Outlaw Escape – Float Tube Rod Holders

*By TubeDude

Dave Scadden designs and produces great “floatation” craft. However, because it is virtually impossible to anticipate all possible features that buyers may want, his fishing systems are designed largely for fly fishermen. The good news is that these fishing platforms are well-made and they can be easily modified for specific fishing styles. My first Scadden craft was an H3 Freestyle…a super float tube designed to compete with the Outcast Fat Cats. It more than competed. It was slightly larger, with numerous features that were superior to any other float tube of the time. My second Scadden purchase was an Outlaw Renegade…one of Dave’s frameless and bladderless pontoons. It had 3 air chambers…left, right and seat. With no frame and no air bladders the craft was light enough and small enough to fold up and store easily in a small space. If you have an SUV…with a fair amount of cargo area…you can take your craft…pockets rigged and partially inflated. Or you could take it to the water fully rigged in a pickup or small trailer…or securely lashed to a rooftop rack. I had experience with “tricking out” pontoons from other manufacturers. But they all had frames upon which to attach the rod holders, sonar systems, tool holders and other modifications desirable to “warm water” anglers who used spinning or bait casting gear. And most of them came with built-in motor mounts and rear platforms for batteries. Dave’s craft come with oars, footrest bars, a seat and removable storage pockets. If you want to add an electric motor you can either purchase an aftermarket motor mount from Dave…or make your own. I made my own from PVC…and it worked great. My biggest challenges came in designing a modular PVC frame and the rod holders and utility (tool) holders for each side of the Renegade…without having anything to which I could attach them. I came up with something that I could rest on top of the inflated air chamber and then cinch down with the straps for the removable pockets. These worked fine too, but I couldn’t help thinking there might be a better way. While I really liked my “Renny”, I found it just a big larger than I liked for my style of fishing. I use the oars very little…preferring to fish hands free as much as possible. So I use my fins a lot…both for short moves and for maintaining position while casting or vertical jigging. “Big Blue” (the Renegade) was quite a bit larger than the float tubes I had been using for the past few years. I could really feel the extra wear and tear on my aging body at the end of a fishing day…from using the fins on a bigger craft. When Dave first introduced his new Escape I thought it might be the answer. It was a bit larger than my old Fat Cat, but somewhat smaller than the Renegade. As Goldilocks might say…”It was just right.” However, I was reluctant to jump in one because it seemed there would not be enough space between the back of the seat and the end of the air chambers to tuck in the big deep cycle battery I use for my electric motor. I was not in need of a new craft for a while, and I put the Escape out of my mind. But I recently had an opportunity to see one “up close and personal”. Sonofagun! It looked good. Just the right size and THERE WAS ROOM FOR A BATTERY. So, even though I did not actually NEED a new tube, I added an Escape to my stable. The Scadden toons are easily big enough to accommodate an electric motor. A metal strap-on motor mount is available as an aftermarket accessory. However, I designed one for my previous Renegade…from PVC (what else?). It worked fine so I used the same design for my new Escape…even though the new red ride was much smaller and not intended to be motorized. It actually came out about the same size…and fit.

MOTOR MOUNT

The PVC motor mount is made of 1” schedule 40 PVC…and a couple of short lengths of 2×4. The exception is the two pieces of 1” type 200 (thin wall) PVC that are heatflattened to allow easy insertion between the seat and the side air chambers. Once the mount is securely lashed to the D rings it is very stable and withstands the pull of the motor. Measurements of the PVC lengths are shown in the picture below.

float tube motor mount

float tube motor mount1

MOTOR BATTERY

Most pontoons and more and more large size float tubes are sporting electric motors as a part of their propulsion system. Most pontoons with metal frames actually have built in motor mounts and platforms upon which to keep a large 12 volt battery. Scadden’s frameless craft require adding a motor mount and coming up with a place and method for carrying the battery.

float tube motor battery mount

As previously mentioned, I was happy to find that there was sufficient room behind the angler’s seat to hold a battery and install a motor mount. It required some engineering but I am able to mount my 40# thrust motor and carry my 65# series 27 deep cycle AGM battery. And with the extra floatation built into the front of the Escape the craft rides almost level when fully loaded with all my gear and with the motor and battery.

float tube motor mount1

If you have never bought a battery for any marine use…boats, pontoons, etc.…there are a couple of things to remember. First of all, do not buy just any old 12 volt car battery. They are made for “cranking power”…not slow sustained release of power to the point of failure. Good deep cycle batteries are made to withstand many cycles of discharging and recharging. That being said, you will get more life out of your battery if you do not always run it to complete depletion. It is better to make sure it is fully charged before each trip…and to put it on the charger as soon as you return.

MOTORS

Once you have a motor mount and battery you need to choose an electric motor that with both fit your craft and your angling needs. The good news is that almost any electric motor…of any size…can be made to fit your craft and to get you between point A and point B. But there are factors which should be used to guide you in your selection. Before you install your motor you should reverse the control head. Most transom mount motors are designed to go on the back of a boat…and to push the boat forward. But motorized tubes and toons perform better if the motor is set up to pull it backward.

float tube motor battery mount2

I originally started out with a MinnKota Endura 30# thrust motor on my Fat Cat. It had all the power I needed and was frugal on battery power. But it only had a 30” shaft length. That was not enough to raise the control head up within easy reach and to keep the prop from chewing up my craft. So I upgraded to a 40# thrust motor…not for the extra power but because it had a 36” shaft. That is what I still use on my Escape.

float tube motor battery mount3

Most electric motors have control handles that will extend a few inches. And there are aftermarket extension handles you can buy to increase the length of the handle. But I found these to be heavier than I liked…and more costly. So I experimented with making my own. After several trials I finally came up with one that is simple, inexpensive, flexible and works very well. It uses blue flex conduit for an extension handle…connected to a heat formed 1/2” PVC joint…held on the handle with a screw-on hose clamp.

float tube motor battery mount4

Another modification I have been making to my electric motors…for tubes and toons…is to wire in a separate ON-OFF switch between the battery and the motor. You normally use the motor control handle for on, off and speed settings. But if you get a strike while trolling or bottom bouncing it is easier and less stressful to simply flip the off switch than to try to remember which way to turn the control handle.

float tube motor battery mount6

POCKET MODS The pockets on the Escape are about 50% larger than those on my previous Outcast Fat Cats…and even my old H3 Freestyle. I really appreciate the extra room…and the rigid insulated walls of the pockets. These pockets are removable…with nylon straps that run through a couple of D rings and quick-connect buckles. You can optionally remove them for transport and storage…or leave them on for faster setup. This can be either a blessing or a curse…depending on your mode of transportation and your preferences for having the pockets installed when you get to the lake. I like the modularity of the pockets more than I dislike it. But it can be time consuming and troublesome to run the straps around through the D rings, clip the buckles together and to cinch the straps down to secure the pockets. So I buckled the straps together under the pockets…and used inexpensive carabiner or other clips to hook directly to the D rings. Click – click and they are installed. Unclick and you can remove them.

float tube pocket mount

When I previously “tricked out” my Renegade…also with removable pockets…I made PVC frames for each side…for the rod holders and tool rack. Then I secured them in place by attaching the pockets on top of them and cinching them down. It worked fine, but required a couple of large PVC rod and tool racks.

float tube rod holder renegade

By the time I received my new “Rojo” (red) Escape, I had already worked out the basic design and started assembly on the PVC modifications. For the past couple of years I had been installing a small wooden frame inside the pockets of my Fat Cats…using sturdy screws to attach the PVC basics from the outside. This design has been well tested and proven. So, why not do the same with the removable pockets on the Escape? This simply requires a wood frame inside each pocket for attaching PVC bases from the outside. And these bases allow a choice of rod holders or tool rack that can be slipped on or off…and which swivel in or out for position adjustment or compactness. It occurred to me that I could do the same thing with the removable Escape pockets by making the modular rod racks and Utility racks attached to the removable pockets. So I made the wooden frames, screwed them in place and had my anchor base.

float tube rod mount holders

ROD HOLDERS

The first step in setting up a rod rack is installing the inner wood frame. I used 2×2 pine. It is not too heavy but will allow the use of longer (better holding) screws. The shape of the frame will be an L…with the shorter end at the front. This is the portion to which you will later attach the “front deck”. If you are going to be using sonar on your craft, you may wish to build in a small compartment at the rear of the pocket in which to hold a 7ah gel cell battery.

float tube rod mount holders1

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Outlaw Escape Float Tube Review

*By TubeDude

I started float tube fishing about 1958. I was one of the early pioneers of the sport. I didn’t know it at the time but other anglers around the country were also experimenting with paddling around in an inner tube as a cheap means of pursuing fish from afloat. My first experiences were the result of seeing fish below me while riding waves in the surf off the beaches in southern California. I started carrying out a spinning rod, some hooks and bait…and even caught a few fish. I ruined a spinning reel with the salt and sand of wave tumbled beachings. But I was hooked. I began by sitting in a car tire inner tube…kicking with bare feet and sculling with my hands. I progressed to using swim fins, for better propulsion. And I later acquired a larger truck tire inner tube. At some point I devised a canvas sling down inside the tube that allowed me to sit more or less upright…and to paddle more efficiently with fins. Unlike most other float tubing pioneers, I started in salt water and later moved on to fresh water. The first few years I made all of my own covers and seats. In the 1970s a few commercially made models started showing up. I quickly recognized the quality and engineering. I began buying and trying as many as I could find and afford. I did not occur to me that I was laying the ground (water) work for a lifetime of “floatation fishing”. In the years since I have really gotten serious about tubing and tooning. And I have had the good fortune to have traveled widely around the country… both on business and vacations…and to have fished a wide range of waters. Much of that fishing has been from a tube or toon. My angling resume includes most species of fish…from both fresh and salt water…in the northern hemisphere…mostly from one of my succession of floatation craft. Those first five paragraphs are not meant to brag. I merely want to help establish that I have a fair bit of experience with tubes and toons…and fishing from them. I have a pretty good idea of what suits me best…and what works for the majority of fellow anglers. I have known Dave Scadden since the 1970s…when he was an associate of the Anglers’ Inn chain of retail fishing tackle outlets in Salt Lake. Business called me away from Utah for a few years but I followed Dave’s beginning of his own business, in the growing float tube and pontoon industry. Coincidentally, my float tube of choice by the time I returned to Utah in 2004 was an Outcast Super Fat Cat…a craft designed by Dave for another manufacturer. Dave has always been at the forefront of floatation craft design and construction. As a moderator for a float tube fishing website, I was obliged to research available tubes and toons to keep up with the rapid changes in our sport. Dave Scadden’s NFO craft always seemed to get rave reviews from owners and users. I looked them over whenever I saw them on the water…and at his booths at various sports shows. For a long time, the craft looked better to me (and my budget) than the price. As country boys might say “Dave is mighty proud of those things.” But he has always believed in high quality over mass offshore production merely to offer a lower price. After retiring from the work-a-day life, I had more time and enough “net spendable” to justify an upgrade in my fishing craft. Many of the NFO craft were larger than I wanted…requiring the use of oars and/or a motor. That did not easily allow for my hands-free finesse style of fishing. In answer to a perceived need, Dave brought out the H3 Freestyle float tubes in the mid-2000s. I got a pair…one for me and one for my wife.

Outlaw Renegade

I loved the Renegade. It was a frameless and bladderless pontoon…smaller than some one-man pontoons but with big floatation capacity, big pockets, etc. However, I have never been fond of using the oars on a pontoon…especially if I have it rigged for an electric motor. As mentioned, I prefer “hands-free” fishing. I use fin power for short moves and for maintaining position while casting. The electric works well for longer moves and for getting back to the vehicle at the end of a long fishing day…especially if that requires bucking against a stiff breeze blowing from the wrong direction. The Renegade was just large enough that it required a noticeably greater amount of physical exertion throughout a full day of fishing than I was used to in my smaller float tubes. I had to either quit sooner or kick less to keep from getting leg cramps before the end of the trip. And if any kind of breeze came up the higher profile caught the wind more and I had to work even harder. Another angler made me an offer for my tricked out Renegade that I couldn’t refuse and I went back to fishing from a Super Fat Cat. But I missed the motor, so I installed one. escape2

Adding a motor and heavy battery to a float tube requires extra floatation in the motor end…and a customized motor mount. I made it work and it helped make me more mobile. But I lusted after a slightly larger craft…although not as big as the Renegade. When Dave Scadden brought out the first models of the Escape, I studied the specs. My first evaluation was that it offered a bit more size and a lot more floatation than I had with the Fat Cats. But it appeared that there would not be sufficient space behind the seat to carry my large deep cycle battery. So I procrastinated on looking more closely. The Escape had been on the market for a while before I finally got an opportunity to see one up close and personal. I was immediately impressed. It was close in size to the H3 Freestyle I had previously owned, but slightly larger. And the large air chambers visibly provided much more floatation. The final kicker was that there was clearly enough space behind the seat to squeeze in my large battery…for an electric motor. I truly believed I could fish comfortably and efficiently in an Escape. So I bought one. After tricking it out with my customary rod holders, utility (tool) rack and sonar I put it in the water. I was pleasantly surprised to find that even loaded down in front with the 40# thrust electric motor and the big 65# deep cycle battery the fully equipped craft floated virtually level upon the water…with no need for the addition of extra floatation.

escape3

The detachable pockets are a mixed blessing. They are larger than the pockets on any other float tube on the market. But they require strapping down and adjusting on every trip. Of course you can leave your craft fully set up between trips…or set it up the night before a trip so it is ready to rumble when you reach the water. In the separate writeup on modification I will offer suggestions for streamlining the process. The oars are another item that has both positive and negative facets. The positive side is that the Escape is about the only “pontube” on the market…of similar size…that comes with oars as a standard feature. For anglers relying on fin power alone, the oars provide an alternate form of propulsion. This can be great for moving longer distances, for light trolling or for fighting your way back in against a wind. On the flip side, the standard oars are short but you can get longer upgrades if you plan to do a lot of rowing. If you are a large person, as I am, it is difficult to use the oars without interference from your anatomy. This is especially true if you try to use the foot bar for leverage while rowing. It is far too close to the seat for anyone with long legs. But it is possible and increases speed if you kick your fins simultaneously with the rowing. That takes coordination and concentration. The last item I will mention in this discussion will be the seat. On the Escape the seat is inflatable…with its own separate air chamber…independent of the two side air chambers. This allows for adjusting the air pressure to attain a more comfortable ride. However, my first experiences showed that any reduction in air pressure…to anything less than a firm hard seat…was enough to allow me to slide forward and potentially out the front of the craft. It is possible to tinker with the various adjustable straps and clips on the seat to position it for maximum efficiency and comfort. But, again, a large person finds it difficult to get the seat back far enough to eliminate the forward slide problem…and still have room for a battery for the electric motor…or other cargo. Having past experience with modifying seats to provide more comfort and back support, I have experimented with several options to make the Escape seat work better for my needs. I will discuss some of those in my pictorial on modifications. The Escape is frameless and without air bladders. It deflates and compresses into a fairly small bundle for transport or storage.

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Fat Cat vs Super Fat Cat

I have been float tubing since about 1956… one way or another. I made all of my own float tubes until the mid-1970s. That’s when the first commercially made models started hitting the market. Since then I have been on an eternal quest to find the perfect float tube. Still haven’t found it. But I have found a few that mostly suit my needs and are comfortable from which to fish during a long day on the water. I readily admit that my requirements are probably different than the “average” float tuber. First of all, I am a big guy…6’ 3” and over 250#…too far over. So I need a craft that will float my bigness along with all the gear I bring on an “average” trip. That includes 5 rod and reel outfits, multiple lure boxes, drinks, bait, etc. Oh yeah, it also includes the PVC rod racks, utility (tool) rack and the tools…pliers, fish gripper, net, etc. Then there is the sonar setup…and the battery. All that stuff weighs a bunch. The past few years I have also been adding a 40# thrust electric motor and a series 27 AGM battery. The battery alone weighs 65#. But I have also added some boat bumper floatation under the front/back of my Fat Cat tube to keep that end of the tube from sinking out of sight. It works well enough that the tube floats level before I even climb aboard. And I still float plenty high with me and all my gear afloat.

Outcast Fat Cat

While I do enjoy fly fishing, I seldom take fly rods out on my float tube any more. I am mostly a “warm water” species angler so my tackle is generally spinning gear…with a baitcast rig or two depending on the lake and the species involved. So I can carry and fish with multiple rods without worrying too much about “gift wrapping” myself in fly line. 2 Because I use a lot of larger lures and plastic baits I carry several different “trip boxes” in my tube on each excursion. I generally use the smaller sizes that fit easily into the side pockets on my tube…the 5” X 9” size…or similar. But I appreciate having side tackle pockets on my tube that will allow carrying larger boxes if desired. Some float tubes seem designed solely for fly flingers… and the pockets are either small or the larger pockets are divided into several small compartments. Not my style. Until about the year 2000 (Y2K) I had fished almost exclusively from round tubes. Fortunately, several manufacturers made them in “big guy” sizes…that took a 22 inch truck tire tube rather than the standard 20” tube. The smaller ones were rated at 250# weight capacity and I was able to still stay afloat in them. But the bigger ones provided more room and higher floatation.

Caddis and Bucks Bags Float Tube

In 2000 I bought a Trout Unlimited (Classic Accessories) Kennebec…a “minipontoon”. It was the first open-front craft I had owned. I loved being able to launch without having to step down inside a “donut”. But there were several things I quickly decided I didn’t like. One was the “stabilizer bar” that had to be in place across the front to keep the two sides from folding in on the angler. It was a pain when launching or beaching. Another thing was the wind factor. When the wind came up…even a little bit…the Kennebec had a mind of its own. It was a summagun to try to maintain a straight line while kicking…or to hold position while fishing.

Kennebec float tube

About that time I began to notice a few Outcast Fat Cats on some of the waters I fished. I cozied up to a Fat Cat angler just coming in to shore the same time I was and barraged him with a bunch of questions…while looking over and lusting after his craft. I mentally observed that the V-shape would respond better to fin propulsion…and less to breezes. The object of my inquisition confirmed that…saying that he could very easily keep the breeze at his back to maintain casting position with just a few long slow fin strokes. I was also impressed with the design of the pockets. The ones on my Kennebec were the aforementioned large pockets divided into several wimpy fly-flinger sized pock-ettes. I had to creatively snip out the dividing walls on the Kennebec pockets to be able to carry my lure boxes. On the first Fat Cat I observed up close those pockets looked humongous by comparison. They were simple big zip-top enclosures that could hold a lot of stuff. One of the final factors in convincing me that I could no longer fish without a Fat Cat was the seat. As per the owner of the craft I was drooling over there was a lot less angler in the water…compared to “regular” float tubes. Even though my Kennebec was an upgrade from a donut, it still had a low-slung seat that kept my nether regions submerged. That was okay in the hot Arizona summers but not in the cold waters of late fall and winter. Even in Arizona the surface temps dropped to less than 50 chilling degrees. My wife and I have float tubed together since before we were married. Yes, we practiced premarital float tubing. Scandalous. Now, after many years of marriage, we were at the junction of the rest of our float tubing lives together. Should we take the next step…and move up to Fat Cats? It wasn’t really a question. We both recognized the apparent advantages. And we had the “net spendable” to handle it financially. So we went “all the way” and got the Super Fat Cats.

That was about 2002, while we were still living in Arizona. We enjoyed our wondrous new rides more on every trip…often remarking “remember when”, whenever we were discussing some feature or benefit of the Fat Cats in comparison to what we had experienced with our previous craft.

Outcast super fat cat

We moved back to Utah in 2004…to rejoin family and friends after 20 years of chasing an income with our employers in Arizona. Of course we brought our Fat Cats and introduced them to our old favorite Utah waters…and fishies. It has been a good reunion. Since our first purchase of the Outcast Super Fat Cats we have tried several other V boats and pontoons…framed and frameless. We keep coming back to the Fat Cats…as opposed to the Super Fat Cats. Why? Mainly cost vs comfort. Super Fat Cats cost more money but (to us) do not provide any better comfort to justify spending more. The difference in cost is because the Super models have inflatable (adjustable) seats…as opposed to the less costly foam seats of the regular Fat Cat. Otherwise, all sizes, materials and features are the same on both regular and Super Fat Cats. As a larger person…and an aging person with lower back problems…comfort is a biggie when it comes to float tubing. So you would think that the adjustability of an inflatable seat would have the potential for providing better comfort. Nay, not so. For one thing, an inflatable seat is subject to changes in temperature. It ain’t “set it and forget it”. You adjust the inflation just the way you want it before launching on a cool morning. But when the sun gets hotter the air in the inflatable expands and you got a harder seat. Or vice versa. You start out with a firm seat and cold water or a cold breeze shrinks and softens the seat. There is no way to adjust the pressure besides kicking back in to shore, getting out and adding or dumping air pressure from the seats. As Winnie the Pooh would say, “Bother”. Inflatable seats are also subject to pinhole leaks. In fact, the first Super Fat Cats we got gave us a lot of grief after a couple years of use. No big punctures or rips. Just little pinhole leaks that developed at a corner of a seam. Within an hour of launching…with the seat inflated just the way I wanted it…it would be getting soft and uncomfortable. That meant taking it apart and looking for leaks every trip. By the time I retired that tube my inflatable seat had Aquaseal patches on virtually every one of those corner connections.

Super fat cat

Our second set of Fat Cats were just the regular ones…with the foam seats. We were pleasantly surprised to find that they were just as comfortable as the inflatable seats had been…if not more so. In fact, as we used them more we decided that they were actually more comfortable…and we didn’t have to mess around with pressure adjustment during the day to keep them comfy. Oh yeah, they never developed any leaks either. Over the years since, we have acquired other Fat Cats…some with the inflatable seats and others with the foam seats. Can’t resist a deal when fellow tubers wanna sell a pristine craft cheap. And our mutually agreed findings have held up. The foam seat Fat Cats offer all the weight capacity of the Super Fat Cats…and the nice big pockets…and are even more comfy (to us) than the Supers.

All that being said, comfort is a subjective thing. People have different ideas about what is or is not comfortable. And we are all built differently so we each fit our tubes differently. That which conforms nicely to an “average” human behind might be too firm or too soft for another. Our observations and findings are that while the inflated seats are designed to be more comfortable…through adjustable inflation…they are actually more problematic. In order to take full advantage of the adjustable comfort feature you have to be able to raise or lower inflation levels quickly and easily. Since the air valves are located behind the seats…at a low level…they are impossible to access without a return to shore and getting out of the tube to make the adjustments. And you will need a pump to ADD any air.

Fat cat float tube

Many tubers might assume that the foam seats would be more rigid and less comfortable. Fortunately, that is not the case…as least with us. There is some bend and give in the seats…enough to create a bit of butt-cushioning conformity. And over time the foam actually develops a bit of a depression at the main pressure points. This results in customized form-fitting seats…more comfy than poorly adjusted inflated seats.

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