Dave Scadden designs and produces great “floatation” craft. However, because it is virtually impossible to anticipate all possible features that buyers may want, his fishing systems are designed largely for fly fishermen. The good news is that these fishing platforms are well-made and they can be easily modified for specific fishing styles. My first Scadden craft was an H3 Freestyle…a super float tube designed to compete with the Outcast Fat Cats. It more than competed. It was slightly larger, with numerous features that were superior to any other float tube of the time. My second Scadden purchase was an Outlaw Renegade…one of Dave’s frameless and bladderless pontoons. It had 3 air chambers…left, right and seat. With no frame and no air bladders the craft was light enough and small enough to fold up and store easily in a small space. If you have an SUV…with a fair amount of cargo area…you can take your craft…pockets rigged and partially inflated. Or you could take it to the water fully rigged in a pickup or small trailer…or securely lashed to a rooftop rack.
I had experience with “tricking out” pontoons from other manufacturers. But they all had frames upon which to attach the rod holders, sonar systems, tool holders and other modifications desirable to “warm water” anglers who used spinning or bait casting gear. And most of them came with built-in motor mounts and rear platforms for batteries. Dave’s craft come with oars, footrest bars, a seat and removable storage pockets. If you want to add an electric motor you can either purchase an aftermarket motor mount from Dave…or make your own. I made my own from PVC…and it worked great. My biggest challenges came in designing a modular PVC frame and the rod holders and utility (tool) holders for each side of the Renegade…without having anything to which I could attach them. I came up with something that I could rest on top of the inflated air chamber and then cinch down with the straps for the removable pockets. These worked fine too, but I couldn’t help thinking there might be a better way. While I really liked my “Renny”, I found it just a big larger than I liked for my style of fishing. I use the oars very little…preferring to fish hands free as much as possible. So I use my fins a lot…both for short moves and for maintaining position while casting or vertical jigging. “Big Blue” (the Renegade) was quite a bit larger than the float tubes I had been using for the past few years. I could really feel the extra wear and tear on my aging body at the end of a fishing day…from using the fins on a bigger craft.
When Dave first introduced his new Escape I thought it might be the answer. It was a bit larger than my old Fat Cat, but somewhat smaller than the Renegade. As Goldilocks might say…”It was just right.” However, I was reluctant to jump in one because it seemed there would not be enough space between the back of the seat and the end of the air chambers to tuck in the big deep cycle battery I use for my electric motor. I was not in need of a new craft for a while, and I put the Escape out of my mind. But I recently had an opportunity to see one “up close and personal”. Sonofagun! It looked good. Just the right size and THERE WAS ROOM FOR A BATTERY. So, even though I did not actually NEED a new tube, I added an Escape to my stable. The Scadden toons are easily big enough to accommodate an electric motor. A metal strap-on motor mount is available as an aftermarket accessory. However, I designed one for my previous Renegade…from PVC (what else?). It worked fine so I used the same design for my new Escape…even though the new red ride was much smaller and not intended to be motorized. It actually came out about the same size…and fit.
The PVC motor mount is made of 1” schedule 40 PVC…and a couple of short lengths of 2×4. The exception is the two pieces of 1” type 200 (thin wall) PVC that are heatflattened to allow easy insertion between the seat and the side air chambers. Once the mount is securely lashed to the D rings it is very stable and withstands the pull of the motor. Measurements of the PVC lengths are shown in the picture below.
Most pontoons and more and more large size float tubes are sporting electric motors as a part of their propulsion system. Most pontoons with metal frames actually have built in motor mounts and platforms upon which to keep a large 12 volt battery. Scadden’s frameless craft require adding a motor mount and coming up with a place and method for carrying the battery.
As previously mentioned, I was happy to find that there was sufficient room behind the angler’s seat to hold a battery and install a motor mount. It required some engineering but I am able to mount my 40# thrust motor and carry my 65# series 27 deep cycle AGM battery. And with the extra floatation built into the front of the Escape the craft rides almost level when fully loaded with all my gear and with the motor and battery.
If you have never bought a battery for any marine use…boats, pontoons, etc.…there are a couple of things to remember. First of all, do not buy just any old 12 volt car battery. They are made for “cranking power”…not slow sustained release of power to the point of failure. Good deep cycle batteries are made to withstand many cycles of discharging and recharging. That being said, you will get more life out of your battery if you do not always run it to complete depletion. It is better to make sure it is fully charged before each trip…and to put it on the charger as soon as you return.
Once you have a motor mount and battery you need to choose an electric motor that with both fit your craft and your angling needs. The good news is that almost any electric motor…of any size…can be made to fit your craft and to get you between point A and point B. But there are factors which should be used to guide you in your selection. Before you install your motor you should reverse the control head. Most transom mount motors are designed to go on the back of a boat…and to push the boat forward. But motorized tubes and toons perform better if the motor is set up to pull it backward.
I originally started out with a MinnKota Endura 30# thrust motor on my Fat Cat. It had all the power I needed and was frugal on battery power. But it only had a 30” shaft length. That was not enough to raise the control head up within easy reach and to keep the prop from chewing up my craft. So I upgraded to a 40# thrust motor…not for the extra power but because it had a 36” shaft. That is what I still use on my Escape.
Most electric motors have control handles that will extend a few inches. And there are aftermarket extension handles you can buy to increase the length of the handle. But I found these to be heavier than I liked…and more costly. So I experimented with making my own. After several trials I finally came up with one that is simple, inexpensive, flexible and works very well. It uses blue flex conduit for an extension handle…connected to a heat formed 1/2” PVC joint…held on the handle with a screw-on hose clamp.
Another modification I have been making to my electric motors…for tubes and toons…is to wire in a separate ON-OFF switch between the battery and the motor. You normally use the motor control handle for on, off and speed settings. But if you get a strike while trolling or bottom bouncing it is easier and less stressful to simply flip the off switch than to try to remember which way to turn the control handle.
POCKET MODS The pockets on the Escape are about 50% larger than those on my previous Outcast Fat Cats…and even my old H3 Freestyle. I really appreciate the extra room…and the rigid insulated walls of the pockets. These pockets are removable…with nylon straps that run through a couple of D rings and quick-connect buckles. You can optionally remove them for transport and storage…or leave them on for faster setup. This can be either a blessing or a curse…depending on your mode of transportation and your preferences for having the pockets installed when you get to the lake. I like the modularity of the pockets more than I dislike it. But it can be time consuming and troublesome to run the straps around through the D rings, clip the buckles together and to cinch the straps down to secure the pockets. So I buckled the straps together under the pockets…and used inexpensive carabiner or other clips to hook directly to the D rings. Click – click and they are installed. Unclick and you can remove them.
When I previously “tricked out” my Renegade…also with removable pockets…I made PVC frames for each side…for the rod holders and tool rack. Then I secured them in place by attaching the pockets on top of them and cinching them down. It worked fine, but required a couple of large PVC rod and tool racks.
By the time I received my new “Rojo” (red) Escape, I had already worked out the basic design and started assembly on the PVC modifications. For the past couple of years I had been installing a small wooden frame inside the pockets of my Fat Cats…using sturdy screws to attach the PVC basics from the outside. This design has been well tested and proven. So, why not do the same with the removable pockets on the Escape? This simply requires a wood frame inside each pocket for attaching PVC bases from the outside. And these bases allow a choice of rod holders or tool rack that can be slipped on or off…and which swivel in or out for position adjustment or compactness. It occurred to me that I could do the same thing with the removable Escape pockets by making the modular rod racks and Utility racks attached to the removable pockets. So I made the wooden frames, screwed them in place and had my anchor base.
The first step in setting up a rod rack is installing the inner wood frame. I used 2×2 pine. It is not too heavy but will allow the use of longer (better holding) screws. The shape of the frame will be an L…with the shorter end at the front. This is the portion to which you will later attach the “front deck”. If you are going to be using sonar on your craft, you may wish to build in a small compartment at the rear of the pocket in which to hold a 7ah gel cell battery.