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Aprons and Pockets

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Aprons and Pockets
CoolMany of the earliest models of float tube covers had neither pockets nor aprons. If you got a seat that was comfortable enough to spend a few hours in, without suffering either pain or numbness, you were doing fine. All the other stuff came later.

Fishmaster tubes were some of the first to be offered commercially, and they quickly responded to requests from customers to add pockets and stripping aprons.

Early tubes were used both by bass-chasers, who wanted to carry lots of lures and such...and by fly flinging trouters who needed a platform upon which to lay the loose coils of fly line as they stripped it in, before making the next cast.

Today, the range of different sizes, types and styles of both aprons and pockets can be a big factor in one's final choice of a craft to buy. All other options being somewhat equal, you want to buy something that will best suit your style of fishing. That may require large open pockets and/or a large apron for either fly casting or to be used as a tackle tinkering work surface.

Some flotation fishermen seemingly do not use or care about aprons. Others could not do without them. Similarly, many anglers like to carry a large amount of tackle out with them, whereas others go very basic.

Most of the tubes I have purchased over the years have had at least adequate pockets and aprons. However, a couple of the last two craft I have used have had negatives.

The Kennebecs have a lot of pocket space, but they are small, connected pockets, rather than big ones for large tackle boxes. Okay for trouters but not for warm water or salt water anglers.

And, since acquiring my Outcast Super Fat Cat, two years ago, I have waged a constant campaign to first improve the wimpy aprons standard with those craft, and then to design a series of others, incorporating rigid plastic "sushi boards".

If one fishes for species with sharp spines or other dangerous protuberances, one might want to consider "armoring" vulnerable surface areas of their craft with protective aprons. I have made several different styles of naugahyde aprons over the years, and I know they have saved my craft from countless spine punctures.


One of TubeDude's first "commercially made" float tubes, by Fishmaster. Though "bare bones" by today's standards, it had pockets and an apron. However there was not enough room in the back pocket for a PFD, and very little room in the side pockets for tackle.


Several "generations" later, these Caddis Hi Sierra tubes had bigger mesh aprons, and larger pockets both on the sides and in back. Some "round boats" of this era featured dual chamber high back pockets for either an inflated air bladder, PFD, extra storage or whatever.


When the "U-boats" and "V-boats" began to hit the market, they usually required a "stabilizer bar" across the front, to keep the two open ends from collapsing in upon each other when the angler sat down on the seat. The stabilizer bar made a good base for a wide apron.


TubeDude jockeyed a Kennebec around for over a year before acquiring a Super Fat Cat. Kennebecs have stabilizer bars and decent aprons. They have inflated backrests, with extra storage at the top of the backrest. However, even though the side pockets look large, each is a multi-chambered group of pockets, designed for the smaller boxes of fly flingers. Very frustrating for a basser or salt water angler who needs room for larger lure boxes.


TubeDude loves the large open side pockets on the Outcast Super Fat Cats, but hates the wimpy aprons that are standard on these craft. They are hard to snap in place, with standard hardware, and they barely cover one's lap. They are neither adequate as a line stripping apron or as a tackle table, for those who need to open boxes, etc. There is no stability. You might as well just dump your boxes on your lap.


There is a measuring tape on the Outcast aprons, but the mesh tends to fold and roll up, making accurate measurement difficult. It is likely that this nice 13" largemouth (see tape) was probably a little smaller than it measured. Inaccurate measurements can lead to tickets if anglers rely on them when fishing under slot limits, etc.


This is TubeDude's first attempt at modifying the standard Outcast apron, by inserting a semi rigid plastic rod, to hold the front of the apron straight. The sewn strap fastening system was also replaced with a stout bungee cord and hooks, to make attachment and removal easier. It worked somewhat better, but was still not satisfactory.


TubeBabe gets credit for insisting upon having a rigid apron. She scored a cheap rubber storage container at a yard sale and handed the lid to TubeDude to turn it into an apron. The dimensions were just right to fit in the space alloted, although some minor cutting and shaping has occured on later versions, to make for a better fit.


Bungee cord and hooks are used to attach the rigid apron and to keep it in place. Quick and easy to install or take down.


Simple to drill holes in all four corners and to just run the length of stretch cord across the top and bottom. Alternatives are to run the cord up through each end...or to just tie off a short length on each of the four corners. TubeDude's current installation uses only the top two hooks, and the bottom part rests level on the lap without having to be hooked. Even quicker on and off.


TubeBabe's trial run on her new "sushi board". She caught some teasing on that, but she would never go back to the wimpy mesh apron that came on her Fat Cat. She especially likes the rigid apron when rerigging and sorting through tackle boxes. Neither of us has suffered an "oops" (tackle lost over the side) since we began using the hard aprons.


TubeDude took a page from TubeBabe's success manual and scored a flexible plastic dish drain at a yard sale. It was just the right size and did a good job, but the white was more difficult to keep clean and created more glare in bright sun. You live and learn.


Fishing for spiny rayed fishes can be hazardous to your air chambers. Draping a piece of naugahyde, or other spine-resistant material over your tube can insure that errant stickery things just bounce off, without poking a hole in your craft. Another option is to deflate your craft and insert the protective layer between the air chamber and the cover before fully inflating it again.


TubeBabe with a nice flathead cat, taken from an old Caddis tube with a red naugahyde apron draped across the front. We both tired of having to return to shore early in the day because of a tube losing air...due to pinhole leaks caused by fish spines. There's an unwritten tuber's law that says no matter how careful you are, any spiny fish you cannot control is going to bounce off an unprotected spot on your craft...and that any one that does so will poke a hole in it.


Precut naugahyde sections to be inserted into the front areas of the Fat Cats. The PVC coated sections are pretty tough, but there is several inches of fabric covered air chamber, and they are subject to the unwritten law of spiny fishes.


Some pontoons come with aprons, but many do not. This is one model (Dabbie) on which they are standard. You have to design and fabricate your own if you don't have one when you buy it. Get out the PVC and the nylon mesh...or rubberized canvas.
(This post was edited by TubeDude on Oct 2, 2005, 3:18 PM)
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Re: [TubeDude] Aprons and Pockets In reply to

One of TubeDude's first "commercially made" float tubes, by Fishmaster. Though "bare bones" by today's standards, it had pockets and an apron. However there was not enough room in the back pocket for a PFD, and very little room in the side pockets for tackle.


I wonder if I'm missing the apron to mine? How do I get a replacement one for it?
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Re: [Bluegillman] Aprons and Pockets In reply to
CoolThey made several models. Many of the first ones did not come with aprons.

If you want to get serious about tubing, I suggest that you retire the heirloom, and keep it safe. Then, go get a good new modern craft with all of the goodies. Oh yeah, don't get another "donut" either. Get an open-ended model. You will really love the difference.
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Re: [TubeDude] Aprons and Pockets In reply to
A few more miles then I should. I only went out with it once. Want to enjoy it as much as it can give me. I got another float from Browning. My young son takes it out alot this year, he hasn't tried this old boy. Still would like to see if I could get that apron fits this old boy.
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Re: [Bluegillman] Aprons and Pockets In reply to
CoolHere's a link to their website. You might try contacting them to see if they can help you.

http://www.fishmastermfg.com/fishmasterhome.htm
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Re: [TubeDude] Aprons and Pockets In reply to
Seems like they don't open their emails. I sent a few. Sounds like they would rather use the phone....which I haven't tried yet.
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Re: [Bluegillman] Aprons and Pockets In reply to
CoolThe company has changed a lot. The original people sold out several years ago. I used to talk to "Bob", the founder and owner all the time on the phone, when I was first starting my book about 25 years ago. They were always up for chatting with customers and seeing what they could do to help.

Today, the company does not do much business. They are lost among all of the new competition, with all the fancy craft. I doubt that they keep a lot of people around full time to respond to emails and phone calls.
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Re: [TubeDude] Aprons and Pockets In reply to
Instead of trying to get one from them, who are the others that would fit?
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Re: [Bluegillman] Aprons and Pockets In reply to
CoolSorry, Bro, I doubt there are any available as "aftermarket" accessories. Round tubes are on the decline.

If you can run a sewing machine, you can make your own. If you don't want to stitch it onto your tube cover, you can use velcro. There aren't many D rings or other attachable points on those oldies, so you either have to stitch something on or lash it down.

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