Boats these days. It’s really incredible. I’ve heard some complaining on the price, but as a guy who spends a great deal of time in a boat when the water’s not frozen, I’m blown away by what they come out with each year compared to days of old. Safer, lighter, stronger, and that’s just the hull and main motor materials. It’s the accessories and add-ons that really catch my eye, as for the most part, boats are much more customizable than they once were. Get the model you like, and add features from other nearby models you like, allowing you to configure the perfect boat for your style of fishing.
I owned a few clunkers in my youth, but stepped up to my first “real boat” in the year 2000. It was a ’97 LUND Pro-V 1775, and had been remodeled inside extensively. The wiring under the dash looked like a roadmap for New York City, the electronics were hodge-podged together, and the rest of the layout was sound though not nearly as well-thought-out as today’s models. It was still an incredible boat, and I was lucky to own it, yet I often found myself saying, “If there was only a door here, a drawer there, a place to put my ruler…” It’s getting harder and harder these days to critically evaluate what else you would do additionally to these rigs, though it is possible to under-order.
I get it. You have to save a penny wherever you can, but I want to highlight 10 different features that I’ve come to love in boats these days, such that you can see if they work into the budget for your next purchase.
1. Flip-up Aft Seating – Most boats come with the option these days, and if possible, see if they’ll do multi-part aft seating. These are simply flip up seat configurations that operate independently, rather than lifting or dropping an entire bench. I only run two main seats, then flip up the platform/aft-seating to reveal even more floor space. If two people in the boat, seats are flipped down for additional casting. At the back of the boat, these are the safest seat options for kids as they feel less slam from waves in big water, and there are great handles near these seats most often. For me, these are a must-have.
2. Under-console drawers – Picture a junk-drawer on steroids, but filled with tackle and fun stuff. My under console drawers hold up to 10 Plano 3700 boxes, and are always at my fingertips for a lure change. Talk about convenient. The one under my steering wheel holds plastics, bottom bouncers, fluoro, and other line too.
3. Max horsepower – It sounds like a sales-tactic to say “you’ll never wish you had less horsepower,” but the recommendation goes so much further than that. I tow my kids on tubes, sometimes have a big boat full of people, gear, and gas, and at times operate on heavy water. In those situations and more you will find out what you’re missing the hard way if you under-power.
4. Trailer Roller Guides – If you’ve ever had to launch or land a boat in a river with current, big lake with a cross-wind, or when pleasure boat traffic is buzzing around like bees, you’re happy to have these vertical roller guides on the left and right ends of your trailer. For my boat, when the trailer is backed into the water at the correct depth, it’s almost hard to load it wrong. They’ve saved me on numerous occasions from dings and dock rash too.
5. Shallow Water Spike Anchor – Again, brand is less of a concern than the actual functionality. I run a 12’ Talon, and I don’t know that I’d order another boat without it. I use it to anchor on fish, but more importantly, to lock in my boat near the dock, plant myself away from the ramp
until things settle down, and otherwise stabilize the boat in shallow water. It’s one of those features that you keep finding new applications for.
6. Upgraded Prop – It’s likely that your dealer will know which props offer the best performance for the specific motor and boat hull you order. Most dealers like mine, will order the motor standard with upgraded stainless and correctly pitched prop without even thinking about it. Others yet run with standard models, but there can be a big difference in performance, hole-shot, mileage, and a number of other related factors.
7. Side Imaging – I don’t care what graph you run, just make sure it has effective side-imaging capabilities. I would lump in any 360 or Panoptix/Livescope tech to this category too, as they’re all effective in their own right at seeing to the sides. The applications and species are too many to count, but once you get used to using it, you’ll be hooked.
8. Networked Electronics – As the networks get more complex, it’s best to let a dealership with professional riggers to make the connection between console and bow electronics. Many now are tied into the trolling motor, talon, and even main motor. Save waypoints that transfer front and back, utilize map cards for both units, and generally get ready for a much smoother experience.
9. Main-Floor Vinyl – While snap in carpet or full carpet may seem like an upgrade, I actually prefer the non-slip, non-staining vinyl. I also appreciate how it stays cool to the touch in hot weather, and how easily it cleans up. If you do want to upgrade the main deck, consider a snap in marine mat or other padding option that’s stain-proof and durable.
10. Ruler Holder – It’s a petty one on my part, but I’ve tripped on more metal rulers in my life than I care to remember. They’re also great for gouging trim, plastic, vinyl, and wood, so stowing it correctly yet having it handy is such a nice option. It keeps your boat more picked up, safer, and looking better.
So there you have it, a couple of things to look for in any new rig. While you may not need all of them, each has become nearly crucial to me and the way I fish. Honorable mentions would’ve been a troll down feature built into the dash of my Mercury main motor, and maybe a full windshield. Like anything features depend on the fisher, but this list is a great start.