SUN TRACKER® FISHIN' BARGE® 22 XP3
SUN TRACKER® BASS BUGGY® 18 DLX
SUN TRACKER® PARTY BARGE® 20 DLX
SUN TRACKER® PARTY BARGE® 16 DLX ET
Truth be told, most pontoon boats are pretty much the same. They use the same materials and make them in much the same way – for the most part. What differentiates pontoon boats is the quality of construction, as some builders are little more than a crude metal shop; design, as some builders neglect basic functionality; the grade of materials used, as there are cheaper grades of most everything; and, company infrastructure, which assures that some actual engineering went into the boat, there is customer service and warranties are worth more than the paper they’re printed on. We compare a quartet of SUN TRACKER® pontoon boats. Because this company is the largest pontoon boat builder, not surprisingly its construction is the most mechanized and it can offer remarkably good value. All four of these pontoon boats are different in design and mission, so compare them to discover the best platform for any application.
For exploring, day cruising or fishing on lakes, rivers and sheltered bays, it's hard to beat a pontoon boat in this size range. They're a nice balance of cost, comfort and utility -- a 20' +/- 'toon is fine for a family of four or even six, and won't require robbing a bank to buy. Boats in this class don't require lots of horsepower, either, which also keeps the price within reason: Big outboards cost real money.
Pontoon boats are one of the most popular and fastest-growing segments of the recreational boating market, and with good reason: They're good value. SUN TRACKER® builds some of the best quality 'toons around because it has a state-of-the-art aluminum fabrication factory. Further, it is the largest builder of pontoon boats in the country.
With 14 pontoons in their model line, chances are there's a SUN TRACKER® to fit nearly anyone shopping for a 'toon in this class.
The SUN TRACKER® FISHIN' BARGE® 22 XP3 is the longest 'toon in this roundup, at 24'2" overall, 22'1" on deck. (The extra LOA results from the outboard bracket.) She's a triple-tube 'toon, the only one in this group, and can handle up to 150 horses, enough to tow a skier if the fish aren't biting. SUN TRACKER® says she'll run in the high-30-mph range with the biggest outboard.
SUN TRACKER® floats its boats on multi-chamber cylindrical tubes stiffened by internal bracing and tied together with a full-length M bracket. Each tube carries welded-on lifting strakes and spray deflectors to reduce drag and improve fuel economy – and to keep guests dry. (Three-tube SUN TRACKERs are given the XP3 label; the two-tube model of this boat is the 22 DLX.)
The FISHIN' BARGE® 22 XP3 comes standard with almost all the gear an angler needs, except rods and reels. There are two aerated livewells, 12- and 16-gallon; fold-down pedestal fishing chairs fore and aft; lockable rod stowage; and easy-to-clean vinyl over a 3/4" pressure-treated plywood deck.
An optional fish package adds an electric trolling motor and Lowrance fishfinder. A ski tow pylon is also optional.
The SUN TRACKER® BASS BUGGY® 18 DLX is for dyed-in-the-wool fishermen/women, and is the best-selling fishing 'toon in the Sun Tracker lineup. Anglers need bring only their rods; the Bass Buggy comes with almost everything else: Fishing platforms fore and aft; two livewells; a pair of fishing chairs forward, and a third one aft; and rod holders at each fishing platform.
Vinyl flooring makes clean-up easy. The outboard is mounted on a welded-aluminum pod that keeps it clear of fishermen working the aft platform. Very serious anglers will want to add a trolling motor and fishfinder, both part of an $895 fishing package.
Although the BASS BUGGY® is definitely targeted at the fisherman, Sun Tracker provides for observers, too: There's an L-lounge mounted forward of the aft fishing platform, opposite the helm, with stowage underneath. Swimmers will appreciate the four-step folding ladder affixed to the starboard-side swim platform. The platform is minimal, but adequate. There is no real bow deck, so mooring the bow will have to be done from the dock.
Our BASS BUGGY® 18 DLX test boat, with a 40-hp Mercury outboard, topped out at 16.8 mph. For the kind of service this 'toon is designed for, that's OK. She's made for poking around lakeshores and riverbanks in search of bass, not pulling skiers or racing around. And the smaller outboard helps keep the price down: With a 40-hp Mercury, the Bass Buggy 18 DLX sells for $15,995.
SUN TRACKER® PARTY BARGE® 20 DLX has a full-beam stern platform that's not only made for swimmers and water skiers, but is also a handy platform for maintaining the single outboard. Like most SUN TRACKERs, the 20 DLX carries the motor on an aluminum pod that projects about two feet aft of the platform. This moves the motor out of the way, but also keeps it within reach when necessary.
Maximum power for the PARTY BARGE® 20 DLX is a 90-hp Mercury 90 FourStroke, with either the standard or the lower-ratio Command Thrust gearcase. (The gearcase formerly known as Bigfoot.) The Command Thrust gearcase can swing a higher-pitched prop for more top speed and faster cruise. Sun Tracker claims between 21 and 27 mph with the standard Merc 90, 23 to 29 mph for the Command Thrust version. The upcharge for Command Thrust is only $400, so that's a no-brainer. (Price with the 90-hp Command Thrust is $21,095.)
The PARTY BARGE® 20 DLX captain sits at a pod-style console with slide-in stowage for a cooler under the helm. The pedestal captain's chair is well padded, with fold-down arms, and is adjustable fore and aft. Instruments live in a wraparound pod, topped with a tinted windscreen; it's removable for wind-in-the-face types. A Bimini top shades the after half of the 'toon. All of the above is standard; options include a propane BBQ, ski-tow pylon and changing curtain where a portable head can be placed. Four single- and dual-axle trailers are available.
SUN TRACKER’s BASS BUGGY® 16 DLX ET is something completely different -- an electric 'toon! Power is a 6-hp equivalent Torqueedo Cruise 2.0 R "e-outboard," linked to a pair of lithium batteries. The system is monitored by a Battery Management System, a controller with an integral GPS sensor, that provides power consumption, charge levels, vessel speed and remaining range. It's about as green a boat as there is.
'Toonists of an environmental bent, not needing much in the way of speed, and who don't range far from a plug, should appreciate this eco-friendly setup. We haven't tested the 16 DLX ET, but SUN TRACKER® says the e-motor will push her up to 6 mph. (No word on for how long, though.) Those who want more speed can have the same boat with an outboard up to 40-hp; it's the BASS BUGGY® 16 DLX ET. SUN TRACKER® says her WOT speed with 40 horses is 16 to 18 mph.
Whether pushed by amps or fossil fuel, the BASS BUGGY® 16 DLX comes ready to fish, with a pair of pedestal seats up front, a livewell, vertical rod stowage at the helm and easy-to-clean vinyl flooring. A full-beam L-lounge aft incorporates the helm seat, and is a good place for non-anglers to hang out. It's shaded by a color-coordinated Bimini top. An optional fish package includes a trolling motor and a Lowrance fishfinder.
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