Looking at Pontoons, know nothing about them, what to buy?

Jun 2, 2009
So my almost 40 year old bowrider/runabout 16 footer needs an engine rebuild. Not immediately, but soon enough. Rod knock just starting. I posted about it last summer/fall on here. Instead of fixing the old one (which is in otherwise great shape and I'll probably honestly keep it and fix it at some point), the wife wants a pontoon for the space and because we have to be really careful when we take the old one out on the lakes we use. A new fishing boat probably doesn't have the space we want due to all of them having front rod lockers that make the bow mostly useless for leisure. Current design bowriders have very little to no usable space behind the captains and passenger chair so those are out I think.

But, I have NO idea about pontoons. We went to a boat show last week and I've been to a few dealers, but still unsure about a lot of things. Will go to another one this weekend.

20-22 foot TRITOON (with strakes) with 150 hp Mercury or Yamaha (seems like need to go to 22 to get rated 150hp), fish package with livewell and some rod storage, power bimini preferred but not required. Also prefer powder coated railings. Need underbody paneling/sheeting.

Use: Mostly recreation with 3-5 people, occasionally 7 or 8. 20% panfish fishing. Some tubing in the future. I would like to get 40mph.

Location: The Lake Winnebago system in Wisconsin. Most use would be on the attached Lake Bute De Morts and the river connecting this lake and Winnebago.

Budget: would like to stay at $50k before TTL and trailer.

Considering the following boats (as of now, in no particular order):
-Barletta Aria fish package (not sure on price - dealer had a non-fish one MSRP $73k right at $50k - seems like this brand has high MSRP compared to other brands for similar specs)
-Godfrey Sweetwater 2286 FS (saw this at a dealer couple days ago and really liked it - was MSRP $67k down to $57995 but I don't need all the options this one had, so could probably order and get for $53k-54k); salesman said he bought last year's model and gets 42-43 mph by himself, and 39 with four people. Not a full tritoon, the middle toon is 2/3 length https://www.lakesidemarina.com/New-I...54818?ref=list
-Harris Classic Fish 220 SF (no idea on price)
-Lowe SF 212 (no idea on price - but I went on the website and built one and it came in at $52k MSRP - so selling price maybe $45k?)
-Crest Classic Fish 220 SF (no idea on price)

I looked at Manitou but I don't think they fit in budget (really like their styling). I don't think Bennington has anything appealing from what I've seen, but maybe I'm missing something?

Thoughts on the boats above? Any I'm missing that are worth looking at?

Front fish vs rear fish?

Thoughts on how much of a difference a full tritoon makes vs a "sport" 2/3 length center tube? Specifically, a full 25" middle toon (same as outside) vs the middle being 27" in either full or 2/3 length?

Just in general - how are these to tow on a bunk trailer? I would probably mostly keep it in a slip, but maybe on occasion would want to take it to a different lake or lake system.

Anything else I should know about buying or owning a pontoon much appreciated. I am very new to this.
Any pontoon is no good unless it satisfies your max load rating. No sense having a 22 footer unless you can safely carry how many people you realistically want or desire. Look at max load rating first and then go from there.
In the movie The Great Outdoors they were renting a boat at the lake and pontoon boat is mentioned. John Candy says "what are we going to do, retake Omaha Beach? Let's get a jet boat."
40 MPH with a 150 (GPS reading) is highly unlikely. MAYBE with 1 lightweight person aboard and 5 gallons of fuel. 200 is pretty much a requirement to approach 40 mph. Keep in mind when pricing to read the fine print. Many prices are without a trailer which you seem to be aware of.

Don't turn your nose up at Sun Tracker Fish pontoons. Yes, it is considered a "value" brand but it also has a lot going for it. You can price the 23' with 150 Merc & trailer with many options in the low to mid $50's depending on shipping and prep.
You can find dealers in your area and price it exactly (+TT&L) online.

The dealership is even more important than the product. Do your research, there are some lousy dealers out there.
Pontoon on my local lake has twin 350s on it. No sure of brand of the boat but it's a tri toon and it moves. Overkill for the size of the lakes for sure.
So I put down a small refundable deposit on a 2023 23' Sylvan mid-high end fishing model sight unseen at the boat show. 150 Mercury. Was not planning to do so. Get home and see a video that tested exact same boat and only got 34mph. I was expecting 39-41. This is the dealer 200 yards from my house. Called the salesman this morning and he will work with me to get the right boat.

I think I am either now looking at used, or if new a Lowe (dealer is 35 miles away). There is a fish model 21' for $48k I had priced out (would be a custom build). Just know so little about them. Their warranty is same as Barletta, Bennington, etc. Everything else new is at least $52k for fish. I really want to be $45k or less.

Had an Avalon LSZ 21' priced out, fish model, for $52k but it is pretty stripped. After seeing one in person I'd really want the black rails, that is another almost $2k.

I did come across these two Manitou boats. Not fish packages but not sure I need it for just the occasional panfish fishing (80-90% recreation). They also have one "used" with 16 hours in a 21' Oasis model for $43k. Unsure if it was a demo or was actually previously titled.



The Godfrey dealer is pushing me hard. He isn't moving on price, though. I like the Sweetwater with fish package, but not for $56k. I'd be in at $46k, that is a big difference.
Looked at the Manitou boats. Did not like them. Fit and finish were really bad. Seats uncomfortable. Lots of wasted space. And the dealer would only come down $1000 off their advertised price.

Ran into another dealer in that town (50 miles away) that I have been seeing facebook ads for. So I stopped in. They carry Sylvan, which seems to give a lot for the money. It is what we put the small deposit down on last weekend. This is a series X, the other one was L. X is one step down, but really they are the same boat except for the L go 21', 23', etc. and the X go 20', 22', etc. And the L has open rails in the back instead of being enclosed. Fit, finish, options, etc. are all similar. I prefer the X in 22 vs L in 23 due to weight. They had a 2023 demo X series fishing model with a lot of extras (not all of them important) with an estimated 40 hours for $48,800 with a Merc 150 and 4 blade prop. The guy I talked with is the one that used it, in July and August last year.

My only small concern is that it has a 20" transom and 20" shaft. Is 25" better? I will be in 1-2' chop, but probably won't go out if worse than that.

Don't want to rush into anything. Thoughts?
ESTIMATED 40 hours? Without an hour meter who really knows? It would depend on the warranty for me to consider that rig. Mid 30 miles per hour is what you can expect with a 150 engine as I stated previously. Your 40 MPH wishes are unrealistic without more muscle. My "advice" is based on two decades in the marine industry selling pontoons as well as other powerboats.
It doesn't have an hour meter, he said he uses the Mercury Vessel View. I don't know if that boat has it. I would need hours verified before purchase.
If the rig near your house is a demo it will have a full warranty. If used it boils down to what the dealer offers as far as covering it.
Talked with the dealer a four minute walk from my house. They have been good so far through this process. I told them about the boat I found 50 miles away. I didn't say it was a demo, only left over 2023. I did say they gave some vibes that I didn't like in terms of how they do business (which is true). The close dealer said that is kind of what they are known for - you really need to go in with your eyes wide open and have every i dotted and t crossed.

What my local dealer came back with after I mentioned this other boat/dealer really surprised me. Essentially, they came back with the same model boat but 2024, brand new in shrink, with a 200 HP Mercury, first year slip and storage, for $57,500. So $4900 more when everything is accounted for, and I get a brand new 2024 instead of a 2023 demo with estimated 40 (but unverified) hours, 200 hp instead of 150, and the 25" transom I prefer. Going to look at it late afternoon.
Need to hold off for now on a boat. The issue is still cost, and even though a good deal, $57k +TTL is still too much. I think once rates come down we'll be in the market again. Plus, I found out I have a collection on my credit report that isn't mine. It is someone with the same name, in a different state, and different birthdate, who has an unpaid $705 medical bill from 5 years ago. You'd think a collection agency would verify identity first before sending to the credit agencies, but they don't care. So now I need to take care of that to get it off my report. It is hurting my score like 40 points, and no way I'd get a decent rate with that on there (even though the score still is very good even with the hit). Ugh.