Want to know how to catch big bass without a boat?
It most certainly is possible to catch big bass without a boat. I’ve even done it!
One morning I was floating around in my Hobie Float Cat 75, paddling with my fins, and 2 BassHoles in a $40,000 boat drifted past me. I asked how they were doing, and they said they’d caught a couple of 2 pounders. I said, “Great!” I didn’t tell them I’d already caught a couple of 3+ pound smallies (smallmouth bass) on 2 consecutive casts!
What are the options for fishing for bass without a boat?
There are 3 main ways to fish for bass without a boat with a motor:
- Shore fishing
- Float tube fishing
- Non-powered craft fishing
I’ll talk more about shore fishing and other non-powered craft in future posts. When I first started bass fishing, I did do a LOT of shore fishing. Basically it was my only option. I was fishing in public waters (back when I was in California) where BassHoles were allowed to walk around the perimeter of the lakes (impoundments). No entry into the water was allowed.
Float tube fishing
Eventually I found places where BassHoles WERE allowed to enter the water, in float tubes or other non-powered crafts. This revolutionized my fishing experience!
What IS a float tube?
Originally called “belly boats,” the first float tubes were large rubber inner tubes with a seat affixed to them. As they became more sophisticated, they developed elements that offered the fisherman back support. Eventually they were completely covered in canvas or nylon, and included pockets for storage, an actual seat with back, and additional bladders to increase support as well as provide security in case of a leak in the main chamber.
With a float tube, a BassHole sits in the seat, and moves by pumping his or her legs. The key is to have flippers on your feet. You can wear the exact same flippers skin divers and snorkelers do, or there are special flippers designed just for float tubes. These allow you to wear a boot or shoe on your foot before adding the flippers.
Since you are pushing with your feet, you propel yourself backwards, and cannot see where you are going. So you cruise over to the area you want to fish, then spin around, and float and fish.
What types of float tubes are there?
Float tubes (or float devices?) have come a long way since the original “belly boat.”
Since those were made with inner tubes, they were completely enclosed. Getting in and out of the tube could be a challenge, especially when it’s floating and you’re standing in the water with big flippers on!
Now there are many shapes for float tubes. The 3 major shapes are:
Every type of float tube sold today generally has multiple bladders, so if the main one springs a leak, you still have something to help you float to shore. OR, they contain foam pieces that offer the same security.
You can still purchase a classic round float tube. The main advantage of these is they are generally the least expensive option.
The U-Tube has one chamber in the shape of a “U” with a stabilizing bar in front. A U-Tube is much easier to get into and out of, since you can open up the front and pull the “U” around you, sit down, attach the stabilizer, and you’re on your way. My first float tube was a U-Tube.
The V-Tube is very similar to a U-Tube. But it has 2 bladders that come to a point and meet behind the angler. The “V” shape cuts through the water better than the “U,” and again, you have at least 2 chambers rather than a single one. My second float tube was a V-Tube.
My third “tube” was a Hobie Float Cat 75. I purchased it while I was working at Orvis on the weekends, so got it for half price! It has two pontoons, with a seat built between them. A large frame holds the pontoons and seat in place. It came with two oars.
The pontoon version of a float tube is, in my opinion, the best option. It is more stable, you sit higher up out of the water, and as with my Hobie, you can use oars to help you move through the water.
There are some advantages to fishing from a float tube.
- Stealth. You are a lot quieter and lower, which allows you to “sneak up” closer to the fish without spooking them.
- Quiet. A float tube generates very little noise, there’s no metal or engine.
- Maneuverable. You can get right up into the weeds, float over rocks, and so get to spots where boat fisherman fear to go.
- Additions. You can get all kinds of pieces to add to your float tube, including a trolling motor!
- Costs. No gas, no oil, no mechanics, no trailer; a float tube is not expensive. In fact, once you pay for the tube, the expenses pretty much stop! It’s why I’m fishing from one!
- Restrictions. There are many areas where only non-motorized fishing craft are allowed. You’ll be welcome!
What are the disadvantages of a float tube?
Of course, there’s a reason not every fisherman is in a float tube.
- Coverage. You really can’t go very far in a float tube. And I learned that the hard way — on multiple occasions! Better to stick to a very limited area, and fish it thoroughly. It’s always tempting to go farther, but remember, you’ve got to fin yourself all the way back, AFTER you’re getting tired!
- Wind. Fishing in the wind is tricky with a boat, but can be really difficult in a float tube. It will keep you moving when you are trying to stay put!
- Current. Even lakes can have currents. And if you are in a river, of course there’s going to be a current. Fighting against the current can get tiring. But here’s a very important tip: START by fishing AGAINST the current. Oh, believe me, it’s tempting to let the current pull you along, but then when you want to return, you’ve got to fight that current all the way back. I’ve made that mistake TOO MANY TIMES! Don’t you!
So, if you’re a BassHole who loves to fish in lakes, but can’t get a boat (perhaps you’re married?), a float tube is a nice option.
And they are tons of fun.
Let me hear about YOUR float tube adventures!
Roger, The Smiling BassHole
Matt’s Mom’s comment reminded me to add that typically the angler wears chest waders to keep warm and dry. Sometimes you CAN tube “wet,” in which case it’s good to have quick-drying nylon pants with built in mesh underwear (like a bathing suit).
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