Now that I’ve lured you into this article, I don’t have anything all that profound to say. Except for the fact that if you’re really serious about exploring and fishing the best water in the area, you’ll develop a relationship with an inflatable too. They’re not toys, they’re not cheap, they’re serious pieces of equipment that deserve a lot more attention than they currently receive in the upper Midwest. Forget that new rod and reel, for the price of a new setup, you’re almost into a quality pontoon.
In the last ten years, I’ve done most of my explorations from a single inflatable pontoon or kickboat. Rivers such as the Zumbro, Root, and Cannon are wonderful fisheries that lend themselves well to this style of water craft. My normal modus operandi was to descend the river employing the use of swim fins to control the boats position as I simultaneously cast to the shoreline. The angling self-sufficiency one attains is unmatched by any other form of aquatic transport. Prior to the advent of these boats, I’d attempted the above scenario in a solo canoe with unsatisfactory results. In addition, one can easily row the pontoon from spot to spot in order to fish select areas. Lastly, I would usually perform all my own shuttles by riding my mountain bike between put-ins and take-outs. The end result was a very satisfying self contained angling experience.
This past summer central Minnesota experienced drought conditions that sent the water levels in the St.Criox River into the lowest levels in a decade. Myself and fellow driftboat guides put years of wear on the hull’s of our boats as we bashed our way down the river. In fact, the rock garden of the remote float (my standard St.Criox outing) became unnavigable in a driftboat. After a month of avoiding this particular stretch of water, my friend Tony and I descended the remote float in the Outcast PAC 1200. Normally this two person pontoon is better suited for shallower rivers such as the Zumbro and the Root where the occasional portage is required. Despite being considerably smaller and lighter than a driftboat, standing and casting from this behemoth inflatable is remarkably easy,the only draw back being that only one angler can fish at a time. Needless to say, Tony and I experienced the best Bass fishing of the summer in part due to our ability to navigate very shallow stretches and due to fact the water we fished had seen very little fishing pressure.