If you like the idea of lounging on a boat with your line in the water with a clear blue sky overhead, then it’s quite likely you have begun thinking of taking the plunge and getting a fishing boat.
The problem arises when you are trying to decide on which boat is best for fishing? This article aims to focus on pontoon boats and their viability for fishing. I have also included some must-have features you will need – those are towards the end of the page so scroll down if you want to get straight to those.
Regardless, and speaking from a personal perspective, I love fishing from my pontoon boat. I genuinely can’t think of a better way to spend my weekends.
What I have done first is list a few of the major boat manufacturers that offer excellent pontoons. Their boats are specifically geared towards catering for fisherman.
You can pretty much pick and choose from any of those manufacturers as they are equally as good as each other when it comes to offering the best fishing pontoon boat. You decision will come down to price, size, and whether you want to spend extra money on a fishing package.
Why Use a Pontoon for Fishing?
When you think of fishing boats, the first thing you might imagine is a sleek, white boat. But a pontoon offers so much more over traditional fishing boats.
First off, they are much more stable due to the two pontoons on which the deck rests. However, this is only applicable in relatively calm waters found on rivers and lakes. Please don’t expect to go reeling in massive blue marlins in the deep ocean. These boats are not designed for that.
Secondly, pontoon boats have a lot of deck space, making a day out on the water accessible and enjoyable for the whole family. A pontoon is basically a floating lounge with comfortable chairs, toilets and pop up change rooms.
I’ve written at length about whether or not pontoons are good for fishing. Go read that if you want a more in-depth assessment including the pros and cons.
What are the Best Pontoon Boats for Fishing?
Let’s now explore some of the different options available. There are quite a few well-known manufacturers of pontoon boats. I am going to cover a few of the top dogs (or big fish) in this guide and give a brief overview of their fishing pontoons plus any advantages and disadvantages they might have.
Sylvan Mirage Fish 820 4-PT
This brand is known for sleek high-performance boats, but what we’re interested in is their purpose-built fishing pontoon boat, the Sylvan Mirage Fish 820 4-PT.
This 9-seater, 90hp toon is relatively compact and can easily reach the shallows. It already comes with a fishing package and a few fishing accessories such as rod holders (see my Amazon recommendation) and a measuring scale. Overall, it’s a very good-looking boat.
Having seen one in the flesh recently though, it does seem like the fishing accessories were added as an afterthought and despite having “fish” in the name it does not come across as a lean, mean, fishing machine. They’re a good price though and tick most of the boxes in terms of basic functionality.
StarCraft EX Fish 20 F4
StarCraft is an old timer in the fishing boat industry, and with a long-established and reputable 100-year history you can’t deny that they have the knowledge to build a more than capable fishing pontoon. That statement is well-founded given how many you will see out on the lakes and rivers.
You only have to look the fishing accessories included on their 10-seater, 125hp StarCraft EX 20 F4. It comes with two live wells and pedestal mount fishing seats amongst a few other fishing centric features.
What’s more is there is the option to turn this pontoon into a tritoon which adds another extra level of performance. You will need to spend more though! If you want to know the difference between pontoons versus tritoons, check that link. Otherwise, see them in action in the video below.
Avalon Fish Boats
Avalon has been making pontoon boats for almost 50 years and their pedigree is evident in the Catalina Fish (their top-end model) which comes in two variants, the Quad Fish which is designed for serious anglers only and the Rear Fish for weekend anglers and their families.
They are all stunning boats. No argument. The Quad Fish has a live well in front of the captain stand and a rear fishing center which includes rod holders and another live well. Apart from the fishing features their boats also have all the luxuries you would expect from an expensive leisure boat.
Bennington S16 8’ Narrow Beam
A bit smaller than the previous boats, the Bennington S16 8-foot Narrow-Beam fishing pontoon is by no means inferior. Bennington manufacture stunning pontoons, and this particular model is designed for someone who loves a solitary fishing expedition, but still needs enough room to let the family join in from time to time.
This Bennington is a perfect starter for any fisherman (or woman) looking to jump into the world of pontoons. While it only has two bass seats, with cup and rod holders and corner storage boxes, the luxury high-end features more than make up for that.
Sun Tracker Fishin’ Barge 22 DLX
These guys manufacture a wide range of fishing pontoon boats, with some great all-rounders which can cater for large groups of people, all with different interests. That means even if your guests aren’t interested in fishing, you can drop a line whilst they entertain themselves elsewhere on the boat, or in the water.
My particular favorite is the Fishin’ Barge 22 DLX. It comes with a bow fishing position and a starboard compartment prewired for an optional fishing package. And don’t forget the two fishing chairs with rod and drinks holders – perfect for a day’s fishing with a buddy.
But it’s not just great for fishing. There’s enough comfort and functionality to make it ideal for a small family or a group of friends having a great day out relaxing on the water.
What Features Will a Pontoon Fishing Boat Need?
Many of the boats on the market do come with some great features already installed, and indeed, some are actually marketed to let you purchase a fishing package option – but that can increase the price of the boat quite significantly.
What many pontooners do is simply add what they need to their boat to make it 100% fishing friendly once they have bought it.
Whilst you might be able to pick up a second-hand pontoon with no fishing features, there’s nothing stopping you converting it into the perfect fishing vessel with some essential accessories and features.
Let’s take a look at some of those essentials now, which may or may not be included with your pontoon boat fishing package, so you can decide whether to buy them yourself.
This self-steering device gives you the ability to concentrate on the next catch whilst the technology takes over. If you are lucky, or have been convinced to spend more by your dealer, then your boat might already have one.
If it doesn’t then there’s one company I always trust when it comes to marine electronics, and that’s Garmin. They are based in Kansas, offer exceptional customer support, and are American born and bred.
Their latest autopilot device is the GHC 20 marine autopilot control unit which comes with a bright 4-inch color display. You can buy the starter pack on Amazon. It’s pricey, but worth every dollar I promise you.
Not only will a depth finder help you to find the best location for fish, but it will also give you some much needed guidance on how deep the water is below you. It’s an essential piece of knowledge, especially if you have sea legs on your pontoon.
This piece of tech will help you measure temperature, depth, and where the fish are so you won’t end up going home with nothing to show for your trip.
Again, I can only recommend Garmin due to the excellent products I have had in the past and continue to use to this day. The best choice for me in the fish finder range would be the Garmin Striker on Amazon.
Chances are you are going to be out on the water for many hours. Patience is certainly one of the more key attributes you are going to need for successful pontoon boat fishing.
With that in mind, comfort is key, which is why I recommend swivelling fishing chairs. Not only are they comfortable, but they also give you a clear view of the waterways with one quick 360 degree turn.
The top sellers tend to be the ones available from Wise. They are expensive (see Amazon prices) but generally are considered to be the best on the market by far. Go check them out.
Fishing Rod Holders
I can’t do without mine, and they were one of the first things I custom-fitted to my pontoon boat when I purchased it second hand back in 2016. I have used the Wise brand again (see their rod holders on Amazon), as they are very sturdy and easy to fit to the pontoon rails.
Handy Hint: Since writing this guide originally, I have since reviewed the best fishing pole holders.
They cost almost next to nothing and give you plenty of freedom to move around the boat whilst your rod is still in place hopefully snagging you that next big catch.
Keep your bait and fish fresh and cool with a portable cooler. If you don’t have an on-board refrigeration unit, it can also be a place to keep a cold beer close to hand.
Buy a Yeti Cooler on Amazon. Why? Because they are simply the best, and you get what you pay for. It can also hold up to 50 cans of drink so can be used for a party day when you aren’t out fishing.
GPS Trackers & Chart Plotters
If you decide to choose Garmin again, then this will seamlessly integrate with the other marine tech you already have installed. Say goodbye to wasted fishing trips as it will let you plan your day according to the best fishing hot spots.
View the entire Garmin range on Amazon before making a decision, as there are quite a few different models at varying prices. All of them come highly recommended though with outstanding online reviews as standard.
I try to be as economic with fuel in my pontoon at all times, but that’s often easier said than done. Read my tips on how you can conserve fuel in that previous link, as it contains some great tips.
When it comes to fishing pontoon boats, the engine types and sizes can vary wildly. In most cases you will want to have something that offers 4-6hp for each ton weight.
If you are a fan of night-time fishing, then good docking lights are an absolute must. Fix them to the hull surface, and it will make the job of docking when it’s dark one hundred times easier than ever before.
My boat already came with docking lights, but I have heard great things about the Shoreline Marine range (also available on Amazon) who have some high quality and affordable lights on offer that won’t break the bank.
I’ve written extensively already about what the best boarding ladders for pontoons are, so go check that post for my latest suggestions.
If you don’t have time to do that though, a quick recommendation would be the Amarine line of ladders. They also sell on Amazon, and I recommend the 4-step model as it will also be great for kids during leisure trips as it will extend further down into the water.
And finally, your choice of anchor is important.
Buy one that hold you in position securely on a deep reef if sports fishing is your thing. No matter what though, it’s an essential piece of kit but you will need to decide between a box anchor, grapnel style anchor, or fluke anchor.
Handy Hint: For more ideas on how you can accessorize your pontoon fishing boat, click here.
Final Thoughts on Fishing Pontoons
Pontoon boats are still mainly known and marketed as luxurious cruisers. But the manufacturers understand how popular they are now for fishing, and most companies barring one or two, have fishing boat ranges.
A pontoon fishing boat might seem like a cruiser with some fishing features tacked on the end, or if you spend a little bit, with fishing packages included. But for me, they fit the bill incredibly well for how I like to fish, and the frequency.
Even if you don’t buy a specialist pontoon fishing boat, it’s possible to easily add all the essential features I have highlighted to turn into an amazing fishing vessel.
I honestly cannot recommend pontoons highly enough for the fisherman who still wants to get a great catch, but also wants something he can use with his family for much-needed leisure time.