Situated on the banks of the Ohio River, Clarksville, Indiana (www.town.clarksville.in.us/) has a long, rich outdoors history. Some of the oldest naturally exposed fossil beds (www.fallsoftheohio.org/) can be seen there; Native Americans set up camps along the Ohio River as it was close to the crossing of the Buffalo Trace; it was the gathering point for the Lewis and Clark Expedition of the Louisiana Purchase (www.lewisandclarktrail.com/legacy/louisclark/) and John James Audubon was only one of several naturalists to study the variety of wildlife in the area. With such an outdoors heritage it is only natural that outdoors giant Bass Pro Shops has built a retail store in Clarksville which bills itself as the “Oldest American Town in the Northwest Territory.” At 280,000 square-feet, Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World store is the company’s second largest to date.
Located in the River Falls Mall, just off Interstate 65 and across the river from Louisville, Kentucky, the entire store is a tribute to the Kentuckiana region and its people and, like other Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World stores, takes on the flavor and atmosphere of the region in which it is located. Using area artifacts, antiques and memorabilia the store becomes a living museum of the hunting, fishing, camping and other outdoor legacies of Indiana.
The outdoor super store features two levels and is part museum, part art gallery, part education, conservation and entertainment center. Massive log and rock work frame the Grand Entrance where inside, timber skin walls and vaulted post and beam construction ceiling make up the front lobby. Natural daylight streams through the store through the 50,000-square-foot Hypalon roof structure.
Museum quality wildlife exhibits adorn the entire store including state record fish mounts, turkeys, native waterfowl, quail, pheasants, rams, elk, full body whitetail mounts and bears. State record mounts are displayed alongside local historical prints depicting early Indiana residents enjoying sporting adventures.
Inside, giant, exquisitely crafted outdoor themed chandeliers, made by Bass Pro Shops own artisans, hang throughout the store. Dinosaur fossils and wildlife tracks are imprinted in the concrete floor. One of the store’s focal points is a rock bluff structure that showcases a dramatic 65’ waterfall (one of three) flowing into the 50,000 gallon aquarium which features two tanks. It is stocked with more than 300 fish native to the area including large and smallmouth bass, catfish, carp, walleye, bluegill, and crappie. A beaver pond and stream runs through the central clerestory on the main floor.
Two elevators rise through cave-like structures near the aquarium allowing visitors to see through the aquarium on their ride up to the 2nd floor.
Murals, wildlife paintings and animal dioramas help portray local and regional scenes to lend authenticity and help capture the Indiana landscape.
On the 91,500-square foot first floor, visitors have the area’s largest selection of freshwater rods, reels and fishing accessories, all hand-picked and specially selected for the area, to choose from. The White River Fly Shop, featuring antique and collectible fly fishing memorabilia, has a vast selection of the latest in fly fishing gear. Experts will continue the art of hand-tying flies on site and assist customers in making the perfect selection.
More than a fishing store, visitors find items perfect for camping, hiking, outdoor cooking, bird watching or whatever your outdoor pleasures. A gift and nature center offers a variety of items from artwork to lamps, to bird feeders and furniture, home decorating items and gifts for the holidays. Cooking accessories include cookbooks, spices, grills and jerky making items.
The attention to detail continues upstairs in the 178,600 square-foot second floor. The hunting department features a 75’ long curved counter which stands ready to help assist customers. Hunting cabinets are adorned with hand-carved animals. World Class record mounts grace the walls. Customers will find an equally impressive array of hunting clothing and gear. The archery department offers a bow set-up shop and a 25-yard live archery range is perfect for testing that new bow or sharpening necessary skills.
Shooters of all ages will enjoy the 16,000-square foot, walk-through “African Big Game” safari-style rifle arcade with animated targets. There is also a theater-styled seminar room which will accommodate up to 200 people for various civic, educational or conservation functions.
A NASCAR department provides 3 car simulators plus all the clothing and items featuring your favorite driver.
An 11,000 square-foot marine and boat center helps area residents have fun on the water with a full range of powerboats from Tracker Marine--the world’s largest manufacturer of fishing boats. From big water boats to small fishing, canoeing and even kayaking, customers will find exactly what they need with selections from Tracker, Nitro, Tahoe, Mako, Kenner and more. An on-site boat service center with 4 service bays is available for customers’ convenience for boat rigging and repairs.
The store offers Outdoor Skills Workshops for adults, kids and families that will help maximize outdoor fun by teaching new skills and improving existing ones. They also feature many youth activities throughout the year.
For more information regarding your Clarksville Bass Pro Shops store location, products or special events, please visit www.basspro.com or call 812-218-5500.
Visit us soon!
Tina Tucker, Special Events Coordinator
Normally at the end of December most of us put away our hunting gear and begin the long wait until spring turkey season. You might want to reconsider the putting away of your hunting gear as you would be missing the fast growing and very exciting winter sport of predator hunting. You don’t have to spend much time in the woods to know that there are a lot of coyotes in our area. These extremely wary animals are a real challenge to hunt and give a good excuse to get out of the house for some exciting hunting. Winter is a prime time for predator hunting but like any winter sport staying warm is a paramount priority. Not only is there a major need for staying warm but given the extreme wariness of coyotes and their excellent vision effective camouflage is also essential. Whitewater Outdoors Pro Series Reversible Sherpa Snow Jacket and their Pro Series Reversible Sherpa Snow Bibs in either Realtree AP Snow or Realtree depending on whether there is snow cover or not would be good choices for a winter hunt.
Winter boots are always a must and either Danner Pronghorn 8 inch Gore Tex Waterproof 1200 Gram Thinsulate Hunting Boots or Rocky 10 inch Bear Claw 3D Gore Tex Insulated Waterproof Hunting Boots are a good choice for cold weather hunting. If you are likely to encounter real wet conditions then the LaCrosse Alpha SST Waterproof 1200 Gram Thinsulate Insulated Hunting Boots would be a good choice.
Bows, shotguns and rifles are allowed for coyote hunting but there are specific guidelines as to the types of shot that can be used with shotguns and also when rifles and shotguns can be used. It is a good idea to consult the Mass Fish and Game laws before deciding which type of firearm to use. The Mass Fish and Game laws are also important to determine what the season is for coyote hunting as they have recently changed. A number of different methods are utilized in hunting coyotes and these include spot and stalk (extremely difficult), baiting and calling. Each of these methods requires its own specific skills and techniques.
If you are interested in learning about this fast growing type of hunting or if you would like to bring your coyote hunting to a new level you will want to join us at Bass Pro Shops on January 7 and January 8 from 11:00am to 4:00pm for our third annual Predator Hunting Weekend. There will be seminars on coyote hunting and calling demos by predator hunting pros. There will also be a seminar on the Massachusetts’ coyote hunting regulations by a representative of the Mass Fish and Wildlife Department. Also scheduled are seminars on gun and ammunition selection and the selection and use of optics for coyote hunting. There will also be product display tables and industry representatives available to answer your questions and offer tips on hunting coyotes.
Bass Pro Shops
Workshops for July 2011
WEDNESDAY 7/20, 7/27
Bass Fishing Workshop – Spin & Bait Casting
On Wednesday at 6:00 pm Bass Pro Shops Fishing Team will be teaching a weekly workshop on Bass Fishing in Colorado. This workshop will take place at our "Super Aquarium." Come learn all the new techniques used from Drop Shot, Texas Rig, Carolina Rigging to casting a crankbait and spinnerbait. Our team will be showing the tackle and techniques that are working locally and regionally during this weekly workshop.
How to use Fish Finders and What’s New!
On Wednesday at 6:30 pm Bass Pro Shops Marine Team will be hosting a workshop on using Fish Finders and What’s New! Come see the latest models for 2011 and learn what advancements have been made. From Color to GPS built into to the hottest units see what the difference are and what advantages you get from having these features in your Fish Finder. This Workshop will take place at our Marine Counter.
THURSDAY 7/21, 7/28
Fishing for Walleyes – Spin & Bait Casting
On Thursday at 6:30 pm Bass Pro Shops Fishing Team will be hosting a workshop on Fishing for Walleyes. Colorado is home to some of the finest Walleye fishing in the West. We will discuss jigging, live bait rigging and trolling for Walleye. Our team will show you tips and techniques to make you a more successful walleye fisherman.
Learning to use GPS
On Thursday at 6:30 pm Bass Pro Shops Marine Team will be hosting a workshop on learning to use GPS. Our GPS experts will be conducting a workshop that will help you learn how easy these new units are to operate. GPS units have changed the way we hunt, fish and back pack in the Rocky Mountains. Come hear what you have been missing.
FRIDAY 7/22, 7/29
On Friday at 6:30 pm Bass Pro Shops Archery team will host a workshop on beginning Archery.
Learn the basics of archery from our hunting staff. They can help you with everything from, draw length, arrow length, picking out your release, and beginning techniques. This is a great workshop for anyone who is preparing to get into archery. Beginning Archery will be held in the Bass Pro Shops indoor Archery range, located on the second floor. If you plan on bringing your own bow, please make sure to check it in at the greeters stand at the entrance to the store.
SATURDAY 7/23, 7/30
*Introduction to Fly Fishing
On Saturday at 9:30 am – noon Our Fly Fishing Team will host an Introduction to Fly Fishing Workshop…
Everything you need to know: Including fly fishing equipment, the gear, flies, casting, rigging, knots, waterways and more ...
*Reservations are required. Workshop is limited to 10 students. Call (720) 385-3600 Ask for The Fly Shop.
*Dates subject to change due to weather and/or holidays, without notice
Some of the most common questions we get in the boat business are “Do I need a stainless steel propeller?” and “Do I need a bigger or smaller pitch prop?”
First of all I am not talking about 20 foot bass boats with big horsepower or pontoon boats with the flat pancake looking props; this discussion pertains to the 16 to 18 foot fishing boat with mid-range horsepower. The standard issue prop on most of these boat packages is a conservatively pitched aluminum wheel on a 40 to 115 HP outboard and by the way, the boat manufacturer recommends the prop that works best in most conditions, not the outboard manufacturer.
There really is no rule of thumb here. What we want is a fusion of suitable top end RPM’s, smooth drivability (no fighting the steering wheel), and an efficient hole-shot. Keep in mind that the prop is only a part of this. The placement of weight in the boat, the motor height on the transom, and the basic skills of the driver all play a role. Also, there is no replacement for displacement; on-demand horsepower makes most problems go away.
Let me paint one scenario I recently spoke about with a customer. He owned an 18 foot aluminum deep "v" with a 90HP outboard. His concern was with the hole-shot; it was taking too much time and too many RPM’s to make the bow break over and get the boat on plane. He was not concerned with top speed. I recommended the following: move any “movable” weight to the front of the boat first and experiment with motor height. The 90HP works okay on his boat but it is not optimal so we need to fit the boat to the motor. Moving 50 pounds (anchor, tackle, etc.) from the back of the boat to the front nets us a 100 pound difference which is huge. Also, raising the motor height in most circumstances will help elevate the boat as well. These adjustments will make a difference but may not completely cure his problem. Remember he was pleased with the top speed so dropping the pitch from say a 17 to 15 will cause the outboard to rev up faster giving him more punch for the hole-shot. And with his set up, it will only cost a 2 or 3 MPH loss of top speed.
Stainless or aluminum? Stainless is more durable and does not flex at high RPM’s but it is also less likely to break on impact which could send the impact force on to the gear case causing damage there or to the prop shaft. Aluminum is less expensive and tends to bend and chip easier.
All this should be considered when choosing a prop. One arguable point is that Mercury makes the most balanced OEM props on the market. Consistency of the weight of the each blade is crucial to the efficiency of the prop. Check out Mercury’s prop selector tool here.
More on this in future posts….
Working at Bass Pro Shops the two most common asked questions are: “Where is the bathroom?” and “What kind of fishing line do you recommend?” Customers are constantly in search of the perfect fishing line – but is there such a thing? There is no easy answer to this question and it's why we carry 86 different lines in our store. Every fisherman has their favorite lines and lines they despise. I personally have tested many of the lines we carry at Bass Pro Shops, as well as many others on the market. I feel confident in assisting customers to find the perfect line for their needs but in order to do so I will always ask them a few questions.
The first thing to uncover is how experienced the customer is as an angler. There is a big difference between a novice customer that will be using the line for all different types of fishing and lures and a more experienced customer that will be using the line for technique specific applications. Certain types of fishing line can be used for various types of fishing, but that does not mean it qualifies as the best option for certain techniques. Other lines cannot be used with certain lures or techniques and will hinder the performance of a bait, thus causing the customer to catch less fish, yet can be ideal for specific lures or techniques. I like to compare the rod, reel and line fishing combination to a set of golf clubs; you can play 18 holes with only a seven iron but you would do much better with a full set of clubs.
In addition to selecting the appropriate line for your fishing experience, maintenance is a mistake that many fishermen overlook. Leaving line on your reel for too long can negatively impact your ability to catch fish; re-spooling your line frequently ensures that it is fresh and strong. Depending on the type of line used, I recommend re-spooling every three months. If I am fishing frequently or in a tournament, I re-spool every other day.
Line is the link between you and a trophy fish. Oftentimes, I see fishermen not catching fish or losing fish because of the line they using, and yet both of these problems are easily avoidable.
In order to become more familiar with selecting your line, it is important to understand the three basic categories of fishing lines: Monofilament, Braid and Fluorocarbon.
Monofilament is your basic multiple use fishing line. Monofilament and Co-polymer lines are the most popular and best-selling lines. It is the most all around line but rarely the best option if you are looking to excel at a specific technique. Monofilaments come in many different blends all with different properties. Some are softer than others and have less memory, while others are stiff and abrasion resistant.
Positives: You can use monofilament for most types of fishing. If you only have one rod it should be spooled with a monofilament line. Mono floats, which for certain techniques is ideal. Monofilament has less memory than Fluorocarbon. This line is also the most affordable and is available in clear, clear blue, green, and various high visibility lines.
Negatives: Monofilament has the most amount of stretch, which can hinder hook sets. Since the line floats it can create a bow in the line, which also hinders hook sets on sinking baits. Low abrasion resistance.
Technique Specific: Top-water, trolling, kids, stream trout, all around setup
Tips: Mono absorbs water and sunlight, so over time it breaks down and looses strength. It is very important to re-spool your line every few months. Storing your extra line in a cool dark place ensures it will last longer.
Fluorocarbon line is relatively new to the fishing industry, but is definitely here to stay. Fluoro looks almost identical to monofilament but has incredibly different properties that make it a far more superior line. It is much less visible under water than monofilament line. Since its light refractive index is nearly the same as water when it is penetrated by sunlight fish cannot see it. While fishing in clear water and using finesse techniques, fluorocarbon will get you more bites. Another advantage in most cases is that fluorocarbon is a very dense line; which means it sinks, has very low stretch and is more abrasion resistant.
Positives: Because it sinks, Fluorocarbon is better than monofilament for most sub-surface baits. Less bow in your line and less stretch means you will have a better hook set. Fluorocarbon is the least visible to fish. The line density also makes Fluorocarbon very more sensitive than monofilament.
Negatives: The line is not ideal if you only have one rod because it can hurt the action of floating baits. If you use fluorocarbon for still fishing with live bait it will sink to the bottom and get stuck in rocks. Heavier pound tests are tough to cast on spinning gear. Fluorocarbon is also a lot more expensive than monofilament line.
Technique Specific: Drop Shot, Tubes, Jerkbaits, Crankbaits, Flipping and Pitching, Finesse, leader material.
Tips: Fill up half your reel with cheaper monofilament line and tie a knot to your fluorocarbon, this way you are not wasting expensive line that you will never get down to on your reel. Use an aftermarket line conditioner to reduce line memory.
I'm grouping all “Superlines” into this category because they all have similar properties. Braided line is a made of multiple strands of fiber, Spectra or Dyneema, woven together. There are also a few thermally fused lines on the market, such as Fireline, that fall into this category. Braid is extremely thin for its strength. An 8 pound test monofilament line has the same diameter as a 30 pound test braided line. These superlines have almost no memory or stretch at all and float.
Positives: You can use very heavy pound test lines, 50 to 80 pound test lines are not uncommon, which allows you to rip though weeds with ease. No stretch in the line means instant hard hook sets. Braid lasts a long time on a reel so you do not need to replace it often.
Negatives: Braid is colored and is not invisible and sometimes this can spook fish. Superlines are hard to break if you get your lure hung up on the bottom or a tree. It is more expensive than monofilament.
Technique Specific: Flipping and Pitching, weeds, can be combined with a fluorocarbon leader and used for a wide variety of techniques.
Tips: Always spool your reel with a small amount of mono first, and then tie in your braid. These lines are so thin and slick that it will spin on your spool if not tied to monofilament; you may think the drag on your reel is broken.
You can use your line twice. Once one end wears out, change it to a different reel. By starting with the used end you will get down to line you have never fished with before.
All Braided lines bleed and lose color over time. Buy a green Sharpie marker and cut a splice in the tip of the pen. Run your line through the pen a couple times to make it green again.
Don't spool up a baitcasting reel with braid less than 30 pound test. The diameter of the line is so thin that it digs into the spool and will cause a backlash.
The Latest Technology
This year two new lines have been introduced that have unique properties and I'm still not sure how to categorize them. They are Spiderwire Fluoro-Braid and Suffix 832. Both lines are braided, but they also sink. The idea here is to combine some of the best qualities or a superline and sinking properties of fluorocarbon. By doing this you eliminate the bow in your line while using sinking baits with braided line, thereby giving a better hook set. These lines are ideal for fisherman prefer to use braid for drop shot fishing with a fluorocarbon leader.
The fishing industry is constantly improving products each year. Berkley has already announced a new line coming out later this year called Nanofil, which uses the strength of nano fibers to make an even stronger and thinner line than ever. I can't wait to test this out!
As you can see there is a lot more to selecting the perfect fishing line than you might have originally thought. Each category of line has unique properties that make it a good and bad choice. Certain lines will help you catch more fish while others will hinder the action of the lure you are using. Fishing line is the most important part your rod and reel combo as it is the link between you, your bait and a trophy. Good luck and tight lines!
What is UPF protection?
Now we’re not talking about the United Peace Federation – maybe later. We are talking about the Ultraviolet Protection Factor rating in clothing.
We all remember from growing up (especially here in Arizona) that sunscreen was essential for outdoor
A few years ago this acronym, UPF, popped up from almost no where. Is it SPF for clothing? Kinda. What actually is it? It’s been around since 1998 and most people know that it’s good for you in the sun, but they don’t know the science or reasoning behind it. As we enter into these sun-intensive summer months, let’s explore what UPF is.
The first thing to know about UPF is the rating system.
% UV radiation Blocked
UPF 15 - 24
93.3 - 95.9
UPF 25 - 39
96.0 - 97.4
UPF 40 - 49
97.5 – 97.9
Ultimate in UV Sun Protection
98.0 or more
As you can see from this table, the higher the UPF rating, the higher the percentage of UV protection and that means the more protected you are from the sun’s harmful rays. This is important because we do not realize that clothes without this UPF rating can let these rays through to our skin. We could wear the appropriate hat and the best sunscreen money can buy, but we are still vulnerable through our clothing. This is why it is essential to upgrade your outdoor clothing to UPF rated stuff.
There are a number of factors that affect the level of ultraviolet protection provided by a fabric and the UPF rating. In order of importance these are: weave (tighter is better), color (darker is better), weight (also called mass or cover factor - heavier is better), stretch (less is better) and wetness (dry is better). The other major factor that affects protection is the addition of chemicals such as UV absorbers or UV diffusers during the manufacturing process. Many factors that make a garment comfortable also make it less protective – the major design challenge for sun protective clothing is how to combine comfort, style and protection in the one garment (http://www.coolibar.com/upf-ratings.html). Check out today’s UV Index in your area here.
So now that we have a bit of understanding as to what UPF rated clothing is and what it entails, let’s have a look at a couple of examples from head to toe…
Columbia Omni-Shade Schooner Bank Hat UPF 50 - $20
UV Buff Headwear UPF - $23
UA HeatGear Tech T-Shirt UPF 30+ - $25
Columbia Omni-Freeze Woven Shirt UPF 50+ - $70.00
WWS Hybrid Angler Pant UPF 50+ - $25
Whether you're fly fishing, bow hunting, or just out enjoying the kids' soccer game... now you’re protected, stylish and ready to take on the outdoors!
-- Richie Campana
Bass Pro Shops Mesa, AZ
A spinning fisherman from Ontario asks about fly-fishing The Bow River in Alberta
I’m sitting here, writing this blog, when Jarett Black (BPS manager) comes up to me holding a White River fly-rod in one hand. “This is how you fish on the Bow,” He says. I examine the 9 foot rod skeptically. I even more skeptically examine the little plastic box filled with what he calls flies. Instead of effective, first rate trout lures, these look like something I made in Kindergarten art class. He continues to smile like he just handed me the holy grail of Bow River fishing. I smile back and wonder - is he right?
I grew up in Northern Ontario fishing for Pikerel and Smallmouth Bass using a spinning reel and 6’6 medium action rod. This is how I was raised to believe it was done. You used Lindy rigs, jigs, spoons, cranks and soft plastics. When I moved to Calgary everyone seemed to agree that if I wanted to fish in Alberta I’d have to learn to Fly-fish. It was described to me as the finest angling art … a fusion of craftsmanship and sport. They spoke of enlightenment and serenity. To this Northern angler it sounded a little bit like ‘Feng-Shui fishing’.
I’m looking at the White River Fly-rod now and I’m noticing that the reel looks a little like a tire rim. Where is the drag? Where is the bail? I tune back into the conversation and find that Jarett is talking about turning over rocks to see what kind of bugs are beneath it. I laugh at him, thinking it’s a joke, but it isn’t. This is one of the best ways to determine what kind of fly you’re going to use. “I’ve been fishing the bow like this for years. There’s more satisfaction in identifying exactly what the trout are eating and then matching it and catching one,” I start to see the appeal. It must be like the feeling you get when you’re calling for big game and you get an answer. This makes me think that Fly-Fishing is somehow closer to nature. There seems to be less technology standing between the angler and the fish.
I ask him then about waders. “They’re pretty useful when the water is cold in the spring and fall.” I can’t shake the image of a man wearing waders, flinging his line out, breaking the mist on the water just as the orange sun peaks over the pine tree tops. It’s a powerful image. It might be from a painting I once saw, but it’s more likely my inner-angler having his interest peaked in fly-fishing. So I finally ask him what he thinks about spinning for trout on the Bow. “I’ve never really been much of a fan of it,” he says then adds jokingly, “It’s sort of a lesser art.”
In talking to guys and ladies in the fishing department here at Bass Pro Calgary, I hear a much different story. “Of course you can spin for trout on the Bow,” Jason Cahoon (Fishing Department Lead) tells me. “You just need a CD07 brown trout Rapala or an XPS Lazer Eye Brown Trout Floater and away you go.”
I think that a lot of people from out east that come out here are intimidated by the prospect of having to learn to Fly-fish to enjoy the angling experience they so crave. I know I was. But you can take part in the world-class trout fishing we have here in Alberta with the gear you’re most accustomed to using. We have everything you need to get started including opinions on which way is best. Either way we can get you geared up and ready to rip-lip this fishing season here at the store. Just don’t ask us to turn any rocks over, you’re going to have to do that yourself.
Chris Wragg is a lead at Bass Pro Shops Calgary.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO SPIN THE BOW
· Fishing License
· Rod and Reel
o A good combo rod and reel is really all you need. Make sure that your rod is long enough for extended casts (7Ft+). Look for something in a Medium Light or Light for increased sensitivity.
· Tackle Box
By Monte Burch
In low-water conditions, make sure your tires don't drop off the end of the ramp, sinking into the soft lake bottom.
I've seen a lot of stupid mistakes at boat ramps in my years of boating, and I've made many myself, including the usual forgetting to unhook the boat from the trailer as the couple just mentioned. I also forgot to install the drain plug, and even forgot to hook up the winch and safety chain. The latter resulted in having to re-launch the boat, but I was lucky. I've also seen an expensive fiberglass bass boat sitting "dry docked" in the middle of a boat ramp.
Most pro and weekend bass and walleye tournament anglers are pretty sharp at boat-ramp etiquette, mostly because they have to be. I've watched over 400 boats launched within an hour's time during a Charger Owner's Tournament, and watched the efficiency of ramp "sergeants" at B.A.S.S. Tournaments as well. It's usually when you mix in the less-experienced recreational boaters that problems begin. They park on the end of the ramp, then begin getting their boat ready for the water, hauling stuff down from the parking lot, and in general creating a long line of frustrated boaters. Here's how you can make your day easier, and less of a hassle, as well as other boaters happier.
In the parking lot, before you approach the ramp, or in the case of a long ramp access with a waiting line, begin your pre-launch preparations. First, remove tie-downs securing the boat. Make sure, however, you leave the winch line attached to the bow eye. Install or check and tighten all drain plugs. Check livewell drain positions or plugs. Connect fuel lines, and pump the primer bulb a few times to pressurize the fuel line. Turn the motor key very briefly to check the motor-battery charge, but do not turn the motor on. If it fires immediately, turn it off. If I haven't used my boat for some time I install a water-flush hose attachment to the outboard motor water intake, and turn it on for a minute or two before leaving home, ensuring it will start. Sitting on a boat ramp with a motor that won't start can be extremely frustrating to you and everyone around you.
Move coolers, fishing gear, lifejackets or other equipment you may have in your automobile to your boat. Lay out PFDs and make sure you have enough for all passengers. You may also wish to connect the driver's pfd to the engine kill switch if the lanyard is long enough. If your trailer lights are not waterproof, unplug the wiring harness between the trailer and your tow vehicle. This will prevent damage to your lights and blown fuses. Raise your outboard or stern drive so it won't scrape on the ramp. Next, be sure to tie at least one, and preferably two, docking lines to the boat so that anyone helping you will be able to control the boat after it's launched. This is also helpful in case you're doing the job yourself, enabling you to quickly secure the boat to a floating dock or other temporary tie-up while you park your vehicle.
Another step that can prevent a lot of headaches is to check out the ramp situation before you pull onto it. How steep is it? Is it algae-covered, slick or dry? Is it smooth or does it have roughened surfaces for traction? Depending on your tow vehicle, all these factors can be extremely important. Determine if there is a dock to tie to after you launch the boat, or will you need to beach and tie to the bank. You should also check out the parking lot, making sure there is space for you to park. Some ramp areas require parking vehicles and trailers in separate areas.
Next to forgetting the drain plug, backing a trailer down the ramp into the water is the single most embarrassing chore for many boaters. Like many other skills, however, it just takes practice. One of the best things you can do is practice, practice and practice some more, in an empty parking lot until you're comfortable backing the boat and trailer. Some ramps are more challenging, to say the least. Some are extremely steep, or have a change of angle where the boat and trailer disappear from view until your tow vehicle drops to the same angle. And some ramps are also multi-lane, which means less space, but make sure you stay in your ramp.Some ramps have turn areas at the top. Make sure you don't turn so short you jam the trailer tongue against your vehicle. In the case of square-bow boats such as some aluminums, and on short trailer tongues, you can even put a dent in the back of a utility vehicle with the corner on a tight turn. Regardless, the key to success is to take your time and keep your cool.
Two methods can be used for launching, without power and with power. How far you need to back into the water depends on the method chosen, steepness of the ramp and water depth. With a little experience you'll quickly learn the best positions on ramps you use frequently. A good rule of thumb is to stop when the step in front of the trailer fender is even with the water level. Then set the parking brake on the vehicle and you're ready to launch.
A properly fitted trailer will allow a boat to launch itself. But be careful on steep ramps because a roller trailer might launch your boat before you're ready. Either have a friend hold the docking line as you back into the water, or secure it to your vehicle or the trailer. It's best to stop, loosen and then unhook the bow eye winch hook just before final entry into the water. One dangerous possibility exists if using the winch rope to launch. If you snap the ratchet mechanism open without a firm grip on the handle, the weight of the boat may pull it back off the trailer quickly, causing the handle to spin rapidly with possible injury. In some cases you may need to give your boat a slight shove to get it moving backwards, but in most instances it's easier to simply back a bit farther into the water. In low-water conditions watch that the ramp doesn't end before the boat floats and your tires drop off into the soft lake bottom.
Launching a boat by power is usually the choice, particularly if fishing with a partner--one drives the vehicle and the other the boat. You can even do this single-handed on some ramps. I've found my Chevy Suburban allows me to open the back doors, step through the back and onto the boat bow without getting my feet wet. In any case, leave the winch strap attached to the bow eye until you're actually in the boat, then reach over, snap the switch to off and making sure you hold firmly to the handle, loosen the winch enough to unsnap the eye and you're ready to launch. I usually like to start the engine before this step. Make sure you have the engine tilted down, but there's enough water for prop clearance before a power launch. Then apply power slowly and smoothly, just enough to get the boat moving off the trailer. Once the boat is afloat, quickly tie it to the dock and park the trailer, allowing the next person access to the ramp.
Loading your boat onto a properly fitted trailer at the end of the day can be a breeze; with an improperly fitted trailer it can be the single most frustrating situation of the day.
Use common courtesy. Don't park your boat on the ramp while retrieving your tow vehicle. Park at a dock, or beach it off the ramp. Loading is basically a reversal of launching. Again two methods can be used, power or non-power. Trailer position is important in both cases. If using power-on the best tactic is to have the trailer in the water just enough that a little power is needed to get the boat in place. This settles the boat correctly on the bunks. If the trailer is too deep the boat can float side to side and when you pull out the boat may have shifted off center of the trailer. If using powered method, center the boat on the trailer as you enter the bunks. This means approaching upwind or upcurrent in those conditions. Use steady but low power for a constant forward motion if possible and you're not approaching too fast. Shifting out of gear lessens your steering ability, often causing the boat to twist or turn on the approach. Make sure there is enough water for prop clearance, and use as little power as possible to move the boat bow eye up to the winch stand. Too much power can cause damage to the winch stand and boat eye, as well as cause erosion at the end of the ramp..
Launching and loading a boat can be a simple chore with a little preparation and practice. It can not only make your fishing day more pleasant, but also more pleasant for those around you as well.
By Tim Allard
Preparation is critical for boat launching to be a smooth operation.
Do Some Homework
A little digging can go a long way when it comes to using a launch for the first time. If you can, it's a good idea to inquire with local anglers, baitshop owners, or guides about the state of the launch. Questions to ask are: "Is it gravel or concrete launch? How many boats can be launched at a time? Is there a dock? Is the launch in good condition? Is there a fee? And if you have a larger boat, does it have the depth to handle it?
Knowing about a sub-par launch is important so you can be prepared, or simply avoid the shabby one and find a better ramp close by. Lastly, you'll want to make sure you get directions -- driving in circles is a pain on a good day, but it's a lot worse when you're towing a boat and pressed for time!
Have the Right Gear
Just as important as knowing about the launch you'll use, is being prepared with the right gear to get in and out of the water quickly and in a safe manner. It's essential that your trailer be in proper condition, including working lights, adequately-inflated tires with sufficient treads, as well as a winch, strap, and clip to keep the boat secure. If any of these items fail, you might not make it to the launch.
You will need the following gear when you're ready to launch: A bowline is critical for launching a boat alone or if you plan to secure it to the shore or a dock before departing. If needed, you should also have a spare line attached to the stern. If resting your boat against a dock, fenders and bumpers will protect it from damages caused by rocks. If you regularly beach your boat, consider investing in a KeelGuard to protect your hull. Don't forget to carry a spare plug and keys for your boat. Losing either of these can create a lot of disarray at a launch and quickly end a trip. Lastly, always carry the required safety equipment, especially life jackets, spare paddles, a signaling device, a bailer and a throw rope.
How-to Launch a Boat
Phase One - Preparation
Preparation is critical for boat launching to be a smooth operation. Most launches have areas designated for pre- and post-launch activities. You should always use these areas and never (even if the launch is empty) do your preparations on the ramp itself. Local anglers living down the street could arrive and be ready to go before you are, and clogging a launch ramp simply equates to bad launch etiquette.
Before preparing your boat for launching, walk to the ramp itself and make sure it's suitable for your towing rig and boat. Steep gravel ramps might be too much for a vehicle with low horsepower and limited torque or bad weather conditions might make the ramp too dangerous to use.
When you prepare your boat, do the following -- remove the tarp and any securing straps (like transom tie-downs). Load in any gear you haven't already put in the boat so you don't have to carry equipment. Check your boat plug to make sure it's in securely and also make sure the keys to the boat are in the console as well. Double-check the amount of gas you have (you should have already done this before you moved your trailer). Remove the safety strap (or chain) and winch strap connected to the bow eye and connect the bowline. You should also disconnect the wiring connector to the trailer, as brake light bulbs can burn out if the box leaks when underwater.
By now your boat should be ready for launching. Before you go any further, take a few minutes and go over the launching process with your boating partner (if you don't have a partner you might want to get help from someone at the launch). If launching a boat with a first time user handling the bowline, advise them to brace themselves for the weight of the boat - I've seen launch-novices taken off guard and pulled into the water by the force of a recently-launched boat.
Another option (used during tournaments) is to launch a boat with someone in it, so that once they enter the water they can start the engine and vacate the launch to make room for the next trailer. This is a great option, but should be done by boaters who know their boat is in good working condition.
Launches that are void of activity make them prime spots for theft. Phase Two -- The Ramp and Water Entry
This should be the fastest of all three phases. Slowly drive your trailer towards the ramp, entering the water with caution. (Note: a launch ramp is not the place to practice reversing your trailer. If new to operating trailers, go to an empty parking lot and become proficient and confident at backing up your rig before heading to a launch for the first time).
When traveling down the ramp, avoid sudden braking, especially if you've removed all securing straps connecting the trailer and boat. If the launch ramp is concrete you may be able to drive with all four tires in the water; however, vehicles can easily get stuck in soft-bottomed (or natural) launches, so aim to keep the front tires on land.
Once the boat enters the water, continue to back-up the trailer, at a steady pace. Launches with sufficient depth will cause the trailer to drop out from underneath the boat, and the boat to float away by the momentum of the backing-up process. If the launch is shallow, you may need to get out of your vehicle and push your boat off into the water. (This is also the best option if launching the boat alone. If doing this make sure your boat is secure before leaving the ramp to park your vehicle).
As the boat floats off the trailer, double check that everything is alright with your partner before driving off. When accelerating off the ramp do so at a steady pace, but be sure to keep your eyes on your side mirrors. The reason is simple: mistakes happen. If you've followed the above suggestions it's likely you'll have an error-free launch, but if you've forgotten to unhook a strap or accidentally snagged the bowline with your trailer, you'll see it in the mirrors. Keeping your windows down and stereo off will also allow your partner to holler if anything is wrong. Once you know everything is ok, vacate the ramp so the next boater can use it.
Phase Three -- Vehicle Parking and Leaving the Launch
After launching your boat, quickly park your vehicle and trailer. This should be a pretty simple operation, but keep a few things in mind. First, off launches can be busy places filled with families and moving rigs, so always drive with caution and be alert for youngsters. Second, try and minimize the footprint your vehicle and trailer leave when parked. I'm often amazed at how much space some people use when parking rigs on an angle, not backing up fully into a spot, or several other creative space-hogging maneuvers that leave other boaters shaking their heads. Third, keep in mind that as often as launches are busy, they can also be void of activity - making them prime spots for theft. Don't leave valuables in your vehicle and keep things out of site. Lastly, when parking your rig, make sure you use the parking brake, especially if on an incline.
Once you've parked the vehicle, pay any fees for using the facility (if needed) and get in your boat. When driving your boat from the launch, keep your eyes peeled for signs regulating no-wake zones. Of course, as a general rule, it's best to not blast-off from the launch to ensure you don't make waves for launch users. Also, most launches are close to shallow water; so don't let your enthusiasm get the best of you. Take your time and slowly drive to deeper water before getting on plane. Otherwise you might find yourself returning to the launch sooner than you think with a damaged motor and/or hull.
Extra Features to Make Launching Easier
The trailer that comes with your boat will have all you need for launching, but some extra features will make life easier. I've already mentioned the importance of a bowline, fenders or bumpers, and proper safety equipment (such as life jackets), as well as duplicate spare parts (like trailer bulbs and a boat plug). Add-on features for your trailer includes:
The above steps are some suggestions and tips on how-to safely launch your boat. To leave the water, all you need to do is reverse the procedure and remember that taking your time and being thorough will often result in a safer and quick exit than if you rush, which increases your change of making mistakes. These seasons, try the above tips to make launching a boat a breeze, but don't forget to be patient with new boaters while waiting in a line to use the ramps; we've all been there before.
By Tim Allard
An organized boat is more comfortable and safer than one cluttered with items on the floor and thrown into storage spaces. In this Buyer's Guide, I'll discuss some of the basic boat accessories that will keep your vessel organized.
A bimini top provides protection from sun and light rain while on the water. Covers
A boat cover is an excellent addition to your rig, and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes for every model available. While towing, a cover will streamline your boat, reducing the unit's drag on your vehicle. During towing and storage, the top will protect the interior of your boat from rain, dirt, tree sap, bird droppings and UV rays.
Some boat cover models include a section to cover an outboard motor, although separate motor covers are also available. Covers are secured to the boat itself or to a trailer by straps, but some custom-made models are fastened to the hull with snaps. Extra straps, hooks or suction cups are also available to ensure a snug fit.
To increase the performance and lifespan of your cover consider combining it with a support system. Systems vary from straps with spreaders to wooden bows and sockets, but the goal is the same; they provide an internal frame for your boat's cover to keep water from pooling on it as well as reducing the material from sagging.
Bimini Tops: Not a full boat cover, a bimini top provides protection from sun and light rain while on the water. These tops are excellent for adding shelter to otherwise wide-open boats. Most rigs have an expandable and collapsible frame. Tie-down straps allow the rig to be safely secured during use. Additional bimini accessories are available to ensure your top is a perfect fit for your boat, such as adjustable hinges, tube-ends and straps. When not in use, most tops collapse and fold down, or can be removed completely from their hinges for storage.
Cases, Boxes and Bags
Keeping your gear stored in containers is a big part of staying organized while on the water, as well as when loading and unloading your boat. Three storage options are cases, boxes and bags.
Storage boxes come in a variety of sizes and shapes to fit your individual needs. Cases: A waterproof case can be used to safely transport expensive and fragile items, especially in wet conditions. Available in hard or soft plastic models, waterproof cases come in a range of sizes from ones small enough for a cell-phone to extra-large cases with foam padding for bulky items. A step down from a waterproof case is a dry storage box. These boxes will keep items dry in the rain, but may not keep the water out in heavy rains or if submerged. For expensive items, such as electronics, consider a waterproof case, while for other less costly items a storage box will often suffice.
Storage Boxes: Storage boxes are also useful to help organize a boat and can be classified as either portable or permanently installed models, like a hatch liner. Look for storage boxes with a watertight, O-ring seal to keep moisture out. Portable models can be used for carrying first-aid supplies or Coast Guard-required safety equipment. Portables can be better suited for smaller boats without lockable storage spaces, so you can remove them and their valuable contents when the boat is unsupervised.
Smaller, portable boxes include plastic, or polypropylene, see-through storage boxes that come in a variety of sizes. Known for storing fishing tackle, these boxes can house anything from small hardware components to basic kitchen items.
Some boat bags like this one are built like a "dry bag" and are waterproof.
Boat Bags: An alternative to a case or box, a boat bag is specifically designed for on the water use. Like a duffle bag, they may contain removable shoulder straps and side carrying straps, side pockets, mesh pockets, and some come with roller wheels. Additionally, the bag's material is often waterproof, usually made of a PVC-coated material. Most boat bags also feature a heavy-duty reinforced bottom that is also waterproof, letting you store them on the floor of a wet boat. Note that few boat bags are submersible, but most are designed to stay dry in light to modest rains. If you need a submersible, waterproof container, a case is often your best choice.
Electronics are a standard in most boats today. They assist in navigation and communication, with fish finders, GPS units and VHF radios being the most popular types. Yet, with these gadgets comes a need to store them and keep their wiring tidy.
Mounting Options: Permanent electronics come with mounting hardware and accessories for mounting handheld GPS and radios are available. Handheld mounts keep the units secure during travel as well as house or hold the wiring connections. To increase the viewing range of a fish finder or a GPS, a swivel or swing-arm mount allows you to adjust and rotate the unit for various angles. The other option is to wire a second fish finder at the bow of your boat and there are a plethora of accessories to help with this task including cables, transducers, mounts, and switches.
A swivel or swing-arm mount allows you to adjust and rotate the unit for various angles. Wiring: With a variety of electronics on board, controlling the clutter of the wiring is not as difficult as it seems. Using a mount for each unit will help keep wires tucked away. Wires can be kept compact using plastic tie-downs, and wiring at the battery-end can be housed in a battery box. Battery boxes secure batteries in place using a mounting hardware and a strap. For those without boxes, a battery tray will serve a similar function when teamed with a tie-down kit. A battery terminal with connections for separate leads is useful to secure several wires to the battery. Another item to help with clutter is an onboard battery charger. If it is permanently installed in your boat, you will not need to carry batteries or chargers to and from your boat. Chargers also help keep the boat's wiring system tidy and tucked away. With an onboard charger, all you need is an extension cord.
Boaters spend a lot of time seated while on the water. Outfitting your rig with a supportive seat can increase comfort and reduce backache. When purchasing boat seats, look for quality construction with heavy foam padding for support as well as UV- and mildew-resistant, marine-grade vinyl covering. Folding seats let you minimize their size when unused and a snap strap will ensure they stay folded down during travel. Swivels mounts let you to turn the seats instead of your neck, reducing strain.
For anglers, pro seats, let you lean while fishing and feature a smaller seat to minimize the space they take up on casting decks. For the hunter, many seats come in camouflage color patterns, keeping your boat disguised but still comfortable. To help organize frequently used items within reach, consider a small accessory holder that can be mounted to a seat's side or its support post.
Fenders will protect the hull and gunwales from dock's sharp edges. Docking Accessories
Every boat should carry basic docking accessories. Fenders will protect the hull and gunwales from dock's sharp edges. High-quality fenders are made from marine-grade vinyl. PVC models are also available but less effective in rough water and are less durable. Some fenders also come in inflatable models. Hardware is also available in various mounting options to secure boat fenders.
Cleats are the next item on a docking checklist. Not all boats come equipped with cleats, and you should add some to your rig if you're currently without any. Cleats allow you to secure your boat to a dock while waiting at a launch or getting gas at a marina. They come in high-impact nylon, stainless steel or other weather-resistant materials.
Your boat should also have enough rope to secure it to a dock properly. The rope's thickness should be strong enough to hold your rig in strong winds and rough water. Most marine-grade rope is made of nylon. The length of rope needed will depend on the size and weight of your rig.
For anglers, a fishing rod storage system will significantly help keep your boat clutter free during travel and fishing. A variety of systems are available. Units come in tubes or grooved racks for individual rod and reel storage. Tube units are designed to store rods vertically and may contain other storage holes for additional items, such as fillet knifes or pliers. Grooved racks tend to be for horizontal or overhead rod storage and some feature bungee cords to keep items secure during travel.
Another system that is effective in smaller fishing boats is a Velcro strap system that mounts to the side or deck of a boat. The bottom of the strap is secured to the boat and rods are then wrapped and secured in the loose ends, creating a snug and customized hold. Individual Velcro wraps can also be used to secure a series of rods together to transport out of the boat.
A first aid kit should accompany you whenever you take to the water. Safety Accessories
Part of the peace-of-mind from boating is being prepared to deal with an emergency should one arise (whether a large threat or minor risk). Here are some safety items to carry to ensure you're prepared and organized. A first aid kit should accompany you whenever you take to the water. As a precaution, store kits in a waterproof bag or a case. Supplement your kit with water, sunscreen and an emergency blanket.
A ladder that can be mounted on the boat's side is another useful tool. In an event requiring a water rescue, a ladder allows someone to easily climb into a boat. They are extremely helpful in cold weather or rough water conditions. You should also carry the required US Coast Guard safety equipment, which may include a signaling device (horn or whistle), visual distress signals (such as flares), a fire extinguisher, a throw rope and PFDs. If you own a boat that does not have navigation lights, consider installing a set or purchasing a pair of portable ones. Lights are required by the Coast Guard from sunset to sunrise and in reduced visibility situations.
General Hardware and Boating Gear
Keeping your boat organized can be aided by several simple accessories, which I've grouped in this category. A tool kit can go a long way to keep your boat organized, housing all the tools, materials and hardware in one storage box. Another great add-on is a paddle keeper. This device is designed to vertically or horizontally hold your paddle, keeping it stored out of the way, but accessible when needed.
Small organizers, in either screw or suction cup mounts, can be great for storing small, but frequently needed items in one place. Units are available to hold lures, drinks, hand-held radios or GPS units, binoculars, garbage bags, and general boxes for other personal items. Bungee cords are also useful to keep items strapped down in windy conditions or during travel. Look for plastic hook models if you are concerned with scratching your boat.
The above items are just a sampling of the many accessories you can purchase to upgrade the organization, comfort and safety of your boat. Many are inexpensive add-ons and it's a satisfying feeling (whether on land or water) when you need a specific item and you know exactly where to find it.
View all Marine Accessories.
By Justin Hoffman
The Importance of Thrust
Trolling motors, or electric positioning motors, use battery power in order to propel a boat. The amount of power or strength needed to move through the water is described as "pounds of thrust." This power rating is common to all motors on the market, and is one of the most important aspects to consider when selecting the right unit to match your craft. With insufficient power behind you, working your boat through wind, high waves or weedy conditions can be all but impossible.
Many factors fall into the equation when deciding on the necessary power needed for optimum performance. Some common questions to ask yourself are: Is your boat heavy, and what is the length? Do you store a lot of gear, or fish with more than one person? Do you fish in adverse conditions, such as high winds and rough water? The following chart details the minimum amount of thrust required depending on the size of your craft.
Boat Length in Feet
This chart is meant to convey "normal fishing conditions." If you answered "yes" to any of the previous questions I posed, moving up to the next level of thrust is highly recommended. If your boat, gear, and passengers are extremely heavy, going to a motor with even more thrust would be your best bet.
Many professionals believe that the best rule of thumb is to buy the biggest motor you can afford, all within reason of course. (A big, overpowering motor can also offer disadvantages if it literally "dwarfs" the size of your boat.) Choose wisely and weigh all of the variables. Running a motor that is under rated for your craft can only lead to misery and headaches when venturing out on the water.
Voltage and Batteries
Electric trolling motors come in three separate power systems: 12, 24, or 36-volts. To make it easier to understand, a 12-volt trolling motor is run off of one, 12-volt deep cycle marine battery. In order for a 24-volt motor to work, it must be run off of two separate batteries, and a 36-volt version requires three.
A 12-volt trolling motor is the most inexpensive and easiest to run. It does, however, lack the staying power and thrust that the other two provide. A 24- or 36-volt system will allow the angler to fish longer periods out on the water, as they draw lower amps while providing increased thrust for more power.
If your boat is 16-foot or smaller, a high-thrust 12-volt model will be adequate for the conditions that you will face. If your boat is any longer, moving up to a 24- or 36-volt system is the only way to go for hassle-free boating.
Be certain not to scrimp and save on the batteries. Buying a high quality, deep-cycle marine battery (some are designed specifically for electric motors) will ensure that you are receiving the maximum power and longevity that is on the market. This will provide piece of mind in case you ever find yourself stranded out on the lake, nursing an overheated or blown outboard motor that just won't fire up!
A bow-mounted motor will provide superior maneuverability and better control.
There are two kinds of trolling motors available -- a bow mount (installed at the front of the boat), and a transom mount (manufactured for the back). In order to install a bow mount, you must have sufficient room up front, as well as a mounting bracket or plate to affix the housing. You must also have a flat bottom platform to fish from in order to make the set-up feasible.
A transom motor simply clamps onto the stern of the boat and will work with any style of craft.
A bow-mounted motor will provide superior maneuverability and better control, allowing the angler to fish easier and more efficiently. (This increase in maneuvering ability is due to the fact that bow-mounts "pull" your boat through the water, in comparison to a transom "pushing".) If your boat is 14-foot or larger and can accommodate a bow-mount, most certainly go that route. You won't regret it.
For small boats, dinghies and canoes, a transom mount would be the best choice. These motors work great for general positioning and trolling application -- exactly what they were designed for. Whatever you decide, owning any kind of trolling motor is definitely better than not.
Hand or Foot Control?
If you decide to purchase a bow mount motor, the next decision to make is whether to operate it by hand or foot. Although both have their merits, trying each version and finding which is most comfortable to use is probably your best bet. The following chart outlines some advantages and disadvantages for both:
My personal preference is for the foot-control model, as this allows me to have a completely hands-free fishing experience. Some will argue that the hand control outweighs the merits of the foot. Taking the time to talk to different users of both models will enable you to figure out which is best for you.
Whatever version of motor you choose, both will require practice on the water in order to become comfortable with them. Once you do, however, the possibilities are endless.Shaft Length
Self-directional motors offer anglers more time to fish.
The shaft length is dictated by the height of the bow or stern. Deep V boats will require a longer shaft, whereas the shortest length will adequately serve canoes.
Technology is expanding in the land of the trolling motor, and new features and wrinkles become available anually. Here are a few that are worth checking out:
Built-In Battery Gauge -- Some models of trolling motors have battery gauges built in to the housing or head of the unit. This gauge will allow an angler to quickly and easily check how much power is left in the battery itself, making it a no-brainer for estimating fishing time left or when to clamp the charger on.
Digital Displays -- High-end models are now coming standard with digital screens, complete with readouts of speed and depth. Although these motors come at a price, the technology is certain to put you on more fish.
Self-Directional Motors - An interesting feature, in that it allows total hand and foot-free operation, and will follow shorelines or depth contours on its very own. It will even steer you in a straight line when the winds are howling!
Here are a few more things to look for when making your final decision:
Composite or stainless steel shaft will endure shock and stand up to abuse much better than weaker metals. Make sure the prop is weedless, and that replacement blades are available for your specific model. Ensure that the mount is heavy duty and strong. The less plastic parts it has, the better. If you plan on using the foot-control pedal from anywhere in the boat, make sure the cable is sufficient in length for the size of your craft.
Trolling motors add a completely new dimension to fishing. Perfecting boat control, fishing inaccessible areas and maintaining a silent approach will ensure added enjoyment and more fish for the angler willing to experiment. Shop around, take each style for a test drive and pay attention to detail - banner days on the lake await you.
Check out the full line of Trolling Motors at Bass Pro Shops.
By Justin Hoffman
Skepticism reigns supreme in the land we call fishing, although the addition of scent to your arsenal can bring about bigger and better fish, and for those tempted enough to try it, the proof is definitely in the pudding. Read on to find out how applying scent can bring about sure-fire success.
The Rules of Attraction
There are many different kinds of fish attractants on the market. From aerosal cans to squeeze tubes and jars to jellies, the tackle store shelves are literally soaking with a wide-range of product. It can be mind-boggling to say the least, but before you buy, you need to uncover the reason for using the stuff in the first place.
Losing The Negativity
Although most people believe that the sole use of scent is to attract fish to their lures, the most useful property scent exhibits is the ability to mask negative smells and tastes.
Never really thought of it that way, did you? Well, here's how it works.
Much like the strong, pungent smell of a skunk will find us pinching our noses, the same odor threshold can be said for all species of gamefish. (Mind you, fish may have a hard time detecting a skunk below the water, and they sure haven't adapted to covering their nose with their fins!)
When you think about it, we offer the fish many different reasons not to take a taste test of our lures. We unknowingly toss baits all day long that have come into contact with such fish-negative smells as sun lotion, bug spray, gasoline, cigarettes and worst of all, our own human scent. This can cause a fish to turn up their nose and refuse to bite. Even if you think your hands are clean, L-Serine (a tasteless, odorless chemical found in the skin oils of humans) will always be present on every worm, jig, or crankbait you come into contact with.
Applying fish scent to a lure will mask or eliminate these undesirable smells, leaving your bait free from repellents and smelling attractive to any fish that happens upon it.
In this case, it's not so much an attractant as it is a cover-up for scents we unknowingly cast to the depths below.
Help With Holding On
Studies have shown that fish can spit out a lure in the blink of an eye. If the bait they are trying to ingest feels unnatural, or has a negative taste or odor, the chances of you driving the hooks home is a very low-percentage game. This is where fish attractant really shines.
The application of scent will make your offering feel and taste alive, convincing a fish to hold on to the bait for a much longer time, ultimately allowing an angler to "feel" the fish first and then set the hook.
Much of the game of fishing has to do with feeling a fish strike (the subtle mouthing of a jig or the faint pick-up of a jerk worm), which in turn allows us to strike with a hook set. Without sensing the take of your bait, you'll never know that a fish was there.
Fishing scent can "trick" a fish into holding your bait for five, 10 or even 30 seconds - this can be downright impossible when throwing a lure that hasn't been juiced up.
If you don't believe the validity of this scenario, try this little test the next time you hit the water. Tie two identical jigs on, one smothered with fish scent and the other coated with sunscreen. Find a shallow, clear area of the lake that is holding panfish and take turns casting each of the lures. You'll soon see for yourself how important the addition of a positive scent can be.
Fish scent is available in many different varieties. From crayfish to shad and garlic to anise, the combinations are limitless. The Smelling Game
As you can see from the above examples, the use of fishing scent goes far beyond the notion of actually attracting fish to your bait through the use of smell. This however can very well happen, depending on the specie you are targeting.
For the most part, motion, shape, noise and water displacement are the primary stimuli that cause fish to strike a lure. In layman's terms, a fish senses and is attracted to your lure long before smell or taste figures in the picture. Once they get close enough to your bait and commit to striking, taste and smell certainly have an important impact on the final decision.
Fish are a weird bunch. Some have a finely tuned sense of smell, while others seem to have a bad case of sinus congestion. The initial scent of a lure can attract a fish in from a distance, but that all depends on what you are targeting. On a scale of one to 10 (with 10 being the most sensitive sense of smell) here are some examples of common gamefish:
9-10-- Catfish and Shark
7-8 -- Carp
6-7 -- Salmon and Trout
5 -- Bass and Walleye
1-2 -- Pike and Muskie
As you can see, the addition of scent can attract a fish (such as a catfish or carp) to your bait long before they ever see it or sense it's movement. When dealing with pike or muskie, however, scent is only useful when they have already made visual contact and are just about to strike.
Although bass are in the middle of the pack when it comes to olfactory capabilities, keep this little tidbit in mind: the freshwater black bass can sense 1/200th of a drop of a substance in 100 gallons of water! Not bad for a creature that possesses a brain the size of a pea.
The Different Kinds
Fish scent is available in many different varieties. From crayfish to shad and garlic to anise, the combinations are limitless.
My advice is to select a few different varieties of scent and begin to experiment when out on the water.
Saying that, oddball smells can often be your ace in the hole. On a recent trip to a smallmouth lake, my partner was applying a garlic scent to his jerk worms. To make a long story short, he literally cleaned up! Now, there certainly isn't any garlic growing in the water, but for some reason, these smallies went bonkers over it.
My advice is to select a few different varieties of scent and begin to experiment when out on the water. Try to figure out what specie prefers which, while also uncovering the baits they seems to work best on. Once this information is extrapolated, you will undoubtedly see your success rates rise.
To Squirt or Squeeze - That is the Question?
Fish attractants come in a variety of packaging. Jars, tubes, spray canisters and squirt bottles - a wide range of options for an angler looking to get into the fray.
I have found that all work well, but in the case of coverage, the spray canister takes the cake. The only downside I can see is the wasted scent that is blasted into thin air. On the plus side, they are quick and easy to use - a definite advantage when the fish are on the bite.
Squirt bottles let you measure the exact amount of scent you wish to apply - a money-saving advantage for the angler. They can become messy over time (although this is not the case if you give the bottle a quick wipe when done for the day), and have been known to clog up when baking in the hot sun.
Jars are designed for catfish and carp scented baits, and are necessary for keeping the pungent smells in. (Make sure to tighten these lids down unless you want a horrid surprise left in your tackle bag.)
Tubes seem to be the least of my favorites, as for the most part they don't stand up in the bow of the boat, and the scent seems to be too solid for applying purposes. Although they may work well for holding stink baits, for traditional scent, they are a poor choice.
Fish attractants are coming into the forefront of the angling world. With the new advances scientists are making, duplicating attractive smells and tastes equals more fish for the angler that chooses to use them.
Take a look at fish scent next time you troll the tackle aisles - you'll be more than glad you did!
By Tim Allard
Yet like any fishing rig, after tinkering, modifications and add-ons, canoes can be transformed into comfortable fishing machines.
Seats and Chairs
A fishing canoe should be outfitted to keep anglers comfortable whether sitting or kneeling since standing in a canoe is not an option. To outfit a canoe for kneeling, a permanent option is placing adhesive cushioning pads on the floor. While non-permanent knee pad options include placing a spare piece of carpet, a non-adhesive pad, or perhaps your sleeping cushion (if on a camping trip) on the floor of the canoe.
For sitting, canoe seats in a range of designs (from bench to bucket) and many aftermarket additions are available to increase seat comfort. A portable foam or padded seat provides extra cushioning when fishing for extended hours. Carrying a cushion is better than sitting on a lifejacket, an innocent, but dangerous, maneuver many anglers make, transforming life vests into cushions instead of their designed use as personal flotation devices.
Other great accessories to outfit canoes are seat backs or chairs. A seat back provides a back rest and most mid- to high-end models fold down when not in use. Seat backs clip or affix with straps to canoe seats. Chairs are "L" shaped and usually cushioned, giving you the support of a back rest as well as a padded seat. Most chairs come with clips and straps to securely fasten to the canoe's original seats. They come in various designs (from basic plastic mesh ones that clip onto seats to high-end padded ones) in a range of prices. Durable seats also double as great campsite chairs for when you're sitting by a fire instead of paddling on the water.
Outfitting for Fishing
First and foremost, I like to carry plenty of rope, straps, shock cords, and carabineers to keep my gear in place and secure when canoeing. I find my mind is slightly more at ease when padding in rough water knowing that if the canoe gets swamped or capsizes, my tackle box is secure and won't end up at the bottom of the lake. Keeping items secure also helps you properly balance the canoe for the best performance on the water, so you can focus on fishing.
Waterproof bags and cases are handy accessories to use to keep clothes dry and valuables (like cameras) protected. I also find water bottles with loop-top caps can easily be clipped to the canoe's seat with a carabineer. This keeps water at my fingertips for when I need it, which is especially important when it's hot. You can also clip pliers, scissors and other often-used fishing tools to a carabineers or straps to keep them close at hand. This clip-trick also prevents items from moving around on the floor of the canoe, aiding you in keeping your canoe fishing quiet.
Once you've taken care of cushioning your body and securing gear, the next step to outfitting a fishing canoe is adding the angling bells and whistles. If you have an electric trolling motor or small gas motor (such as a 4HP), there are a few mounting options. Square back canoes are designed to be outfitted with a small motor at the stern, while for other canoes side motor mounts are the best option. Side mounts fit across the sides of the canoe behind the stern seat. Having a motor makes canoe fishing a lot easier and less stressful. I find their biggest advantage is that they allow you to maintain boat control when fighting a fish. Otherwise in heavy winds or waves you can drift a significant distance off fertile fishing grounds when playing a fish.
To compliment a motor, a portable fishfinder is another key add-on. Most of these compact, sonar units come with transducer suction cup mounts, which work well on most canoes. Outfitted with a motor and fish finder, a canoe can be an excellent fishing machine. Dozens of other accessories can be added to canoes to increase their fishing functionality, but after the above big ticket items, the simplicity of a rod holder is a must. I used to rest my fishing rod across the gunwales when paddling, but I found when an aggressive fish hit, I had to quickly reach for my rod; although I never lost a rod, I did miss a few fish. With a rod holder I can focus on the fishfinder and maintain proper boat position without worrying about losing a rod when a fish strikes.
Once you've found biting fish, you may want to anchor the canoe in position. When anchoring a canoe use two anchors to minimize the boat from swinging (unless you intentionally want to do so to fish a wider area). To properly anchor a canoe, put one off the bow and the other directly off the stern. Do not tie anchors off the sides of a canoe as this can lead the canoe turning over in heavy waves. Mushroom or river anchors between eight- to 15-pounds coupled with nylon rope will work for most canoes. When tying off anchors use quick-release knots so slack line can be let out in the event of unexpected waves surprising you to ensure the canoe doesn't become swamped.
It's important to remember the proper safety gear when operating a canoe. Wear your life jacket at all times. Also ensure that the bilge pump, a signaling device, and a throw bag/rope are within reach at all times. Keep a spare paddle in the canoe as well and make sure you can access it quickly when needed.
No matter how great the fishing was, a good day can turn bad if you're not equipped to properly transport the canoe. Tie-down or cam straps that lock in place are my top choice for securing a canoe to my car top. If you have a roof rack on your vehicle, using tubular foam that's cut lengthwise and placed on either the rack or on the gunwales of the canoe prevents paint scratching on both the canoe and rack. Without a roof rack, four foam blocks placed on the canoe's gunwales are a simple but extremely effective way to secure a canoe to a car top for transport. Secure canoes to cars by strapping it down from the boat's bow, stern and sides.
Canoe fishing can be a good way to target your favorite fish and with the right accessories and add ons, these lightweight boats can be quite comfortable. Although not always best for big water, canoes are one of my favorite options for accessing small lakes and river - try the above suggestions for outfitting your canoe and you'll find a new appreciation for the fishing functionality of these basic boats.
By Tim Allard
Rod holders are critical to kayak angling, and multiple holders allow you to bring several outfits. Photo by Tim Allard.
Since you can't hold a fishing pole while paddling, rod holders are critical to kayak angling, and multiple holders allow you to bring several outfits on your kayak fishing trips.
It's common practice to have one or two rod holders in front. Use removable holders so that you can take them out when not in use or during transport. Mount holders within reach, but don't mount them so close that they interfere with paddling and landing fish. Adding height extensions to your rod holders is useful so that you don't have to bend too far to grab the rod.
Most anglers will set up at least two rod holders behind the cockpit, placing one holder on each side. Flush mount holders work well for this application. This way, when not storing rods, holders won't clutter the kayak.
It's best to buy a personal flotation vest (PFD) made for kayaking. Kayak-specific designs allow for plenty of upper body movement so that you're not constricted when paddling or casting.
Some flotation vests come with storage pockets -- perfect for things like pliers, a tackle box or a portable VHF radio.
A black vest may look cool in the store, but you'll likely find it warm to wear on hot days if it doesn't have adequate ventilation. You're better off buying colors like yellow and red. They don't absorb as much heat as black and are more visible on the water.
Most fishing kayaks have console space for electronics. Photo by Tim Allard.
You can outfit a kayak with plenty of angling electronics. If offshore, a GPS unit is critical to safely navigating low-light or foggy conditions. GPS units are also handy for storing the coordinates of your favorite fishing spots. Get either a watertight portable unit or consider purchasing a GPS/sonar combo unit.
A fish finder is another great option when outfitting your fishing kayak. Either a portable unit or a model that you mount will work. Most fishing kayaks have console space for a small mount. If using a bigger unit, consider purchasing a RAM mount or Johnny Ray mount to create a customized, adjustable set-up for your electronics. The transducer can be mounted to shoot through the hull.
Carry a portable, waterproof VHF radio if offshore fishing. Get a durable model with a good waterproof seal.
Lastly, if you plan to fish at dusk or dawn, carry some portable navigation lights so that you are visible to other boaters.
Storage is a common topic of discussion amongst kayak anglers, and there is no shortage of options to consider. Use dry bags and secure them on top of the kayak with bungee cords to keep items dry. Bungee cords are also great for keeping rain gear secure but accessible when needed.
Packing gear in the bow and stern hatches also works. Use hard-plastic watertight containers to store fragile items.
Kayak storage deck bags are another way to increase storage space, and some are specifically designed for fishing. Deck bags have plenty of pockets and compartments to hold your tackle and gear. They easily mount on top of the kayak with bungee cords.
Tackle Boxes and Trays
It's likely you'll purchase a variety of tackle trays to hold fishing tackle. Some kayak cockpits come with spots to hold trays. Measure these spots first to get a snug-fitting tray and maximize storage space.
You can also carry small trays in your vest or in cargo pant pockets. Purchase watertight models to prevent your baits from getting wet, which can lead to rusty hooks.
If bait fishing is your game, most fishing kayaks have tank wells with contoured notches to hold a bait bucket. Bungee cords are also standard on most tank wells to keep things secure on the water. A variety of buckets are available with plenty of features. An aerator is a worth while add-on to keep minnows and shrimp lively, and a dip net helps you capture bait easily.
Whether you own a sit-in or a sit-on-top model, outfitting a kayak for fishing isn't much different than outfitting any other boat. Photo by Ron Brooks.
You'll want to bring some fishing tools along with you in your kayak. A lanyard is helpful to keep things like clippers, scissors, forceps and a hook file within reach. Carrying pliers or a multi-tool lets you quickly remove hooks from fish. Store them in a sheath on your belt for quick access.
A small anchor is an important fishing accessory. Use it fishing to stay put when fishing a specific piece of structure. Harmony's Folding Kayak Anchor Kit is a good buy. It comes with a folding anchor and all the hardware you need to outfit your kayak. Consider getting an anchor; they're well worth it on windy, wavy days.
For extra cushioning and a much more comfortable day on the water, buy a high-end kayak seat or seat back, such as Ocean Kayak's Comfort Deluxe Seat Back. Most quality kayaking seats come with lumbar support. Kayak seats also feature adjustable straps, letting you adjust the seat angle for a customized fit.
Safety and First Aid Kit
Carry a safety kit in your kayak. Check on-the-water requirements for your state or province to determine what you're mandated to carry. At a minimum, though, you'll want the following: a whistle, signal mirror, bilge pump, bail or sponge, throw rope and a flash light with working batteries.
A small first-aid kit should be in your boat at all times. Store it in a water tight container and keep it within reach.
Pack a good assortment of products to protect you from the sun and insects. Use a small tote or container to carry the essentials, such as sunscreen, lip balm with an SPF rating, and bug repellant. Make sure you pack plenty of water to stay hydrated. Paddling requires a lot of physical effort and you'll need more water than you normally do when fishing from a motorized boat.
Consider picking up a few of these items when you're rigging your kayak for fishing. They'll help keep you organized on the water, which should help you catch a few more fish this season.
By Capt. Joe Richard
Being regional kept it simple. After all, back then, any Texan using spin tackle was regarded with suspicion. It was only in far South Texas on the Laguna Madre, where the wind cranked up by 11 a.m. each day (and casting distances are quite long) would you find spin tackle. Folks down there had to use spinning tackle for good reason. Ever try a 40-yard cast into a gusting wind with an older baitcasting reel? It's hard, just hard.
Spinning reels are better than baitcast reels when it comes to long casts that don't require pinpoint accuracy. If you pack the reel correctly with line, you'll rarely experience backlash or a tangle. Spinning gear also maximizes a fight you can savor, if you're hooking fish that won't dash into cover. That would include seatrout on the grassflats near Flamingo, where I started. Years later I was amazed to have a bonefish smoke off more than 100 yards of line on a shallow flat. That's classic spinning tackle action.
On the other hand, we wouldn't use our older spin gear in serious mangrove tree country, where snook grab on and then ducked behind fallen trees and roots. We needed stronger baitcasting reels for that. Today it's changed in that some anglers are using oversize spinning reels for this same job. They load spin reels with 30- or 50-pound braid line and pull hard, which can wear out a smaller reel's drag system. (There's a joke about a new spin reel picked off the shelf in a tackle store, talking silently to the angler/buyer as he cruises over to the fishing line section. The reel says, "Don't pick braid...don't pick braid...Doh!")
Baitcasters, on the other hand, are precise casters in experienced hands. They're quite accurate at brush-busting or pinpoint casting at shoreline targets. Using topwater plugs in weed-choked reservoirs? No problem. All it takes is casting practice for dropping lures within inches of fishy structure. Mangrove tree shorelines are notorious for stealing lures, but with the right reel you can toss a plug way back under the branches, into the shadows. If a big snook grabs on you can stick him, get seriously mean with him, before he turns and lunges for cover.
Before superlines and braid, it was the baitcaster that horsed fish away from mangrove trees, dock, jetty rocks and production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Offshore at the oil rigs, spin reels were pretty much useless, even for catching big blue runners. Those pesky critters would turn-and-burn into the platform, dragging line over razor-sharp marine growth, and you were left with nothing. The same happened with cobia and red snapper. You needed hard-pulling baitcast reels to seriously lean on those fish, to turn them around.
That meant using the aforementioned Ambassadeur 5000 reel, then the improved 5500 model, which is still around, then the wider 6000 and then the bigger 7000 reel. We've won tournaments with all of these reels, ranging from seatrout to cobia to kingfish. Biggest fish was a 66-pound wahoo on my 7000 reel, a fish caught while casting and working a three-ounce jig. (That was a heavy jig -- thus the bigger 7000 reel with a long but stout rod. You would never work a jig of that size with a smaller 5000 reel).
We were drift-fishing, which was fortunate, because that blue torpedo of a wahoo ran at least 300 yards and probably more. There wasn't that much 30-pound line on the reel, but we cranked up the boat and chased after the fish, finally subduing it.
During a different summer, a 55-pound king mackerel grabbed on and we swiftly unhooked the boat from the oil rig (using an 8-foot rig hook), cranked up the boat's engine and took off after that fish. It was landed on 40-pound line a fairly good distance from the oil rig, using a lever-drag reel that we will get to in a moment. That kingfish won the state championship for that year, which yielded a new boat, motor and trailer.
We will cover more of the heavier reels used for bigger fish, but keep in mind that becoming proficient with both spin and baitcaster reels certainly makes for a better angler. Buy at least one of each and fill it with quality line of the right caliber. Doing so enables one to cover virtually all freshwater, inshore and coastal fishing. Some anglers keep a dozen of each. Look at the bass pros -- they carry perhaps 10 rod outfits on deck and within reach, while they cast from the bow (and drive the electric motor). They're busy people with lots of options, under pressure.
So the open-face, lever-drag reels, with their smooth feed compared to star-drag systems, are filled with 20- to 80-pound line, and used for taming speedy marlin and other offshore pelagic fish. (Atlantic sailfish, which average around 50 pounds, are caught on these reels too, but anglers may use 20-pound spin tackle as an option.) Remember: lever drags mean smooth and reliable.
If you don't plan on trolling blue water, but want to tame a variety of heavier fish, then an open face reel with a star drag, with 40- or 50-pound line is a great general-purpose reel system. Take the Penn 4/0 reel; it's been around forever, has a star drag, and you can find dozens of copies on any big offshore partyboat today. This is a workhorse reel (though, admittedly, not as sturdy as the earlier models, which could only be described as bullet-proof). Countless smaller charterboats also use this reel today, as they've proved reliable under daily punishment.
Buy a four-pack of these reels, mount them on sturdy boat rods, and you're good to go on one slugfest after another, such as inlet fishing. In Texas, we would anchor up at an inlet or jetty and set out four of these rods, baited with a big mullet head or a 6-inch live bait of some sort, including menhaden or croakers.
When a rod bent double and line was ripping off the reel, it meant a big circle hook had bitten into something big down there. We caught countless redfish from 37 to 44 inches, crevalle jacks that were typically 18 to 24 pounds, blacktip sharks that averaged 40 pounds, tarpon from 80 pounds ranging on up into the scary size (over 200 pounds) that fought until hours after dark, and also stingrays that were locally called "barn doors."
Out at the inlet we never caught anything that was really manageable on standard casting or spin tackle. You needed sturdy reels that could survive constant salt and big fish. We wore out the drag systems on several TLD reels out there, by using 40-pound line all the time. These were finesse reels, not meant for brute force and constantly dragging up big fish in fast tides. The cheaper Penns (these were the older models with the purple finish) worked well and survived much longer under harsh conditions.
And, if we wanted to run offshore and bottom fish for snapper, we used the very same gear. We could troll lures, drift-fish while using 2-ounce jigs, or tie up and drop big weights and baits 80 feet to the bottom. If a cobia showed up on the surface, we had him covered. If the crew wanted kingfish, we tied on short wire leaders and simply fed line and baits out behind the boat, into the chum line. That sturdy 4/0 reel did it all, once we left the bays behind.
Before going offshore, check out a variety of saltwater reels. Whatever style and size you choose, make sure it's appropriate for your intended application.
View all Saltwater Reels.
Joe Richard is a Gainesville, Florida writer and photographer who manages his own stock photo website of outdoor images: Seafavorites.com.
By Capt. Joe Richard
This Jon boat is rigged with four rod holders, evenly spaced on the starboard side. Point the boat in the right direction, and you can set out a broadside of four baits.
Many saltwater anglers have recently made the switch to aluminum Jon boats after "having a go" with bigger fiberglass boats for many years. Aluminum boats cost very little to operate and can go almost anywhere given the right weather conditions. Jon boats have always been popular, but with today's leaner times, they're even more so. Boat sales may be slow, but in some parts of the country, aluminum is now neck-and-neck with fiberglass boat sales. Why? Fiberglass can't compete with aluminum in the expense column.
Say you've got your eye on one of the all-welded Jon boats or riveted Jon boats over at Trackerboats.com. You're interested in fishing all day on 2 or 3 gallons of gas, and your tow vehicle is small. That Jon boat looks perfect, right? Trailer, tow vehicle and motor issues aside (you could rate them all as small), what sort of boat are we looking at, and can it be rigged to fish saltwater?
Standard length for Jon boats is 14 feet -- at least it was for about 50 years. Today many are built much bigger. You will also see a few small 10- and 12-footers around. Unless you're motoring around on a quiet salt marsh bayou, anything under 14 feet on saltwater is probably too small. Stick with at least 14 feet. If possible, grab a 15-footer. That extra foot is nice; the 15 is normally five feet wide at the top, wide enough to lie down and take a nap. But as three generations of fishermen will attest, even the 14-footers carry a lot of fishing and camping gear.
After owning many fiberglass boats, I've scaled back to a wide, 15-foot long, flat bottom Jon boat. The price was right. (It was given to me by a friend.) It has 20 years on it and will someday be replaced with a heavier-gauge, welded model of 16 feet. It's powered with a brand new 25-horse outboard with a push-button starter, which is nice if you have a stiff lower back. I launch it and run off across the bay for a day of fishing, amazed at the new fiberglass rigs at the boat ramp, whose price tags may flirt or exceed six figures.
Pulling anchor and moving a Jon boat to the next spot. The presence of sharp oyster shell or even jetty rocks is no obstacle to an aluminum boat on a calm day.
If the weather turns rough, I switch to sheltered freshwater lakes with a minimal boat ramp, since light aluminum can be launched almost anywhere. We used to back our rigs into the surf itself in calm summer weather, cruising miles of beach while looking for tarpon. We were too far from any inlet to have competition from other boats. I've even guided people on crappie trips during spring in this Jon boat, tying up to shoreline trees next to flooded forest, with the wind howling, and filled the box with those fine fish. It's all about where and when you go when fishing with aluminum.
Considerations for Rigging a Jon Boat
Electric motors bolt on at the stern where the driver spends most of his time, moving the boat short distances if the wind and current isn't strong. If you have a big, heavy Jon boat, you'll need a bigger electric placed at the bow instead of the stern.
A wood or aluminum push pole, about 10 feet long, will shove your boat along past rocks, oysters and sand, without risking a propeller. If using a wood pole, bolt a couple of wood scraps on the pole's end for more gripping power on the bottom -- especially mushy bottom. In areas with a seriously muddy bottom, a paddle in practiced hands, worked at the bow, will ease a Jon boat along for 20 or 30 yards into that honey hole. You have to take wind and tide direction into account, however.
If you're 40 and over, that lower back can stiffen up by day's end. Attach boat seats where they balance the boat during running speed, and the driver has a clear view of the water ahead. In a pinch, we've used canvas camp chairs for guests, though they tend to sag in the middle (the chairs, I mean), making it difficult to climb out and move around. A throwable flotation cushion is required on every boat, and I always carry one or two for our guests to sit on.
Happy anglers with a 25-pound drum caught from a Jon boat rigged for saltwater.
A fold-down Bimini cavas top is nice when you need it, keeping out rain and sun. However, it's often in the way when folded down on the gunnel and hard to fish around. I've been experimenting with a beach umbrella that the wife can stay under during mid-day. Since our PVC rod holders point out towards the water, I drilled a small holder in the center seat, sticking straight up, where the umbrella throws maximum shade. The back of the boat is still out in the weather, where someone can sit and fish four rods if they want to. The umbrella has a low setting for windy rain, and an extender for tall shade. It fits in a clear plastic sleeve that stows away nicely.
Multiple Rod Holders
You can anticipate where you'll anchor and set out rods, but can't foresee how the day will unfold. Set up all your rod holders on one side of the boat, and another boat will block your casts, the wind will shift or the tide change. My boat now has four primary rod holders on one side, and two on the other. To prevent drilling so many holes in the boat, I rigged a 1x8 inch plank down the side of the boat, drilling in new rod holders wherever desired. And it works: if conditions are right and I'm first to reach the honeyhole, I'll anchor and fire off a broadside of four rods, exactly where I want those baits. If you use circle hooks, you can take your sweet time grabbing a bent rod; the fish will already be hooked.
Since my buddies and I have always used riveted aluminum boats, we protected each boat with 1/2 inch plywood deck boards. Cut them to fit, and double coat with a light beige paint that won't soak up the sun and burn your feet. If a 300-pound guy walks around in your boat, maybe it won't spring the rivets -- or welding, for that matter. Be sure not to use pressure-treated plywood, which contains copper. Why? Copper and aluminum combined have an electrolysis effect, which eats away at aluminum.
If you can find a Jon boat with storage, that's a big plus. There's nothing like clutter in the boat to complicate the day. I prefer lots of gear, which allows for more comfort and fishing options. I'm fortunate to have a hollow seat that holds life jackets, gas tank, paddle, rope and anchor, motor oil, a few small tools and a small fire extinguisher, which is required when your gas tank is enclosed. That storage seat has even held a scuba tank from time to time.
Author Joe Richards running his Jon boat in the Gulf of Mexico.
Portable Navigation Lights easily attach to the boat's bow and stern and can be removed for simple day trips. They run on flashlight batteries, of course. You'll need them for night missions, such as returning from that sunset tarpon trip. If you have storage room, keep a spotlight on the boat; you never know for sure if you'll be kept out there after dark by a big fish.
If stealth is required, such as in shallow-water situations on saltwater flats, keep a small anchor at the stern. Why the stern? The driver can ease it overboard without getting up and making noise. You won't need a noisy anchor chain for this in very shallow water, though you should keep 3 to 4 feet of chain in the storage seat for deeper water. A Jon boat anchored by the stern is far quieter, since even tiny wavelets tend to slap-slap under the bow, spooking fish.
In waves of six inches or higher, it's hazardous to anchor by the stern however; water splashes up and soaks the motor, and winds up inside the boat.
Most water in a Jon boat builds up at the stern. You can pop the drain plug while running, scoop water with a coffee can, or install a small bilge pump. You'll need access to a battery at the stern for power, however. Push-button start motors often have a battery right there, as does mine.
It certainly helps to know your water depth and to be able to mark fish below the boat. In a Jon boat without a center console, mounting anything requires careful consideration, especially a sonar unit. Here's how Mike Meisenburg, a fishing buddy, rigged a sonar unit on his 15-foot open Jon boat:
"I went by a countertop store that had sink cutouts," Mike said. "They give away the scrap. I got some free pieces, and then had a friend trim them on a table saw and round the edges with a router. Then I got some aluminum, bent it in a 90-degree angle, and riveted it to the boat. That gave me both a horizontal and a vertical surface to mount the depth finder. I can read the depth finder real easy -- it's near my right knee -- while driving the boat with a tiller motor.
"I thought about mounting the depth finder to my ice cooler," Meisenburg continues "but you don't want that thing bouncing around. I don't have one, but a center console on these boats adds so many options for mounting electronics. With an open Jon boat, you have to be creative. Of course you run the transducer wire over the transom, and secure it like any other boat. And you need a battery close by, to supply power. I ran the wires through the chines on the side of the boat to keep them out of the way."
If your Jon boat develops a crack, have it heli-arc welded. If you have a small leak or two, put an inch of water in the boat with a garden hose, climb underneath the trailer and watch for a telltale drip. Mark it with a red Magic Marker. Let the boat dry, and then seal the hole with J-B Weld. It's good stuff.
There are tons of shabby-looking Jon boats out there for no other reason than the owners won't put a $15 quart of paint on them every five to 10 years. That's what it took to paint the inside of my 15-footer, though I didn't go below the plywood deck plates. The finished job with two coats looks great. (I used Rust Scat paint and their color code for olive drab is 8405). After that, a half-quart put two coats on the outer hull. Next step is beneath the plywood, to cut down on long-term corrosion, which is admittedly slow with aluminum. I prefer olive drab (OD) on my Jon boat, probably because we hunted ducks for 20 years from these same boats, and that was the standard color. Today you see fancier camo paint jobs on new Jon boats, complete with simulated marsh vegetation.
When you've gotten full use out of that Jon boat, and it just can't be sold to another boat owner, consider recycling. A recycle center will hand you American greenback dollars and convert that worn out aluminum into another shiny new Jon boat...or beer cans. Either way, you've made somebody happy. Discarded Jon boats, especially those crushed or stove in from fallen trees, should be hauled to the scrap yard and reborn.
Joe Richard runs several charter fishing vessels and manages Seafavorites.com, a collection of several thousand fishing images taken during his 40 years of exploring the Gulf of Mexico.