Framed vs. Inflatable Pontoon??

I am looking into purchasing a pontoon boat for the first time. Ideally it will be adequate for lake, river and salt fishing.

I was originally thinking frameless, as I do not have much space for starage and transport would be optimal. But, I have heard that frameless pontoons can be a safety issue on the rivers around here, even during the summer. I have been told that without the rigidity of a framed pontoon, i may have issues navigating some sections.

I thought i should reach out and ask for more opinions???



Active Member
The weakness with frameless boats are their oar mounts. I've had 2 units fail, currently working on having a solid metal piece made instead of the plastic ones. Other than that they're great for transporting and storage!


Not to be confused with Freestone
I really like my Bucks Southfork. It's only about 52lbs and handles well on all the waters I've been on. The frameless ones I've looked at just don't seem as river reliable to me.


Well-Known Member
I have a Watermaster. It is frameless. I've floated the Sol Duc and Dean Rivers twice each and a host of less difficult rivers with no issues. It's true that you can't reef on the oars like you might do on a 14 foot white water raft with rowing frame or a drift boat equipped with heavy duty aluminum or fiberglass oars. The standard oars, with their 3" ferrule, won't take excessive strain. Heavy duty versions are available, and I've thought about getting them, but am concerned that could make the oarlocks the weakest link, and they are harder to service in the field.

The upshot is that unless run the wildest rivers and can't put less than 300 pound-foot of torque on your oars, a frameless one-man raft can probably successfully take on more difficult water than you can.



Active Member
Try to get access to a Watermaster through this site's gear program and take it out to Rattlesnake Lake for a day. If you arrange with us in advance, we'll meet you at the lake and you can try one of our framed pontoon boats and you can try them both out on the same day and maybe catch some fish at the same time. That is what I call a win-win!
I have had Southforks for years. I fish the snot out of them and the reliability is great. I can easily get on in a standard pickup bed by taking some air out of the pontoons and I could even carry one in a Ford Explorer by deflating the pontoons. I also note a lot of them on car top carriers.

I really do thing you get a lot more durability and strength in a frame boat. This makes them more useful in the wide variety of environments you mentioned. I would certainly rather be in one when the wind comes up and you have to row home.