Sometimes the perfect lake for trout or bass has a shoreline that's too overgrown or water that's too shallow to access. In order to effectively fish the best remote waters, a fishing float tube is what you need. Read on to find the perfect fishing floatation craft for chasing down any fish species.
Outcast Fishcat 4-LCS
Classic Accessories Cumberland
Classic Accessories Teton
Classic Accessories Togiak
Outcast Super Fat Cat
Classic Accessories Bighorn
Benefits of Boating in a Fishing Float Tube
Float tubes are typically horseshoe-shaped overall, with the pilot sitting in the bend with their legs submerged. They can be piloted with fins or by motor. There are quite a few advantages to fishing from a float.
- 1Access any area of the water, no matter how shallow. This includes places that boats simply can’t go.
- 2Take a fishing float tube with you anywhere. Many even have backpack straps to make carrying even easier.
- 3If you can’t afford any other type of watercraft, like a boat or a kayak, a fishing float tube is the optimal inexpensive option.
Guide to Choosing Quality Fishing Float Tubes
Comfort & Maneuverability
The best fishing float tube will have multiple air compartments. Inflating these to the proper PSI will make the craft as comfortable as possible and ensure that it handles as well as it should. Many backrests are adjustable to make sure any angler will be comfortable while fishing. The majority of fishing float tubes also have armrests that double as convenient storage space.
Safety & Capacity
Inflating the float properly is also the safest way to use it. While there is almost always a stripping apron that goes over the lap, this should be able to be quickly removed. Since many anglers wear waders to stay warm on a float and waders can soon fill with water in the event of an overturn, a personal flotation device should always be worn.
Every model has its own weight capacity. Remember that this is not just the weight of the pilot but also of all the rods, reels, and tackle needed for a given fishing trip.
Round fishing float tubes are the classic model. Since these belly boats were based on inner tubes, it makes sense that they started off being round. The round shape gives them lots of stability but lacks a little in terms of maneuverability.
Pontoon-style floats are steadily gaining popularity. In this style, two tubes on either side help keep the pilot afloat in the middle. This design usually has a higher seat for a better vantage point. They’re also easier to steer and, since they’re newer, are built of more durable material.
For the longevity of a fishing float tube, there’s nothing more important than the stitching that keeps everything together. Some models have double-stitching to ensure a long life. Savvy anglers know to look for models that don’t have too many seams, as each one is a risk.
The hull can be made of a wide variety of materials. Rip-stop nylon is one of the most efficient, but there are other durable kinds as well. It should be thick enough to endure submerged rocks and logs since that’s where these floats are meant to go.
Stability & Mobility
Many of these floats weigh in at ten pounds or less. While some are heavier, they remain portable. The best fishing float tube for backpacking will not only have backpack straps, but enough storage to stow everything you take with you on a backpacking excursion.
When deflated, they pack down, sometimes small enough to fit in a Tupperware container. On the water, they should remain stable, even during casting. They must be able to maneuver through tight spaces and get the angler quietly into remote fishing areas.
Storage & Extra Features
Look for storage space in the backrest, and two armrests at a minimum. It usually isn't guaranteed to be watertight, so invest in a dry bag for storing a wallet and phone out on the water. Even the best models don't come with everything you need, like flippers or an air pump. Still, many come with rod holders, D-rings for attaching additional gear, and safety flag holders where you can place a colorful flag to be extra visible to other people on the water.
Price & Warranty
Like we said before, one of the main advantages to fishing float tubes is their relatively low cost. There are still some fancy models that aren’t exactly cheap, but even these are much less than the price of a boat.
All of the floats in this guide come with a limited liability warranty of varying duration, which protects the buyer against defects from the manufacturing process. This can be a defective bladder or weak stitching. They are usually only afforded to the original buyer. Make sure to register for the warranty as soon as you receive your float.
7 Best Fishing Float Tubes Reviewed
1. Outcast Fishcat 4-LCS
Our Top Pick!
Adjustable stripping apron, foam seats
Rugged and comfortable, the Fishcat 4 float tube is easy to command around the water and positions the angler high enough above the waterline to get great leverage over target fish. Waist-high waders are usually enough to stay dry in this belly boat.
It remains stable, even navigating through the water with large obstructions like logs and rocks. There's plenty of storage space in the saddlebags on either side, and the bow has storage space as well, although it's designed to let water in, so a dry bag is needed to have any dry storage back there.
The foam seats are easier on the pilot over long periods. Urethane bladders are built to hold up in colder temperatures, although freezing cold may cause some damage. Storing the Fishcat 4 float tube is as easy as deflating it and folding it up.
Pack it into a plastic container for organized storage. It’s fast against river currents, easy to propel with fins in still water, and has enough space for two or even three fly rods and lures. Put it all together, and you have the best fishing float tube on the market for fishing bass, trout, pike, and just about anything else you can catch on a line.
If you prefer watching over reading for the remainder of our picks, then check out our Youtube video that breaks down the remaining models and why we have chosen these fishing float tubes for all budgets.
2. Classic Accessories Cumberland
Rod holders, cup holders, mesh stripping apron, bladder repair kit
One of the most popular models of belly boats is the Cumberland, which many anglers prefer for its storage space and D-rings placed for attachment of additional rod holders or tethering. The hull of this craft is built with abrasion-resistant PVC and shaped to be extra hydrodynamic.
It does steer well on the water, and the bottom is rugged enough to handle rocky or overgrown bodies of water. There's also a place to attach a safety flag for improved visibility, although the flag itself is not included. The stripping apron has a quick-release feature and a fish ruler on it so you can do more than just eyeball your catches.
Storage space in the two cargo pockets is easily accessible thanks to the double-zipper closing system. There’s also a mesh cover in the rear to place things so they’re out of the way, although some sort of tie-down will be needed to leave anything there while the float tube is in motion.
The Cumberland is also one of the easiest belly boats to transport since it has backpack straps and packs down neatly. It has an adjustable foam seat that beats just about any inflatable ones in terms of comfort, and it handles well enough to get you into remote spots and stay stable so you can concentrate on fishing.
3. Classic Accessories Teton
Best Cheap Float Tube
Stripping apron, rod holders
All the necessities are included on this fishing float tube from Classic Accessories. While it sits lower in the water than some more expensive models, that also makes it more impervious to wind. There are two zippered storage pockets at hand, and if you have them filled with enough gear, they function much better as armrests than the pockets on upscale belly boats.
There's also a zippered storage pocket in the inflatable cushion that's harder to access but still fantastic to have. D-rings for attaching nets or additional gear are convenient for anglers who like to fish for a long time and might want to change up their bait or rod and reel combo.
This float is lightweight and easy to carry, plus it works great for all kinds of targets. It has the stability to fight bass without tipping, and it's sneaky enough to go after trout. Inflating the craft is easy once you understand the process, which can be a bit confusing at first. It may not last as long as some of the more costly float tubes, but the Teton is ideal for those who are just starting out and still need to learn the float tube fishing basics.
4. Caddis Nevada
Best Float Tube Under $100
Front rod holder, stripping apron
Surprisingly well made considering its low cost, this Caddis float can handle calm water and lakes with ease. With the right pair of fins, you can sail across the water easily. It doesn't have the even balance that some of the competition can promise, but it's still the best float tube for the money if you just want to gain more access to tricky fishing spots.
There's still enough storage space for lures and a fishing rod or two. Get a dry bag, and you can even bring a wallet and cell phone out on the water with you. The nylon material used to build this float is rip-stop and double-stitched at the critical points. It isn’t indestructible, but it can handle quite a bit.
It can’t hold as much weight as some of the best float tubes, but it’s pretty close. For anglers who don’t need to bring too much gear with them, the Nevada is a fine option. To save some on the investment, there’s hardly a better float.
But for those who have back problems or require more back support to be able to sit in a fishing float tube for long periods, it might be worth it to upgrade to a more expensive model with better cushioning. Still, this model will get the job done, and it packs up well enough to keep in the trunk for last-minute or brief fishing trips.
5. Classic Accessories Togiak
Best Float Tube for Backpacking
Though it seems nearly immovable when it’s inflated, the Togiak is really portable thanks to its backpack straps and comparative lightness. Classic Accessories hit a happy medium between durability and ease of use with this float.
In addition to its portability, this float tube also has enough storage space to hold fishing gear and other backpacking equipment, assuming you’re an ultralight backpacker. Unique among float tubes, this one has a stadium-style seat with a high back that provides the user with plenty of support during long fishing trips.
There are enough D-rings to connect all your gear and rod holders. If you’re able to keep some of what you catch, attaching a creel basket is super easy. If you want to catch your own food in the backcountry, this portable fishing float tube is a useful tool. Armrests with storage pockets ensure that calmer moments won't be spent supporting idle arms.
The shape of the float helps keep it stable on a lake or river, and the ability to carry it just about anywhere makes the Togiak the best fishing float tube for backpacking. The seat foam can be bulky, but at only 15 pounds, the Togiak is something you won’t mind bringing with you.
6. Outcast Super Fat Cat
Top of the Range
Everything is more sturdy on the Super Fat Cat. From the zippers on the storage pockets to the construction material, the whole float is durable and feels that way. If you don't plan on going out in the Super Fat Cat every single day, it can last for a couple of years, even in saltwater.
The stripping apron is more like a small lap table, which makes it even more useful for use on the water. Casting from this float is easy enough; it never feels like it’s going to roll over. There’s plenty of storage space and places to put rods and lures while you fish.
The seating on the Super Fat Cat is fully inflatable and comfy enough to sit on for the entire day if the fish are biting. It also keeps your knees mostly out of the water, allowing you to stay floating for longer, especially if you don’t wear waders.
This fishing float tube can hold more overall weight than many competing floats, making it an excellent option for heavier anglers or folks who need to bring more gear along with them. There's only one air chamber, which can cause problems in the event a hole is torn. However, this is a tough float, and holes are unlikely.
7. Classic Accessories Bighorn
Best Under $150
For some of the best handling, you can find in a float tube, check out the Bighorn. The shape of the hull and the size of the float make it easy to steer and balance on. In addition, it has more zipper-close storage pockets than most other models.
Big and tall anglers love this float for its ability to hold weight and still maneuver, although some find the backrest is too far forward to be comfortable. The construction of this float is sturdy and ready for just about anything. It can land on a rocky shore or navigate submerged logs without a problem.
There are plenty of D-rings to attach more gear holders, and a stripping apron that sits comfortably in your lap and has a spacer bar underneath that helps keep the pilot in the seat. This spacer bar is a two-piece PVC pipe, and while a single-piece rod would be more snug and secure, it still does its job.
This float has everything you need for great fishing yet remains customizable. Rather than merely creating a one-size-fits-all model, Creative Accessories have built a fishing float tube that is fun to use and will keep anglers interested in float tube fishing for a long time to come.
Where Can I Fish Using a Belly Boat?
Check regulations to see if a fishing float tube, or belly boat, is allowed and how many are allowed on the water before you jump in. National parks like Yellowstone require a permit and a free inspection for the safety of their wildlife.
Float tube fishing Southern California can earn you some of the most diverse trout in America. You can fish saltwater or freshwater for coastal rainbows, Eagle Lake rainbows, and more at places like Lake Gregory, Big Bear Lake, Jenks Lake, and Lake Silverwood, all of which are located in the San Bernardino Mountains about two hours outside of Los Angeles.
It’s also quite possible to fish for bass from a float tube. St. Vrain State Park and the Aurora Reservoir, both in Colorado, are both great spots for spring bass fishing from a float tube. You can also find plenty of perch, walleye, and panfish there.
The Basics: How to Use Float Tubes for Fishing
Inflating a fishing float tube will be much easier with a pump. The best float tube pump will be either hand-operated or run off of a small 12V battery that you can bring with you. Some folks plug a pump into their car power sockets, inflate their float, and carry it inflated to the water. Here are a few more tips:
- 1Get into the float tube backward. Set it into the water and back into it. If you're wearing flippers, make sure to walk backward to avoid falling.
- 2Propel yourself with flippers by kicking in a kind of backward bicycle pedaling motion. If you aren’t used to this motion, practice first.
- 3Float tube fly fishing techniques are similar to normal ones with a few small changes. Make sure your rods are stored opposite your dominant side, so you don't catch your line on them.
Float Tube Fishing Accessories
To really take advantage of a belly boat, you’ll need fins to propel yourself, a pump to inflate the craft, a float tube fish finder and a mount for the electronics, and a personal floatation device. You should also take care to wear Gore-Tex or neoprene chest waders to stay as warm and dry as possible.
The best fins for float tube fishing should fit over waders and be portable, while the best fish finder for float tube fishing should be portable and outfitted with completely waterproof housing.
Safety Concerns for Float Tube Fishing
Flipping over is a possibility that, however remote, should be considered. Waders can fill up with water fast and make it hard to get back onto a float. Always wear a PFD on the water. These floats are hard to flip, but make sure not to bend over too far just in case.
You should also make sure to protect yourself against sun exposure, dehydration, hypothermia, and bad weather. Wearing the right hat and bringing plenty of water can go a long way, as can a PFD and the right pair of waders.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
Are fishing float tubes prone to tipping over?
It’s hard to tip over a fishing float tube, but not impossible. Bending over toward the water too low or leaning too severely is bound to tip over any float, but with new designs, you practically have to be trying to flip it to get it to flip.
What steps should I take to care for my float tube to extend its life?
If you sail in salt water, always rinse the outside after each use. Deflate the float tube to store it every single time. This can extend the life of the interior bladders. Don’t store it until it’s completely dry and don’t expose the craft to extreme temperatures, especially colder ones, if you want to make it last as long as possible. It’s also wise not to let it sit unused for long periods.
How much weight can most fishing float tubes hold?
The weight capacity varies from lows around 175 pounds to upwards of 300 pounds. Every model is completely different. Always check the maximum weight for yourself and all your gear to make sure you can get out on the water without tipping or sinking.
What is the best size inner tube for river floating?
It’s important to have an inner tube that’s small enough to prevent slipping through the middle, but what size that is exactly will vary from person to person. It might be more helpful to try inner tubes out in person just for sizing to make sure you’re comfortable with a given size.
Can I use my fishing float tube on both freshwater and saltwater?
Generally speaking, fishing float tubes are usable on both saltwater and freshwater sources. However, some are specifically designed for this purpose, and some aren't so much. Usually, you can get by on most floats, but salt can still cause deterioration on these floats, so make sure to give them a good rinsing after each use.
Where is the best place to find a fishing float tube for sale?
The best and most frequent sales are on Amazon, where you can also find some of the best delivery rates. In-person shops like Cabela’s also have a wide selection for comparison shopping and sizing different fishing float tubes to your own body. Check for seasonal discounts at either place to make sure you get the best deal.
Getting out on the water in a silent, maneuverable personal watercraft grants access to remote places that are often underfished or never fished at all. There’s no better belly boat with more storage or better handling than the Outcast Fish Cat 4 float tube. Grab your own to get to those hidden fishing spots that are usually unreachable.