What to Look For In a Fishing Float Tube?
Fishing float tubes have come a long way in design, comfort and functionality from thirty years ago. Fortunately the modern ones are sturdier, user friendly and more comfortable to fish from now.
Below are some key considerations and what to look for in a fishing float tube before buying one. We will go over the features and benefits of what makes the best float tubes in more detail.
For some top float tube brands for fishing or fly fishing, click on – Best Float Tubes For Fishing
What Makes a Good Fishing Float Tube?
- Carrying Capacity
- Construction Material
- Quality Valves
- Comfort and Functionality
- Storage Capacity
- Mass Weight And Bulk
Float Tube Design
I remember the first improvised fishing float tubes, made out of inner truck tires.
You just put a saddle type strap around the inner tube and sat inside it. Because of the round doughnut inner tire shape, they were not aerodynamic and it was difficult to go any distance in the water. You also just sat in on the strap and you were nearly in a standing position with the inner tube around your waist. (Which is why fishing float tubes are also called belly boats.)
These old designs weren’t comfortable for hours of fishing and hard to paddle or kick any distance.
Today the fishing float tubes are better designed with “U” and “V” bow end shapes and a sitting down design.
A “V” or “U” shape float tube, will cut through the water better than a round shape doughnut design.
For choppy waters the V design also holds position better and less likely to sway and turn side on as much when fishing.
The V shape makes kicking or paddling through the water easier with less effort exerted.
If you are fishing on hot days or your favorite spot is a long way away, the more efficient design helps for kicking and paddling in the water.
For weedy areas, a good float tube will ride a bit higher and not catch the weed as much. Which is tiring work when kicking through the weed.
Carrying Capacity of the Float Tube
Make sure the carrying capacity of the float tube is suitable for carrying your body weight and the extra fishing gear weight.
My first “U” design float tube I brought wasn’t rated properly for the carrying load. When I sat in it on the water, it would sit too low. The water would go over my fishing waders on my back and I would get wet. Not fun when fly fishing at dawn or dusk when the water was icy cold. (I only ended fishing with this tube when the weather was hot.)
Remember to factor in the weight of your extra gear like rods, fishing waders, drink bottle, fishing tackle, float tube fins, life jacket, rope and anchor, fishing net and clothing. This can easily add up to twenty pounds or more quickly.
When the float tube and fishing gear gets wet, this also adds extra pounds to the total weight.
Adding an electric trolling motor, battery, mount and fish finder to the float tube will increase the weight considerably.
You want the fishing float tube made out of sturdy outer material and also a durable inner tube. The thick outside fabric will prevent a hook or fish spines from puncturing the float tube.
The outside material should also be long lasting as you don’t want it to abrade when dragging across sand, weed or mud.
Good quality material also reduces the amount of water it absorbs, or leaks and makes it less prone to getting waterlogged.
In the construction of the float tube, another item to check is that it has good quality valves, like Boston valves.
The Boston valves help inflate the craft easier as they are one way valves. For deflating the tube, they can be unscrewed and the air let out easier. This makes packing up easier and quicker.
If the valves are cheap quality, they can leak air.
Also the way the valves are welded and glued into the outer tube material is another thing to look for in a good float tube.
Comfort and Functionality
The older seated “U” designs, would have you sit lower in the water, which was not comfortable in cold waters. Sitting low also made the float tube less efficient when paddling or kicking through the water.
Modern better float tube designs have you sitting mostly out of the water. (Depending on weight of the angler and fishing gear.)
The extra height above the water line makes it slightly easier to spot fish and things in the water, as you are up somewhat higher as well.
Look for thick padded seats in the tube and makes sure it is wide enough for the angler with a life jacket or PFD on. (Personal Floatation Device.)
With a bad designed float tubes, the outer tubes turn in a lot, when there is weight on the seat in the middle. It sort of collapses in on you and isn’t comfortable if you have a fishing life jacket on, with the pockets full.
A good float tube will be comfortable to sit on. It will have a thick cushioned seat. You don’t want the seat to extend out too long out though. As when you are kicking, you don’t want the seat interfering with your knee movement and kicking action.
A young angler or small framed person should / might need a smaller float tube or seat.
Another feature to have is attachment points, like D rings and webbing loops. This helps you connect items like the rope and anchor. Or to anchor the boat on the shoreline, so it doesn’t drift off.
Solid D loops and attachment points are vital, as you don’t want these tearing out when you use one of the points to tie the anchor rope on.
Also the attachment points are ideal for attaching the landing net and tethering the fishing rods too.
The design of the float tube should be sturdy as too not collapse in when sitting in the float tube.
The seat should be adjustable so the fisherman can adjust the angle of it when leaning back. When you are kicking, powering along in the water, a 90 degree seat can be uncomfortable, as you might be too squashed up when seated upright.
A slight angle of the seat leaning back might be more comfortable for the angler.
Pockets and storage compartments are another point to look for when considering buying a fishing float tube.
External side pockets are useful to store fishing tackle and odds and ends in them.
Large storage pockets do have their advantages within reason on the float tube.
I put my anchor rope and mini anchor in one of the side storage pockets. Which when you drag the anchor up, it has mud all over it and the rope. So it is handy to store it out of the way when kicking back to shore.
Also on the other side, I have my drink bottle in it.
For me, I use a fishing life jacket that has my fishing tackle boxes and fly gear. Check out What Fly Fishing Gear Do I Need for more detailed information.
I put my landing net in the front bow section, behind the seat. It doesn’t matter if it gets wet. On a lot of models this front storage section is made out of mesh and will get water or spray through it. This section behind the seat is ideal for storing the fish you catch.
For me, large storage pockets are handy. If they are too close to the angler or too big, they can get in the way of your arms and elbows when casting though.
Mass Weight and Bulk
How much the fishing float tube weighs or the actual mass weight is another factor to consider when selecting a tube.
If you can pull up the pickup truck close to the water and assemble the fishing float tube, all good. You don’t have to worry too much about how heavy it is to transport it.
But on the other hand, if you got into float tube fishing, so you can fish remote places in the wilderness, mass weight is an important consideration.
Also you have to take into account the fishing float tube accessories like the weight of the fins and maybe the air pump as well.
Unfortunately, with a sturdy float tube design and material, you will get extra weight. Generally the more weight capacity the tube holds, the bigger and hence heavier it will be as well.
Bulk or size of it is another consideration when back pack fishing. If you are hiking through thick bushes you don’t want the big float tube catching on prickles and thorns.
The bigger the fishing float tube is on the water, also means it will be bigger size when setting it up and carrying it to the water.
The color of the float tube is a personal choice.
I like plain drab colors like olive green, tans and browns that work in the fishing environment well. However, these natural colors can make it harder for boats and watercraft to see you.
If I was fly fishing or fishing in a busy waterway, with lots of boats, I would go for a bright color for safety.
Check the fine print on the warranty and see what exactly is covered when buying a float tube for fishing.
While some manufactures might say they have an unconditional warranty, in reality it might not be great. You might have to pay for shipping both ways to send it in for repair or inspection. (Which for the size and weight of a float tube, can be expensive.)
Also then a repair fee might be charged, in some cases might be more than the fishing tube is worth if you add shipping to it.
So double check the warranty.
Fluro orange and yellow fishing tubes can really stand out for safety on the water. (I chose one of my sea fishing kayaks in a bright orange color as I knew it was a busy place for boats.)
One of my float tubes had a panel section of fluro orange on the bow of it.
Another option if you are concerned about extra safety of being highly visible to boats is to wear a bright color lifejacket.
Also a hi-vis hat, something like a fluro orange SharkSkin paddling cap really stands out. (It also good for the sun as it has a flap for neck protection and reflective strips on it.) Or a bright yellow SealSkinz waterproof beanie hat for those cold mornings fishing on the lake.
You can also attach some orange panels or even a small bright safety flag to the float tube. Other options are to place some reflective tape strips on the front and sides of the tube. As well as small reflective strips on the fishing rod as it stands up high.
As well as the color, load weight rating and construction durability, another item to look at in a float tube is the safety features it has.
Does it have two or three separate internal bladders in it? Or just one bladder? If it just one internal bladder, is it durable enough?
Also some of the old fishing float tubes had a restrictive entrance, where the mesh stripping apron goes. It took time to unclip the apron, when you sit in the seat. So in an emergency, you want the stripping apron feature to be able to get it out of the way quickly if you have to exit from the tube.
Another thing for safety, is to make sure that it doesn’t have too many straps hanging off it as these can get snagged easily in the water, by submerged timber.
While you can get a lot of cheap fishing float tubes, the quality and design may not be as good.
A quality brand or model like a Classic Accessories Cumberland Float Tube, Caddis Sports or Outcast FatCat Float Tube is worth looking at if you want a well-designed and reliable brand name.
For the lesser known fishing float tube brands, check the warranty and feedback from customers to see how it stacks up for value.
Float tube fishing or fly fishing in a float tube can be exciting and challenging.
Float tubes do have limitations in how far they can go, but it can get you to the fishing hotspot just out of reach from bank fishing. Or allow you to fish places where normal boats may not be permitted to go the water.
We hope you have enjoyed this information and now know what to look for in a fishing float tube before buying one.
For fishing tips that can help you catch more fish and work in with your float tube, visit Fishing Tips For beginners
For tips and hint on fly fishing, visit Fly Fishing Tips
If you float tube at night time or at dusk and dawn, then the article on Night Fishing can be worth checking out as well for hints and tips.