I first saw an angler working from a float tube in 1988 on Yellowstone Lake. I returned home and immediately purchased one, as it fit my budget (meager), my apartment (small), and fishing need (to get off the bank). I still use one.
Float tubes, or “belly boats,” are lightweight, affordable (prices start at around $100) and you won’t need a garage in which to store it. Deflated, it will fit into a daypack. When your belly boat is pumped up and ready to go simply shove it behind the car or truck seat—or strap it onto your back. Easy.
A few things to remember:
1. Buy a boat that fits. There are two basic styles of float tubes: round and U-shaped. Round boats are donut-shaped with a seat. They’re easily maneuverable, but sit low in the water. U-shaped boats are larger and have a removable crossbar that makes getting in and out easier and they sit a bit higher than the donut. All float tubes have a listed weight capacity. If you’re a big guy or gal, get a boat that will comfortably (and safely) handle someone your size.
2. Practice. Float tubes are not high tech tools, but efficiently maneuvering one does require some practice. Buy a pair of flippers and practice. A small paddle is also a handy tool. I always tether a plastic sculling paddle to my tube.
3. Pick your float tube fishing spots carefully. Ponds and small lakes are traditional belly boat waters but certain areas on large reservoirs can be effectively and safely fished from a tube. Look for coves and shorelines that are afforded some wind protection. Stay relatively close to shore and avoid areas of powerboat traffic. Boats won’t see you.
4. Wind isn’t particularly a friend to float tubers, but it can be used to your advantage. In general, wind blowing in is good. Wind blowing out is not good.
It’s a different world off shore, and float tubes are intimate fishing rigs. And if used properly, they will put you close to fish.
Here’s a clip from Fishing Down Under that will help you get started: