The Four Types of Pontoon Boats
There are four primary types of pontoon boats available for fly fishing. While looks and features of pontoon boats vary among manufacturers, all boats can be classified into four types. Each pontoon boat type has a particular use. Because of this, anglers should give careful thought to how and where they fish. Anglers should also consider whether the boat will perform other duties, such as recreational floating.
Standard On-Person Pontoon Boat
This is the most common pontoon boat available. These boats have a weight capacity between 250-400 pounds. The boats are relatively lightweight and fairly easy to assemble. While most anglers don’t disassemble the boats after each use (most people carry standard one-person pontoon boats on roof racks or in the beds of pickup trucks), these boats are light enough for one-person to easily manage transporting. Prices of one-person pontoon boats vary, depending on features and construction. Yet, in the end, all standard one-person pontoon boats perform the same function—to provide a floating platform for effective fly fishing.
Two-Person+ Pontoon Boats
Two-person+ pontoon boats are designed to carry two or more people. This design, not surprisingly, causes these boats to be large and heavy. This boat type lacks the portability and ease of setup found in the standard one-person pontoon boat. Except for winter storage, anglers rarely disassemble these types of boats (and for winter storage, most people store their boats fully inflated in a garage). Finally, due to their large size and heavy weight, an angler needs a trailer to transport these boats.
The Backpackable Pontoon Boat
This term has potential to mislead. All standard one-person pontoon boats are packable if done “creatively.” The angler might need a strong back—and a large backpack—to make it to their destination. But even larger, one-person pontoon boats can be packed if necessary. It just isn’t necessarily easy.
In contrast, a true “packable” pontoon boat is specifically designed for simple transport to remote waters—with no creative packing ability or ultra-strong backs needed. Years ago, this style of pontoon boat was difficult to find. But advances in technology—and angler demand for something to use in remote waters other than a float tube—have increased availability of packable pontoon boats. The Sea Eagle PackFish is a great example of a boat in this class.
Packable pontoon boats, when compared with standard one-person boats, are smaller, lighter, easier to assemble and have less bulk. For pure versatility, packable pontoon boats are great little boats, since anglers can use them in remote waters once reserved for float tubes and smaller inflatable kayaks and rafts.
Yet, these boats have some drawbacks. Because of their smaller size, packable pontoon boats have a reduced weight capacity. They also tend of offer fewer of the “fancier features” found on larger, one-person pontoon boats. And last, packable pontoon boats are meant for use on lakes and rivers with slower currents. They aren’t the best fishing vessel for rivers that have whitewater or swift currents.
The Pontoon Boat-Float Tube Hybrid
The pontoon boat-float tube hybrid, sometimes called a kick boat, is an interesting boat. This boat combines some features of a packable pontoon boat with some features of a float tube. With this pontoon boat, the angler sits between two large pontoons with only their legs in the water. Similar to a float tube, the angler maneuvers by kicking—not paddling. This pontoon boat type is simple to pack to remote water because of its lightweight and reduced bulk. And because the angler sits “out of the water,” waders aren’t needed.
The boats do have drawbacks. On larger rivers or in swift currents, the boats can be exhausting to maneuver. Also, anglers will often bash their legs into underwater obstructions—especially in shallow water or in whitewater. Because of these drawbacks, hybrid pontoon boats are ideal for rivers that have steady (not too fast, not too slow) currents, lack significant whitewater and have enough depth to allow easy kicking.