out of the way. Still others devise simple holder racks on the sides of their toons to retain the oars when not in use. Stowing the oars, or even just shipping them, is not feasible when fishing in windy weather or in moving water. You will likely need to have quick access to oar power for maintaining position or for keeping you and your craft out of danger. In those cases you will probably be doing more rowing than fishing.