While some people enjoy just cruising the open waters in their pontoon boats, you want more. You wish you were able to drop your fishing reel in the blue and see if you can catch that night’s dinner. Is it possible to do that from your pontoon boat? So, do pontoon boats make good fishing boats?
Pontoon boats make fantastic fishing boats. In fact, some pontoons are designed with rod holders, livewells, and other handy features that only fishermen use. While you might want to outfit your boat with a trolling motor, otherwise, you’re free to go fishing in your pontoon boat as-is.
If you’re new to pontoons but not to fishing, you may have more questions about why a pontoon boat is such a great fishing vessel. You’re not going to want to miss this article, then, as we’ll highlight the parts and features of a pontoon you’ll use most often as a fisherman.
The Features of Fishing Boats You’ll Find on Most Pontoon Boats
When you think of traditional fishing boats, you probably envision a motorboat, right? It’s slim and speedy and so you can jet off to the most populous spots on the water. When you look at your pontoon boat, it shares none of the same features as a traditional fishing boat. That’s okay; in fact, it’s better than okay.
Once you look beyond the size and shape of a pontoon boat, you’ll see that many models are outfitted with the features fishermen crave. These include the following.
Where are you going to put your fishing rod while you wait for that ever-elusive fish to finally bite? As a pontoon boat owner, you probably don’t have to worry about it. It’s quite typical these days for pontoons to come with rod holders built into the sides of the vessel. You may get as many as two or four holders depending on the model of pontoon boat you own.
Livewells are incredibly important to have on a fishing boat. You need this little cubby to hold your bait. Once you do reel in a big catch, the livewell can be used to stash the fish, too. Some fishermen even use livewells for keeping snacks and drinks in sight, but we’d recommend a cooler for that.
If your pontoon boat has rod holders, then the chances are pretty good you’ll find a livewell or two if you look for them.
Here’s something that pontoons have over traditional fishing boats and other motorboats: deck space and lots of it. The wide, rectangular shape of most pontoon boats lends itself well to fishing. You can walk from one end of the boat to the other, searching out the most optimal fishing spots. There’s plenty of room to stretch your legs in between tossing out your line, which you don’t always get on smaller, more cramped fishing boats.
While admittedly rarer, some pontoon boats do indeed have washdown pumps. These are used for a variety of purposes. If you’ve been fishing in saltwater, you might run your pump to clean your boat of the salty debris. This way, the aluminum parts don’t risk rusting or corroding.
Washdown pumps can also remove debris and other messes that can accumulate on the sides and underneath your pontoon boat.
Pontoon boats are consistent, going at a max speed of 22 miles per hour for most models. This may seem painstakingly slow, but when you’re riding the water and trying to track down fish, moving too quickly can be to your detriment. You will have to take a slower and steadier approach to getting to your fishing destination. In a pontoon boat, there’s no gunning it. What you do get is a speed consistency you’ll grow to appreciate.
Trolling Motors: Yay or Nay?
Speaking of speed, many pontoon boat owners opt to get a trolling motor if they go fishing often. These are fishing motors that let you troll the water. This means you’re dragging your bait on the surface of the water to lure fish. What kind of fish can you catch with this technique? Huge ones! Salmon, mackerel, and kingfish will often bite through trolling.
If you are interested in outfitting your ponton boat with a trolling motor, there are two kinds to choose from, electric and gas. Electric trolling motors sit on the shaft of the pontoon boat in a watertight, airtight container. You can control the speed of the boat through hand controls, foot controls, or a wireless remote with a key fob. These trolling motors use direct current (DC) power and are charged by a deep-cycle marine grade battery.
Although less common, gas trolling motors are often the better choice for large pontoon boats. With a manual pull start system, throttle controls, a gearshift that’s motor-mounted, and a steering tiller, gas trolling motors are somewhat more difficult to control. Once you get the hang of it, though, even big pontoons can reach efficient trolling speeds on the water.
Missing Something? How to Retrofit Your Pontoon Boat for Fishing Success
What if your pontoon boat is lacking any of the great fishing features we described above? You don’t have to go without. Retrofitting your boat is often a lot easier than it seems. Don’t believe us? Here are some ways you might go about it.
If You Have No Rod Holders, Try Adding Your Own
No rod holders on your pontoon boat? As a dedicated fisherman, this is one of the must-have features you need on your vessel. Luckily, it’s really easy to makeshift your own rod holders. You just have to find the right spot for them.
If you can’t select a secure enough space for your rod holders, you can always create some of your own with PVC pipe and then zip-tie the pipe around the railing of your pontoon boat. It’s a very DIY setup, but hey, it works! You could hold up to three, four, sometimes even more fishing rods at once with this solution.
If You Have No Livewell, Use a Cooler Instead
A livewell is a useful feature to have built into your boat, but it’s absolutely not the end of the world if your pontoon boat is missing one. There are plenty of nooks and crannies in some pontoons that could be used for storing your bait or even live fish. If your boat doesn’t have these, then go the old-fashioned route and use a cooler, maybe even two.
If You Want Speed, Get a Third Pontoon Tube Installed
We know pontoon boats aren’t the fastest vessels on the water, but that’s not always a bad thing. You don’t want to scare the fish away with your loud motor, do you? Of course not! That said, some people find the lumbering speed of a pontoon too slow and unacceptable for fishing.
If you’re in that camp, you can always get a third pontoon tube installed in the center of your boat. This makes it a tritoon, which is exponentially faster. However, a job like this may cost you thousands of dollars, so tread carefully.
If You Want to Troll, Get a Trolling Motor Installed
What if you’d like to troll for fish? A trolling motor is also a good choice for reducing your pontoon boat’s drag, which means your boat will ride on the water instead of cutting through it. The best option is to buy a trolling motor at your favorite retailer and then get it professionally installed.
Two of our favorite picks for trolling motors are the Black Haswing and the Minn Kota Powerdrive V2. The Black Haswing is a 12-volt shaft bow mount motor that can be outfitted on pontoon boats that weigh 2,750 pounds or less. It’s renowned for its near-silent operation. It’s an electric trolling motor, too, so no gas required.
The Minn Kota Powerdrive V2 trolling motor has a shaft that measures 48 inches and a thrust of 68 pounds. It’ll make less noise thanks to the design of its bearing system. That means you can glide in the water without scaring the fish away. With a hand control knob, a foot pedal that swivels, and a quick-release lever, this is a suitable motor for sure. It even comes with its own warranty good for three years.
If You Have No Washdown Pump, Get a Kit
As we mentioned before, washdown pumps are not often found on pontoon boats. That doesn’t mean you have to live without a pump if you really want one.
Jabsco’s ParMax 4.0 GPM Washdown Pump is a highly-rated pick on Amazon. It comes with a hose coil that stretches to 25 feet. This pump runs on 60 pounds per square inch (PSI) of pressure and 12 VDC. It won’t corrode, doesn’t need an accumulator tank, it can run dry, and it has 10 feet of self-priming.
Another great pick for a washdown kit is SHURFLO’s Aqua King II. This freshwater pump can release water at a rate of three gallons per minute (GPM) and 12 VDC.
Pontoon boats are beloved fishing vessels because of their wide, angular shape and regulatable speed. Many include fishing amenities like livewells and fishing rod holders. If your boat doesn’t, you might look into outfitting it with those features as well as a washdown pump, trolling motor, or even a third pontoon tube.
Whether you leave your boat as is or get it professionally modified, pontoon boats are certainly ready for days of fun fishing.