Lake and bay anglers, rejoice: the Sun Tracker Fishin Barge 22 is a pontoon boat dedicated to your favorite sport. Sure, there were already a few fishing-specific pontoons out there. But when’s the last time you saw one with speeds approaching 40-mph and multiple fishing accoutrements usually reserved for molded fiberglass? Never mind one that—wait for it, this is important—costs less than some fancied-up jon boats? Before you decide I’m chock-full of marketing BS and editorial fluff, let me hit you with a number: $20,995. That’s the base price for a Fishin’ Barge 22 DLX with a 60 HPMercury four-stroke. Another $2,800 adds a trailer to the package.
So at this price-point, is the boat stripped? Aside from the lackluster performance you'll see with a relatively small base powerplant, heck no. The boat comes with dual aerated livewells (an eight gallon well in the bow and a 16 gallon livewell in the stern), locking rodboxes for rods up to 7.5 feet, four pedestal fishing chairs, and six vertical rodholders. And that’s just the fishing features. Some other items that would be cost-adding extras on most boats include a pop-up changing room, a Bimini top and boot, a Bluetooth-capable stereo, and a removable dinette table.
If I still sound a bit overly-enthusiastic, I apologize right up front—but like they say on late-night TV: Wait, there’s more! The biggest news about the 2015 model is the radically enhanced warranty from Sun Tracker. They call it “10+Life,” and it covers the boat from bow to stern for a decade. Beyond that, there’s a limited structural and deck warranty that not only continues for the life of the boat, it’s also transferrable to a second owner. Can you say, “resale value”?
The boat is not, of course, perfect—no boat is. I wish the console was a bit beefier (I could see the access hatch flex when I pushed a little too hard), the locking rodboxes could be improved with the addition of racks to keep your rods and reels from bouncing around, and the Bimini created an annoying vibration when I ran the boat at pre-planing speeds. If this were my fishing machine, I’d use some strategically-placed Velcro straps to kill the noise.
Then again, our test boat did have a bit more controlled combustion than the base 60 HP powerplant would provide. It was rigged with the XP3 performance package (a new offering on the 22 Fishin’ Barge for 2015) and a Mercury 150 HP FourStroke, which is as juiced up as a Fishin’ Barge 22 gets. The XP3 package adds a third center log, and all three logs are 26” robotically-welded 0.10 marine-grade 5052 aluminum. They also have lifting strakes and wave deflectors, plus you get under-deck shielding. The down-side? Between the XP3 package and the maximum-sized powerplant, cost for the boat gets boosted to a hair over $30,000.
Is the extra expense worth it? That depends entirely on how much you like going fast. My GPS showed cruising speeds of right around 30 MPH while turning 4500 RPM, and a top-end of 38.8 MPH. Swap the aluminum prop for stainless-steel, ditch the Bimini, lighten the fuel load, and you’ll have a 40 MPH pontoon boat.
Handling remains pontoon-ish (for more detail, read Handling a Pontoon Boat) with a flat attitude in the turns and a minimal trim effect on bowrise. Wave handling is also as expected for a triple-log pontoon (or tri-toon, in lake-boating parlance), with excellent stability and low wave impacts, even at relatively high speeds. It was blustery on test day but we were on a protected lake, so the chop was tight but no larger than one foot. That presented no challenge whatsoever to the Fishin' Barge 22.
|Fuel capacity||35 gal.|
From an angling perspective, one of the performance attributes that stood out was the ability to go extremely slow (under two MPH) at idle speed, which will be great for slow-trolling while targeting fish like walleye. If you’d rather troll without burning any fuel you can opt for the Fish Package (a hair over a grand) which outfits the boat with a 55-lb. thrust Motor Guide W55 wireless electric trolling motor and a Lowrance Mark 5x Pro fishfinder. IMHO this isn’t the best use of funds, though, because it’s tough to effectively control a 22’ pontoon with 55-lbs of thrust (especially in any kind of wind), and the Mark 5x Pro is a very basic black-and-white fishfinder. I’d plan to use the Merc for trolling, and sink my hard-earned dollars into a more capable fishfinder with a larger color LCD screen. Bass guys who spend a lot of time creeping along shorelines may feel differently, but they'd be better served with a dedicated bass boat in the first place.
What about construction? That warranty Sun Tracker is offering pretty much says it all, but just so you know: furniture and fishing modules are roto-molded poly, the deck is made with seven-ply pressure-treated plywood that carries a no-rot guarantee, Z-bar deck supports are through-bolted to M-brackets, and fence rails are 1.25” aluminum. I also noted that Sun Tracker used hefty 26-oz. vinyls on the upholstery; that's a good move because upholstery is often the first thing to go on pontoon boats, and it has a lot to do with how old and ragged a boat does or doesn't look after years of use and exposure to the sunlight. Again, think resale value.
|Test conditions: 1 foot chop, winds 15 knots, 1 POB, full fuel.|
|Power||Single Mercury 150 FourStroke outboard, swinging a three-blade 16" x 14" aluminum prop.|
So, is it really time to rejoice? If you’ve been on the lookout for a fishing-dedicated pontoon boat that comes at a lower price then you expected and is backed by a long bow-to-stern warranty, the answer may well be yes. Now, let’s go fishin’.
Other Choices: There are a number of pontoon boats available with fishing packages; to get a better idea of how well they serve the purpose and see some different options, read Can a Pontoon Boat Be a Serious Fishing Boat?
See Sun Tracker Fishin’ Barge 22 listings.
For more information, visit Sun Tracker.