By Jerry MonaPublished On: April 10, 20231606 words
Pontoon boats have become incredibly popular over the past couple of decades because of their comfort, versatility and ability to accommodate multiple passengers. Though often used for “pleasure” activities such as cruising, entertaining or watersports (e.g., tubing), many pontoon owners also like to fish. In this article, I identify some of the more popular pontoon brands that offer models designed specifically for fishing to help you find the pontoon fishing boat that is right for your needs.
What is a Pontoon Fishing Boat?
While you can fish from most any pontoon boat, there are a few key features that make a pontoon boat more conducive to fishing. Specifically, a pontoon fishing boat should minimally have one or more swivel fishing chairs and a livewell, and be equipped with or pre-wired for a fish finder and trolling motor. To see a more comprehensive list of important features, check out this article on “What to look for in a Fishing Pontoon Boat“.
Fishing Pontoon Boat Brands
There are nearly 50 pontoon manufacturers in the U.S. Below is a brief overview of some of the more popular brands that offer models for fishing.
Sun Tracker Fishin’ Barge
When it comes to fishing pontoons, Sun Tracker is the clear leader. This is partly because of their distribution throughout Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s stores (in addition to Independent dealers) and because you get a lot of boat for the money. They offer three different fishing series. Bass Buggies are the smallest and come in 16′ and 18′ sizes. Fishin’ Barges are larger fishing machines (20′ and 22′) and feature 3 to 4 fishing chairs, forward and aft livewells, and ample storage areas for rods and gear. Finally, Sportfish is designed for watersports and pleasure cruising in addition to fishing and is available in 20′, 22′ and 24′ lengths. Note that Sun Tracker DLX models are standard pontoons whereas XP3 models have 3 pontoon logs (tritoons).
Though Sun Trackers tend to be on the lower end of the price range, this does not mean that they are cheaply built. I have firsthand knowledge of this because my company managed their customer satisfaction survey program for 17 years. The vast majority of Sun Tracker owners are very happy with their purchase, and these pontoons consistently scored at or near the top of all the boat brands that the Bass Pro Shops organization offered.
Bennington S Line
While Sun Tracker is the leader in fishing pontoons, Bennington is the most dominate brand overall. Known mostly for their high quality and luxurious boats designed for pleasure activities, they do offer a number of floor plans for fishing. The SV Line is Bennington’s most affordable series and offers three fishing models ranging from 16′ to 20′. The S Line is a step up from SV and has 17 models ranging from 16′ to 25′. SX has even more premium features and, as with the S Line, offers layouts with the fishing seats in the bow only, the stern only, and in both locations.
The L Line is the next level up for Bennington, and the LX Line is their most premium series in a fishing configuration.
Tahoe Sport Fish and Cruise
Avalon and Tahoe
Avalon and Tahoe are nearly identical brands from a privately owned company that has been producing pontoons since 1972. Headquartered in Alma, MI, one thing that is unique about this company is that they produce nearly all of their components in-house (vs. outsourcing from various suppliers). According to the manufacturer, this gives them a “higher degree of control over the production and quality.” They back this up by offering a 10-year Bow-to-Stern warranty as well as a Lifetime Limited Transferable Structural Warranty.
Each brand offers 27 fishing models, including a couple center console versions, to meet various size and layout needs. I also like the fact that they offer some with fishing seats in front of the fencing for those who are especially serious about the activity (fewer casting obstructions, easier access to water to land fish, etc.).
Lowe SF 212
Lowe is part of the Brunswick Boat Group and has been building pontoon boats since 1979. They are known more as a “value brand” and direct competitor to Sun Tracker. Their fishing pontoon models are the SF line and they offer layouts with fishing seats in the bow, stern and in both locations. Because they are owned by Brunswick, Lowe pontoons are equipped with Mercury outboards with factory-installed options for Lowrance Fish Finders and MotorGuide trolling motors (part of the Navico Group that is also owned by Brunswick). If you prefer a different brand of electronic equipment, you will likely need to install that on your own.
Starcraft EX Fish
Starcraft, Sun Chaser, Sylvan
These three brands are all part of Smoker Craft, Inc. Sun Chaser is more of the entry level or “value” brand, whereas Starcraft and Sylvan are mid-tier players. For Sun Chaser, their fishing series is called Geneva Fish. They offer six different sizes/floor plans, including a couple center console models.
The fishing series for Sylvan is called Mirage Fish. They offer nine models for 2023, five have 8′ beams and the remaining four are 8 1/2′ wide and can accommodate additional passengers and a larger motor. Note that the 8 1/2′ models have a “5” in the model number (e.g., 8520, 8522).
Starcraft offers an EX Fish line (4 models) and a CX Fish (2 models) which has some upgraded features such as an upgraded stereo, hydraulic steering and premium upholstery.
Sweetwater is a value-oriented series of pontoon boats within the Godfrey family (including San Pan and Aqua Patio) that was acquired by Polaris in 2015. Built in Elkhart, Indiana, they offer 7 fishing models with options for fishing seats inside and outside the front fencing as well as layouts with the fishing seats in the stern.
Each fishing model comes standard with two 25″ tubes. However, you can upgrade to three tubes with a 27″ or 29″ center tube that can accommodate a larger engine, additional weight capacity, and improved performance.
Historically known as a premium bass boat manufacturer, Ranger is a relative newcomer to the pontoon market – first entering in 2017. They currently offer both a Fishing pontoon and a Fish & Cruise configuration that has an additional lounge bench in the bow. You can get either option with 2 pontoon tubes or a tritoon for increased capacity, a higher maximum horsepower, and improved handling/performance (tritoon models have “3” in the model name – 223 F or 223 FC).
Given their heritage in fishing and reputation for quality, it is not surprising that Ranger has added some upgraded features with their pontoon including a large, lockable rod storage compartment (that can handle rods up to 7’6″), premium swivel seats in the bow that can recline and have armrests, a large (10′) bimini with an easy-lift feature and LED lights, and powder coated pontoons for greater corrosion resistance and a more attractive look.
And, as part of the Bass Pro Shops family of boats (White River Marine Group), they offer the same extensive 10-year bow-to-stern warranty and limited lifetime structural and deck warranty that is offered by Sun Tracker.
Landau is a smaller, privately-owned business out of Lebanon, Missouri. A ‘Lure is their fishing pontoon line and they offer five separate floorplans, including two center consoles. The base version of each model comes with two 25″ diameter pontoon tubes that you can upgrade to larger (28″) tubes called “Brutus” for increased flotation and a smoother ride. You can also add a third pontoon (either in 25″ or 28″) to any model for even greater performance.
Anger Qwest Pro Striper
Though a lesser-known brand, I included Angler Qwest in this list because they offer a number of unique features that will appeal to more serious anglers. For example, all models include some deck space in front of the bow fencing. This gives you greater access to the water to help with things like landing a fish or unsnagging a line. Surprisingly few boat manufacturers have figured this out. Also, most models feature “binary walls” in the aft section of the boat which provides storage in the gunnels and has a “Universal Fast-Trak” top rail system that allows you to add rod holders or other accessories. Many models come with a heavy duty radar arch with several “rocket launchers” and adjustable rod holders for those who like to troll.
Angler Qwest currently offers six different pontoon series to appeal to a variety of angler types: Troll Series, Fish N Cruise, Family Fish, Catfish Series (which features a massive 65 gal. livewell), Pro Striper Edition and All Sport Edition.
Angler Qwest (fishing pontoons) and Qwest (pleasure pontoons) are part of Apex Marine which has been building boats for over 50 years.
If you are shopping for a pontoon boat that you can fish from, the above list of brands is a great place to start. Most have very similar layouts and so the differences come down to varying degrees of quality, aesthetics and price. Be sure to check out my companion article on “What to look for in a fishing pontoon boat” to help you evaluate your options. Of course, many of these brands might not be available in your area and so that will limit your choices too. To see a more complete list of pontoon brands, go to the Manufacturers directory under the Tools tab and click “Pontoon” from the drop-down menu at the top of the page.
So, now you know my list of some of the best pontoon brands for fishing. Let me know which brands you like best in the comments section below.
About the author
Jerry Mona is a long-time boating industry insider, research expert and avid boater and angler. He began his research career with the Coca-Cola Company, Foods Division, where he learned research from some of the best in the business. In 1991, he left Coca Cola Foods to follow his passion for the water to head up the research function at Mercury Marine. After climbing the ranks within Mercury and later at the parent company, Brunswick, Jerry left Corporate America in 2000 to launch his own company – Left Brain Marketing, Inc., a research firm specializing in the boating industry and outdoor recreation.
Over the past 20+ years, he has helped leading organizations such as Mercury, Brunswick, White River Marine Group (Tracker, Sun Tracker, Nitro, Mako, Regency, Tahoe), Polaris (Bennington, Hurricane), the National Marine Manufacturers Association, Discover Boating, the Marine Retailers Association of America, the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (TakeMeFishing.org) and others to better understand the needs and wants of boaters like you. Widely recognized as the leading research expert with boaters, Jerry has conducted hundreds of studies and has received responses from over 350,000 boater participants since launching his firm.
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