Fishing boats have always been one of the top ways to find fish on the open water. They’re fast, with motors that seem to get bigger and more efficient every year, they can carry some of the latest in fishing electronics, and are able to hold loads of gear, along with live wells for bait and fish for the fryers.

The problem is that boats are expensive, and all that gear isn’t cheap either and not everyone can afford a boat or the other costs that come along with having one, such as boat and trailer licenses and insurance as well as maintenance and repair fees.

But for those who don’t have the finances for a big boat (myself included), there is a growing trend in the fishing world in the use of kayaks and inflatable pontoons and the advantages that they have to offer to fishermen and women looking to leave the shores for more fishing opportunities.

Kayaks and pontoons have been gaining rapidly in popularity for their affordability, their customizations, and for their ability to get into some places where the bigger boats can’t get into or are not allowed to be in. Several smaller lakes in the Black Hills are like this.

There are magazines that promote kayak and pontoon fishing and help show readers how to make the most of their smaller watercraft. Many even have locations for sonar hookups as well as trolling motor capabilities to help get around faster. I attached a small transom mount trolling motor to my pontoon to help me get around faster. I still use the paddles when needed and they are always attached, even if they don’t get used.

These crafts have such a shallow draft, that they can get into backwater bays and areas where high weeds would prevent a larger boat from getting to fish that normally aren’t targeted very often. This can result in some good opportunities to land some monster fish. Of all the advantages that kayaks, and pontoons have, this is probably one of the biggest ones.

Have you ever had a fifteen-pound pike pull you around in a big boat? Probably not, but unless you are anchored down in a kayak or pontoon, prepare yourself to go for a ride because a big pike or bass will do just that! I speak from experience.

As far as gear goes, using a kayak or pontoon requires you to keep your gear at a minimum to maximize what space you do have. Mountable rod holders are a must, if you want to have more than one pole handy. I have two attached to mine so that I can bring three rods out with me, plus it gives me the ability to troll crankbaits or bottom bouncers if I choose to fish in that way. 

Small tackle bags are handy to have that don’t take up much space either. Small nets that can be extended with one hand are very useful if you have space for it. I also recommend looking at foldable anchors of at least ten pounds in weight because the wind will play more of a factor than anything in your ability to remain in one place.

Up until recently, one of the biggest disadvantages of kayak/pontoon fishing was the lack of space for or ability to put electronics on them. Sonar is always a must-have when on the water. But now, many sonar companies are making kayak-compatible sonar systems due to its ever-growing popularity.

Vexilar came out with their very affordable SonarPhone series of portable fish finders a few years ago that uses your smartphone and a free app that works with their fish finders. I myself use the T-Pod model of this series, which is a large bobber outfitted with sonar and a Wi-Fi signal.

I simply drop the T-Pod in the water and it turns on automatically. Once I’ve opened the SonarPhone app, it starts searching for the Wi-Fi signal coming from the T-Pod and when it connects, I get the same instant sonar feedback that you get with any sonar system and since it’s a Wi-Fi signal rather than Bluetooth, it doesn’t use any data or drain my battery fast.

Using it last year was truly a game-changer for me, as I was able to see the depth, temperature, and structure below me for the first time since I started using my pontoon almost ten years ago. Trolling was always a problem before I started using it and I had no issues last year after hooking it up.

If you want to use this sonar system, I would highly recommend getting a rail or bike mount to hold your phone to the frame, so you don’t have to worry about holding it and fishing at the same time.

While there are some obvious disadvantages to using kayaks and pontoons (distances are not covered fast, weather and wind are more of an issue, lack of space for gear), there are many reasons as to why their use is on the rise. Affordability, numerous customization possibilities, exercise, and access to backwater/non-motorized boat areas are just some of the reasons why kayaks and pontoons are showing up in more and more places.

They are great for many fishing purposes and offer users a unique experience that you have to try out to see for yourself and while you may have all of the high tech gear that is always present on most large boats, there are options out there to bring some of that technology with you to make your outing on the water more successful.

Kayak and pontoon fishing is something that many shore fishermen and women should look at if they want to get out on the water. Just make sure you bring that anchor with you should that big pike or bass you catch decide to try and give you a ride around the lake.

About The Author

Scott Olson

I have lived in the Black Hills of South Dakota for over ten years now. It is a great place to enjoy all facets of the outdoors, but fishing is what I live for, especially on the ice. With so many lakes and so many species to choose, it’s a fisherman’s paradise out here. And thanks to being on multiple Pro Staffs, including Midwest Hunting and Fishing, I have a chance to share that passion with others and hopefully help them to experience the same success that the sport has given me.