So, you’re looking for a new way to enjoy the fishing experience. Maybe float tubing might be the answer. Sure, it might not look as cool as surf fishing, but it can be loads of fun nonetheless. In fact, it might just be one of the most relaxing ways to fish, letting you truly be one with nature.
No doubt, float tube fishing is an entirely new experience compared to any other method of fishing you might have tried before. Heck, lots of veteran anglers aren’t even familiar with the specifics of the fishing method all together. So exactly what is float tube fishing and are there any float tube fishing tips a beginner should know? Find out here.
What is Float Tube Fishing?
Obviously, this form of fishing involves a float tube. Read our article on the best fishing float tubes for recommendations and to learn more.
Also called a kick boat or a belly boat, the inflatable little vessel looks like a tiny, half inflatable pontoon that provides an angler a seat right smack in the center of the U-shaped tube. In some cases though, the tube may be V-shaped, but earlier models showcased the classic donut shape with a seat right in the center hole.
Since it looks more like a lifesaver than a boat, your feet and legs are going to dip straight into the water. That’s also why it’s called a kick boat, since you can waddle your feet and legs and move along the water.
The purpose of float tube fishing is to provide anglers access to areas of water that might not be fishable from the bank. For the most part however, float tube fishing is mostly reserved for calmer waters since a tube might not hold well against crashing waves and strong currents.
What Do Float Tubes Look Like?
Well, if you haven’t see one already, they look like a miniature inflatable pontoon boat. The designs usually come in a V-shaped or U-shaped design with a seat provision right in the center of the tube. The angler faces the open end of the float tube and their legs dangle off of the edge of the seat. Older models use a donut shaped design.
Float tubes usually have a back rest to make the seat more comfortable for its passenger. The pontoons can be fitted with compact compartments and storage units where you can keep things like bait and tackle. Others have built-in zippered pockets that let you take more along with you when you seat out to fish.
How to Choose a Float Tube
You’d be surprised at the sheer number of float tube choices there are on the market. With that, it becomes much easier to buy a bad tube that doesn’t really match your needs or preferences. So to make sure you’re buying something that won’t collect dust later on would be to consider these factors:
Weight and Portability
Okay, so all float tubes are portable. They’re inflatable after all. But there are some designs that are more portable than others. These feature things like lightweight construction, easy deflation, and even shoulder straps that let you throw your float tube on your back if you plan to take it into remote waters that require a bit of a hike before you get there.
For the record - traditional round float tubes are much harder to maneuver over even the calmest waters. The shape just makes them incredibly hard to paddle and move, which makes them a poor choice if you’re looking for something that won’t have you beyond tired at the end of the day. Pontoon floats are generally more streamlined, allowing you to maneuver the water with less effort.
If you’re going to be sitting in your tube for several hours a day, then it pays to have one that’s comfortable. Plush, padded, adjustable back rests can definitely make long hours of fishing more bearable. Seats that don’t dig into the back of your knees are also a plus. Generally speaking, tubes that allow greater movement from the waist up are also typically more comfortable to use.
Even compared to the smallest fishing boat on the market, float tubes have the smallest amount of storage space for fishing essentials. On the upside, lots of manufacturers have heeded the call to develop tubes that have more space on-board for all sorts of essentials and accessories. Consider all of the things you want to bring along during your trip and find a tube that has enough space to accommodate everything you’re packing.
Other Things You’ll Need
There’s a lot more to float tube fishing than just the float tube itself. Just like any other watercraft, these babies need a bunch of accessories to guarantee safe and efficient performance on the water. That means you’re going to buy a few extras aside from your float tube and these include:
How are you planning to move around while submerged from the knee down? Well, you use fins of course. Manufacturers today have developed a range of fins designed for use on a float tube. These are intended to reduce the disruption to the water as you kick so you don’t scare away fish as you move through the currents.
We recommend the MinnKota Edge Bowmount Trolling Motor.
Unless you’re totally comfortable being soaked in lake water in your usual clothes, you might want to consider getting your hands on a wader. These come in every size and color you can think of, so you probably won’t have a hard time finding one that suits your fancy. Consider comfort, flexibility, and durability to guarantee that you’re getting a piece that won’t make your fishing trip any more of a struggle.
Check out the Frogg Toggs Amphib Stockingfoot Chest Wader.
If there’s just not enough storage on board, then a waterproof pack should be your best friend. Toss in your essentials (which we’ll talk more about in a bit) and throw it on your back, especially if you’re fishing somewhere remote where you can’t just leave your pack lying around on the bank. Bonus points if you find a fully submersible backpack that promises to keep all of your stuff fully protected from moisture.
We like the FishPont Thunderhead Submersible Backpack.
Waterproof Phone Pouch
There have been stories of people being saved because they were able to use their phone in the water. You never know when an emergency might arise, and having your phone at the ready can let you contact help when you need it. Waterproof phone pouches these days are dirt cheap, so there’s really no excuse not to have one laced around your neck while you’re fishing.
Try using the JOTO Universal Waterproof Cellphone Pouch.
Personal Flotation Device
Yes, your float tube is technically already a flotation device. But what if it gets punctured or damaged during use? Any activity that calls for you to enter a body of water will require the use of a personal flotation device, no matter how safe you might think it already is. Traditional PFD vests for fishing are available almost everywhere. But if you want something a little less bulky, you can try an inflatable belt pack.
We high recommend the NRS Chinook OS Fishing Lifejacket and for something less bulky, we like the Manual Inflatable Belt Pack from Onyx.
Things like sunscreen, bug spray, a first aid kit, and a water bottle should be a no-brainer if you’re packing for a day of float tube fishing. Keep them accessible by stowing them away in your float tube compartments. It also helps to choose items that are travel friendly so they don’t take up too much space on board.
It's always handy to have the Banana Boat Sport Sunscreen, Repel 100 Insect Repellent and the Compact First Aid Kit from VSSL.
You never know when you might hit a rock or a stubborn branch, so it helps to be prepared. Having a patch kit with you can make it possible to perform temporary repairs in case your float tube is damaged during your trip. Keep in mind though that a patch job can only do so much. If your tube is damaged, slap on a patch, and wade back to the bank to prevent any further accidents.
Tips for Float Tube Fishing
If you’re a first time float tube fisherman, then the entire method might seem a little strange and foreign. Don’t sweat it - we all start somewhere. Here are a few tips to get you started safely on your new hobby:
Choose the Right Spot
Not all locations are fitted for float tube fishing. For the most part, the fishing method is reserved for locations where there’s little current and wind. So that means that most saltwater fishing spots might be a no go. Choose a calm lake or river where currents are slow and wind is almost non-existent.
It’s also worth remembering that you probably won’t be able to propel yourself too far without getting winded. Make sure you enter close to the area where you want to fish, and don’t wade too far in case you puncture your float tube while you fish. See to it that the entry and exit point from your fishing spot is no more than a few meters away.
Yes, you can troll in a float tube. Casting can be fun, but the position of an angler in a float tube can make it tough to get the leverage for a perfect cast. Instead of casting over and over, try trolling instead. Set your bait out on the water and wade along to move the lure and create the impression of live fish.
Most fishermen who have tried float tube fishing have found that trolling can be much more effective than other styles. Just make sure you keep your movement minimized and discreet to avoid scaring away your catch.
Pack a Ping-Pong Paddle
Yup, you read that right. There might not be space on board for a telescoping oar, so you might be better off with a ping-pong paddle. This can help you propel yourself to the bank especially if your feet or legs are too tired to move, or if you’re met with an accident.
Toss the set of paddles into your pack or close to your hands by stowing them away in a float tube compartment. Of course, these are only an emergency measure, but you’ll thank yourself for having them ready if in case the need arises.
The environment around a lake or a river can look pretty monochromatic. If you’re wearing dark greens, blues, and other earthy hues, it’s going to be hard for other people to spot you on the water, especially if you get tangled in some vegetation.
See to it that you’re wearing at least one thing that will make you easier to spot on the water. It could be a reflectorized vest, a neon colored hat, or a bright rashguard underneath your waders. Whatever it is, make sure it contrasts with the rest of your surroundings.
It’s easy to lose track of water intake when you’re busy fishing. But a float tube fishing session could easily take four hours or more. And forgetting to drink water throughout that duration could lead to headaches or even heatstroke, if the weather conditions work against you.
Float tube fishing - for as easy and relaxing as it might seem - can actually be pretty demanding on your body because you’re the only thing propelling your boat forward. Take a snack with you and bring enough water to stay hydrated.
Leverage the Wind
If there’s a gentle breeze blowing through the area, you might be able to take advantage of it so you don’t tire yourself out trying to kick your way to your desired fishing spot.
Find out what direction the wind is blowing and face your back against it so that your body works like a sail. If you don’t want the wind to push you any farther, just turn to your side and try to minimize your surface area while you kick gently to work against the push of the breeze.
Watch the Time
It’s easy to lose track of the time when you’re having fun. But because it can be hard (and dangerous) to maneuver a float tube back to the bank when it’s dark, you’re going to want to keep an eye on the clock. Wear a water proof wristwatch so you don’t overstay. Better yet, set an alarm on your phone so you know when it’s time to head back.
Let People Know Where You're Going
Just like any other fishing trip, you’re going to want to let people know you’re headed out and where you’re going. This just makes it easier for them to find you in case of any accidents that could prevent you from calling help on your own.
A New Way to Fish
Not a lot of people know what is float tube fishing, but those who discover it fall in love instantly. This fishing style brings you as close to nature as possible, and even provides an opportunity for a little extra exercise. Keep these float tube fishing tips in handy for your next excursion, and experience safe, fulfilling fishing from the comfort of your tube.