The Ultimate Float Tube: Gear to Trick Out Your Pontoon

Today’s float tubes are sleek, stealthy fish machines that give you access to hard-to-reach hotspots. Here is the gear you need to kick your way to a summer of nonstop bites.

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Here are three pontoon options—plus the gear you need to trick them out into still-water beasts.

1. The Hot Seat

■ Made of 600D urethane, the Outcast Fat Cat LCS (left) is ready for heavy use, but it's still as comfy as a La-Z-Boy thanks to a thick foam seat and an adjustable backrest (a). Two armrest cargo pockets (b) plus two pockets behind the seat store plenty of gear, and the low-profile design won't get in the way of casting strokes. Flotation is provided by a single bladder, capped with a beefy Summit II air valve, so check to see if you need an adapter to work with your pump. $379.

2. The Bright Spot

■ The Caddis Premier Plus has the common Boston valves used in most inflatables, so finding a matching pump is easy. Its double bladders float 325 pounds of angler and gear. The high-visibility yellow color and fluorescent safety accents are handy when you're sharing water with powerboats. $199.

3. The Pack Leader

■ At only 91⁄2 pounds, and with a packed size of 10x10x16 inches, the Creek Co. 420 Ultralight can be shoved into a daypack and humped to backcountry waters. The comfortable tube has large storage pockets and an inflatable seat back and bottom. But without the armor of a PVC bottom, you'll have to avoid too much scraping and dragging. $280

Rod Holders The CastMate Systems V2.0 is the Bugatti of float-tube rod holders (c). A strong aluminum frame carries up to 12 accessories, including cup holders (d), tackle tables, and camera mounts (e). $130

Gear Lanyard Though designed for kayak paddles, the Gripper Paddle Leash (f) also works well for rods or landing nets. Consider it cheap, but trustworthy, insurance. $11

Fins Outcast Fins (g) slip on and off easily and with some strong kicking on your part will motor you into position in no time. $39

Anchor A compact 3-pound float-tube anchor (h) stores easily, without any sharp corners that could puncture a tube. $20

Manual Pump The Airhead Double Action Pump inflates or deflates on both up and down strokes. Capable of pumping to 14 psi, it's handy for topping off tubes filled with battery-powered pumps. $22

Electric Pump Unlike many pumps that require a direct battery connection, the rechargeable Black & Decker ASI500 Air Station can be carried to the water's edge. $60

_For more on float-tube fishing, check out these five steps for keeping your lure in the strike zone. _

Photograph by Ralph Smith