Category Archives: boats and boating

Boating Etiquette

The last bullet point at the bottom is most important, in my mind, and the one fewest people follow.

Coast Guard Reminds Mariners of Boating Etiquette
from The Fishing Wire

As the summer heats up and boaters take to the water, the Coast Guard is responding to an increased number of preventable incidents and Good Samaritans are lending a hand.

“Most drowning and near-drowning incidents are preventable, if people used proper precautions,” said Capt. Olav Saboe, commander of Coast Guard Sector North Bend. “To reduce the risk of drowning, it is important for boaters to wear a life-jacket at all times. You may not have a chance to put it on, if and when a sudden emergency strikes.”

This comes in response to a recent incident in which a halibut angler fell overboard without a lifejacket while fishing alone, 14 miles west of Newport, Ore., May 29.

He was forced to tread water, fully clothed, in frigid conditions, until help arrived and without a life jacket, his chances of survival were extremely low.

Luckily, the man had a handheld VHF radio attached to his person. He used it to contact the Coast Guard as well as a nearby vessels.

The Coast Guard launched all available assets just minutes after the MAYDAY call came in. However, it was a Good Samaritan that reached the angler first and pulled him from the water before he succumbed to the disastrous situation.

“That case highlights the importance of the Maritime Rescue Doctrine,” said Chief Warrant Officer Thomas Molloy, commanding officer of Station Yaquina Bay. “Good Samaritans are very often the first to arrive on-scene and the Coast Guard encourages responsible action.”

A Good Samaritan is the operator of a private vessel who renders voluntary aid, without compensation, to a person who is injured or to a vessel in danger.

Good Samaritans are expected to exercise reasonable care, to avoid negligent conduct which might worsen the position of the victims, and to avoid reckless and wanton conduct in performing the rescue.

“It is extremely important, that if you hear a MAYDAY call over the radio, that you remain silent, listen, and write down or record any information you hear,” said Molloy. “The most important information is going to be location, location, location. Coordinates, latitude, longitude, geographical reference points. If the initial call is too weak to reach Coast Guard watchstanders, you may have to relay everything you just heard.”

Some recent search and rescue cases that the Coast Guard responded to have involved solo boaters.

Taking to the water in any craft alone is extremely dangerous and the Coast Guard recommends never going out without a partner.

Along with using the buddy system, it’s always safer to tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.

The Coast Guard makes this easy by offering a free application which you can download onto your mobile device.

Use the mobile app to file a float plan. It also includes navigation rules, contact information, buoy information, vessel requirements, and lifejacket recommendations.

The Coast Guard recommends keeping a waterproof marine radio on you, in case your mobile device runs out of battery, service range, or if you accidentally drop it into the water while trying to take a selfie.

A VHF radio may also help mariners stay informed of Urgent Marine Information Broadcasts (UMIB).

A UMIB is used to alert potential Good Samaritans, in an area where there is a vessel in distress.

Federal statute, 46 USC 2304, requires a master to render assistance if the master can do so without serious danger to master’s vessel or individuals on board.

“Good Samaritans save lives,” said Saboe. “But responsible boating saves more. Mariners need to remember their safe boating etiquette.”

SAFE BOATING ETIQUETTE

• Make sure your craft and all safety equipment are in good working order before you get on the water. That includes your lifejacket. Make sure it fits well, and wear it at all times.

• Do not consume drugs or alcohol when operating a boat. Not only is it against the law, but it is one of the most common causes of boating accidents.

• Plan ahead so everyone in the boat knows what their roll will be in case of an accident.

• Make sure that everyone in the boat is on the lookout for potential dangers, not just the driver. Let the driver know if you see anything of concern. Do not assume he has spotted the coming danger.

• Anyone operating a boat in Oregon or Washington is required to have a state-issued, valid boaters-operator card.

• Learn the “rules of the road” and when on the water, follow them.

For more information, visit the Oregon Marine Board Safety page at: www.oregon.gov/osmb/boater-info/Pages/Safety-and-Education.aspx
For the Coast Guard Mobile App visit: https://uscgboating.org/mobile/

I Love/Hate My New Minn Kota Ulterra Trolling Motor

Minn Kota Ulterra Trolling Motor with 360 scan bracket


I ordered a Minn Kota Ulterra trolling motor from MyGreenTackle.com. Their service and price was great, the chat person gave me good advice, their prices are competitive and there is no sales tax or shipping fee. The motor arrived in only two days. BUT, I was too excited to really check. Took the motor to be installed and he called me when he got ready to hook up the power.
My boat is wired for 36 volts and the motor was a 24 volt. Glad he noticed before hooking it up!

I contacted MyGreenTackle and they confirmed they shipped the wrong motor. Since it was already hooked up I decided to see how it preformed. It has more than enough power for my boat, and I can use the extra battery for accessories only, solving several problems. Decided to keep it, and MyGreenTackle refunded the difference in price, but I am worried about reserve power.

There was another problem I did not anticipate. I have a Humminbird 360 scan that I love, but there is no way to mount the transducer to this motor since the shaft slides. And my 2016 sonar units are too old to use the Chirp transducer built into the motor, so mounting the old transducer is a problem, too. I could order a newer unit for sonar, and may do that eventually.

I contacted Minn Kota and was told there is no way to mount the 360 transducer and they do not make an adapter. That is strange since both Humminbird and Minn Kota are owned by the same company, but I guess that is big business.

Fortunately, through a little searching I found that Cumberland Crappie makes an adapter for the 360 transducer as well as a bracket for mounting other transducers like Lowrance to it. I got both and got them put on. And although the resulting rig looks crazy, it works so far.

I have used the Ulterra in two club tournaments now and I love/hate my new Minn Kota Ulterra Trolling Motor.

I ordered the self stow unit since I have back problems and it hurts bending over and pulling in a trolling motor. And I really love that feature, as well as being able to trim it up and down easily when in shallow water. And I think I will really like the remote control feature when I get used to it.

I think I am going to love the spot lock, too. It worked fine the first time I fished with the new motor but the second time I could not get it to engage. I will study the manual and hope i am doing something wrong. It would be just my luck to have a defective unit.

I hate the foot control. It seems the buttons were placed in the worst possible position, especially for someone who has been using a regular foot pedal for 45 years. I have hit the button to stow the motor dozens of times when using my heel to turn the motor. And I am used to resting my heel on the back of the pedal and raising my toe when releasing the power button. That starts the stow function and I hve to quickly hit the lower button to stop it and get it back down. I make that mistake constantly.

There is no “feel” with this foot pedal, either. I have used the regular pedal so many years it is an unconscious effort to keep the boat going like I want it to. Now, I constantly have to look at what the motor is doing, very distracting while fishing.

Another thing I do not like is how high the head sticks up while fishing. I hit it repeatedly while trying to side arm cast and skip baits under docks. I hope I can adjust it lower.

Maybe I will eventually get used to the new system.

If i could go back, I would never order an Ulterra for a bass boat. I would stick with the Ultrex, even with my bad back.

Boating Safety and Rules

With Memorial Day Weekend coming up, a lot of folks will be out on area lakes driving boats. Many of them should not be. Way too many folks behind the wheel of a boat have no idea what they are doing and often cause accidents.

“Keep right” is the most important rule for any boat operator. You are supposed to stay to the right side of the channel and you should stay to the right when meeting a boat head-on. This is a simple rule, and it is the same as when driving a car, but many people get confused.

The steering wheel of most boats is on the right side, opposite of car steering wheels. I think this is what confuses people, they try to meet oncoming traffic on the side they are sitting on, not keeping right as required.

Skidoos or Personal Water Craft (PWC) are a whole nother problem. These small, fast boats are often driven by young kids that have no idea they are endangering themselves and others by the way they are driving. Jumping wakes may be fun, but the fun ends when you jump into the path of another boat.

Last year there were 329,569 boats in Georgia and 165 accidents were recorded. Out of that number, there were 37,649 PWCs and they accounted for 47 of the accidents. That means PWCs are 11 percent of the boats but they are involved in 29 percent of the accidents.

Drivers of bass boats are often just as bad. Many bass boats will run faster then 70 mph and the drivers often take short cuts by running the left side of bends and turns. This means they may meet a boat driver doing the right thing, keeping right, head on. If it is another bass boat and both are running 70 mph plus, there is not much time to avoid an accident.
Drinking while driving a boat can get you in trouble in a hurry. Last year there were 339 arrest for Boating Under the Influence (BUI) and many of them paid a hefty fine. Beer and boating seem to go together, but it can get real expensive if you are driving the boat.

As might be expected due to heavy boat traffic, Lanier lead the lakes with 51 accidents, more than twice as many as Allatoona in second place. Jackson had 5 accidents, down the list a good ways. Its small size concentrates boats, though. That can make accidents more likely.

The most important thing to do when driving a boat is to think. Realize what you are doing and plan ahead. Know the rules and obey them. Watch out for other people and be careful, and have a safe holiday weekend.

Choosing and Using a Kayak Paddle

Tips on Choosing and Using a Kayak Paddle
By Bill Bragman
President, YakGear
from The Fishing Wire

Which Kayak Paddle is best?


How to Decide What Length and Size of Kayak Paddle to Use

Over the last ten years, kayak paddles have become less and less important in the world of kayaking – but should it really be that way? Over 80% of kayaks sold are paddling kayaks, and approximately 20% are pedal drive kayaks. Safety is an important consideration. The Coast Guard recommends you always have a paddle with you out on the water, so if you own a pedal kayak and think you don’t need a paddle, you are mistaken. It’s generally a good idea to have an inexpensive paddle stored somewhere in your kayak, just in case – no matter what type of kayak you use.

How to Determine the Correct Kayak Paddle Length

In the past, determining the correct kayak paddle length consisted of standing up next to your paddle with your arm in the air, and making sure the tops of your fingers were even with the top of the paddle. This was true when most kayaks were 24 inches wide, and anglers were seated on the deck of the kayak. Now, paddling kayaks are 34-36 inches wide, and anglers are sitting anywhere from two to six inches or more off the deck. This means the old method of kayak paddle sizing can be done away with.

This graphic from NRS illustrates how a high-angle paddler typically keeps the blade of the paddle very close to the side of the kayak, whereas a low-angle paddler has a more outside paddle stroke. In terms of kayak paddle sizing, this means a high-angle paddler will typically choose a shorter paddle, while a low-angle paddler will choose a longer paddle.

For example, if you have a 36-inch-wide kayak, you would’ve picked a 230 cm. paddle using the old method of paddle sizing. However, your seat is four inches off the deck, and you are a low-angle paddler. A better kayak paddle length would be a 250 cm. paddle.

In the same scenario, if you are a high-angle paddler, a better kayak paddle length would be a 240 cm. paddle.

Stand-Up Fishing

If you’re an angler who prefers to stand up while fishing, any paddle length will work if you are anchored. But if you plan to stand and move your kayak, a longer paddle will be needed to avoid bending over to get the paddle blade into the water. To avoid leaning down to grab your paddle off the deck, YakGear offers a kayak paddle hip clip so your paddle is always by your side – literally.

Kayak Paddles for Pedal Kayaks

Very few anglers pedal 100% of the time – there are always situations in which you’ll need a paddle. No product is perfect either, and if your pedal drive has issues, you’ll want to make sure your paddle makes it easier to maneuver the kayak. Most pedal drive kayaks are wider, have higher seating and are quite a bit heavier than a kayak that is designed for paddling alone. Picking out the right kayak paddle for a pedal kayak is therefore more important than choosing one for a paddle kayak. If your kayak manufacturer included a paddle with your kayak, it isn’t necessarily right for your height and the kayak itself. Your kayak paddle needs to be the right paddle for your needs.

The Blade and the Shaft

The more rigid the blade and shaft of your kayak paddle is, the more water it will push. In a 32-inch-wide kayak, with you and all your gear, you’re pushing quite a bit of weight through the water. Having a soft-bladed, bending paddle is like swimming with your fingers open – not a good idea.

Kayak paddle shafts typically come in four different materials. In order of least expensive to most expensive, these materials are aluminum, fiberglass, carbon hybrid (half fiberglass/half carbon fiber) and solid carbon. Kayak paddles can cost anywhere from $40 to $400, but finding the best kayak paddle length for you – and the best combination to fit your budget – is the most important aspect of paddle shopping.

Carbon fiber blades are the most rigid, but paddle companies are producing equally strong paddle blades using nylon composites. If you plan on using your kayak paddle as a tool to push off or pull yourself to shore, look for a rigid paddle blade that is designed to for this purpose. The Backwater Company Assassin Paddle offers great features and is a moderately-priced paddle with a carbon hybrid shaft and a stiff blade.

The Bottom Line

Take the time to go to a “demo day” at a local kayak shop and try out different kayak paddles to find the one that is best for you. Ask someone to watch you paddle to see if you are a high-angle or a low-angle paddler. When you’re out on the water, it’s important to consider where you’ll be using your kayak and what type of fishing you are doing to choose a paddle that is just right for you.

About the Author

Bill Bragman is the President of YakGear, a kayak and boat accessory company located in Houston, Texas. Paddling for over 20 years has given him just enough knowledge to help other kayakers get out on the water safely and comfortably, while enjoying the amazing sport of kayaking that we all share.

Cold Water Paddling & Fishing Safety

Cold Water Paddling & Fishing Safety Tips from Virginia DGIF

Life Jackets are important


Always wear a life jacket when afloat.
By Bruce Ingram
from The Fishing Wire
Photos by Bruce Ingram

The most dangerous incident of my paddling career occurred on the James River when a friend and I overturned in his canoe. Earlier, my water temperature gauge had registered 54 degrees and the air temperature 65 degrees. When I fell in, I felt as if a sledge hammer had struck my chest, and my buddy and I struggled to swim to shore – losing most of our gear.

That day, the air and water temperature combined measured 119 degrees – within the danger zone says Stacey Brown, boating safety program manager for the DGIF. She adds that although many variables exist concerning when the risk of hypothermia becomes more acute, generally if the air and water temperatures together are 120 degrees or below, wet suits are recommended for paddlers. Another major factor, continues Brown, has to do with the amount of time someone is subject to the cold water and air temperatures.

Boat with a buddy in cold weather


Especially in cold water conditions, like these two anglers on the New River, please consider going floating and/or fishing with a buddy.

Obviously, one of the most basic acts any paddler can accomplish is to always wear a life jacket. But in my many decades of floating and wade fishing Virginia’s rivers and streams, I would wager that most paddlers I have observed – whatever the season from the dog days of summer to the frigid waters of winter – were not wearing life jackets. Many, in fact, did not even have them in their craft or were just using them as seat cushions.

“Wearing a life jacket is the best way to ensure your trip doesn’t end in tragedy,” emphasizes Brown. “It would be nice that people think of their life jackets as gear, just like with other sports, rather than required equipment.”

Brown offers the following additional recommendations.

*Carry your whistle or other sound producing device in case you do need to summon help.

*Be proficient in re-boarding your canoe, kayak, raft or other craft – especially if you are in a lake or larger river where getting to the shore to re-board would be difficult. If you end up in the cold water – you start to loss dexterity of movement fairly quickly.

*Paddle with a buddy – not only for more fun – but just in case of emergency.

*Evenly pack your boat to have an even keel (so to speak) – and help mitigate the chances of overturning.

*Let someone on dry land know where you are going and when you plan to return – in other words, share your float plan.

*Check the weather before and during the trip. During the excursion, be aware of changing or increasing winds and/or cloud build up.

*Be honest about your skills – know your limitations. For example, planning a long trip of many miles or hours during unfavorable water temperatures or forecasts could be risky for many floaters.

In the angling realm, there’s nothing I would rather do than float and fish the Old Dominion’s many outstanding rivers, but I know that my continuing to enjoy this pastime involves making wise decisions. Please consider making these safety tips part of your game plan.

Michigan’s ‘Water Wonderland’

Boating Michigan’s ‘Water Wonderland’
By CASEY WARNER
Michigan Department of Natural Resources
from The Fishing Wire

In Michigan – a state with more than 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, more than 11,000 inland lakes and more than 36,000 miles of rivers and streams – you are never farther than 6 miles from a body of water or 85 miles from a Great Lake.

With such an abundance of water to enjoy, it’s no wonder Michigan is home to 4 million boaters. The state ranks third in the nation for both watercraft registrations and total expenditures for sale of new powerboats, trailers and accessories.

“Water is one of Michigan’s greatest natural resources,” said Ron Olson, chief of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Division. “We encourage residents and visitors to get out and explore all of the on-the-water opportunities the Great Lakes State affords. Michigan is truly a boater’s paradise.”

Making sure the state’s millions of boaters have ample opportunity to get their boats out on the water is the focus of the DNR’s Waterways Program.

“There are over 1,300 state-sponsored boating access sites throughout Michigan and 82 state-sponsored harbors along the Great Lakes – at a total value of over $1 billion,” said Jordan Byelich, DNR waterways development program manager.

Byelich explained that funding for public recreational boating facilities – land acquisition, design, construction, operation and maintenance – comes from boat registrations, the Michigan marine fuel tax and user fees. Projects also may be funded, on occasion, with federal dollars through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Coast Guard.

“We have a boating team made up of planning/development, grant management, operations and regulatory experts,” Byelich said. “Our 11 major maintenance crews and two construction crews perform various forms of specialized boating facility construction, including launch ramps, skid piers, vault toilets, parking lots, sidewalks and channel dredging.”

The DNR has renovated several boating access sites and harbors around the state.

One example is the recently constructed and expanded piers for mooring along Snail Shell Harbor at Fayette Historic State Park in Delta County, which offers a floating dock system with seven finger piers – one that is 38 feet long, two that are 45 feet long and four that are 60 feet long.

“This was a great improvement for visitors to Fayette Historic State Park,” said Olson. “The old dock was removed during the fall of 2015. The new pier system is quite beautiful.”

As part of a major reconstruction project at East Tawas State Harbor in Iosco County, boaters now can access modern amenities, improved safety features and a better connection to the local community.

The project helps the harbor respond to current trends in Great Lakes boating. The facility now features many enhancements, including new piers, a greater variety of slip sizes, compliance with the latest Americans with Disabilities Act standards, new electrical pedestals, as well as a new pump-out system.

“The harbor currently has 160 slips, with all brand-new floating docks,” said Micah Jordan, lead ranger/supervisor at Tawas Point State Park and East Tawas State Harbor. “It is maintained by an all-new electrical system that detects and reports electrical current in the water, meeting the new federal codes for harbors and marinas.”

Connection to the downtown area, which is popular with boaters, also has been improved.

“East Tawas Harbor is unique due to its location in Tawas and location in the state. It’s perfectly located on the beautiful shore of Tawas Bay, only a few hours from many major towns, and therefore it draws large numbers of visitors each year looking to enjoy recreation on the water or as a transient stop on their way north or south,” Jordan said. “The harbor itself is located in the middle of town and provides amazing access to downtown East Tawas within walking distance to major shopping and dining. It creates a perfect spot for tourism and is a major boost to the local businesses.”

Another DNR facility improved recently is the boating access site at Silver Lake State Park in Oceana County. The work was part of a redevelopment project that relocated the launching area, dredged a new channel, added parking for vehicles with trailers, improved circulation, and created separation of the day-use area from the launching area supporting improved safety and functionality within the park.

Boating access site improvements included adding a two-lane concrete launch ramp, dredging a 300-foot channel to deeper water, a vault toilet, and a maneuvering area for launching and retrieving boats.

A recent renovation project at the Jewell Road boating access site in Cheboygan County, which accesses Mullett Lake, addressed erosion issues at the site and included removal of an old concrete ramp, which was replaced with a new double-lane ramp. The site’s parking lot was also paved as part of the project.

State-funded boating facilities are quite popular with Michigan boaters.

And while many harbors see heavy use, others don’t get used as much as they could.

Straits State Harbor in Cheboygan County is among them.

“Straits State Harbor’s boat launch is still fairly quiet overall for the summer,” said Megan Izzard, assistant harbor master there. “This is partly due to how new our facility is – we’re entering our ninth season – and people still not knowing that we are here.”

Straits State Harbor’s state-of-the-art, sustainable design has earned it certification as a Michigan Clean Marina, a designation given to sites that adopt marina and boating practices that reduce pollution and enhance fish and wildlife habitat.

The state harbor facility – the only one in Michigan using wind turbines for electrical generation – also gives boaters who want to go to Mackinac Island another option, as the very popular Mackinac Island State Harbor is often crowded.

“Straits State Harbor has capacity and is a great way to access Mackinac Island – it’s a good option by taking a ferry,” Olson said.

The location of the harbor’s boat launch also offers some unique benefits.

In the DNR’s 2017 harbor survey, 93 percent of respondents said they would visit the harbor/marina again, and 90 percent said they would recommend the facility to a friend.

This support of public waterways facilities is evident. For example, just nine of the state harbors pump a total of more than 300,000 gallons of fuel to boats each year.

“Michigan offers countless boating opportunities,” said Lt. Tom Wanless, boating law administrator for the state of Michigan. “But having fun on the water also means being safe. Taking simple precautions, always staying in control of the vessel and following the law will help ensure an enjoyable outing.”

“You can launch here and be under the Mackinac Bridge in five to 10 minutes, and we are the closest state boat launch that someone can use to get to Mackinac Island,” Izzard said. “This boat launch is attached to a full-facility marina, so you can launch just for the day or you can launch and stay overnight while enjoying our wonderful facility.”

Cedar River State Harbor in Menominee County is what Ian Diffenderfer, unit supervisor at the harbor and at Wells State Park, calls a “very quiet and secluded harbor and boat launch.”

“It’s centered 30 miles between Menominee and Escanaba and is a quiet refuge for a trip to these locations or a stop over from Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula and Washington Island,” Diffenderfer said. “Amenities include pump-out services, gasoline/diesel, bicycles, boat launch, fire pit, restroom and shower facilities, horseshoe court, and local delivery for food.”

Boaters can find location and amenity information about boating access sites and harbors within the Michigan Recreational Boating Information System. Information on harbors also can be found in the Michigan Harbors Guide.

Many harbors accept reservations, which can be made at midnrreservations.com or by calling 800-44-PARKS.

June 9-16 marks Michigan Boating Week, when the DNR invites residents and visitors to celebrate the state’s unparalleled freshwater resources and boating opportunities.

While enjoying Michigan’s waters, it’s important that boaters protect themselves and others by following important safety tips.

Boaters born after June 30, 1996, and most personal watercraft operators must have a boater education safety certificate. The DNR also recommends a boating safety course for anyone who plans to use a boat or personal watercraft. Classes are offered at locations around the state and online, making it convenient and affordable.

Wanless encourages boaters to:

Wear a life jacket.
Avoid drinking alcohol.
Make sure the boat is properly equipped and equipment is in good working order.
File a float plan.
Stay alert.
Carry a cell phone or marine radio.
Watch a video on how boaters can help stop the spread of invasive species.

Find more information about Michigan boating – maps, safety, closures, rules and regulations, and more – at www.michigan.gov/boating.

Water is Michigan’s largest natural resource, and with so many opportunities to access our state’s freshwater paradise, it’s easy to find a facility that will float your boat.

How Much Fishing Equipment Is Too Much?

Someone walking into Berry’s Sporting Goods who does not bass fish will be amazed at the vast array of lures on display. There are soft plastics, crankbaits and wire contraptions in every color of the rainbow, and many other colors never seen anywhere else other than maybe an artist’s dreams.

Everything comes in an amazing number of shapes and sizes, and many things look like something from a science fiction movie. All of them have a purpose – to catch fishermen’s dollars! But they will probably all catch fish, too.

That being said, my “tackle box” is a 20-foot-long bass boat with four compartments filled with all kinds of lures. I could get in and hide in a couple of those compartments they are so big. And the walls of my garage are lined with big boxes of lures and sacks of plastic worms that I no longer use but won’t throw away. I use many of them as prizes in our kid’s tournaments.

They will all catch fish, but I have settled on a couple of colors of plastic worms I always use, and a few crankbait in favorite colors. I carry some other colors in my boat just in case, but there are not enough hours in a day to try them all. I have confidence in certain baits, so I tend to fish them all day.

Some people constantly change baits and colors trying to find the magic one for that day and conditions. And it probably works, for them, but I am confident in one or two colors based on water color and time of year. That simplifies things and makes it easier but may not be the best thing every trip.

On the deck of my boat I usually have 14 rods up front, seven on each side. And if fishing alone there are usually six or seven more at the back deck. I say one side is the rods I plan to use, the other side is just in case I want to try something different, and the ones in back are my desperation rods.

There is another dozen in my rod locker. Most fishermen put their rods up after fishing but there is no room in my locker for all of mine, so they just stay strapped down on the deck all the time.

There is a good reason for having so many rods. I not have to stop and tie on a new bait to try if I want to, I simply pick up a different rod and start casting. And rods come in a wide variety of lengths, actions and taper. Some are better for certain baits.

For example, a stiff rod with a light tip, or fast action, is best for baits like a Texas rigged worm or jig and pig. But for a crankbait those rods are too stiff, you need a longer rod with medium action. A stiff rod will often pull the hooks out of the fish while fighting it on a crankbait.

One small compartment is filled with spools of line. I have everything from six to 20-pound test line in monofilament and fluorocarbon, and there are also a couple of spools of braided line for special conditions.

Worms and jigs call for heavy line, and I like fluorocarbon since it is almost invisible in the water. Crankbaits are better on lighter line since it allows them to run deeper. And topwater needs monofilament since fluorocarbon sinks and hurts the action of the bait.

Braid is used when fishing around grass. It will cut through it when fighting a fish and has no stretch, so you can pull fish from cover quickly. But it is very visible in the water and I think it spooks fish when fishing clear water, so it is not good under all conditions.

Electronics are a whole nother story! When I got a new boat two years ago, it came with for big Humminbird depthfinders. The are capable of showing a sonar image, a down and side scan image and include a GPS map. The sonar shows a quick glance at anything under the boat. The down scan shows a detailed image of anything under the boat, to the point of showing every limb on a brush pile and even fish holding in it.

The side scan can be set to show things out to either side of the boat. You can ride slowly by a dock and see the post on it and fish holding under it. And going around a point looking for cover, you can find rocks, brush, drop offs and fish without going right over them. I keep mine set to show 60 feet out on either side of the boat, so I cover a 120-foot-wide strip on every pass.

One thing that came on my new/used boat is the 360 scan. I had never had one but will never be without one in the future. On the screen it shows what looks like a radar with rotating dial. Anything anywhere around the boat shows up. You don’t have to go right over something to fish it.

I have been amazed how many times I would be fishing around a point I have fished for 40 years, casting toward the bank. I would see a rock or brush pile or drop off out from the boat, cast to it and catch a fish. I never knew that cover was there and would never have found it unless idling around looking at down and side scan.

All these things may seem to give me an unfair advantage over the bass, and they help, but it is amazing how often bass with a brain the size of a marble outsmart me and all my equipment!

Bass Boats Have Come A Long Way In 44 Years

My first bass boat was a 1974 17-foot Arrowglass with a 70 horsepower two stroke Evinrude motor, foot controlled 12 volt trolling motor with about 40 pounds of thrust and a Lowrance flasher depthfinder on the console. It would run about 35 miles per hour top speed. It had an Anchormate on both ends, a winch that raised and lowered a ten-pound mushroom shaped anchor. There was on car battery that cranked the boat and ran everything on it.

The trailer was a single axle one with 12-inch tires. I carried a paper lake map with me that showed the basic outline of the lake. I did order a contour map of Clarks Hill, a 52-page book with pages two feet square, that showed depth contours in five-foot intervals. I put sections of it on the wall in my lake trailer.

The Arrowglass had a live well of sorts, that would fill about four inches deep with water to keep fish alive, but it did not work very well. The boat was top of the line at the time, and cost just under half my annual teacher’s salary when bought new.

When I joined the Sportsman Club that April I had the second biggest motor in the club, there was one 100 horsepower, and the second longest boat. Most boats were 14-foot Sing Fishers with 40 horsepower motors and stick steering.

Now I have a top of the line 2016 20-foot Skeeter with a 250 horsepower four stroke motor that will fly down the lake at over 75 miles per hour if I get in a hurry. The trolling motor is a foot controlled 36-volt 112 pound thrust one that will zip the boat along on high and hold it in any wind as long as the waves are not so high they lift the front of the boat get the motor out of the water. It requires four big deep cycle batteries to run everything.

There are two live wells that hold about 20 gallons of water. Pumps pull water from the lake to fill them and constantly put in fresh water. Other pumps recirculate the water, keeping it oxygenated, and with the pull of a valve will pump the water out of them to drain then faster than just opening the plug, which can be done remotely.

On the back are two Power Pole shallow water anchors. With a push of a button I can extend or retract poles that go down eight feet deep to hold the boat in one place. There are two Humminbird Helix 10 depthfinders on the front and two more on the console, each with 10-inch screens. The trailer is a dual axle with 14-inch tires. It cost almost 20 times as much as my first boat, even though I bought it used. Although my salary had gone up a bit before I retired, the used boat cost almost a full year’s pay.

The change in deptfinders is unreal. My old Lowrance had a light that spun around a dial marked in depth numbers and flashed when its sonar pulse hit something. Thats why they were called “flashers.” The bottom showed as a constant bright line and anything above the bottom, like a fish or brush, flashed at its depth.

My Helix 10s are like TV screens. Just the electronics on my new boat sell for more than three times the total cost of my first boat. They are networked together and can be divided into windows and all four will show everything that shows up on any of them. A GPS map shows bottom contours of the lake with great detail and I can highlight a depth.

If I want to fish from 5 to 10 feet deep I can highlight it in red and keep my boat just outside it to fish that depth consistently. I can also see shallow spots to avoid as I run down the lake and put in waypoints to exactly mark a brush pile or anything else I want to go back to.

The depthfinder part is an LCD that shows a moving picture of whatever is below the boat, in color. It will show in detail brush, stumps and fish. The down and side scan paint a picture that looks like a photo, with brush, stumps and rocks looking just like they would look if you were able to see them. Fish show up as small white dots.

Even more amazing on the front is a 360 Scan transducer. The image it produces looks like a radar screen with a line going around a circle picture. It scans all around the boat, showing rocks, brush and fish ahead, to the sides and even behind the boat. I have mine set on 60 feet, so I see everything within that distance of the boat.

My first boat was a tri hull that was stable while fishing but pounded through waves and jarred you if the water was rough. My new boat is stable while fishing but will cut through two to three-foot waves with little bouncing. It is three feet longer and much heavier, which helps a lot.

Do I need all the stuff I now have? No. Do I like having it? Yes. Do all the advancements help me catch more fish? Maybe. After all the difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.

Pontoon Boats Not Suited for Offshore Angling

Why Are Pontoon Boats Not Suited for Offshore Angling?
By Frank Sargeant
from The Fishing Wire

I love pontoon boats. In fact, I’d have to say of all the boats I’ve owned (20-something at last count), the 22-foot pontoon was my favorite–just a truly comfortable multi-purpose rig that worked fine as a one-man (plus dog) fishboat on many foggy dawns, but could then be loaded up with a dozen family members on the weekends and function as a towboat, picnic barge and general muck-about.

And there are now larger pontoons, up to 12 feet wide and 30 feet long, that can handle some serious water. And there are lots of pontoons that, buckled up to a 300-hp outboard, can take you down the lake at 50 mph. There are even a few that accept twin V6 outboards for even higher speeds.

That said, one of the places that pontoons do not belong is 6 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, which is where the Coast Guard found a 24-footer half sunk with six anglers aboard this past week, west of Sarasota, Florida. Everyone got home safe thanks to the rescue team, but the outing could easily have had a much more unhappy ending.

Because of their design–two or three aluminum pontoons supporting a completely flat deck extending from bow to stern–pontoons can get in serious trouble in rough water. The air-filled pontoons give the boats buoyancy, and they can ride up and over waves up to maybe 3 feet tall, depending on their frequency–lots of sharp, steep 3-footers are not survivable in most pontoons, while long rollers can be ridden out.

But even the biggest pontoons have very little “freeboard” compared to the typical vee-hull boat or offshore catamaran. Many vee-hulls designed for regular offshore use have a forward depth over 40 inches, while the largest pontoons are usually under 24 inches from the deck to the waterline.

What’s more, pontoons do not have bilge pumps–if they get a hole in the compartments of the aluminum sponsons, that compartment can fill with water. The several sealed compartments in each pontoon will keep the boat afloat, but particularly if the hole is in a bow compartment–which is most likely because that’s the section of the boat that takes the brunt of the wave action as well as experiencing lots of wear and tear from grinding up on a gravel beach or bumping a dock–the boat may start to go “head down”, making her even less sea-worthy in rough water.

Pontoons seem impossibly stable in most conditions because of their widely-spread sponson design–they hardly lean to port and starboard at all, as do conventional vee-hulls. This tends to give users a sense of security that’s not really there when the boat gets in truly rough seas.

And when green water starts coming over the front deck, things can go south immediately; the boat becomes impossible to steer, drops off plane, and is likely to tilt to one side or the other as the water tries to get out.

I speak not from offshore experience in pontoons–I never took mine outside the inlet–but from wake-eating experience; on a couple of occasions I was careless enough to run head on into a steep, rolling wake of a big ICW-cruising yacht. In one case, the wave actually broke the windshield off the console and sent it into my lap. You’d think that would have been an adequate warning, but a couple years later I again stuck the nose and soaked everybody up front, though with no boat damage.

This same sort of steep roller is common in inlets everywhere, particularly where wind and tide oppose. And an inlet that’s a pussy cat on the way out, with wind and tide both heading seaward, can be a snarling monster on the way back when the tide is coming in and the wind is blowing hard against it, or vice versa. It’s no place for even experienced skippers in small boats–a weekend captain in a pontoon can get in deep trouble quickly.

In short, pontoons are lovely family boats on the lakes and rivers and most of the bays of America, but they clearly don’t belong offshore, even in temptingly calm weather.

Best Family-Friendly Places to Fish and Boat

RBFF Hooks Nation with 2017 Best Family-Friendly Places to Fish and Boat
from The Fishing Wire

ALEXANDRIA, VA – The Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) has released their 2017 list of the Best Family-Friendly Places to Fish and Boat. The list of locations is bolstered by endorsements from celebrities and fishing pros, and the help of federal and state representatives. The announcement helps kick off the weeklong celebration of on-the-water activity that is National Fishing and Boating Week, June 3 – 11.

New this year, a group of distinguished contributors and experts have sourced the list, sharing their favorite family-friendly fishing and boating spots. Country music star Luke Bryan headlines this year’s contributors, alongside fellow musician Justin Moore, pro football player Alejandro Villanueva and a host of industry experts.

The full list of 2017 Best Family-Friendly Places to Fish and Boat is available at TakeMeFishing.org and highlights include:

Percy Priest Lake, Tenn. – Country music star Luke Bryan admits “a good fisherman never shares his best spot,” but still offers up his favorite place to escape his fast-paced world for some relaxing time on the water. Known for “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day,” Bryan’s favorite spot near Nashville is a natural addition to this year’s list. Bryan has a clothing line of the same name available at Cabela’s, and fans can catch the country music megastar on his HFE tour this summer.
Presque Isle Bay, Pa. – Professional offensive lineman and former Army Ranger, Alejandro “Big Al” Villanueva, picked this popular spot on Lake Erie, and knows a thing or two about the importance of good tackle and a strong line. When he’s not protecting the quarterback, Al says, “I spend a lot of my free time fishing and really cherish any time on the water.”
Degray Lake, Ark. – Having grown up in nearby Poyen, Ark., country music singer Justin Mooreoften frequented Degray Lake as a young boy, and passed down his love of fishing to his own kids. He remembers, “watching my oldest daughter catch her first fish all by herself has to be my favorite moment out there.”
Texas City Dyke, Texas – Professional angler Cindy Nguyen added this spot, noting, “I grew up fishing in Texas City Dyke and the surrounding areas. It’s still one of my favorite places to bring the family.”

Central Park, N.Y. – Host of South Bend’s Lunkerville, Michael de Avila, better known to his fans as Mike D., picked an unexpected fishing oasis in the middle of the nation’s largest city. Central Park offers three unique family-friendly spots at the lake, the pond and the Harlem Meer.

Webb Lake, Fla. – Women’s sportfishing advocate and outdoor writer Debbie Hanson loves the fishing at wildlife at Webb Lake. “Not only is Webb Lake great for numbers of largemouth bass and bluegill, but there are also some fantastic wildlife viewing opportunities. I’ve spotted sandhill cranes, great blue herons and white-tailed deer on my visits.”
South Padre Island, Texas – Pedro Sors, professional angler and Mexico’s most popular fishing TV show host, chose this popular spot for its ability to provide him and his sons with “a sense of freedom and a way to connect with nature and myself.”
Buckeye Creek, Calif. – Chelsea Day of the Someday I’ll Learn blog, fondly recalls memories at this picturesque spot in the eastern Sierras. “Our oldest son caught his first fish at this spot, and it was really special to be able to cook it right up and serve it for dinner at the campsite. Such a sense of accomplishment for him!”

“This year we decided to ask some of our friends and partners where they like to go fishing, and the response has been overwhelming,” said RBFF President and CEO, Frank Peterson. “While the locations are as diverse as the people who shared them, some key themes emerged. Fishing and boating are easy ways to escape life’s tensions, and you’re never too far from a quality body of water. So whether you’re getting over a stressful week at the office or simply trying to cut back on screen time, this is the year to get out on the water together to help conserve and restore our nation’s aquatic natural resources.”

We encourage all stakeholders to share the 2017 Best Family-Friendly Places to Fish and Boat list in the lead-up to National Fishing and Boating Week and beyond.

About the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF)

RBFF is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase participation in recreational angling and boating, thereby protecting and restoring the nation’s aquatic natural resources. RBFF developed the award-winning Take Me Fishing™ and Vamos A Pescar™ campaigns to create awareness around boating, fishing and conservation, and educate people about the benefits of participation. Take Me Fishing and Vamos A Pescar help boaters and anglers of all ages and experience levels learn, plan and equip for a day on the water. The campaign websites, www.TakeMeFishing.org, and www.VamosAPescar.org , feature how-to videos, information on how to get a fishing license and boat registration, and an interactive state-by-state map that allows visitors to find local boating and fishing spots.