The serenity of a float tube on Utah waters

Story by Brad Kerr
June 1, 2010
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The clumsiness of getting out of a float tube at the end of a fishing trip is something to behold. At least for me, I struggle with walking backward toward the shoreline, still in flippers, while trying to balance a good grip on everything I have that I don’t want to see float away. I’m not so graceful, let’s put it that way. But I sure do love it, nonetheless.

I guess it’s the quiet nature of a float tube that I enjoy as much as anything. No motors, no talking unless you want to speak to yourself or nearby boaters; only the splash of a hooked fish and swoosh of the net are to be heard naturally. Of course, I also fish with family in other tubes, but we generally go off on our own to find adventure.

If you’ve never tried a float tube, here’s an invitation to check one out. Once you’ve tired of bank fishing, and there’s no boat to take on regular trips, float tubing is the next best affordable option. Now that’s not to say that you don’t have to make a hearty investment in a good outfit, but you can shop and purchase a tube that fits your budget. Then it’s all up to you as to how you go about using it. Personally, I like to wear waders most of the year, but some of those hot summer days call for nothing more than a swimsuit to keep you cooled down.

A good set of flippers is your mode of transportation as you scoot around backward to move to new areas or slow troll a jig or other slow moving bait. Beyond that, it’s the float tube itself that matters most in your selection process. Of course, some nice pontoons have oars for propulsion.

You can spend anywhere between $150 to $500 and up on a rig, so be frugal and buy what you can afford, and something that has all you need to function on the water. That includes dry storage pockets for your lures and such.

I came up with a way to mount my portable fish-finder on the tube with some straps, a metal mount for the transducer, and an out-of-the-way place on the tube’s arm to put the monitor. I devised a half-moon shaped piece of metal to conform to the curvature of the tube, and have a flat piece of metal welded to it with a hole to attach the transducer. The piece also has “belt loops” to hold it securely to the tube. This contraption works great for me, and I greatly enjoy having it along as I search for active fish at specific water depths. And this works well for everything from trout to crappie. But this is nothing to the way some folks have their tubes rigged out. With items from rod holders to cup holders, the sky is the limit to your imagination.

I like to sit up rather high in my tube, so that my arms aren’t always suspended up and out of the way of the tube. My height helps some with that, but a seat that is made in an elevated manner will also help with such a problem. Otherwise, fatigue sets in quickly and it become laborious to cast and retrieve your lure or bait.

There are a couple of hazards with a tube that should be talked about here. One is, you never get too frisky wrestling aboard a catfish with those protruding spines on its back and sides. A punctured tube doesn’t allow you much time to make it to the bank. And many places I fish have steep edges that don’t allow for any real footing in an emergency.

Also, and I hate to even bring this one up, float tubes are the Rodney Dangerfield of on-the-water equipment. Many boaters show great etiquette in keeping a proper distance from a tuber, but others may come rifling up on you like you don’t even exist. Sometimes they want to visit, and other times they’re just making their way to another location. So you have to be prepared for some rough water on occasions. You’re destined then to just hang on and try to stay as dry as possible as you bob up and down on the waves. This is not to say what it can do to your fishing spot, especially if you’re on some fish to begin with. You may have to start all over again with finding a school of fish, or another bank line to work until the ruckus settles down.

Either way, I know I’ll still venture out on my float tube this year; more times than I’ll be going boating. Tubing is such a fast and easy way to pack up and go out for a few hours when time is short, and all of us know how important those few fishing hours can be. So if you’ve yet to invest in a float tube, take a serious look at them this spring. You may find it to be one of the most fun and serene investments you’ve made in fishing in a long time.

Brad Kerr is an avid angler who can be reached at bradkfisherman@msn.com.

Brad Kerr

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