Pontoon Choice (Outcast/Bucks/Watermaster/Others)

Discussion in 'Watercraft' started by Matt Roelofs, Dec 14, 2006.

  1. A bit of background before I ask for your advice. I am a relative novice fly fisher - I got my first rod 3 years ago and spent the first couple of seasons fishing for trout in small rivers and creeks. More recently I've been reading, buying gear, etc. to add steelhead and salmon to my list along with some stillwater fishing as well. In many of these pursuits it is becoming clear that I need a one-man float craft beyond the float tube that I already own.

    So, I'm looking for a boat that will primarily be used for day floats (though an overnight is possible - but no week-long expeditions) on some of our local rivers (Skagit, Yak, etc.). I'm a little spooked by scary whitewater, so likely wouldn't go that way. I would also like the boat to have good stillwater capability.

    As you know the options are many...

    Option 1 is to buy something affordable and see how it goes (Costco has a deal on both an 8' and 9' boat from Trout Unlimited and many of the other companies make 'value' models in the $300-$500 range) - cheap now, but will I feel a need to upgrade in the near future?

    Option 2 is to step up in terms of materials / durability to the boats in the $600-$700 range (the Bucks Bags Southfork as an example) - probably high enough quality to avoid the upgrade bug, but often these are base prices and get more expensive as you add accessories (longer oars, padded seats, anchors, etc.)

    Option 3 is to go right to the top end (the Outcast PAC 800 seems to be popular in this range) and figure there is no way to spend more $$ in the future.

    Option 4 is the Watermaster wildcard. Given the price I would not have considered this, but once you start to consider pontoons that are upwards of 1K, you're in the same ballpark.

    So, those are the parameters....advice / experiences appreciated!
  2. I have both a Bucks Extreme and a Watermaster and have also had a SOuthfork. If I had to pick only one, then it would be the Watermaster for its overall versatility. Packs down easily and nice and I have shuttled it on a motorcycle and a bicycle. Also holds up to 500 lbs. I have taken it in Class 3+ water with no problem. Each all have plusses and minuses. Ask around.
  3. Watermaster owner here. No regrets after 5 years and I'm hoping to get another.

    Check with the manufacturer for returns/refurb's if budget is an issue.
  4. Hamster,

    I've had a little raft, smaller actually than a Watermaster, for over 20 years. I thought I would like to get a pontoon for the larger cargo load, heavier whitewater capability, and so on. I got a used Watermaster. My friends with pontoons either have to trailer them (major reduction in convenience and "stealth launching") or knock 'em down and put 'em together with each use.

    For me, the carrying convenience (I take mine just in case I might want to do a quick float sometimes, or just cross a large river to fish from the other side), the speed of setup and knock down, and the ability to launch and retrieve ANYWHERE, and take on any kind of water I've got the guts to navigate, Watermaster is the best choice.

    You can carry a Watermaster into lakes like Lenice and others instead of a float tube. You probably wouldn't do that with a pontoon. I launch my Watermaster where there is no launch - a cow or deer trail through the brush to riverside, throw it off a bridge into a river (hang on to the rope) if there's no deer trail, etc. I've shocked people who see me come floating down some waterways, wondering how the heck I got there. I tend to be a little vague at times.

    Unlike Fishmagnet, I haven't carried my Watermaster on my bike, but I frequently stash my bike in the brush for my return shuttle. Also, by using stealth launch and retrieve sites instead of a major access, my gear is pretty safely hidden while I ride back for my car.


    Salmo g.
  5. I'd go with a Watermaster. The all around versatility of the Watermaster allows for the best angling opportunities. Watermaster also has several accessories which can be purchased for upgrades as well.
  6. I think it partly depends on the water you're floating. I use my pontoon mostly on my home river, the Truckee, which is a total boulder garden. I have a much easier time navigating in a 'toon than a small raft. Just something to consider.

    I will also say you can't go wrong with buying quality. I would rather buy higher-quality gear used than lower quality gear new. Floating takes it toll on gear and having good stuff makes a difference in the long run.

    Good luck and be safe out there with whatever you get.
  7. Ditto the kickboat, but, as always, we all need to ask ourselves how we will primarly use a piece of gear. The kickboat is very versatile. Good luck with your search.
  8. Here's $0.02 from someone who has owned float tubes, Tote N Float (predecessor to the Watermaster), and now owns a PAC800.

    As someone else noted, each has its strengths and weaknesses. The Watermaster is very convenient. It's very portable and easy to set up.

    I sold my Tote N Float (Watermaster) because it was so slow in the lakes and because I couldn't use an anchor setup. For the latter, a frame had to be made that was about $200. If I had to use a frame, the pontoon then became a viable option.

    The pontoon is waaaaaay faster than the Watermaster; the latter is still a raft and pushes water (not hydrodynamic at all), where the pontoon cuts more through the water. Rowing a Watermaster, with its little short oars, is obviously more efficient than kicking/finning, but not nearly as efficient as rowing a pontoon.

    Why is this important? There have been many times where I was at 'the other end of the lake' and I needed to get to the opposite end in a hurry, because the wind came up, darkness impending, whatever, and the Tote N Float was not good at getting through the wind or up to any type of speed.

    The anchor system can be terrifically handy when chironomid fishing lakes or when fishing to a feeding pod of fish on a river. I fished the Clark Fork once where a couple of guys were anchored up in their Bucks pontoon boats, just above a pod of feeding fish, and were slayin' 'em. I could only go by in my Watermaster and watch in envy. I bought a pontoon boat (the PAC800) shortly thereafter.

    And for chironomid fishing, the ability to anchor can be the difference between a successful or not-so-successful fishing day.

    If you want to go the pontoon route, realistically if you're going to use the craft to fish lakes or rivers the most. Most use them for lakes, as many people often wade/hike rivers.

    Though I very much like my PAC800 (I have a buddy who uses in the Sound, even, with great success), if you plan to use the pontoon primarily in stillwaters, for the money I would look very hard at the FishCat Cougar. The pontoon design makes for a very stable craft. If you plan to use it in rivers, lakes, whatever, a standard pontoon configuration with moderate rocker design in the pontoons would be more desirable. A great choice would be the Bucks Southfork. Both craft are in the $600 range, and are much less than a Watermaster.

    Whatever you get, at various points you'll be satisfied with your decision and other points wish you had the other. :thumb:
  9. Primarily on rivers and/or packing into lakes = watermaster

    If you plan to use primarily in the salt or stillwater (driveup) = pontoon

    Each person's preferences reflects their preferred type of fishing. Be clear with yourself what you'll be using it for and you'll have no regrets whatever you pick.

    Best advice someone gave me was to make a list of "Primary" and "Secondary" uses of your boat to help make the choice clearer.

    I also bought the Watermaster for the "stealth" and portability (fits fully inflated in the back of my truck) capability on steelhead/salmon rivers. It handles my secondary use in lakes well enough I'm completely happy with it. And, for the record, I bought mine used with very light use (and with most upgraded accessories) for $500 of one of the flyfishing classified sites.

    Good Luck!

  10. Thanks for all your opinions -- and keep 'em coming if you haven't chimed in yet. I'm getting closer to making a decision and will update the thread when I do with my reasoning -- hopefully someone else will be able to learn from my thought process. Until then....:beer2:
  11. In Alaska i use:

    Outcast Trinity: walk-in lakes, lightweight, compact, quality material

    Fishcat Cougar: drive-in lakes/river class I, anchor ability, shallow draft, best in wind

    Watermaster: walk/drive in river class I – III, fishing position control, quality material

    Aire Puma: serious 10 day solo wilderness float, 4 night 2 person minimalist trip, 2 night 2 person all toys fishing excursion.

    One rig doesn’t do it all well. Pick the platform design that you’ll use the most … start there … AND USE IT! Don’t look back. You’ll end up with more toys. I did. Now I also have 6 canoes and a jetboat.

    PS. If there was a fire in the toy shed out back of the house I’d grab the Watermaster first
  12. Interiorak,

    I just got the 11'6" Aire Puma with fishing frame. I noted with interest that you've done two-man, four-day floats. Is yours the same length? In regards to the original question, I too was looking at catarafts and rafts. I chose the raft because I thought is was more versatile, could more easily accomodate the dog, and more modular regarding fishing frame. For most floats, I'll only use the middle-rowing frame because I really need it as just a taxi for steelheading. If I fish the Yak for trout, then I'll use the front and anchor platforms.

  13. Over the last 13 years my experience is in 11-14 foot rafts in SW Alaska, Yukon tributaries and remote north slope windy tundra rivers. Been using a Puma for the last six years. Can see no downside for my temperment of just one other heart beat on board, true wilderness landscapes, and intimate rivers with no motorboat traffic. Two+ week fly-in/fly-out trips all across Alaska 3-5times a season. If we get headcore lite we can actually fit it all in a Cessna 185 ( ... read that much cheaper than a Beaver).

    Friend and i are leave-no-trace, obsessive flyfishers with too many rods. I find the Puma the closest feel to fishing in a drift boat while fly-in-able and riding on air and out of cold water. I have same frame setup as you ( including anchor set up interchangable with a third seat.,) Lotsa rigging options depending on why, where, how many, and so what. It is just right for 2 people on a 2-3 day fish with all the toys and decadent comfort gear. It is the penulitimate 2 person go lite 2 week tripper for small/medium rivers in AK. It's fine for a three person day trip. If you are going to overload ... don't. Or use Super Puma (friend's boat). But NOT near as quick and nimble. You'll appreciate that on small sweeper waters. Puma has the added bonus of being an outstanding white water paddle raft ... And I can also take just myself on a successful moose hunt with no worries (as opposed to my pakcanoe).

    Back on thread ... if it was just me that i had to take care of (friends in their own toons on my preferred small rivers) ... i'd use the Watermaster with 3-5 mil neoprene waders ... i'm getting too old to enjoy being cold! Everybody else wants in my boat for a day because you can easliy and intuitively kick yourself "handsfree" into any river position to catch fish. I definitely don't want in on their toons unless i was on a big bold river with miles to go before the takeout ... then they can test out my Watermaster !
  14. I have a Scadden Northwest Express. I can put over my head if necessary or roll by mounted wheel when loaded. It will handle heavy white water, long trips and stillwater applications.
  15. Has anyone purchased a Watermaster recently? I know they had a change of ownership, but their website is still in shambles and my emails bounce back when sent to them. I'd like to purchase one for spring, but I'm wondering if there is a waiting period or if they're out of business?
  16. Watermaster was sold & the previous owner started up a new business.
  17. waterstrider was a spinoff long before Watermaster had their ownership issues.

    I'm not sure what the status of Watermaster (www.kickboat.com) is -maybe Chris (administrator) can add something?? :)
  18. I just wanted to update this thread now that I've made my choice - hopefully others can learn from my search.

    I went with the Southfork -- for mostly the same reasons outlined in my original post - nice enough to avoid wanting to upgrade too soon, but not a budget breaker either (the extra money is the start of the driftboat / raft fund -- my wife is getting more and more interested in FF'ing, so we'll need to add a multiperson craft to the fleet sometime soon).

    I haven't had the boat out yet, but plan to this weekend. I'm pretty excited about it!

    Thanks again to all for the advice! :beer2:
  19. ***edit to remove double post***

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