Fishing can bring you pretty darn close to nature. But if you were hoping to really get up close and personal with Mother Earth, then you'd probably do well with a float tube. Compact yet efficient, this fishing essential takes you right into the water, submerging part of your lower limbs to get you as close to the action as possible.
Allowing fishermen to tread where no boat has reached before, fishing float tubes offer an immersive experience that brings you right into the action. Interested in copping a trusty tube? Here's a low down on the best fishing float tubes on the scene.
What is a Fishing Float Tube and How Does it Work?
Also sometimes called a river pontoon, the fishing float tube is a hot take on the standard floater your kids would use in your pool. Coming in a variety of shapes and styles, the float tube typically only accommodates one fisher.
These inflatable fishing float tubes can easily stow away when deflated, making them an excellent choice for anglers who hike too far off fishing spots carrying their fishing gear. Some also include a small pump that lets you inflate the tubes when you reach your fishing spot.
Riding an inflatable fishing float tube often entails sitting in the little U or O-shaped float and submerging your feet into the water. Some float tubes even require going in as deep as your waist, depending on the design.
For added convenience, fishing float tubes come with a plethora of storage pockets and hang loops to let you secure your essentials. To propel the boat forward, you can use a set of flippers or a small oar or paddle. Once you find the perfect spot, you can keep your floating tube stationary with a small anchor.
Benefits of Using a Float Tube for Fishing
So why exactly would anyone want to use a float tube for fishing? These comfortable, immersive personal fishing boats offer a load of benefits that many, more sophisticated vessels may fail to provide. Some advantages that the float tube has over other types of fishing boats include:
Sure a jon boat or a kayak might seem small enough, but the size of these vessels may make them feel clumsy to maneuver through certain bodies of water. With long, rigid structures that extend several feet from bow to stern, these boats may make narrow channels difficult to traverse.
The inflatable fishing float tube on the other hand lets you go virtually anywhere. These little fishing vessels extend around your person at a radius of just about one to two feet. This lets you navigate narrow areas even with overgrown vegetation.
On top of that, the float tube also brings you to fishing spots your car probably couldn't drive you to. Because fishing float tubes deflate, you can carry one on your back, hike to a hidden, remote fishing spot, and inflate the tube there.
This supreme versatility makes the inflatable fishing float tube an alluring choice for anglers who really want to get in touch with nature and explore uncharted fishing areas in their locale.
The float tube likely qualifies as the smallest fishing vessel you'll find on the market. So when it's deflated, you can stuff the thing into the back of a sedan and drive to your location without a fuss. Essentially, the float tube eliminates the need to have to haul your pick up truck everywhere just to go fishing.
The compact size of an inflatable fishing float tube also means that you can carry the deflated vessel on your back. This allows anglers to walk far distances into the woods to find a secluded fishing area away from the hustle and bustle of popular lakes and fishing areas. In fact, some fishing float tubes are designed precisely for this purpose, featuring backpack straps.
And then of course, there's storage. Because deflated fishing float tubes can be so small, you don't have to worry about the nuances and challenges of getting it ready for off season storage. Simply take out the air and toss it into a closet for safekeeping until the next fly fishing season.
People tend to shy away from fishing float tubes because they're inflatable. Thinking anything that requires air to float is flimsy, some people gravitate towards fishing vessels with solid hulls. But you'd be surprised just how durable a fishing float tube can be.
Designed to withstand the same conditions as other more rugged fishing boats, the fishing float tube often uses heavy duty, puncture resistant material that lets you confidently swim through difficult, challenging channels of water.
Most of these vessels come with several years of warranty coverage, assuring you that your little fishing float tube can last much longer than the average angler might be inclined to believe.
Ease of Maintenance
Buying a full on fishing boat will cost you more than just the price on the tag. Maintenance cost can get dizzying, and many boat owners actually end up surrendering their new boats because of the steep expenses associated with upkeep.
Marina fees, repairs, upgrades, storage, gas, and cleaning all cost money even if you've got the smallest jon boat on the scene. On the upside, a float tube for fishing won't require too much of your wallet despite providing the same - if not a more immersive - fishing experience.
They're easy to clean and pretty straightforward to store. In case of any damages to the float tubes, you can fix it up with an adhesive patch from the manufacturer. Accessories and upgrades for float tubes also cost much less. So you can have a high end vessel with all the bells and whistles at just the fraction of the cost of other boats.
Ease of Use
If you're a simple angler with simple pleasures, then you probably won't want to have a boat that has a dashboard fit for a space shuttle. The thing about sophisticated boats these days is that they can come with a load of electrical components and instruments that make the learning curve crazy steep.
So for old fashioned fishers who just want a straightforward, analog fishing experience, a float tube makes the perfect choice. Without any complicated contraptions, these little tubes do away with the unnecessary tools and parts that might make the fishing experience more cumbersome.
Let's face it - fishing on a boat doesn't really burn the calories. Once you motor your way to the middle of the lake or sea, you can cut the engine and stick your fishing rod into a rod holder. After that, you can sit back, relax, and crack open a cold one. If anything, frequent fishing might even help you pack on a few pounds.
Of all the different methods of fishing, float tube fishing probably encourages the most caloric expenditure. As you wade through the water, you paddle underneath (or with your arms using a small oar) so you can clock in those active minutes and shed a few pounds.
The Best Fishing Float Tubes
Lots of choices flood the market. So to help you zero in on a choice that's really worth the money, we've compiled a short list of the best float tubes money can buy.
1. Classic Accessories Cumberland Float Tube
This fishing float tube from Classic Accessories often gets loads of attention as one of the best fishing float tubes on the market. Weighing just 14lbs, this lightweight option places close featherlight stress on your back if you choose to carry it through the woods with back straps to discover new fishing spots.
Despite its lightweight construction however, the Classic Accessories Cumberland best fishing float tube touts a maximum weight capacity 350 lbs - more than enough to accommodate the average angler and all of their gear. It also provides excellent comfort with an adjustable backrest and a plush padded seat.
Made from abrasion resistant PVC, the Classic Accessories Cumberland float tube comes with an extra high seat and seat back, backpack straps, plenty of storage and side pockets, and a dedicated fish ruler slash stripping apron that lets you measure your catch right as you reel it in. With two rod holders and two cup holders, this impressive teardrop shaped tube also comes with a one year limited warranty.
Using a super durable waterproof 600D oxford material, the Xproutdoor Inflatable float tube for fishing stands as the best fishing float tube for buyers on a budget looking for the best value. The cost-effective choice comes at just a fraction of the cost of other branded picks, albeit offering a similar range of features.
The float tube touts a maximum weight capacity of 350 lbs, comfortably and safely accommodating bigger anglers. The high cushioned seat back uses a plush cushion material that keeps your back comfortable for the duration of your fishing excursion.
But on top of all of that, the Xproutdoor fishing tube touts a load of storage pockets so you can take everything you need with you. It also features backpack straps, a hand pump, and a fish ruler, guaranteeing an effortless experience every time you head out to your favorite fly fishing spot.
The Outcast Fish Cat 4 LCS competes pretty closely with other popular brands because of its streamlined structure and high quality construction. The top choice features a spacious, comfortable seat with a weight capacity 250 lbs. Beautifully structured and compact, the design also touts a hydrodynamic hull with a teardrop silhouette.
Complete with two large zippered storage compartments on either side of the angler, the Outcast Fish Cat 4 uses tough, durable materials for its external shell. This gives the float tube significant resistance to damage, allowing you to enjoy your new fishing vessel for years to come.
Weighing just a meager 15 lbs, this Outcast Fish Cat fishing float tube doesn't put too much stress on the body when hauled through the woods to a secluded lake. And because it has a significantly higher seat than most other float tube options, you can expect to cap off your fly fishing excursion as dry as ever.
Another hot choice from Classic Accessories, the Togiak weighs 15 lbs and carries up to 300 lbs of cargo. It features a high back stadium seat that contours to match the curves of your body, giving you utmost comfort for those long afternoons on the lake.
On either side of the angler, the Classic Accessories Togiak features spacious armrests that double as storage pockets. The zippered compartments tout roomy interiors that can fit most - if not all - of your fishing essentials. And for ease of transport, the deign features adjustable shoulder straps for lightweight carry.
Made from durable, waterproof material, the Classic Accessories Togiak delivers reliable performance that you can count on for years. It also comes with a limited 1 year warranty that covers any possible manufacturer defects and damages to protect your purchase.
The Classic Accessories Teton is one of the brand's budget choices, offering comfort and convenience in a cost-effective package. The inflatable fishing float tube weighs the lightest at just 8.5 lbs when worn using its backpack straps, but still touts an impressive load capacity 250 lbs.
This float tube features the Classic Accessories signature bilateral armrests slash storage pockets, this choice also comes with a plush inflated backrest that supports the back for hours of lake top fun.
In a lot of ways, the Classic Accessories Teton features many of the same qualities as the Classic Accessories Bighorn. And while both provide similar functionality, the heavy duty Bighorn may offer more spacious on-board storage pocket and mesh storage sizes for bigger anglers with bigger gear.
Accessories for Float Tube Fishing
Aside from finding the best fishing float tube, you're going to want to buy a few other essentials for your fishing excursions, including:
If you know your local lake, then you probably don't need one, but a fish finder. This lets you easily locate the best fishing spots to make your fishing experience more fruitful.
We recommend the Garmin 010-01550-00 Striker 4 with Transducer.
Paddling with your bare feet won't get you anywhere. A good set of flippers can help you move through the water more efficiently so you can reduce your energy expenditure.
Check out the Classic Accessories Float Tube Turbo Thruster Fins.
In some cases, it's better to paddle above the water with a handy oar. The Attwood Emergency Telescoping paddle offers great value and doesn't take much space on your float tube.
The BeGrit Small Boat Anchor keeps your float tube perfectly still when you find the perfect place to start fly fishing.
For the sake of safety, experts recommend wearing a life vest whenever you go float tube fishing. This one from Zeraty offers excellent, lightweight performance that won't restrict movement. See some more of the best life vests in our detailed guide.
Different Types of Float Tubes
No two anglers are the same, and the best float tube manufacturers make a note of that. This has paved the way for a variety of float tube styles and designs, giving every unique angler a choice that perfectly matches their needs and preferences.
The round fishing float tube looks kind of like a float tube your kids would use in a pool. The difference of course is that a foam seat rests right in the middle of the hole.
These tubes are usually the most inexpensive, offering the best value for budget buyers or casual users. They also tend to have the least hydrodynamic hull shape.
The U-shaped tube sees the tubes come together towards the bow. This creates a U-curve along the rear, behind the angler when seated. This may significantly reduce drag and improve your movement through the water.
The pontoon fishing float tube uses two separate tubes that sit on either side of the angler. This offers excellent stability and may provide more room.
Some manufacturers can produce fishing float tube designs with seats for two anglers, so you can bring a good chum with you on your trip.
Obviously, the fishing float tube wasn't designed for speed. But if any one of them qualifies as fast, it would have to be the tear drop shaped tube.
Coming to a more narrow point versus the U-shaped tube, this hydrodynamic hull shape improves your movement through water, reducing drag, and increasing your speed with each paddle.
Things to Consider When Buying a Fishing Float Tube
A lot of factors and features set inflatable fishing float tube designs apart. This means that one specific float tube may provide a much better experience for you than others. So to make sure you're buying a tube that's right on the money, here are some considerations worth taking into account.
Sure they're compact, but they're not exactly feather light when carried via shoulder straps. While a deflated float tube might fit on your back with no issues, its weight might still become an issue especially if you're not used to carrying loads.
The whole point of getting a fishing float tube is that it lets you go where no other angler has traveled before. But if the tube weighs you down too much, then taking it to far distances might become cumbersome and tiring.
Keep an eye on the total weight of the tube before deciding on a purchase. Lightweight options may exist - like the 9.3 lbs Caddis Sports Nevada float tube - but at the cost of certain features like the size of the seat.
Of course, there's the comfort issue. A float tube lets you explore uncharted waters, making them a known reason for many anglers being late for dinner. But then again, some float tubes totally miss the target when it comes to comfort, draining your endurance and forcing you up and off of the water before lunch even starts.
Before buying a fly fishing float tube, make sure to check the specifics.
What does the seat and backrest look like?
Are they ergonomically designed?
What material is it made of?
Some belly boat designs use a foam seat while others stick to an inflatable seat. Others go as far as offering an adjustable backrest.
All of these questions will lead you to discover whether the tube actually delivers a comfortable experience or not. On top of all of that, you might also want to check what other users have to say by reading verified customer reviews.
Practicality and Storage Capacity
Features that make your fishing tube easy to use will increase the chances that you'll actually want to use it. Anything that takes too much time and effort might soon find itself in storage gathering dust, or on a Craigslist listing.
Look for features that make the inflatable fishing float tube more practical to use.
Adjustable shoulder straps that let you carry it like a backpack can help make it easier to bring here and there.
Its own air pump prevents the need to have to look for one after sales.
A fish ruler lets you assess your catch the moment you reel in.
Aside from those features, you might want to consider how much storage you'll have on board. Pockets will make a world of difference. Lots of zippered cargo pockets, a stripping apron, rod holder, mesh pockets, straps, and hooks attached to the tubes prevents lets you carry along all of your essentials.
A fly fishing float tube can only take so much weight before it starts to sink. These vessels aren't designed to float perpetually regardless of how much cargo you throw on it, so it pays to check the weight capacity.
On average, a fishing float tube will have a weight capacity of around 300 lbs. Budget friendly options may have a capacity 250 lbs, while more expensive choices extend capacity 350 lbs.
If you weigh more than that, you should try to find fishing float tubes for big guys to accommodate your size and weight more comfortably. You might also want to factor in the weight of your fishing gear and paraphernalia you plan to stuff in the cargo pockets.
Remember that manufacturers will only honor the warranty if the float tube was used as intended. Throwing more weight than the load capacity allows may void your warranty and disqualify you for free repairs and replacements.
Float tubes aren't necessarily impervious to damage. But some of them are built to withstand more intense use than others. The best float tubes use double walled heavy duty rugged PVC material with two separate layers so if you puncture the outer sheet, the inner tube remains intact and you don't lose any air.
Generally, you're going to want to find a puncture resistant tube that uses high quality materials to make sure it doesn't deflate on you during use. A durable float tube also provides more lasting performance than cheap, budget choices.
The riding depth pertains to how low into the water your body is during use. The higher the riding depth, the less of your body submerges into the water below. The main benefit of a high riding depth is that it lets you stay warm in cold water conditions.
Other than that however, a high riding depth also means you can propel yourself more efficiently. Fishing float tubes that put too much of your body underwater may be difficult to propel, causing you to lose much of your stamina within the first few hours of use.
How to Store a Fishing Float Tube
Fishing float tube storage depends on the manufacturer's instructions. Any damage that results from improper storage techniques discouraged or otherwise not advised by the manufacturer may void your warranty.
Nevertheless, there are some tips shared by float tube enthusiasts on how to store the personal fishing vessel to reduce the risk of damage all together.
One method entails deflating the tube and gently folding or rolling it up and placing it back into its original box. You can then place the box into a storage cabinet or in your garage to keep it safe from pests and other unsavory inhabitants.
Another way involves leaving the float tube partially or even fully inflated before covering the entire vessel with a tarp or canvas sheet. The rationale behind the storage technique is that it prevents any stress on the seams and also reduces the chances of wrinkling or creasing the material.
Whichever storage method you choose, see to it that you air dry your float tubes before tucking them away to prevent mold and mildew from forming on the material during the off season.
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes a good float tube?
A number of factors come together to make a 'good' float tube. A comfortable seat, sufficient weight capacity, durability, and lots of pockets all work together to enhance the experience.
Look for a tube that combines all of these features into a single design to make sure you've got a float tube you can rely on.
What are the best float tube fins?
It really depends on the user, but based on our research, the Classic Accessories Float Tube Turbo Thruster Fins offer the best experience.
Allowing anglers to propel themselves through difficult water with supreme efficiency and ease, these fins can extend your stamina and keep you on the water for extended hours.
Are float tubes safe?
Yes, the float tubes of today are exceptionally safe. Made from a thick urethane material, these tubes resist puncture damage by way of a double bladder design. But of course, it's only going to be as safe as you allow.
Improper, irresponsible use of an inflatable fishing float tube will cause accidents and injury - just like any other boat. So it's important that you use your boat only where necessary and avoid treacherous waters that could lead to potentially dangerous situations.
Accessories like a safety flag may also help reduce the risk of accidents.
What should I wear when float tube fishing?
A dry suit or a wet suit should work just fine, depending on the temperature of the water and how low into it your seat will immerse you.
Caddis Sports offers a whole range of them for float tube fishing. Then for added safety, donning a life jacket should also help reduce your chances of injury and untoward incidents.
The best fishing float tubes take you right where the action is, letting you immerse yourself in a truly tranquil fishing experience. But before you buy a float tube for fishing, make sure you know all the specifics.
Consider our recommendations when you check your options and measure your own standards to find out which of these picks best fits your needs.