Three Alternatives to a Pontoon Boat

Shopping for a pontoon boat but cannot find one that fits your needs and price requirements just right? Then it might be a good idea to take a look at some of the popular alternatives to pontoon boats. Of course, you should keep in mind that all of these propositions come with some pros and cons, so make sure to read the post carefully before you start doing further research or finalizing a purchase.

Pontoon boats are typically a popular choice for families – they offer great comfort, size and are usually suitable for all sorts of activities. In this comparison, we will take a look at three of the most popular activities that pontoon boats could be used for – fishing, cruising, and watersports. You will be surprised to hear how well some of the alternatives like the ski boat, deck boat, and hybrid bay boat can fair!

Option 1: Ski Boat

The first thing to note is that ski boats vary in size, and if you plan to host family and friends, then looking at the larger models might be a good idea. Larger ski boat models can easily fit up to 10-12 people, almost matching the ~15 people that most pontoon boats are able to fit.


While fishing in a ski boat is possible, it is certainly not recommended. The primary reason is that these boats are usually built with comfort in mind. So you have leather/plush seats, carpeted floors, and all sorts of amenities such as a tower with a speaker and light attached.

Now imagine covering the floor and seats in fish blood and guts – it would be downright impossible to clean, even if you leave the job to professionals. In the meantime, the speaker and lights hanging above your head would get in the way of your fishing rods and lines. On top of all this, throwing hooks around expensive seats is probably a recipe for disaster. Overall, if you plan on using your boat for fishing, then the ski boat is a poor choice.


The things that make ski boats impossible to use for fishing end up turning them into one of the best choices for cruising. They are the perfect way to hang out with your family or friends. The V-shaped body will keep you dry by dispersing water to the side in case of waves – for comparison, windy trips with flat-headed pontoon boats rarely allow you to leave dry. And, as mentioned above, ski boats are rich in comfort, which, unfortunately, makes them not suitable for fishing.


The ski boat is outright the best choice for watersports:

  • The Inboard engine keeps the propeller under the boat, so you will be extra safe in case the sports activities are taking place behind the boat.
  • They have a ballast, which can be filled with water to sink the boat further. This allows it to create waves out the back, which is excellent for surfing, water skiing, and other watersports.
  • The inboard engine delivers excellent power with minimal loss due to the direct connection to the propeller.

Option 2: Deck Boat

Deck boats are wider than ski boats and also built out of fiberglass. Thanks to their shape, they have more seating space and can typically match the capacity of pontoon boats. They are reasonably well-powered and typically equipped with an inboard/outboard engine.


Unfortunately, the situation here is not much different compared to ski boats. The interior is once again likely to include carpet, leather, or vinyl – all of these are difficult and annoying to clean if you end up spilling fish, blood, and guts over them. Furthermore, deck boats are not equipped with the typical gear you would want for a fishing boat – rod holders, living well, fish box, etc.


Deck boats are by far the best choice for cruising. They are much more spacious than ski boats, have better handling, and very similar levels of comfort. They are a great choice to go on a cruise, hang out with friends, or even to have a cozy dinner with a loved one.


Overall, deck boats are good for watersports, but they can be lackluster for certain activities. For example, they are great for tubing and kneeboarding, but you might have difficulties if you want to ski or surf behind them. One of the reasons for this is that they are not equipped with the typical tower found on ski boats – thankfully, you can buy an aftermarket one and equip it yourself. Trying to ski or surf without a tower, while the rope is attached to the lower back of the deck boat, can be very difficult.  

Option 3: Hybrid Bay Boat

If you are looking to enjoy different types of activities, then the hybrid bay boat is the jack of all trades that you have been looking for. It can be easily fitted to be suitable for fishing, watersports, and cruising.


Hybrid bay boats are typically equipped with foldable seats and removable padding and backrests. This makes it very easy to strip them down to plain fiberglass, which is easy to clean after your fishing trip. They also come with rod holders, and you have plenty of space to fit additional fishing equipment. Also, it is important to note that the fiberglass build is far superior to pontoon boats – hitting your fishing road on the aluminum pontoon boat is very loud and scares the fish away. In the meantime, fiberglass-built boats do not have this problem.


As mentioned above, hybrid bay boats do not lack anything when it comes to comfort and space. The only difference between them and ski boats or deck boats is that the seats, backrests, and other non-cleanable things can be installed for your cruising trip and uninstalled for the fishing session. If there’s any con is that they are not that spacious compared to decks or pontoons.   


Hybrid bay boats are, as expected, a bit worse than ski boats when it comes to watersports, but they are a much better choice compared to desk boats. Still, they deliver sufficient power and equipment to enable you to go tubing, kneeboards, surfing, or water skiing.


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Fishing Report from TPWD (Nov. 30)

GOOD. Water stained; 59 degrees; 4.25 feet low. GOOD. The water level is 167.7 with no generators running. Water temperature at the Dam is 59 degrees. The back feeder creeks are stained and muddy with lots of Fall leaves floating on the surface, and the main lake remains clear. We were blessed with some rain this week 2-3 inches. Not much has changed on the pattern this week. Chatter baits are still producing in 3/8 to 3/4 ounce white, chartreuse, watermelon pepper, and red/black skirts. To cover a lot of water, use a square bill crank bait or a flat side crank bait and smaller rattle traps from 0-8 feet in shad and perch imitation colors and the Rayburn red traps are still working. For deeper Bass, cast a Carolina rig with a worm or lizard. Jigging spoons are still producing quality bass on 1/2 to 3/4 ounce (silver with a white or yellow accent tail feather or a deep diving crank bait in citrus shad and Tennessee shad colors). The jig and pig bite has been strong. Cast your jig to long tapering points that drop off into deep water, the best colors are black and blue, PB&J football jigs 3/8 - 3/4 ounce with a 3-inch matching color craw trailer, and a green pumpkin jig with a chunk style trailer. The Crappie bite is still good in 12-20 feet on the edge of the river channels using 1/16- and 3/32-ounce Wager Baits, #46 Bluegrass, #3 Monkey Milk, #09 Electric Chicken, #10 Black and Chartreuse and small minnows depending on the cloud cover and cooling night temperatures. Now that the lake is at a Winter drawdown, it's prime time to go out scouting for new areas for Springtime fishing. Look for areas like feeder creeks, ditches, man-made structures, creek bends and undercuts, etc. Reminder: Keep and extra set of clothes in a dry bag stowed away on your vessel just in case you get caught in the rain, heavy winds, etc. Hypothermia happens quickly. Good luck and keep casting forward! Report from Master Captain Steve “Scooby” Stubbe, Mudfish Adventures LLC, Orv

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