Building a cataraft

Okay, so I'm brand new to rafting, steelheading, fly fishing, and Washington. Okay so not brand new, I've been here for a year or so. I bought my first fly rod when I got here and am hooked for life. I bought a drift boat and have gotten some good use out of it but it is clear that there are some distinct limitations, like possible death if you get in over your head (not that I would ever do that).... Late last summer I was fishing the Rogue and got my first exposure to rafts and decided I had to have one. After quite a bit of research I have settled on a 16' cataraft.

My intention is to update this thread as I build the cataraft over the next few weeks. First I want to make sure that I am not doing anything that is obviously wrong and second I want to give anyone looking to do this themselves a blue print (if there isn't one I didn't find already). BTW it will make its maiden voyage on the Yakima later this month.

Okay so through the forum here and various places elsewhere on the internet I have gathered what I believe is enough information for a solid plan. Here is the set of parts that I am starting with:

Aluminum Tubing 100' (5 x 20' lengths bought at local metal distributor, you can use chain link fence post if you want but it is much heavier)
Cast Iron Pipe fittings Quik Klmap (got these from two places frontier play ($$$$) and the same ones from Farm Tek at half the price)
Dry Boxes (frontier play, half the price of anywhere else)
16' PVC glued tubes (Maxxon I think....the guy I bought them off of on craigslist said they were 'Bad Cat' but I have my doubts)
Cam buckle straps (from McLendons)
Anchor System (more to follow...)
Oar Towers (NRS Short from frontier play)
Oar Mounts (Sawyer Cobra from Sportco in Fife)
Floor ( 10' x 34.5" from stitches in stuff in Colorado)
Storage box (from Lowe's)

Torque Wrench
Miter Saw w/ metal cutting blade
Lock Tite
JB Weld

So far I have measured and cut about 90% of the pipes and have loosely assembled the boat without any accessories to verify the measurements. Next step actual assembly. Attached are some picks from what I have so far.
That makes sense.... on the Bad Cat site they looked very similar to mine.

Okay some more information. I have decided to make my frame 11' x 72" this is a little longer than most frames but after fitting it to the tubes I am happy with the flexibility it gives me with seating and storage. Also I have the floor dropped 8" from the cross bars and it is 36" wide.

Today I have assembled the top section and the floor frame and connected them (see the pics). All of the exterior joints have been tightened with the torque wrench and loctite, everything else is just hand tightened so it can be adjusted later.

The frame fittings I am using do not require any welding however the connections that will bear weight (cross bars to the floor frame) I use heavy duty loctite on the set screw and cold weld (JB weld) on the contact of the tubing and the fitting. The set screw is designed for a 2000lb load without slippage but it doesn't hurt to be careful (you could even bore a hole though the tube and fitting and use a long nut and bolt if you wanted to be extra careful).

Just a quick word on fittings. There is a wide variety of fittings so I had to plan well before ordering. Also All fittings must be on the tubing before anything is tightened or you will be taking everything back apart.

Also in order to cut the pieces to size I replaced the blade on my miter saw with a metal cutting disk, see the pic.

Next step is to make adjustment for bays and seating. The plan is to have a front and rear fishing seats with the front seat large enough for two if need be. Lean bars may be a little tricky but we'll see.

Ed Call

Well-Known Member
Are the side tubes all one piece?
Will you have cross rail spreaders spanning your drop down rails to keep that mesh cargo deck tight?
I'm not sure how much it is going to weigh...However the reason for the fabric floor and aluminum dry boxes is for the weight issue. I did pick it up to put it on the trailer and would estimate about 100lbs right now (but keep in mind I am a stud so it could be much more ;). Now that's with no lean bars, seats or gear, I'm going to weigh it whole when I'm done.

Yes the side tubes are one piece and there are three cross rails on the floor frame (front, rowers foot rest, and rear). Several of the frame fittings are ideal for running cross rails.

Ed Call

Well-Known Member
Those tubes are gonna weigh a bunch too. My boat is HEAVY and loading it solo into the utility trailer when we do the family trips is tough. And mine has 14' tubes. My decks are load bearing plywood sealed in Line-X, so they are not light. My boxes are plastic, not very heavy. I have full length PVC running boards to step on to keep feet off the tubes, that adds some heft too. I wish my boat was lighter, but I sure do like it.


Active Member
aluminum pipe cuts easily with carbide tipped chop saw blade. If I was you and wanted that long of a frame sometimes I would have made two seperate modules. One big frame is pretty cumbersome. 2 module setup works just as good and you don't need all of it all of the time. ++ for buying from Jan, action packers flex too much for a rowing seat. Good luck.
T My decks are load bearing plywood sealed in Line-X, so they are not light. My boxes are plastic, not very heavy. I have full length PVC running boards to step on to keep feet off the tubes, that adds some heft too. I wish my boat was lighter, but I sure do like it.
I like the PVC idea. I guess when I made the final decision I knew it was going to be big. I'll keep an eye on extras that will add extra weight. I saw a suggestion to make some sort of wheel so the boat turns into a giant wheel barrow when moving it around land....I'll have to think on that one though.

Ed Call

Well-Known Member
Best thing I added was the cooler mount assembly and adding the largest marine cooler I could as my rower's seat. I loved the low back seat (and should build a day trip module with that seat like Shapp suggests about flexibility of modules) but the cooler has really surprised me for its comfort and benefit of great cold storage.


Active Member
These are the best low cost rigid plastic "dry box" type I have ever found. Coleman used to sell these. They carry them at storables. I have also seen them sporadically at fred meyers. I got a few about 5 years ago for $20 each and I would probably pay $40 each. I have used them to sit on rowing and they are extremely ridgid and do not flex. The lid has a plastic latice reinforcement underneath and it is totally solid for 200+ pounds of man meat. They even have a rubber gasket. To fit lower in a frame you have to take an angle grinder with cutting disk and trim of a bit of the little "wing piecies under the outside of each corner. Not sure why they are there, but they are easy to get rid of.

One is under the front seat in this pic:

Ed Call

Well-Known Member

These fit my narrow frame very well. For your frame, which is wider than mine, maybe there is a bigger version. Reinforced lid, I can stand on them and I weigh 225. I bought three so that I'd have three lids. One lid in back has a single seat. One lid up front has a single seat. Spare lid for the front can be swapped out so my two little fishy chicks can sit side by side. Lots of storage, not a lot of cost, way better than my first foolish attempt at seats, which were mounted directly to cross rails. No problem with seating on cross rails...problem was absolute lack of storage.
I would've purchased the aluminum fittings, they are considerably lighter than the galvi fittings. It might not sound like much on paper, but every little bit of weight adds up on these.


Active Member
Couple more important considerations:

Looks like you are having a lot of fun which is the important thing! but you will for sure learn a lot about what you don't like as soon as you take your first trip down the river. Fully loaded your floor should at least be a few inches above the water surface. If not, you need longer and/or wider diameter tubes less drop on your bottom side rails, or a smaller frame. My gut reaction is you got too much frame and maybe too much drop for those 16’ long and 22.5” diameter tubes moderately loaded full. Most 16' cats are in the 24+ inch diamter. The extra 2 inches makes a huge difference in bouancy. I hope that I am wrong though. I would also highly recommend pinning the front and rear corner fitting with bolts all the way through the fitting. If your fittings aren’t long enough to allow this, you need to get some different corner fittings. Rowframe has some good ones, as well as Star Inflatables at a reasonable (way less than NRS) price.

The pics below are of a 14' cat, but the objective is the same, you want the floor well off the water about this much when fully loaded.