By Ron Wong
The versatility and stability of pontoon boats have caught the interest of the fishing community.
The sales of pontoon boats for fishing have increased significantly across America. The increased popularity is linked to an increased demand for outdoor activities as a result of the recent pandemic. After being “locked down” too long, Americans are yearning for an escape and fishing has enjoyed a large share of the increase in outdoor activities.
Whether you fish for catfish, bass, walleye, or panfish the pontoon boat is becoming a favorite platform. Boat dealers are now selling pontoon boats fully rigged for the fishermen and many of those dealers will customize the boat to whatever features and equipment anglers prefer.
Marshall Hughey, a resident of Wetumpka, Alabama, and founder/director of Alabama Catfish Series is a professional catfisherman. He has been using a pontoon boat since he started fishing the professional trails.
As the director of the Alabama Catfish Series, he doesn’t fish his trail but his pontoon gives him the perfect platform for his Alabama Catfish Series director duties. It is also his choice for his personal tournament and recreational fishing.
“My pontoon boat is equipped specifically for catfishing,” informed Hughey. “I use it to aid my anglers who need help during a tournament. When issues like boat failure or a catfish that may be stressed arise I use my pontoon to assist. I have the room in my boat to carry tools, extra batteries, and a specially designed live well to help revive fish and practice catch and release.”
Marshall spends a lot of time on the Alabama River, especially in the Elmore County section of the river which has good launch facilities at Jackson Lake Island, Cooter’s Pond, and Jordan Dam.
“I like this part of the river,” said Hughey. “When the dam is generating it creates a current and the catfish tend to bite. Drift fishing with cut or live bait works well.”
He prefers using a pontoon boat because of the stability factor. And he noted the versatility that can be added when rigging the boat. For example, he has easily accessible rod holders on all 4 sides of the boat.
“It is a great rough water boat,” suggested Hughey. “When waves come over the bow the water sheds out of the boat quickly. I also like the fact that I can fish 360 degrees around the boat. I have plenty of room to move around and have great stability to stand up front and throw a cast net for bait. A pontoon can be customized any way an angler might want.”
Mark Hamberlin is the founder/director of DD214 Guide Service. His tagline is “Fishing fixes everything.” The Greenville, Mississippi resident operates DD214 Guide Service solely for taking disabled veterans fishing at no charge.
“I am a disabled veteran myself,” revealed Hamberlin. “With plans to fish 6 to 10 times a month why not get another disabled veteran in the boat and show them what a great coping mechanism fishing is.”
With his fully rigged pontoon boat, he can easily accommodate his veteran guests who have various degrees of disability. Both the stability and roominess are welcome features of the boat. He uses chairs that he can move around to accommodate as many people that will be fishing that day. That versatility is important to Mark’s mission.
He has rod holders installed to carry light tackle rods for catching catfish bait such as bream (note: live bream can only be used for bait if caught with rod and reel in Mississippi and Alabama) or skipjack. He has still more rod holders installed for carrying the heavier rods and reels he uses for catfishing.
“It is hard to carry this many rods in a regular boat,” advised Hamberlin. “I like my pontoon because of the stability and versatility it offers, but also the safety it provides my guests. Should a storm suddenly come up and it gets rough, I know I will not capsize.”
Keith Newsom, sales and service advisor at Boat Warehouse in Memphis indicated that pontoon boat sales for the fishermen have grown significantly over the past several years.
“They like the ability to customize the pontoon boat for fishing,” added Newsom. “The catfishermen like the room to have large live wells or coolers to keep the catfish alive.”
With anglers wanting bigger and faster boats, Newsom did recommend buying a tri-toon if an engine of 150 horsepower or more is desired.
There are advantages and disadvantages of a pontoon boat for catfishing but those that love them say the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
- A stable fishing platform.
- Sheds water quickly and is easy to clean with a water hose.
- Lots of room to customize with various accessories.
- Safe in rough water.
- Comfortable with less swaying when moving around.
- Typically less expensive than a fully rigged fishing boat.
- Ease of customization and adding of accessories.
i.e., type of seating, type of shading (Sun Brella or Bimini top), placement of rod holders, installing storage systems, accommodate large live wells, no reason to fear drilling holes in the deck for accessories because flooring is easily replaced.
- Typically, not as fast as a regular boat.
- Must have a stronger trolling motor with a long shaft.
- Tough to maneuver in the wind due to side paneling.
- Need wide launch ramps.
For those that would like more information from our experts, you can contact Marshall Hughey at MarshallHughey@icloud.com or (334) 412-2116. Mark Hamberlin is available at mgHamberlin@gmail.com or (662) 822-6773. They will be happy to talk about fishing out of a pontoon boat and why they like it so much.