So Ya Want a New Boat?

By Dennis Foster - May 1, 2014
We all do, most of us just don't get to pick one out as often as we would like. When you do decide to pull the trigger and make the investment in a new fishing platform, you had just as well do it right the first time. That means all aspects from the very obvious of hull and motor right on down to electronics and accessories. After all, we are talking about a major purchase here and buyer's remorse over any part of it is the last thing you will want to gain from the experience.

That being said, there are some considerations that you will want to ponder as you delve into the decision making process. As considerable as the expense can be, it is far more than just financial, it's also very personal as it's about you and your family's enjoyment. You will no doubt be spending a lot of time in your new dream fishing machine, therefore, doing your homework now can pay huge dividends by providing you years of hassle free and pleasure filled experiences.

Homework

Boat and Outdoor Shows are a great place to see a good cross section of boats from several manufacturers and to get a good grip on what you will be looking at for costs. One thing to be a little cautious about is actually getting too fired up and impulse buying at a Show. Any reputable dealer will be more than happy to visit with you at their dealership and not put undue pressure on you at the Show.

Another factor to consider is that some packages offered at seemingly low "show price" are often below the maximum horsepower allowed and the electronics (if any) are generally mid-range at best. Run an underpowered boat and you will be quickly disappointed and continually reminded of this mistake for years. Do it right and go the max or pay big bucks later to repower and remedy the mistake. While at the dealership, be sure and check out their service department and make inquiries with current customers as to their experiences. Anyone can sell you a boat, it takes a good dealer to rig it right and take care of you down the road.

Ask your dealer for a demonstration ride. Also take the time and talk with some folks who are running the models you are interested in and solicit their unbiased opinions. Guides and Professional Fisherman are a great resource as they spend a great deal of time on the water and make their livings relying on their boat/motor. Maybe take a few guide trips or enter as an amateur in a professional tournament to check out various boats in a real world situation. Plus, you will most likely pick up some valuable fishing tips and have a good time in the process.

Aluminum versus Fiberglass

In my opinion, this choice comes down to a very simple assessment. If you limit your outings to only the nice days and need a smaller light boat (14 to 18 feet) that you can access moderate sized lakes with less than desirable launch facilities then aluminum is the way to go. If you plan on tackling larger water as we often do in walleye fishing and can't pick your days off or control the weather then you will not only want but rather need a dry, comfortable, and most importantly safe ride. Fiberglass is the only logical choice.

Due to the limitations on shaping aluminum with the unavoidable welds and rivets contrasted with the unlimited construction options combined with the inherent strength and solid nature of fiberglass; this superior material just lends itself to duty on big water boats. There is absolutely no comparison in the ride a fiberglass boat will give you and it doesn't take long to really appreciate the dryness, comfort, and overall feeling of safety. Interestingly enough, the larger aluminum boats really don't afford you much of a savings in price eitherÂ…particularly when you factor in the better ride and overall value of fiberglass. It is literally the difference between a Chevy and a Cadillac.

I have personally stepped up to a V203 Warrior powered by a 300hp Verado and a 15hp Pro Kicker. I have also been running trim tabs and in my opinion any boat would benefit from adding them as you can infinitely adjust the attitude of the boat in any conditions. In full disclosure, I am proud to work with both companies as they offer exactly what I demand in functionality. This boat/motor combination simply offers the best combination of comfort and fishability I have found to date. Another benefit that is to be appreciated from independent companies such as Warrior is that you can power them with any brand you choose. Sadly, this is not the case with most manufacturers and you are often limited to their proprietary brand.

Power

When it comes to motors, all of the major manufacturers produce quality products and what Dad ran is often the deciding factor. I prefer to go with Mercury, long the world's largest manufacturer of recreational marine engines. Their reliability is well documented and should you ever damage a prop or need service, their dealer network and availability of parts far surpasses what any other can offer. Meaning no matter where you are fishing, in the unlikely event you have problems, there will be assistance nearby.
The next consideration is 2 Stroke or 4 Stroke. 2 Strokes are generally a bit lighter and less expensive. They are also louder, belch smoke, and require mix oil to run. The newer DFI models such as the Opti Max have helped to reduce much of this but the fact remains. I run the pinnacle of 4-Stroke technology, Mercury's supercharged, fly by wire Verado. I can report that it is the strongest running and by far the quietest motor I have ever been around. Smooth would be the best description.

Electronics

This is an area where far too many folks are just simply overwhelmed by what is now available and the incredible pace at which technological change is taking place. I will try and help you sort through the clutter and get down to what you really need.

First of all, this is not an area where I would recommend skimping on. This doesn't mean that you need to automatically purchase the most expensive units you can find. But, I darn sure wouldn't go to the other end of the spectrum either, as with most things and all things electronic, you get exactly what you pay for. If you want to keep within your budget, I would recommend sticking to just the features you will use and go with less than the largest screen available. Thus, you have all the capability, just in a smaller package.

For walleye fishing, excellent traditional sonar is a must as is a color display to better convey what the unit is trying to tell you. After that, GPS and Navionics background mapping quickly follow. Not just for marking your spots, but also for safety reasons as it will point out obvious obstacles and proves invaluable in guiding you safely back to the dock in inclement weather.

Next in line would be downvision and sidevision respectively. This technology is absolutely mind-blowing and will literally open your eyes to what exactly is below you. I have relied on Raymarine E-Series units with Digital Sonar for years and now with their new Dragonfly systems with CHIRP Downvision, they continue to lead the way. They have long been a major player in the Coastal Markets and are now quickly establishing themselves as the premier manufacturer in the Inland Markets. It's worth checking them out.

Accessories

Once you have your platform picked out, it is now time to personalize your rig. There are some inexpensive items that you can add that will make each and every day on the water more trouble free and enjoyable. Organization is key and having everything handy and in its place is important. I have found a couple of systems that work quite well for this.

One is CrankCaddy's Dash Caddy. This compliments their tangle free storage boxes for crankbaits. Based on the same slotted concept, you can mount in on your dash or any other flat surface and your most used crankbaits are always untangled and at the ready.

Another handy group of items I have found is the magnetic holders brought to us by Gear Grabbar. The magnets on these things are incredibly strong and will hold even the heaviest of tools, jigs, or anything with metal firmly in place and right where you need it.

In summary, take some time do your research and make an informed decision for yourself. Please remember that it is about more than just the initial purchase price, as spread over time, it really isn't that expensive. Being cheap and trying to make inferior equipment perform on a superior level can become darned expensive over the long haul and should be avoided at any cost.

Author Dennis Foster
Dennis Foster
Dennis Foster is a Hunting/Fishing Guide and Outdoor Writer from Mellette, SD. If you would like to book a trip or have questions or comments, he can be reached through his websites www.dakotapheasantguide.com and www.eyetimepromotions.com.