How To Pick The Best Belly Boat

When shopping for a belly boat, comfort, durability, and choosing a design style that best suits your needs are key considerations

fish in a pond
Belly boats are great tools for targeting fish in ponds and lakes too deep to wade.John Sailer

Belly boats (or float tubes) offer the perfect way to quietly fish lakes and ponds (duck hunters are discovering them, too). They’re also perfect for those who want to pack in to fish more remote waters and don’t want to hassle portaging a canoe or kayak. You paddle them with your feet, so you get a little workout in, and being right there fighting a fish on the waterline provides an exciting new fishing experience.

Unlike the old inner tubes of yesteryear, belly boats now run the gamut from bare-bones models to near luxury craft with storage pockets, rod holders and even setups for electronics. If you’re in the market for a new belly boat, here are three things to look for.

Wrap-Around Comfort

Caddis belly boat
This tube is double stitched on critical seams for durability and the seat adjusts for added comfort.Amazon

Wrap-around float tubes are easier to get in and out of than traditional round tubes and they're more stable. A backrest provides much needed support for long days on the water. Even less expensive models come with ample pocket space for stowing, tackle, drinks and lunch.

Rugged and Backpackable

Cumberland belly boat
This wrap-around tube will support up to 350 pounds and has straps for backpacking into remote waters.Amazon

Step up a bit in price and you'll find belly boats that can support up to 350 pounds. (Remember, you need to factor everything you'll be carrying into the weight rating in addition to your own weight.) Models in the mid-price range are generally built of more rugged materials and feature more pockets and storage options. If you plan on packing into more remote lakes or ponds, look for belly boats that have built-in pack straps. Models with a backrest that have their own air bladder provide back-up flotation should your main tube get a puncture, but you should always wear a PFD.

Pontoon Styles

Pontoon belly boat
This pontoon-style tube has tons of storage, a mount for a trolling motor, and a unique anchoring system built in.Amazon

For the ultimate floating experience, consider a pontoon-style boat. They're super stable and easier to maneuver because they have less drag in the water. Many models provide a mount to add a trolling motor and adjustable seats and oar locks. In addition to far more storage space, some pontoon styles even provide a spot for attaching a sonar device so you can locate structure and always know how much water you have under you. Models like this even have an anchoring setup so you don't have to worry about drifting if you find a spot where the fish are really biting.