Pontoon Platforms

by Ron Presley

For all weather catfishing in safety and comfort, try a tritoon.

Pontoons are often seen on trailers and at the docks on Santee Cooper. A large percentage of fishing guides on Santee fish from a pontoon platform.

Pontoons are often seen on trailers and at the docks on Santee Cooper. A large percentage of fishing guides on Santee fish from a pontoon platform.

Fishing the Waccamaw, Pee Dee and Little Pee Dee Rivers in a 16-foot Triton aluminum boat gave Kelly Goldbolt his early experience as a cat man. When he started fishing the Santee Cooper lakes his preferences for a boat changed.

“I transitioned to a tritoon after I started going down to fish Santee Cooper,” explained Godbolt. “The smaller aluminum boats just can’t handle the wind and waves that are typical on larger lakes like Santee Cooper.”

In fact, pontoons and tritoons have become popular choices for catfish anglers around the U.S. As the demand for powerboats increases, manufacturers are providing many different styles and models geared to different recreational pursuits. As design and performance characteristics changed over time, more and more catfish anglers are moving to pontoons and tritoons as their fishing platform of choice.

Although the term “pontoon boat” is used generically to refer to these fishing platforms, there is a difference between a pontoon and a tritoon, the main one being the number of floats, or tubes, used to make up the boat’s hull.

Even with the large 100-gallon tank on board there is plenty of room to fish on Kelly Godbolt’s tritoon. Godbolt is holding a nice Tennessee River Blue at a Cabela’s weigh-in at Decatur, AL.

Even with the large 100-gallon tank on board there is plenty of room to fish on Kelly Godbolt’s tritoon. Godbolt is holding a nice Tennessee River Blue at a Cabela’s weigh-in at Decatur, AL.

Two tubes make up the hull of a pontoon and three tubes are used on a tritoon. The third tube helps distribute the weight more evenly and also allows for a more powerful engine. In the early years of pontoon boats, engines were relatively lower horsepower. The added stability of a tritoon made higher horsepower engines more common. Nowadays it is not unusual to see a tritoon powered with a 250-horsepower engine.

Godbolt is currently fishing from a 24-foot Manitou tritoon with a 200 Yamaha Sho. His Manitou gives him high performance and it looks good too. The addition of high horsepower engines resulted in tritoons becoming more and more popular in a variety of water sports. Godbolt’s choice of a tritoon over his smaller aluminum v-bottom was based on several factors.

“There are a lot of pluses to fishing off of a tritoon/pontoon,” offered Godbolt. “Stability and the ability to cross large bodies of water in wind and waves are number one. Even on the days that are really rough we can still go out and fish.”

“Another plus is the size,” he continued. “We fish from a 24-foot boat that is basically wide open. There is plenty of space to haul all your gear and it is readily accessible. When we tournament fish we add a 100-gallon bait tank. We can load the bait tank and still have plenty of room to move around.”

Godbolt’s boat has a fence or rail all the way around the perimeter. The rail relieves the worry or falling off the boat when fighting a fish in rough water or when moving from one fishing hole to another when the wind is high and waves are rolling. If Godbolt’s outing involves elderly or younger passengers they all experience a high level of safety because of the boat’s design.

“The fence just gives you more security and something to hold onto,” said Godbolt. “I have fished off of quite a few boats and for me, a tritoon is the best fit for how I fish. It is also unmatched in comfort.”

Godbolt, his long-time partner Ron Howard (aka Roundtree) and Dustin Smith return to the dock following a day of fishing. (Mark Coborn photo)

Godbolt, his long-time partner Ron Howard (aka Roundtree) and Dustin Smith return to the dock following a day of fishing. (Mark Coborn photo)

Rigging a Pontoon 

Rigging a pontoon/tritoon for fishing requires the same basic equipment as any catfishing platform. But one of the more important additions for Godbolt is the addition of a full enclosure.

An enclosure is an excellent upgrade because it adds to the overall value of the vessel. Enclosures protect anglers from the sun, wind, and inclement weather that can hamper the fishing experience. Catfish still bite when the weather gets cold. Just look at the incredible weights that come to the scales at Winer Blues on Wheeler.

“With the full enclosure we can light a heater and fish on the coldest days of the year,” explained Godbolt. “Inside that enclosure, we can be warm and comfortable while doing what we like to do.”

This is Godbolt’s Manitou tritoon, powered by a 200 hp Yamaha Sho, on the trailer and ready to travel.

This is Godbolt’s Manitou tritoon, powered by a 200 hp Yamaha Sho, on the trailer and ready to travel.

Godbolt added a Lowrance HDS 16 to help find potential fishing areas and for navigating controlled drifts. He uses Driftmaster Rod Holders on the front and back. Sea anchors are another important tool on his tritoon. He keeps a couple of Easterlin Sea Anchors on board to control the speed of the drift and to keep the boat straight.

“The way I have the boat rigged allows us to place rods out the front and either drift with the wind or back troll. We can also fish off the back by pulling our baits with the trolling motor.”

The 200 Yamaha Sho that Godbolt choose to power his tritoon gives him the ability to move from one place to another fairly quickly. It will push the 24-foot boat at more than 50 mph.

“With the full enclosure we can light a heater and fish on the coldest days…”

 

“It just helps you get where you wanna’ fish, faster,” joked Godbolt. “It helps in theblast off at tournaments and running from storms that blow up on the lake but the main reason is I just like to go fast. This ain’t your grandpa’s pontoon.”

“You can do everything with a pontoon you can do from other boats,” concluded Godbolt. “Everything from anchoring to drifting can be done safely and with comfort. That’s the reason that 99% of the guides on the Santee Cooper lakes fish from a pontoon/tritoon.”

Trailering a Pontoon/Tritoon

Kevin Couick is shown here with his wife, Jill Ellis-Belk Couick, at Winter Blues on Wheeler 2018. His advice to anglers that trailer pontoons/tritoons is to prepare before the trip begins.

Contrary to popular opinion, the pontoon/tritoon boats are not that difficult to trailer. Practice makes perfect, but there is no reason to let the trailering factor discourage you from purchasing one. The main thing is to be prepared.
If you do plan to trailer your vessel you should purchase a suitable trailer, to begin with. Most traveling boaters prefer a bunk type trailer. They tend to be more stable on the road. A great accessory is a ladder at the bow that makes it easy to board when the boat is on the trailer. Float-on trailers also make it easy to power load at the ramp.
Kevin Lane Couick likes his 2015 Crest 230 for many of the same reasons that other catfish anglers like their pontoons. He has no fear of hitting the road with it.
“I like the stability of the tritoon and I like enclosure,” said Couick. “On cold or rainy days, I can have the enclosure closed all the way and still see the rods when getting a bite. If the fish are feeding correctly the circle hooks will do their job without me being right there on top of them. I also like the comfort of a pontoon, especially as I get older. The ride is dry no matter how rough it gets. I have been in 4 footers on Santee and stayed dry.”
Couick has had plenty of experience trailering his tritoon from fishing hole to fishing hole. He prefers the bunk type trailer, especially in the lakes where water levels pretty much stay the same on most ramps. Bunk type trailers also keep the boat in one place once you drive it on. If tied down properly stability would be good on the road. One of his favorite places is Santee Cooper and he says he already has his rooms booked at Decatur for Winter Blues on Wheeler 2019. He made the 530-mile journey in 2018 without incident.
“I was pulling around 73 mph and no issues thank goodness,” reported Couick. “I don’t like pulling at night just in case of breakdowns and for safety reasons with interstate traffic. I took us about 9 hours hauling butt.”
“When I traveled to Lake Wheeler I packed three spare hubs and bearings,” said the cautious Couick. “I also had three spare tires. Every time I stopped for fuel, I walked around and checked the temperature on all four trailer tires.”
“Don’t hit the road unprepared–do go prepared,” concluded Couick. “I haul lots of things in the boat, but I do tie everything down and try to balance out the load as good as possible. Also, I try not to haul too much in the boat. Due to the wind they catch, make sure the pontoon is strapped down properly. I actually use an extra tie down on the front to keep the front from rocking up and down. This extra strap prevents the trim in front from wearing out from the stops on the trailer. Bottom line, you just want to trailer smartly.”

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