Float Tube vs Pontoon Boat
As you might suspect there is no clear-cut simple reasoning to guide a prospective buyer into choosing either a float tube or a pontoon. It is a very subjective matter. And, there is no law against owning both…if you have the need, the budget, suitable transportation to carry them and the space to store them when not in use. Float tubes have features, advantages and benefits that make them a better choice for some floatation fishermen. Pontoons will work better for others. Until you try one or both you probably won’t be able to make the best long-term decision. It is not uncommon for anglers to start with one and switch to the other after gaining some experience. And, it is also common for serious floatation fans to own both…or multiple models…for varying fishing situations. The remainder of this chapter continues to make comparisons between tubes and toons for most of the topics covered herein. For the sake of brevity and to provide a quick overview here are some bullet points for each:
- Smaller and easier to transport than pontoons.
- Generally less costly than pontoons.
- Generally easier to propel with fin power alone and to hold position…hands free.
- Generally lower profile on the water…less wind resistance.
- Can be more easily maneuvered into smaller openings.
- Better for carrying/packing into waters not easily accessible from the road.
- Better for launching and fishing on very small waters.
- Limited in speed and range. Slower than pontoons and not able to cover as much water.
- Difficult to troll with any speed or for long periods.
- Harder to propel and maneuver against wind and waves…without oars or motors.
- Not as safe on moving water…especially big fast rivers.
- Lower seating height…less visibility into the water and reduced casting efficiency.
- Generally less storage space and cargo capacity than pontoons.
- Usually much larger, heavier and more difficult to transport and store.
- Usually more expensive, even for low-end models.
- Higher profile on the water increases wind resistance.
- Heavier and with more drag…more difficult to propel and/or control with fins alone.
- Oar power increases speed and range over float tubes…allows trolling.
- Usually set up for mounting electric trolling motors…for more speed and range.
- Ideal for trolling…with the proper electric motor and a good deep cycle battery.
- Suitable for running rivers…if large enough and sturdy enough.
- Not suitable for packing in to remote waters.
- Provides higher seating…better angle of visibility into water.
- Higher seating improves casting, line control and fish battling options.
- Usually more storage and cargo carrying capacity than tubes.
- Optional standing platform and lean bar increases fishing options.
- Greater floatation capacity and shallower launching requirements.
The type, make and model of the craft you choose will be a personal thing. Before making any final decision you should get as much input as possible from knowledgeable tubers and tooners. Advice from others can be valuable but the ultimate choice needs to be based upon YOUR own wants, needs and abilities. And, a good policy is to always try before you buy…when you can. This chapter highlights the most important considerations to review during your evaluation process. Some are obvious. Others less so. For many newbies the budget thing is the single biggest hurdle to becoming properly outfitted. Tubes and toons are less costly than boats but can still take
a big chunk out of a tight budget.
Other factors in the review process are mostly related to your personal angling preferences along with your physical abilities. Equipment and design options might also influence your final decision. Then there are the potential limitations you might have for storing or transporting whatever craft you choose.
In the “olden days” we didn’t have many choices. We could choose either a round tube…or a round tube. The early models were simply fabric covers sewn together in a “donut” shape that held a 20” truck tire tube. These would float up to about two hundred and fifty pounds depending on the manufacturer and the cut of the cover. Later options included covers to fit the larger 22” truck tubes and would float anglers up to 300 pounds. During the last 20 years of the 20th century great strides were made in the floatation fishing world. Manufacturers responded to the growing awareness and more knowledgeable demands of tubers and tooners and came up with a bajillion new designs. It is increasingly rare to see a round tube on the waters anymore. Today’s floatation anglers tend to prefer open front tubes, pontubes or pontoons with oars and/or electric motors. But, when shopping for a new craft fancy design alone should not be the only basis upon which you make your final decision.