The Mediocre Fishing Vessel

I received an email a short time ago from a frequent visitor/contributor to the website, and a question of sorts was asked of me as to my new fishing boat, and they wondered what made a mediocre cartopper into a fishing boat. I must admit that I sort of took offense to the statement when I first read it but afterwards, I figured out it was a pretty good question and one worth answering in a blurb!  My answer is, the boat has nothing to do with it, it's all about the angler!  Question answered!

However, as long as I'm typing, I'll put down what I think can aid an angler while they are out on a lake, river or even in the salt chuck, with respect to their boat.  As usual, everyone is of differing opinions when it comes to what is the best boat, I still say I just sold what I thought was the best fishing boat, which was my Harbercraft.  However, when we move into the world of cartopper's or "tinny's", there is again a huge selection of what anglers would consider the best.

I started out with a 12' Springbok, bought it in 1974, it was at least 5-6 years old then, my grandson now owns that one.  I moved to a beauty 20' Four Winns, gorgeous boat, then to the 24' Bayliner, another beaut and then to the "big" and best fishing boat, my 19' Harbercraft.  It was tough to get rid of the old girl but it was time for a change, and after much picking and searching I went to the V14 Alumacraft (pic at the top), and to date I cannot find a thing wrong with it.  With a 20" transom and a great seat layout, it is actually working out much better than I expected, and still catches fish.

I guess the big thing when trying to rig up a small boat, is space, and that's one of the reason's why I went to the 14' instead of the 12', well, that and the wife said she wouldn't go out in the 12'.  No comments on that thanks!  The Alumacraft is perhaps one of the wider boats across the gunnels as I've seen in a while, topping out at 68".  This was great until I found out the boat loader I had would only handle a 58" wide boat, needless to say I had to do a little fabricating.  But, with the wider boat and higher transom, there is no doubt that there is a greater safety factor with the boat, and with foam flotation under every seat I have no doubt you could fill it with water and still operate the motor!

Its important in a smaller boat to organize, its not like the big 24' Trophy where you have oodles of room and can put stuff where you want, not so with a tinny.  You have to be allot more fussy with what you buy and where you put it, simple as that.  Case in point, my sounder.  While I would like to have gone with a nice big 8", there just the room, and the 5" Lowrance I did get is awesome, having the ability to swivel 360 degree's or tilt, ideal when standing up or in a different seating position in the boat.  The big sounders are fixed in one position, that's it, and the screen would have been "to big" because the angler is usually pretty close to it all the time.  The battery I found was a nifty mini AGM battery from Bass Pro.  Although I may get a small electric motor in the future for now I just needed something to operate the sounder and the electric downrigger.  The battery is 2/3 the size of the normal Deep Cycle and fits nicely in the little cubby hole provided under one of the seats.  I have no doubt my neighbors had a good laugh when I first brought the boat home and put it on the lawn.  I would sit in it and envision where stuff should be put, even going so far as having a fishing rod in my hands at times!

Yes, an electric downrigger, and not just because I still fish the big lakes, but for smaller lakes as well.  I still maintain that 90% of the time the bigger fish are caught at depth, and there's nothing nicer than to have a downrigger rather than a 8 oz slip weight on your line.  Sometime in the future I'll be rigging up a "handjob" rigger on the port side, for the shallower depths.

Even small tinny's have Regs they have to follow, I'll be danged if I can actually find ones that pertain specifically to these small boats as they are categorized as row boats but when you put a motor on they're power boats, but I don't think I need 150' of anchor line with 30' of chain, nor a glove box full of flares or running lights!  Something I do need however are lifejackets, one per person, approved, just like any other boat.  Here's a little tidbit of info for you guys wearing those small Mustang inflatable vests, like I have.  Unless your wearing it at the time that your checked, it does not count as a life jacket.  Yup, because it has to be inflated before it works, it doesn't count as a PFD when its sitting on the seat.  So, with that said, and not to contravene the laws or give someone an out, what I do is strap a regular PFD under one of the seats, then if by chance I do get checked and don't have my Mustang on, I'm still covered.  However, one should always be wearing a life jacket when out on the water, doesn't get any plainer than that, just do it.

I also rigged up a Scotty anchor lock mechanism, they are the cats sphincter for those times when you do want to anchor your boat and do a little fly fishing, casting or just don't want to drift away!  I have about 50' of 5/16 cord attached to my anchor and it'll keep me pretty much anywhere I toss it, in fact sometimes I can't get it loose!  Along with the Scotty anchor mechanism are a host of other Scotty products, rod holders fore and aft, extensions for the holders, specific holder for a fly rod, pedestal mount for the downrigger, and a bank of electrical plugins for the electrical stuff.

Perhaps one of the more important goodies to rig the wee boat with, is the motor.  I stuck with Yamaha again, with the tremendous success I had with my last 3 Yammy's, it only made sense to stick with what worked for me.  I went with the 15HP long shaft, even though the boat was rated for 20HP.  I know I always rant about getting the biggest motor you can for your boat as long as its "legal", but when it came to this smaller version it made no sense to overpower it.  I know that on my 19' aluminum with the 150HP it got a bit hairy sometimes when going full tilt and hitting some wake, to the point of almost losing it on one occasion.  With a small tinny that weighs just over 200 lbs and does 25mph, I didn't see the sense in going the extra 5HP just to go an extra 5mph.  That and fuel usage, I have yet to burn more than a gallon in an outing, even with the zipping about that I normally do.  My old boat would go through 3-4 gallons in an outing, including trolling.  Although the 20HP wouldn't burn that much more and actually didn't even weigh more than the 15HP, 90% of the time I'm trolling and I don't need the power.  Another feature I do like on the 15 over the 9.9 is a bigger alternator.  The one on the 15 is always charging at 6amps and up to 10 amps, lots of power for the AGM battery.  The old 9.9 was max at 6amps at WOT, but at trolling was 2amps, and just didn't cut it for the big Deep Cycle batteries.  Starting on the Yammy is also second to none, one pull.  It has some fancy dancy auto choke thing along with a decompression release so its as easy to start as the Honda lawnmower, and idles down so low and so quiet that the water coming out the pee hole is nosier! The motor came with a 12L gas tank, more than enough for the fishing I do around here.  For longer trips I have a 25L tank that'll go the distance.

The bottom line is that at the end of the day you wind up with a vessel that you are comfortable to fish out of, in any conditions, and more importantly, is safe.  I have put together what I believe is such a craft, and not to flaunt it or prove anything with it, I will be taking it salmon fishing this summer!  I've already fished the big lakes with it, fly fished the small lakes with it, so its a trip to the Coast to give it a whirl.  I did it in my 12' Springbok in Powell River, so it's more than up to the task in the sheltered waters of Sooke to test it out.  Besides, I'll have my son-in-law along to keep me out of harms way!

I have to agree with Chuck about going back to a smaller boat from the bigger ones and fishing a different style.  Chuck described it as, "its like going back home", and as corny as that may sound to some, I can't agree more with him.  There is a comfort factor in going back to something you started out in, and I can't wait to get back to some of the lakes I fished as a kid and continued to fish into adulthood, although my wife says I never have or ever will grow up!  With a nice padded seat and a "cup" holder in the very near future, "back home" has never been closer!              Cappy aka Sherm