SEATS AND BACKRESTS
In the olden days there was a malady I affectionately termed “crotch cramps”. It was caused by poorly adjusted seats in the old donut style tubes. All round tubes have some variation of the adjustable seat and crotch strap. Maybe that’s one reason why fewer anglers are buying them. Open front tubes do not have crotch straps. Theoretically, it is possible for tubers to slip out the front of their craft if they are unlucky and/or their seats are not properly adjusted. It does not happen frequently enough to be considered a problem but in buying a tube you should pay attention to seat construction. Some “modern” float tubes still have seating designs that have the angler sitting below the water line. That includes many of the open front craft. Below water seating increases drag during propulsion but also slows wind drift. It also makes casting with a fly rod more laborious and reduces visibility down into the water. Furthermore, it requires more attention to dressing properly in cold conditions since more of your lower body is in the water.
There are an increasing number of designs that provide higher seating, especially in better quality craft. This elevated seating is accomplished in several ways. First is by adjustable seat straps to raise or lower the seat between the two sides of the craft. Second is through use of rigid foam seats. These are foam inserts that slide into special pockets for both the bottom and backrest. The third high seating option is the inflatable seat. These are only found in a few of the “high end” float tubes. They add significantly to the price on a similar model with foam seats. Most tubers prefer rigid foam seats for several reasons. First, they are less costly than inflated seats. Second is the additional safety factor. They provide natural extra floatation in the event of a sudden disastrous deflation of your air chamber(s). They also do not compress inward, helping keep the two sides of your craft from squeezing in on you. You risk both safety and stability if an inflatable seat loses air. One of the most important parts of a tuber’s seat is the backrest. This is an area of great diversity in design and function. Some backrests are integral parts of the tube. In other cases they are either plain nylon fabric panels or the aforementioned rigid foam or inflated cushions. There are two elements of tubing backrests that can contribute to discomfort or back problems. First is the height and rigidity of the backrest. Second is the adjustment of the straps. A back rest that does not support the full length of your back, or which is improperly adjusted for your size and weight, can leave you with a real pain in the back. Pontoons come with several different kinds of seats too. Toons often have hard seats, bolted to the frame, with adjustability to allow proper positioning for rowing. Some “economy” models have simple frame and fabric seats. There are aftermarket accessory seats that you can buy to retrofit or upgrade your factory seats. Many tooners prefer having padded fold down seats It is even better if they have swivel bases. These are especially nice if you must turn around to operate a rear mounted electric motor or reach for something on the platform behind the seat. Whether you buy a tube or toon (or both), the seat and backrest should be a significant part of your evaluation process. You will spend a lot of time out on the water during a full day of fishing. Good comfortable seating can add more enjoyment to your day. Uncomfortable seats can ruin your trip before you even get well started. See the chapter on Pimping for modification ideas.