I’m not sure if it’s a law, but living on the lake, you might think there’s an ordinance that requires lake people to own a pontoon boat. Virtually every dock you ride by has one sitting there. For the longest time, I pretty much considered a pontoon boat as an awkward looking contraption to entertain kids, grandparents and friends who came up from the city. They were slow, and didn’t have the pizazz of a sleek fishing boat.
A couple years ago, we caved and purchased a pontoon…just to make sure we were abiding by the lake-living rules. This one is a tri-toon, meaning it has three tubes under the deck, instead of the traditional two tubes. And it has a Honda 250 on the back, so it’s pretty fast…top speed around 40 mph.
Now, if I’m on the water, I am probably going to have a fishing rod within arm’s reach. But a pontoon just didn’t fit my preconceived mental image of a fishing boat. So, I adjusted my thinking and made a few modifications. I installed a Lowrance Elite fishfinder with a TotalScan transducer. I added several Scotty rod holder mounts around the perimeter and two on the back for trolling. I added some additional 12 volt outlets so I could run the pump on a Keep Alive bait tank, and power my HyrdoGlow underwater lights for nighttime fishing. And I mounted a 24 volt trolling motor on the front. Although it still didn’t look like a fishing boat, it was now set up to fish like one.
I also rigged everything for easy removal, which lets us use the boat for its more traditional voyages. The trolling motor has a quick-release plate that leaves a very low profile when the motor is removed. The Scotty mounts use removable and positionable rod holders, so when they’re off, you are left with a very small footprint for the mount. Plus, Miss Beth can use those same mounts with a Scotty drink holder or tray to serve cheese and assorted tidbits. Please don’t tell her I use those same trays for cutting bait though. The Lowrance stays on the boat for obvious reasons, and the bait tank resides on the dock when not in use.
After fishing the ‘toon’ for a couple times, I came to realize this could actually be the perfect inland and shallow bay water fishing platform. Really???? Yep. There’s an abundance of room, lots of storage, comfortable seating, and a bimini that can be raised or lowered depending on the day. It is super-stable, and you can fish virtually 360 degrees around the boat. It can get into about 12 inches of water (with the engine raised), and the trolling motor will pull it all weekend on a single charge. The only disadvantage can be when the bimini top is in the raised position. You may need to fight the fish along the length of the boat, and that means you have to work the rod around the bimini structure itself. Typically, that’s not an issue, but if that’s the only downside; it’s a small sacrifice.
I’ve even run a couple charters off the ‘toon’, and although I got some strange looks when pulling up to the courtesy dock, once we got set up for fishing, folks realized just how comfortable and fishable it is.
So, if you’ve got a pontoon sitting at your dock, and you’re jonesing for some fishing… liberate your mind from the stereotype that fishing boats have to be shiny fiberglass and run 60 mph. I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised just how remarkable the under-rated pontoon boat can be as a fishing machine.
Tight lines and calm seas.
Capt. Cefus McRae – Nuts & Bolts of Fishing
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