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Monday, June 06, 2005

Bassboat vs. Pontoon Boat

In the last decade or so of fishing, the “bassboat” reigned as king of the waters. It was the only way to appear that you knew what you were doing, especially when it came to bass fishing. It is understandably the best type of boat for tournaments because a bassboat can handle a monstrous motor that will provide you with more fishing time and less time getting to and from that prime fishing spot.

In recent years, there has been competition among the boat industry to come up with the ultimate bassboat. One with enough storage room to store every type of lure necessary to mankind; one with enough deck room to be able to fish from any angle without two people being crowded on any one location of the boat; one that will keep the largest bass known to man alive all day in a well no bigger than she is; one to accommodate the largest high-powered outboard motor on the market so you will get to that “secret” fishing spot before anyone else does; one with enough bells and whistles on it that it requires a Master’s degree in electronics; one with seats that will make you think you are riding in s sports car; one with such a unique design and color scheme that it demands attention and respect.

That’s all fine, well and good so long as you’re a die-hard tournament fisherperson determined to eventually become the next “Bill Dance” or “Roland Martin.” But in the real world, most people are just looking to have a relaxing day on the water, catch a few rays, catch a few fish, and catch some quality time with their family. And for those folks that either don’t have enough spare time to devote to fishing enough to justify owning their own boat, or for the ones that have acquired a new-found interest in the sport, there are numerous fishing guide businesses all over the country offering their expertise, boat, use of tackle and other provisions; all for a modest fee, of course.

Within that same decade the pontoon boat got a reputation for being the boat used strictly for panfishing, or having a party on the water, or just lazily cruising around. It just makes good sense – in tournament fishing you’re only allowed to have one rod with a lure in the water at a time, where when fun fishing the sky is the limit. That’s how the nickname “spider fishing” came about when you see pontoon boats with rods or cane poles sticking out all the way around the boat; hence the population of rod holders.

But as of late, the boat manufacturers have crossed the line with the pontoon boat, coming out with a model designed specifically for fishing. Ones with fishing chairs front and back; ones with live wells for keeping bait and/or fish alive (everyone knows it is better to filet a live fish than a dead one … don’t they?); ones heavy duty enough to carry a big enough outboard motor rival some of the smaller bassboats; ones already equipped with trolling motors and the latest technological electronics for fishing; ones with built-in coolers and stereos for entertainment; ones with enclosed port-a-potties under the sundeck; and ones, no less, with bimini tops for shade and some even have extension covers to convert the pontoon boat into something nearer resembling a houseboat. I like to refer to it as the “luxury” or “Cadillac” version of fishing.

There are still those out there that are stuck with the idea that the only way to catch fish is with a bassboat; especially the guides. That’s fine for the competitors that are looking for local info prior to a tournament; but I’m here to tell you that if the fish were that smart, they would school up and turn your boat over! Some say it’s because that is what customers expect because they watch the fishing shows on TV and, of course, they’re only using bassboats. Some say that when customers are paying to fish, they don’t want to take “all day” traveling. Well, that may be true for some folks that have never been fishing before in their lives and are actually more interested in riding in a supped up, skim the top of the waves kind of boat that is actually more like a ride at Disney than a fulfilling day of fishing. But, recently, quite a few of the guides are coming around to the idea that luxury is more of what the majority of people are looking for when considering hiring a guide to fish, especially if it is part of a vacation. Of course, they still expect the guide to have enough expertise to put them on fish and tell them how to catch ‘em; but that goes unsaid (or it should, anyway).

Personally, in my business, I like the idea of being able to offer a choice to my customers: bassboat or pontoon boat – what’s your preference?


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