Choosing the Perfect Saltwater Fishing Boat

Choosing the perfect saltwater fishing boat By Robert Sloan Finding the right saltwater boat can be akin to finding a needle in a hay stack. That may sound screwy, but it’s true. There are lots of shiny new boats to choose from. Some are prefect for fishing the jetties, but float like a barge on a shallow flat. Then there are “skinny” water rigs that’ll fish in 6 to 12 inches of water, but bob around like a cork at the jetties and bust your butt in a chop going across the bay. So what is the perfect rig? Does one exist? Well, sort of. Check this out. Working as a guide at Port O’Connor has been a true test for me over the years. POC is the best of what the middle and lower Gulf Coast has to offer. There are miles of shallow flats. Ditto that with the bays. There are deep water jetties to fish, and the surf is always an option. Plus, there is the short offshore option when the seas are flat. Finding the perfect boat for all these situations has been tricky. Over the years I’ve owned way to many boats, but right now I think I’ve found the ultimate rig. At one point I had a 17-foot Maverick HPS. This is a boat that’s made of high-tech carbon/Kevlar and weighed about 500 pounds. It was perfect for poling the flats. It was powered with a 60 horsepower Yamaha, would float in less than a foot of water and get up in 10 inches. It was easy to pole, perfect for three people and had lots of storage. It fished well in the bays and at the jetties. But standing up in that rig while fishing the open bays and surf was definitely tricky. Here’s the deal. If you’re looking to fish the flats for tailing reds, but also want to fish the jetties and surf for reds, trout and tarpon, you will have to make a compromise. By that I mean choosing a boat that’s big enough to handle rough water, yet will also run the flats. The best I’ve come up with is a Mowdy. In fact, I’m running a 22-foot, 6-inch Mowdy now. In my opinion it’s the perfect boat for all around use from Port O’Connor to the lower Laguna Madre. It’s long and wide and built with a tunnel. It’ll run the flats and fish the jetties, surf and short offshore in comfort. It’s rigged with a 150 four stroke Yamaha. On the bow it’s got a Rip Tide 101 pound thrust trolling motor. It’s got enough horsepower to move three to four anglers with ease. This is not a boat that you can pole. But it’s a hull that’ll float in less than a foot of water. And with the trolling motor I can quietly move it around on the flats, at the jetties and in the surf. One thing a Mowdy won’t do is run super shallow like a Majek or Shoalwater. The flat-bottomed hull design of a Majek combined with a tunnel is the perfect combination for running across super skinny flats. The only glitch is that with the flat bottom you’ll get a much rougher ride – as in teeth jarring. A Mowdy is a V-hull that flattens out towards the stern. Conversely, a Majek is flat from end to end. A V-hull design is made to cut through the waves. A flat-bottom will bounce on top of the waves. The V-hull won’t go nearly as shallow and get up as shallow as a flat bottom rig will. But you’ll get a much smoother ride. One of the best economical, all-around, go anywhere boats I’ve ever used is a 17-foot Mitzi. This is what I use for polling the flats at Port O’Connor. It’s powered with a 60-horsepower four stroke Yamaha, is lightweight, and has a small tunnel and a semi-V hull. It’s got a polling platform on the stern, a center console, and wide open front deck that’s mounted with a 55 pound thrust Rip Tide trolling motor. If you’re looking for the perfect skinny water rig that’ll also fish the jetties and surf this is it. A Mitzi doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that you’ll find on something like a Maverick or Hells Bay. The tradeoff is the price. If you’re a jetty and bay fisherman you’ll want to check out a V-hull boat that’s 18 to 24 feet long. Some of the best include a Path Finder, Blue Wave, Shallow Sport and Key West - all are well made boats that come with plenty of comfort, lots of storage and a live well. These are center console boats that are built to handle rough and open water like you’ll occasionally find on the bays, at the jetties and in the surf. One thing to keep in mind when buying a new boat is the cost of gas. The bigger the boat the more horsepower you’ll need. That translates into more fuel consumption. A four stroke outboard is definitely the only way to go. Something else to consider is the weight of the boat, motor and trailer. The heavier the rig is the more gas you’ll use coming and going from the house. The best possible situation is to keep your boat in storage where you’ll be fishing. It’s been said that the best two days of owning a boat are when you buy it, and sell it. That might be true but having a boat is one of the best ways to totally escape the everyday grind of the working world. Sticker price blues Quite often the sticker price on a boat can be deceiving. Watch out for boats that are underpowered. That will keep the price down. Most boats are priced without a stainless steel prop, trim tabs and a jack plate. You need all three to get a good ride in most boats. You’ll also want to add a GPS/Bottom finder unit, a power pole, trolling motor and maybe even some shade over the console. It all adds up in a hurry. For example a prop can cost upwards of $700 to $1,000, a jack plate $1,000, GPS around a thousand, power pole $1,000-plus and a trolling motor will hit you for $700 to $1,200 bucks. Figure up the cost of all the extras before you head to the bank or credit union. Capt. Robert Sloan runs bay, jetty, surf and wade fishing charters out of Port O’Connor for trout, reds, tarpon and king mackerel. Contact info – 409 782 6796, sloan288@aol.com,www.luckystrikeguide.com.