Wanted - Pontoon Boat for Steelhead Rivers

Not open for further replies.
Looking for reliable, inflatable pontoon that can handle Class II waters, but still manageable as far as storage. I will portage water on many of the rivers I fish, so I'm not looking for anything over-the-top.

Please let me know if you or anyone you know has a boat to sell that fits this description.
Thanks for the recommendations...keep em coming if you got em. I'm in research mode on the models that have been suggested and the models being sold by some of the members.
Does anyone have any opinions on durability, sturdiness, and comfort of frame v. frameless? Frameless is appealing for portability, but what are the cons of frameless?

Bill Aubrey

Active Member
I've had framed and frameless and for me, it's simple. I won't go framed again. If you are going fishing with a framed boat, you have to carry it assembled on your roof or in your pickup, or waste a lot of time assembling at the water. And, some are a lot faster and easier than others. With frameless, you pump it up, 4-7 minutes, and attach the oars. I've done white water with both and the frameless perform as well, or better. And, if you have to portage, which would you rather wrestle with?

On the frameless, Scadden boats are fantastic--they are built tough and have a rocker at each end which I believe makes them a lot more responsive to row, not to mention a lot faster when you hit quiet water or are on a lake. I have a Wilderness Access EXP which is the same as the large Watermaster, except it has an inflatable seat deck, and it is a great boat. The disadvantages that I see are the oars on these boats are shorter and you do not get as much power in a stroke, and the boat is shorter which makes floating through white water more of a challenge for your rod, especially if it is a spey rod. The Scaddens are easier to row when you find yourself at the other end of the lake with the wind in your face due to the rocker. Having both, I prefer the rocker.
Well last weekend I ran across a guy in his scadden frameless boat . He was sitting on the bank with a roll of duct tape. He was quite dis-satisfied after being so low and cramped all day in that boat. His other dilema was his oar had hit a rock going into a narrow chute and completely tore off the oar lock and bent his cheap oar.

He was very interested in my boat with a frame at that point:thumb:. All depends on if you want to float or swim. I am sure they are fine on mellow rivers but Dave Scadden is more worried about getting his mug on tv than anything else. Rating something class V is a marketing gimick that people fall for. He could give a crap if you drowned as long as you buy his imported boats and he gets rich. And if he gets sued he will not pay and just change his name again :rolleyes:

I could probably do class v on a pool float, would I want to NO. So as long as you use it propper it should be fine. That is the second time this season I have seen it go bad for someone trying out their mighty scadden on the wild rogue.


John or "LC"
Maybe you should add your Craigslist link to your post;-)

I like a frame for standing and hanging stuff on. On frameless everything needs a D ring and a cam strap. Beyond that they serve little purpose, add weight, decrease portability. Given the choice for only a +12' boat I'd probably choose a frame and use a trailer, or better yet get a frameless and a couple of frames for two people when needed. Anything smaller, frameless is the way to go for cost and portability.

Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member
Go find a way to try out a framed vs frameless. For me, I can toss around 200# (literally) fairly easy. I can move a 10' Steelheader loaded super easy, including portaging. But I lift all day, so having a 150# weight limit at work makes for lifting capacity on this kid. But in my youth, I could self portage my 16' Aire cataraft with custom frame. Just start by lifting front, backing under it, then canterlevering it up and walking it around (no, I didn't do the Atlas lift over my head lol). I like a total fishing craft. I don't want to be sitting in the water. I want to free drift and fish. I need the frame with floor so I can fish. I'll cast while I'm on the move, and then sit when I need to row. I've only looked at the frameless, have not rowed them. I'm not worried about weight, just carrying capacity of the boat it self and how it handles. I have FULL SIZED oars on my 10' cataraft with a bigger frame. Fits me well.

So, go try them out. Sure you can find someone who'll help you out. DO NOT just go off what people tell you, in the end you have to try it yourself and see if it feels good to you.
Interesting. I own and have owned 4 Scadden boats and have always considered the quality to be top drawer. When I bought my first, a framed pontoon (Madison River), I was able to directly compare it to several other makes and models and, in my opinion, there was no comparison in design, quality or finish level. My thought would be if someone tore his oar lock off and busted his oar, he either tried a section of river that was way beyond his ability, or abused the equipment. The oar lock on these boats is the same as that on a Water Master, Water Strider, Abel Travel Craft and my Wilderness Access, and I and my friends have never had any difficulty on a variety of fairly narly water, and I have heard of none. Yup, operator error in my view, which can happen in any boat. It's why you wear a life vest on a river. It's why drift boats carry a spare oar. Confession time. One time, I took my Scadden framed boat out for some fishing. Luckily, it was on a lake, and I was within a quarter mile of the launch point when it happened. I went to row and my right side oar lifted up, pulling the oar lock with it. About 6inches up, the oar lock, which had come out of the mounting, fell into about 30 ft of very cold , dark water. Some dumbass (me) had not bothered to check to see that the retaining ring was present on the oar lock. Dave's fault? No way. I have seen other toons have the same thing happen, and I have seen frames come apart mine never did). Things happen. Bottom line: Always check your equipment at the start of the day (does not take very long), know your equipment and how to use it, and know the water you are floating. If it is new water, or has changed, carry a 50 or 100' line and line thru stretches that are beyond you ability.
Just to clarify it was one of the little frameless rafts he makes. I dont know what model cause I hardly see them unless it is someone from out of town, no one around here runs them. The rubber portion tore right off the tube and was hanging loose.


John or "LC"
I don't see them that much in California either, but that's his biggest market according to Dave. If the lining tore off the tube it was definitely an operator error. Those are replaceable too. And, his raft has a lifetime warranty so he'll get it fixed.

If he doesn't want to mess with it, put him in touch with me. I'll buy it and make a deal with Scadden to fix it.


John or "LC"
BTW, your raft looks very nice! That's a good sized one too. I have to admit when I got my little 9' Renegade and opened it it looked like a $1000 pool toy, but they are actually really well built boats.
Not open for further replies.