February 06, 2024
In the first weeks of a New Year, it’s understandable to want to escape the blustery cold and snow outside, daydreaming of warm and sunny adventures as you make your way down the aisles of a wintertime boat show, a show that annually inspires many dreams of days spent out on the water.
Those dreams are fueled by an image – shorts and a t-shirt weather, sunscreen, the smell of something sizzling on the grill, and plenty of smiles and laughter.
It’s a dream all boaters have, one of smooth sailing, tight lines, the wind ever at your back. Add in family members and friends and the dream reaches its crescendo as you open up the throttle and cruise down the mirror-like lake’s surface in the golden hour of daylight.
As the wind dies away and the boat powers up, it’s about this point that someone will ask “Can I help you?” And that’s when a faraway summer dream turns into a decision – how do I find the pontoon boat of my dreams?
Jens Housley, the global product strategy manager for Manitou Pontoon Boats, is glad you have asked that question because he’s been there, pondered the same questions, and now he’s got a few good answers to give.
1. What Will You Use Your Pontoon Boat For?
Housley admits that for many people, pontoon boats have historically conjured up images of having a good time on the water and simply cruising about.
Today, however, pontoon boat makers and consumers both realize that these crafts have many more possibilities in getting boaters out on the water. From a dawn fishing excursion to a sunset cruise, and everything in between, today’s pontoon rig offers a full spectrum of possibilities.
So the first thing to consider with any purchase of a new pontoon rig is to know what you intend to use the boat for.
“Historically, these boats were social crafts, but today, they are more than that and will fit right into what you want from cruising around to a day of water sports to even a fishing adventure,” said Housley. “To help find the right pontoon boat, you need to have an understanding of what you want to use the boat for, and that understanding can help steer you towards the right direction in terms of size, layout, the right engine, and performance.”
2. Figure Out Size and Layout Considerations
After you’ve defined the purpose of your pontoon boat, it’s time to think about blueprints. But instead of a blueprint for a new house or commercial building, the second step here for a prospective pontoon boat owner is to consider what boat size they’ll need, what passenger capacity needs they’ll encounter and how everything will be laid out in a potential pontoon boat floor plan.
“Are you buying a pontoon boat that is primarily for fishing outings with you and a buddy?” asked Housley. “If so, you might want something on the smaller end of the size scale in the 20 to 22-foot range. Are you looking for a craft that is aimed more at social outings and/or water sports with family and friends? Then you might want a longer boat, one that is 22 to 26-feet long.”
Once a size need has been determined, then it’s time to consider layout options.
“We’ve got boats for all of the things we’ve been talking about, rigs that will work for a wide range of activities including fishing,” said Housley.
Fishing? Well, while it's true a savvy tournament bass angler probing lily pads or flooded timber for a big old largemouth bass might not choose a pontoon rig for his or her fishing needs, these boats are solid choices for many other angling applications.
In fact, given their spacious and stable decks and ability to tackle a wide array of water, pontoon boats are something of a Swiss Army knife approach for boating enthusiasts, a rig that can do a little bit of everything including providing an opportunity to wet a line. From tossing crickets under a cane pole's bobber around bluegill beds to chasing freshwater stripers in open water settings to even prowling around a saltwater estuary and hoping for a topwater redfish bite, pontoons can deliver the piscatorial goods for a wide array of needs including a day of rod-and-reel fun with friends, the kids, and the grandkids.
“We have well-defined layouts, or you can customize your own,” said Housley. “There are seats that a fishing enthusiast can use, there are boats that are geared more towards open space and social settings, and some even have the ability to have a bar set up inside.”
In addition to layout possibilities, there are other things to consider such as wall design, the Captain's helm desired, seating and lounging options, and sleek styling that looks straight out of a top-end automobile from Detroit. Add in things like a Garmin digital display, Bimini shade possibilities, a low-back helm chair, and Fusion stereo packages, and there's no end to how you can customize and plan out the pontoon boat you’re dreaming of.
And with a variety of Manitou models ranging from the value-packed Cruise model to the recreationally designed Explore and Explore Dual Engine models to the sporty LX model, there's really no shortage of possibilities in getting the boat you want. And if you want to go all out with the Manitou Luxury XT pontoon model, then the big blue sky above is the limit.
3. Choose Engine and Performance Needs
According to Housley, once you move past the layout and design options, it’s then time to hammer out what engine size and performance needs you might have.
Some of that could depend on where the bulk of your pontoon boat usage will take place since engine needs on a small or moderate lake or river are different than something you might take out on the Great Lakes or even the ocean blue when conditions are safe to do so.
While some boat owners obsess over engines like a NASCAR driver might, believing engine performance is the key to winning the Daytona 500, that isn’t necessary here. And that’s thanks to the innovative and award-winning Rotax S outboard engine Manitou provides—or in the case of the Manitou Explore MAX Dual Engine model option, actually two 150 HP Rotax S outboard engines that provide up to 300 HP for more power and performance—an engine set-up that means you don't have to be an engine-junky to find exceptional performance on the water. With plenty of power, fuel efficiency and reliability, you’ll have all of the power and performance that you need.
Add to these powerful engines the Manitou tritoon hulls, and the company's V-Toon Technology gives a center tube that is carefully positioned and positively angled for an exact degree of deadrise, giving this pontoon rig the handling and performance of a standard V-shaped hull boat. Add in reinforced nose cones that provide a sharp knife's edge slicing into the water and this is a flat riding pontoon boat with less bow rise.
Translated into simple terms, it means you're going to have a comfortable, fun day on the water piloting your rig, especially with the iDock joystick piloting system that makes running this pontoon boat a real joy.
“I grew up on twin tube hulls, that’s all I ever really knew and there’s nothing really wrong with that,” said Housley. “But the tritoon design of a Manitou Pontoon Boat provides a different experience and better performance. It’s a smoother ride for sure, but also allows for tighter turns and deals with choppiness better, for sure.”
4. Accessorizing Options
According to Housley, all pontoon manufacturers are going to talk about standard and add-on features that come with their boats. But often, what sets apart one boat brand from another are the accessories that can be easily added in.
Among the accessories that can be added to a Manitou Pontoon Boat package, the list is long and includes both hard and soft coolers, cargo boxes, rod holders, bow line holders, footrests, ski tow mirrors, a battery charging system, folding tables, fender kits, a bow filler bench seat, saltwater rigging, a powered and non-powered Bimini top, and more.
Best of all, none of these accessories crowd the layout of a Manitou Pontoon Boat rig.
"Because of the low-profile Rotax S engines, the Max Deck opens up the floor space and allows you to store some of these bigger items in the back while maintaining the wide open interior of the pontoon," said Housley. "You gain six additional feet of space, and this isn’t dead space, so you've got the big cooler you need but you're also able to enjoy this space and aren’t tripping over stuff moving around."
Keep in mind that Housley isn't just an employee with Manitou since he's also an enthusiastic user of the brand's top-end boats. In fact, last summer, the Max Deck became one of the favorite parts of his family's pontoon boat experience, including two young kids enjoying long stretches of lounging around on the deck, getting into the water for a bit, and then climbing aboard once again for some more downtime.
5. Consider Cost, Warranty and Service Needs
As a family man, Housley fully understands that cost can be a deciding factor in what pontoon boat someone ends up buying. And with Manitou’s wide array of price points, there’s something for most any budgetary need.
He does caution, however, to learn from a mistake he made early on in his pontoon boat ownership experience, and that was buying a rig that was too small.
“That can certainly limit what you can do and how many you can bring out,” he said.
Aside from that, consider manufacturer warranties, service options and timelines, and financing options when you go to buy your first, or next, pontoon boat.
“If you’re going to make this investment, then you’re going to want to take care of the boat,” said Housley. “Relatively speaking, the pontoon industry does a pretty good job in this area on what is typically offered and Manitou is no exception here.”
As you might expect, Housley has a recommendation when it comes to buying the pontoon boat of your dreams.
“You want a high-quality boat and a great purchasing experience as a consumer,” he said. “We are a quality boat manufacturer, and we stand by that. Quality, service and our warranty, those three things are paramount to us.”
And so too is delivering the on-the-water dreams of pontoon boat owners, something Manitou excels at. Visit a boat show or a local dealer and see if you don’t agree.