Most rivers are now accessible thanks to companies like Waterskeeter, Outcast, ODC and many others. These companies offer a new generation of water craft known as the personal pontoon boat. These boats have given us the ability to traverse waters considered to be in accessible in the past. Pontoons come in all shapes and sizes and are made to fit the beginning boater all the way to the most advanced.
Some characteristics to consider when purchasing these boats are their price, durability, stability, size, portability and construction. The value well out weighs the cost. These boats hold the key to the fishing world. Instead of fishing the same old high traffic areas, pontoons open the door to most all fishing waters.
First, determine how much money you want to spend on a boat. Personal Pontoon boats offer exceptional value for your dollar. They can run in price from a couple hundred dollars for a scaled down version for beginners and casual fishermen to a couple of thousand dollars for a three man guide series pontoon with all the trimmings. Price will vary due to accessories, length, frame type, and pontoon style. Most of the time, everything you will need is included in the price of the boat. However, an anchor and a pump might not be included so be sure to figure their cost into your budget. You won’t go far or catch many fish without either of these items in your kit. No matter how big or small your budget these boats are well constructed and designed for many years of trouble free service.
Second, consider the material and style of the pontoons on the boat. Pontoons on these boats are made of rugged materials. The heavier the pontoon material the more durable the boat will be. Most pontoons are made with an outer covering with an inner bladder of PVC. Pontoon coverings have a “Denier” rating that you should consider when researching your purchase. Denier is the strength rating of the fibers that make up (in this case) a pontoon’s covering. Most boats on the market today have pontoons with covers rated between 600 and 1200 Denier. Generally, the higher the number, the more durable the pontoon will be. Pontoon styles are also important. If you are planning to fish still water, you’ll want flat style pontoons, but if you are fishing moving water, you’ll need river style pontoons with upturned ends. Pontoon length and circumference should also be a major factor in any purchase decision, the longer and bigger round the pontoon the more stable, and easier to row. Larger pontoons will also increase the weight capacity of the boat. Weight capacity should be reviewed closely to make sure the boat will handle the boater personnel and all required equipment. For one man boats, I would suggest pontoons of at least 8’ ft long and 16” inches in circumference, with a denier rating of 1200 or more. Frames attach to the pontoons by cam and Velcro straps and both work equally well. Velcro straps are normally attached to the pontoon so you never have to worry about leaving them behind.
Third, the frame gives the boat its ridge structure and provides support for the anglers seat so a frame is a major consideration when deciding the appropriate boat to purchase. Normally frames are made of steel and aluminum. Steel frames are a bit stronger but add weight to the boat. Aluminum frames are considered the best because they are both strong, light, and rust free. A powder coated frame will hold its finish longer and chip less than a painted one. Frames come in both three and five piece versions. Also, consider the width of the frame, the wider the frame the more stable the boat will be. Frame parts are held together by bolts or clip pins. A boat with a three piece frame that uses clip pins will go together fastest and get you on the water quicker, while a bolted frame is slower to assemble, they provide the most ridge and strongest structure for a frame.
Fourth, assembly time is another important factor to consider when deciding on your purchase. A high volume double action pump will inflate the pontoons on an eight or nine foot boat in about five minutes. Three piece frames can be attached to the pontoons and connected in about five minutes. Add an additional five minutes for accessories to be attach and you’re ready to fish. Once you have assembled the pontoon a couple of times, it should go together in about fifteen or twenty minutes easily.
Lastly, portability should be addressed. Many of these wonderful little boats will fit into a car trunk. The general rule of thumb is the more pieces they breakdown into the smaller and more portable they become. Most of the boats fully assembled will easily fit on a small pickup. Remember the lighter the boat the more portable it is. Sometimes there isn’t direct access to the water, so a boat may have to be carried to the waters edge. Many boats are light enough to be carried for short distances, making access to the water a lot easier. A large duffel bag is a very nice way to carry your boat to and from the waters edge. Boat bags are extra, but they are well worth the money. Boat bags will help cut down on deterioration of the boat, aid in helping keep from losing parts and makes the boats more portable.
Remember, personal water craft and especially these small pontoon boats can open up a whole new fishing world for anglers who are willing to take the plunge of buying one. Always consider the major factors such as pontoon length and size, stability, durability, weight, portability, an assembly time before making a purchase. Also consider the manufacturers warranty before making your purchase. These boats are user friendly and will give many years of superior service with proper maintenance. Thanks to the companies for providing a wonderful water craft for all users. No water has to be off limits anymore but users should always exercise caution and be safety conscience. Never enter the water on a personal pontoon boat without a lifejacket. Even though they are usually very stable and user friendly they can still be flipped if you manage to get one sideways. Trust me on this, I have seen it done.
Photo courtesy “Sportsman’s Guide.com”