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Float Tubes and Kickboats

Float Tubes vs. Kickboats
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Float Tubes vs. Kickboats
Float tubes and kick boats both have very unique advantages and disadvantages that you need to consider before buying one of them. The first thing that comes to mind is price. Float tubes are significantly cheaper. You can buy a quality tube for $100-150. Kickboats will cost you over $300 at the very least, and well over $500 for a nice boat.

What are the advantages of buying a kickboat? You can travel much faster in a kickboat with the oars. And you still have the option of controlling it with fins while you fish. You can actually troll with a kickboat. You can't do more than a slow drag in a float tube. You can hold a lot more gear with a kickboat. Not only are the storage pockets larger, but you have a whole back deck to stack with gear. Want a cooler for lunch? No problem! You can even put an above water live well. It is also much easier to find room for rod racks, rod holders, fish finders, landing net, etc... Another plus is that you are almost entirely out of the water. When you're fishing in January you'll understand just how very nice this is. On calm days you can wear no waders and you won't get your clothes wet. The higher platform also makes it easier to flip and pitch from, and makes spotting shallow fish easier. Overall the kick boat is better suited for fishing bigger water. Although you can do it with a float tube, I'd much rather put a kickboat in saltwater.

What are the advantages of buying a float tube? There are times where, even with oars, a kickboat will be slow. When it's very windy a kickboat will not stay in one place with almost nothing holding it down. On the other hand in a float tube your legs will anchor you down to the surface of the lake and the wind won't get to you as much. When the wind is really blowing you can just climb on shore and carry the float tube to where you want to go. With a kick boat this is out of the question, it's simply too heavy! Even if it's not windy, walking your float tube along the shore is faster than oaring in a kickboat. This comes in handy on lakes where you can't park near the water. If you want to fish a small bass pond or sierra lake over a mile from the car you can easily pack a float tube to the water. The float tube makes you fish more slowly than a kickboat. If you aren't going to move around to much and want to fish very precisely a float tube may be a better choice.

If you buy a float tube consider getting the U-shaped versions instead of a round one. The U-shaped float tube will allow you to enter and exit the water before getting into your tube. This is very convenient. It can be dangerous walkind down steep banks wearing flippers with a round float tube around your waste blocking view of the ground.

There are also some hybrid type vessels that fall somewhere between, such as the Bucks Bags Colt. They have a mixture of properties and might be the best choice.

If you're getting a float tube buy a nice pair of fins. If you have a pair of scuba fins these will work fine. Experiment a lot to find the most efficient kicking stroke with your fins. With some fins you'll do best by peddling your feet as if on a bicycle, pushing water away with the bottoms of the fins. With other fins, such as the Force Fins, you have to push it away with the tops of the fins.

There are primarily two types of waders being sold today. Neoprene and Breathable waders. They both have their advantages, but overall I think the breathable waders are the best buy.

The pros of neoprene waders is that they're durable and warm. The thick neoprene can insulate you well in winter. The problem with neoprene, that the breathable waders fix, is that your sweat gets trapped inside the waders. On a warm day after a hard day of fishing in them you will be moist and very stinky. The breathable waders allows trapped water to "breath" out through the waders. They are very thin and lightweight. They are very comfortable to walk in. Even on hot days you can stay cool and dry in breathable waders. In the winter just pack on layer after layer of clothing.

The most common addition to a float tube or kickboat is a fish finder. Bottom Line makes a fish finder called the Fishin Buddy that is practically made for a float tube. The whole unit is contained in one piece. You can buy a cheap strap that attaches the fish finder securely to your float tube. It is very convenient, no wires, no transducer mounting. They last for about two trips on three standard C batteries.

However, I don't recommend using them. You can get a better quality fish finder for the same price if you want to set it up correctly. The pixel count and especially the options on the Fishin Buddy is severely lacking in my opinion. I also had problems with my Fishin Buddy after I got it wet. An inexpensive Eagle will be completely water proof. It is actually fairly simple to mount a regular fish finder on a kickboat. There are many places to attach the transducer. I have mine on the end of a PVC pipe that I can lower and raise out of the water when entering and exiting. The fish finder will run on a small 12v battery. I use one from Cabela's.

Another float tube addition, almost mandatory for the bass fisherman, is a rod rack. It is relatively simple to construct one out of PVC for a kickboat. Use one inch thin wall PVC for the rod tubes. I have mine directly behind my seat with the rods pointing up. This works well, but it is a little inconvenient not being able to see them, and they can catch on overhanging trees. If you can find a way to mount it with the rods lying horizontal at your side, without getting in the way of the oars, do it that way. This is the best way to build a rack on a float tube. You can build the rack out of PVC and attach it to the float tube with luggage straps.

If you have a kickboat and want to do any trolling you're going to need some rod holders. I have one mounted on the side of each foot rest. If you buy the converter that lets you mount them to a rail you can clamp them directly on your kickboat.

Some of the more exotic additions to kickboats are live wells and even trolling motors. How to add these depends largely on how big the kick boat is and how the rear deck is built. For a simple live well just use a soft mesh bag with a foam ring to keep it near the surface and to keep the mesh spread. I highly discourage trying to add a motor to kick boats. I tried it. My kickboat would've sunk by the time I got enough batter power for a day of fishing stacked on the back deck. You also need to build a very sturdy mounting board, and large rudders (using your oars as rudders doesn't work). Plus you have to register your new boat with the DMV.

Helpful Links
Creek Company
Bucks Bags

San Jose Bass-n-Tubes
Sonoma County Belly Boat Bass Club

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