Buying That “New” Boat
by Keith Krych
So you want a “new” boat. Identifying your needs is the first step in making a boat purchase.
Your first move when buying a boat is to identify exactly what you need from your new rig. Take a look at how and where you usually go fishing. If you mostly fish the rivers and close to shore, your choice of a 14 to16 foot aluminum boat with a 25 to 40 hp motor will do.
Do you spend some of your time fishing in walleye tournaments? If that's the case, you can narrow the field to multi-species boats with a powerful motor, that can be used for trolling and or jigging. A deeper, slower rig would just be a disappointment.
Today I run an 18-foot multi-species rig pushed by a 140hp motor. I now get where I want to go, and seldom have to think twice about making a long run in heavy weather.
An elevated platform up front offers the perfect spot for jigging or casting. It also has an open layout in the stern that gives me more "fighting" room when trolling for walleyes, salmon or trout in open water.
Taking a test drive is the best way to make sure a boat is right for you. You can ask someone who has the same model your looking at to take you fishing or for a ride.
What I'm driving at is you'd better know what you need before letting loose of your hard-earned cash. Don’t try to “make” the boat into something it’s not, you'll only be unhappy and frustrated as long as you own the rig.
Anglers who regularly fish big water and target assorted gamefish, using varied fishing techniques, are best off with a larger multi-species rig.
Along with style, the actual size of the boat is critical because it dictates load capacity. Most anglers fish with family or friends, your boat must be able to hold everyone and everything you intend to carry.
If you choose a stripped-down 14 footer, don't expect to fit your 300-pound bass-crazy brother-in-law, his five rods, three tackle boxes and lucky fishin' dog into your boat.
When choosing an outboard, a good rule of thumb is to go with an engine that's at least 75 percent of the maximum horsepower rating. Eighty percent is even better. My current outboard is the maximum allowed for that boat.
If you stick to that 75- to 80-percent range, you can be reasonably assured that you'll have the power you need to handle rough water.
Here's an important tip, test drive the boat on waters similar to those you fish. If you're often out on lake Erie or Saginaw Bay, you won't get an accurate feel if you run the boat on a river. Wait for a day when it's windy enough to put a healthy chop on the surface to give the boat a true test.
Towing And Storage
If you're like most people, you'll be towing your rig to and from the water. Consequently, you must buy a boat, motor and trailer that your tow vehicle can handle. In an emergency situation, I once towed a 25-foot center console boat with a jeep over 25 miles. Most of the time I couldn't tell whether I was pulling or being pushed. It's was very stressful on my vehicle, and me, and that's not the way you want to start every fishing trip.
Same goes for your storage area. It's wise to measure the space before you make that final decision. Sure, the rig may be a 17 footer, but the trailer and outboard will add about five feet to the total length, and the wheels tack on a couple of feet in width. Measure first so there are no surprises.
Once you get a solid grip on the size and type of boat you want, it's time to go shopping. Good luck.