I’ve been privileged at times to fish from the nicest bass boats money can buy. I’ve also fished from a $200 fishing kayak and a $2,000 one. I’ve fished from the bank, waded through creeks and even caught fish using a pool float once. But until recently, I had never truly bass fished from a pontoon boat before — less that one cruising trip with the family when I chucked a Ned rig around about 20 times.
But I’d never really tried to catch bass from a pontoon boat, until a recent trip to my wife’s grandparents’ house. We rolled up to find they had the pontoon boat gassed up and ready for us, equipped with a brand-new trolling motor.
This loving couple, “Poppy and Nana,” had learned all about my affinity for bass fishing during the courtship of their granddaughter; letting us take out the paddle boat two years ago, hooking us up with an inflatable kayak last year and now graduating us all the way up to our own floating fortress, ready to do battle with the biggest bass we could find. So we set out to bass fish from a pontoon boat. And this is what we learned.
Right off the bat, when I stepped into the boat and started to think of it in regards to bass fishing for the first time, I noticed it was a far more stable platform than a bass boat or any other boat I’d fished from before. It’s basically like standing on the bank, but the bank can move to a new location. So that was really nice.
With this bigger, more sturdy platform, you’re able to move around within the boat more. And it can accommodate more people, even allowing for two or three people to all stand on one side of the boat without it getting tipsy. This makes fishing from a pontoon boat the perfect place to teach people to fish, since you can stand shoulder to shoulder with them and show them things.
HIGHER PLATFORM: THE GOOD AND THE BAD
A pontoon boat sits a good bit higher than any other boat I’ve fish for bass out of so far. Which is a good thing in some regards, and took some getting use to in others. The platform being higher gives you a better vantage point to see down into the water, which would make sight fishing from a pontoon pretty epic. It also gives you a better angle to get your bait deeper into cover, and a better angle to get bass out of that cover, since you can pull them more vertically instead of horizontally.
The higher platform did take some getting used to though. The mechanics of the cast were quite different. There’s lots to dodge in the backcast, from awnings to other anglers. And certain techniques, like flipping for instance, feel a bit awkward with the high rail of the boat. But, these things come out pretty quick in the wash and you get the hang of it.
One thing about the high platform that you should definitely keep in mind though, boating a big one is a bit intense. I had to lay on my belly out the front door to try to wrangle a 6-pounder— it was a sight to see I’m sure. It’s a good idea if you go bass fishing in a pontoon to bring a net. This is a lesson I’m thankful we didn’t learn the hard way, as we were able to bring the bass aboard and cap off a memory none of us will soon forget.
WIND IS NOT YOUR FRIEND
Though there are some rare occasions I’m sure when the wind could be useful fishing from a pontoon boat, like a gentle breeze blowing you across a shallow flat, I’m sure from my experience that wind is typically not your friend while fishing from a pontoon.
You’re standing in what amounts to a billboard-shaped sail, with little to nothing in the water to help the boat track, like the hull of a traditional bass boat would. This means the slightest gust or breeze will send the boat sliding across the surface of the water like a hockey puck on ice.
It takes a bit longer to stop the boat too than what I was used to with a bass boat. I can predict (and thus trust) the drift of my bass boat, because I’ve been in it enough to know it intimately. I can let the wind blow me along right towards a dock and then kick the trolling motor on at the last second to adjust the course of the boat and coast by the dock. But this all happens quite differently in a pontoon. So, just play it safe and keep the boat on a collision-free course while you’re learning the drift of it.
ACCOUNTING FOR THE WIND
With the effects of wind being the most detrimental and only major disadvantage to fishing from a pontoon, let’s talk for a minute about how to combat them. Bringing an anchor is a great idea right off the top, as is choosing to fish in a target rich environment. Tossing an anchor over in the middle of a field of lily pads would give you (and all your guest) ample opportunity to cast 360 degrees around the boat, regardless of the wind.
Adding a shallow water anchor, like a Power-Pole or a Minn Kota Raptor, to a pontoon boat would be another great longterm way to eliminate a lot of the issues caused by wind. A drift sock wouldn’t be a bad idea either if you’re fishing in deeper water. And again, selecting an area with a lot of cover and/or a high concentration of fish— like a flat with submerged hydrilla or an offshore hump— would allow you to lock the pontoon in place and give everyone on the boat something to throw at.
FUN EXPERIENCES ON THE PONTOON
I must say, we had a lot of fun fishing from the pontoon. My wife caught three fish, all on her own. *And one from shore all on here own too that I didn’t forget about (just incase she’s reading this). We shared some awesome memories with her Poppy. And I learned a thing or two about the sport I love by looking at it from an all-new vantage point.
Fishing for bass from a pontoon boat has its challenges for sure, having to adjust some of the mechanics and keep a constant awareness of the positioning of the boat and the direction of the wind. But the large, high and stable platform gives you the ability to spend time on the water with more people sharing the sport you love, and even gives you an advantage with certain techniques. I hope these experiences inspire you to take the pontoon out on the water to try your hand at bass fishing.