Pontoon Boat for Group Trips

A pontoon boat is the perfect answer for group shiner fishing trips. You can do all the different Florida styles and techniques of fishing that you would with a conventional type fishing boats. Pontoons are great for taking groups of people out. If you’re planning a trip with the family or another couple, the large roomy deck will accommodate everyone.

The later models are already rigged with the necessary accessories needed for live bait fishing. Most of them have a depth finder. Some of them will have a trolling motor and now their even rigging them with a built in livewell that can double as a bait tank.

I will use a pontoon on many of my guide trips. If we have a large corporate group to take out we will often have several of them on the trip. It allows us to double up, using less guides and saving the party on guide fees. Using a pontoon boat on this type of trip takes nothing away from the fishing. Everyone catches fish since there’s room to set as many rods out as you need. There’s plenty of seating for everyone, avoiding the competition for that back seat in a bass boat. You can even set out extra deck chairs if needed.

These boats are great for drift fishing and easily anchored to fish a small concentration of fish. They also come with a canopy that’s handy for blocking that midday Florida sun.

There are a few things to consider before making the decision on whether to bring a pontoon boat. They are a bit cumbersome to tow, especially if you’re traveling a great distance. They set high on the trailer creating a wind break that can kill your gas mileage.

Using a pontoon boat to pull a grass line with the trolling motor, works in most situations. However, if you have a lot of wind to contend with, maneuvering in tight areas can be difficult. Any kind of boat control by use of the trolling motor can be tough on a windy day. They draft very little water sitting high and leaving you at the mercy of the wind. Also, going after a fish that’s buried up, back in the reeds or cattails, is next to impossible.

When I know I’ll be spending the day drifting or anchoring up on one of my spots, I prefer the pontoon boat. If we plan on casting artificial I choose the bass boat. There’s nothing scarier than everyone in the group slinging Rattle Traps, with overhand cast, stationed all around the boat. If someone insist on casting some artificial, I will send them to one of the front corners of the boat. The one that I use has a deck that extends beyond the front railing. It’s an area where you would secure a portable grill or extra cooler if needed. By standing out there and casting sidearm or underhand, reduces the chance of impaling a hook into some poor sole. Notice I said reduces the chance.

Launch and Load!

I use an exclamation because this can be the most exciting time of day. I tell my friends "if they want some good entertainment just go to a ramp on any popular lake and watch people launch and load boats on a busy weekend." It always seems to be the pontoon boaters that cause the back-ups".

I’ve watched them back down the center of a double wide ramp (as if it was built that way for pontoon boats), get out and wrestle with every kind of rope, chain and tie-down strap imaginable. Then they take their shoes off, roll up their pant legs and walk the boat off the trailer. If that’s not enough, they hand the boat rein to their wife, buddy or kid and with the boat setting right in the middle of the ramp and now drifting sideways, they go park the truck. Why are you laughing? You know exactly what I’m talking about because you’ve seen them.

They are a little more difficult to launch than say a bass boat. I’ve had my own problems with them, especially on a windy day. But, if people are going to use a them, you would think they would at least learn how to launch and load it so as not to hold up everyone else.

Comfort and Convience

You can rig a pontoon boat with all the amenities of home. With a bathroom station, grill, sink and even an ice box you can stay out all day and never need to go to the dock. Some even have canopies that act as cuddy cabins for sleeping.

It’s hard to beat the comfort, stability and safety of a pontoon boat especially with kids, handicapped or just a senior that has a little more difficulty getting around. I had a customer, in my bass boat, get his feet tangled in some lines when he was stepping up on the back deck. He never got to his feet and just rolled off the deck and disappeared into the lake. It was a frightening moment. But when he stood up and found he was in four foot of water, he simply walked to shore. Afterwards, when we knew he was okay, we all got a good laugh out of it. Point is this never would have happened if we were fishing from a pontoon boat.

Stigma-“Pontoon boats and bass fishing don’t mix”.

I always envisioned Florida bass fishing from a “top of the line” bass boat. When I actually started guiding is when I realized how many guides were using pontoon boats to take groups out. When drifting or anchoring with live bait, it made sense. Only pulling, with the electric trolling motor, is limited because of the maneuverability of a pontoon under windy conditions.

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