Does anyone run a cataraft or a raft??


Active Member
Im kind of contemplating the purchase of a cataraft or maybe a raft but not sure if its ideal or not?? Does anyone have any input on cats or rafts?? Also what is good/bad when it comes to cats/rafts and what do you look for when checking them out?? Whats the pros-cons of a cat vs raft vs a drift boat??


~Patrick ><>


I currently have a 12.5' self bailing raft with rowing frame and anchor system. It gets little use compared to the driftboat but it does have its uses. If you get one, I highly suggest a trailer as loading a raft onto a pickup by yourself is a pain in the butt. Pros are it can handle any whitewater you can throw at it (Whitehorse on the Deschutes, Narrows on the Rhonde, etc.), doesn't require bailing when fishing in monsoons, and bounces off what you hit. Cons include time to set up and take down, storage, limited carrying capacity, and it is not as responsive as a cat or a DB.

Cats are wonderful things if they are set up right. If I could only have one watercraft for fishing, it would be either a 14' or 16' cat. They can be costly if you spend the time and money to get the frame set up right but damn are they nice. Suggested frame enhancements include a dry box, flooring of either diamond plate or trampoline fabric, anchor system, cooler mount and rod rack. The 14' is ideal for two people and can handle three in a pinch. The 16' will handle 3 people and gear for an extended trip. Pros are responsiveness, whitewater ability, and they bounce off rocks. Cons are storage and wind; they don't handle it as well as a raft of a DB.

Hope this helps.
I just sold my driftboat for a raft the reasons why are the fact of being able to be able to do wilderness trips like getting you and your boat flown in to places doing big whitwater trips rather not swamp a driftboat and see it slam a rock and the fact that i dont have a garage to store it so i only pay for storage about half the year or so and i then roll it up for winter i can still set it up in winter if i need to smaller water is much nicer in a raft less draft. A cat doesnt anchor up very well they tend to wonder around a lot they will row better but if you have to set it up very often it takes quite a while to get the straps just right definetly have a trailer breaking it down all the time would be a pain in the ass. My boat is a 13'6" and i think it is perfect for 2 fishers i have front and rear casting frames if you are serious go to swiftwater talk to dana about it he is very knowledgable about it. If all you do is float the yak buy a driftboat but if you like to fish small water consider a raft or cat boat. benjie:beer1


Active Member
A raft certainly has some advantages, storage certainly being one. I've had a 12 1/2 foot raft with rowing frame for quite a few years now and can get it around quite comfortably in (and on) my Subaru wagon. The frame breaks down into a quite manageable package which goes on the roof rack and the raft itself rolls up into a not-too-large bundle inside. I have a killer, 12-volt, English impeller pump that will inflate all four chambers in less than ten minutes; total setup time before launching? No more than twenty minutes. No trailer, no license or any of the other requirements that go with one.

I am particularly happy with the raft in late summer low-water conditions; it's easy to slide over shallows and you don't have to worry about grinding the bottom off on the rocks. Three people (two fishing, one rowing) can be quite comfortable and, of course, someone has mentioned above the white-waterworthiness of rafts. I'm not familiar with the larger pontoon boats, but it scares me to watch people trying to anchor smaller ones in moving water. I've seen eight-foot pontoon boats broach when trying to anchor in fast water.

Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member
Yup, I surely do

I grew up whitewatering. Used to run rafts, then converted to catarafts when they started to show up in the mid 80's. Bought my first one in the late 80's.

I'll start with Preston. Most of the pontoon boats you see are not whitewater grade catarafts. A true whitewater grade cataraft can anchor up usually without the danger. My 9' steelheader would anchor safely, without instability, and I could safely stand up and fish without fear of tipping. The newer improved ones are even better then the original steelheader I had. I'm in process of buying a couple more steelheaders in fact.

Now, onto raft vs cat vs DB. If you want an all around boat for all your fishing needs (plugs, sidedrifting, flyfishing, boondogging, etc) then you'd want a driftboat. They track the best on plugs/conventional gear. But, when it comes to more flyfishing/boondogging, you'll be suited better with a raft/cataraft. They both draft less water and have a HUGE carrying capacity. Plus, they can take some serious whitewatering. The only reason I'd stray away from rafts is the whitewater aspect. Don't get me wrong, they can handle everything a cataraft will, but not as well. Since you have an open boat, it digs right in and eats through a shoot. With a raft, you will bucket, and it's like hitting a wall. Say it this way, if you ever see whitewater videos, you'll see rafts in class V's kind of scrunch up a bit, then shoot through afterwards, a cataraft will simply eat through the slot and keep going. But that's it. Both are similar from there.

Depends on how you want to go. I'm in process of selling off my 16' cataraft. Set up in a driftboat setup. Can fish 2-3. I'm having a custom set of tubes built for my custom fishing frame I have. If you're interested, let me know, I'm selling the whole combo (frames, cataract oars, straps, tubes) for a little more then you'd pay for just the tubes! I wish I had time to really go more into cats and things, but I have to dash off, and wanted to post a bit. If you want, I can expand more onto my thoughts above. I've spent most of my whitewatering life running them (and all my adult life running them). I've owned the outcasts, and run bucks and leighs. I'd never use one again. I'll only go custom built or Steelheaders from now on.

Bob Triggs

Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!
My preference would be for the Aire Super Puma. Aire makes outcast pontoon bladders and covers. They put a heavier fabric in the Super Puma. look up Dana at Swiftwater in Seattle, he has good prices and he's a real waterman. I do not personally l;ike the pontoon boats for the idea of multiple passengers.I saw a few flip in whitewater- mostly lack of oarsmanship. But the rafts are more stable and easier for multiple people to use, get in and out of, pack up and fly them off to remote spots etc.The newer drift rafts that are set up in a narrower width, with rockered ends etc, track very well and handle very quickly, almost as responsive as a drift boat but not quite. Rafts are very practical.I saw the Steelheader pontoon boats at the show and I was very impressed. I wouldnt mind having one just for myself.
In my opinion a raft is the ideal fishing craft for my water in Missoula, if you don't mind giving up the performance and responsiveness of a drift boat. I run a great deal of low water and in a drift boat I would be banging and scraping. Not a big deal because you can always redo the chines, but the fish know you are coming. On rising fish you can get closer because the anglers are seated, rather than having two guys standing up over that big nose on drifters and letting the fish see you too early. You can get even closer in a one man pontoon boat. Plus I can slide, portage, or carry a raft in anywhere. That way I can avoid any traffic.

That being said if I didn't run low water and do the "nasty" put ins, I would have a drift boat. Much easier to row, tracks better, more general floor space, they last forever, and although you can't get as close to rising fish, throwing from knee locks is great. If you maintain your chines, those boats will last forever.

All the guys I know that bought those cataraft fishing frames instead of a raft sold them. They don't seem to maintain their perfomance with gear and three anglers. Plus you have to push 16 foot tubes, rather than a 13 foot raft. If you are more of a whitewater guy 1st and 2nd, and an angler 3rd then this might be the answer.

I run a 13 ft Sotar Elite SL with a custom fishing frame. The way its set up two casters have plenty of room and the rower has a big work area. I have two aluminum dry boxes, room for a big cooler. and a pedestal seat mounted off the floor in the back, and nobody is cramped. Plus I can strap even more load on the runners on top of the tubes. I really like the boat, but every boat is a compromise.

If I had to go out and buy a set-up again this is what I would do. I would by an 13 or 14 ft economy, probably an Otter, NRS boat and drop a skeleton fishing frame in it. The SOTAR has a great footprint, but I cringe at what I paid for it. My frame is a little heavy so this would give me a really light boat. I would haul it off a bed-rack rather than a trailer. A company in Milltown, Montana makes a really cool system for that. I hate trailers on dirt roads and they ain't cheap. Second I would pick up a Low Profile Hyde or Clacka for easy put-ins and good water. Or if I just needed a easier day on the oars.

As I said before, all boats are a compromise. Try to match one to the main type of water you are going to run.

Or if you have the funds, just by one of each and treat them like golf clubs.

"I plan on doing the Missouri today, river caddy please bring the drift boat."

"I think will do the upper Blackfoot in September, please load up the raft, thank you caddy."

Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member
What kind of pontoon boats did you see?????

Even with poor oarsman, it's very hard to flip a big cataraft. Unless you mean those 8-9' outcasts. And yes, Aire makes outcasts, but they are not the same boats as the true Aire line. Different boats altogether. I've ran my 16' down the Colorado through some hardcore class 5's, and didn't remotely come close to flipping. I think I've only had a handful of instances I've come close, but those were on near verticle drops running through a shoot. Actually, cats and rafts are just as easy on setup and take down (depending on frames you use). For fly outs you'd want the takedown NRS frames. Plus, I've never had a problem with people trying to get in and out, in fact have had better luck since you're forward position is lower to waterline then crawling over tubes of a raft. I used bucket boats up until 85'. Plus, catarafts are what the "driftrafts" are patterned after. They are stable, maneuverable, and are rockered. The one key advantage is when you're hitting hard water. Rafts hit waves like a wall, whereas cats cut through them and eat it up. Rafts have their place, but after using both, I most definitely like the cats. They are my all around use/low water boats. But I like my driftboats for my plugging use.

Actually, if you saw the Steelheader at the show, you probably saw me. I was repping there. Bill, the owner, asked me to be a live customer for potential customers to talk to. It's the best boat on the market, unless you go into custom boats. I'm in process of buying a couple more Steelheaders. In fact, when I sell my boat off, will be using all the money to buy one set of custom made Steelheader tubes. I already have the fishing frame set. Once it's all done, I'll post pics for all of you to see. It'll be one sweet boat.
If you want to run a cataraft it is for maneuverability and was designed for being the sportscar of whitewater rafting. A cataraft can be used on the rivers by fisherman to get to those nooks and crannies on a river that a raft will not allow you to maneuver to if you are skilled at maneuvering a cataraft. (if you miss your target you would probably have to hit it another trip floating on the river to hit a fishing spot) Rafts are primarily used for heavy loads and holding multiple people.. this is their reason in design and use. If you are fishing on a raft it is a more "I don't care where i wind up to fish as long as i can fish approach." I am an expert for Colorado Whitewater Rafting and I was searching for content to do an article about and I found your question. I hope this answers your question for choosing a raft or a cataraft.


Skunk Happens
Very timely thread for me gentleman. Keep up the info. I have a pontoon, and have rowed rafts and drift boats. My skills are ok, but nobody would want to be with me in heavy whitewater (yet). I probably won't even really use it for hardcore whitewater, ever. I fish eastern Washington and western Montana the most. Big water like the Kootenai and smaller stuff like the upper Bitterrroot. It's time to sell off the family ski boat and want to pick up one of the three of these options you're discussing.

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