This is Not Your Grampa's Fishing Boat

Hold on to your fishing caps maties, there's a new fishing boat in town, yarrrrr! From the make of the hull, the shape of the bow, the engine, and all the incredible gadgets, todays fishing boat will swim circles around the fishing boats of the past. Starting off with design alone, todays fishing boats are made with less or no wood, lessening the chance of structural failures due to rot or expansion. Fiberglass and other high-tech,super strong materials are used to make the boat lighter, faster and more fuel efficient.

Fresh water fishing boats, saltwater boats and even aluminum boats have gone through a complete transformation. The fishing boats of today feature the most advance designs, materials, and highest safety standards available. All of these features combined produce boats that are much more structurally sound and much faster then your grandfathers old skipper. You can experience faster acceleration, greater top-end speed and a much smoother ride. The fishing boats of today are also designed to keep the water outside where it belongs with slanted sides and a better hull design for a softer and dryer ride through rough seas.

As for the engines, most out board motors do not look any different from the ones produced 30 years ago, however the only thing they have in common is they both run on internal combustion. Since computers play such a large role in the advancement of technology it is not unusual to see them being used in the fishing boat engines of today. Advancements allow for the measure of pollutants such as hydrocarbons and nitrous oxides. With computer controlled engines, high-pressure fuel injection eliminates a high percentage of pollutants and makes the boats more fuel efficient. Remember taking out your grandfathers fishing boat and watching the trail of multi-colored fuel that followed behind you? The fishing boats of today have much cleaner,quieter and environmentally friendly engines.

Some of the most fancy and fun advancements in fishing boats are found in the gadgets. GPS and fish finders have been around for a long time, and your grandfather could have even owned a primitive version, but the sonar of today takes fishing to a whole new level. GPS is a great gadget to have when you want to track the direction and position of your fishing boat. A GPS can also memorize good fishing spots and keep a list for future reference. Advancements in sonar technology now allow you to determine the shape of the sea floor and see what size fish are near. Temperature sensors installed in fishing boats even help determine what kind of fish are below you. Another nice advancement is the wireless bow mount electric motor. Fishermen can now have more flexibility and control of the boat while they drift in the water.

With all of these new aids you better have a place to store all of your newly caught fish! Well, have no fear because the fishing boats of today include up to 50 gallon livewell tanks and multiple in-deck fish boxes. Thats a lot more fish then your grandfather use to catch! All of these new advancements make fishing easier and your fishing boat more efficient, however, no technology can ever change the feeling of complete relaxation and clarity that one gets when they cast their line into the water. So next time you take your grandfather out on your new fishing boat, watch his eyes light up at all the new advancements and enjoy a serene day of fishing together in the 20th century.

BUYING BETTER FISHING BOATS
by Louis Bignami

It's clear that many anglers spend more than they need for boats and aquatic gear. Buying the wrong boat type, "turkey" models in a class, or used junkers wastes far too much money. I learned this the hard way, and more than I wanted to know about dry rot, when I bought a "bargain" wooden sailboat from a high school classmate and discovered the dubious joys of dry rot, mildewed sails and sprung planks. If smart sailors learn from their mistakes, it's quite certain that the smartest sailors learn from those of others. So here's a start.

I've reviewed boats over three decades for magazines like Lake-Land Boating and Bay & Delta Yachtsman. Hulls in the last test batch ranged from 16-foot open fishing skiffs up to 30 foot power cruisers, and included both fishing boats and exotic designs such as a 23-foot offshore racing boat that hit 70 knots with four aboard through three to four foot chop. My own flotilla has run through inflatables, folders, canoes and skiffs now that we've moved away from salt chuck.

To start, realize premium boats cost more than similar length, lower quality hulls. However, the difference may shrink if you check the options not included on other craft. Premium boats use an extremely sturdy hull with the best possible combination of materials, then set a price.

Some boat manufacturers aim at a price and then build the biggest hull with minimal quality. Craft in the latter class might suit flat water, or those who only boat a few times a year. But if you fish open ocean, or boom a bass or ski boat at 60 knots two or three times a week, quality costs less per hour because resale values stay high and repair costs remain low.

Boats must, of course, match the intended use. Open offshore fishing skiffs suit those who fish open or rough water and stand and cast out the day. Those who want to laze in comfort enjoy the benefits of cuddy cabins. So hull choice is yours.

One thing seems certain: boaters always lust for more boat than they can afford! How much can you spend for the boat, trailer, motor and options package? Don't compare apples and oranges. Some manufacturers "fill every hole" in the dash; others package hulls, trailers, motors and electronics. Others sell bare hulls and let boaters add what they like. 

To start, don't overlook skiffs, inflatables, canoes or kayaks as sheltered water fishing craft. Such small boats may be all you need. However, if you want to fish bays or spend more time afloat in more comfort look for more boat.

Many experts feel new boaters do best with new packages from local marinas or boat sales operations. Their rationale is that locals know the conditions, help is nearby and, because of your package, you have more leverage, if it comes to warranty problems, than if you buy everything separately. I like to buy locally.

Others claim lower prices through catalogs, mail order or distant dealers who specialize in bulk sales justify potential problems when something breaks. They claim "money is the bottom line and it's the manufacturer's warranty that counts."

However, the best bargains are often off season sales by users who have discovered their boating budget exceeded their interest. Such seems particularly true in hard times! Here, the hire of a surveyor or other expert deserves attention. The next step is a realistic look at your budget.

First, what can you get for your old boat in a sale or trade? Note: you need a sharp pencil here. Sometimes inflated trade-in values are offset by prices on the new boat or option. Really look at your old boat and trailer. Could new finish, motor, upholstery or electronics satisfy your urge for change? Note: a little cosmetic work on boat and trailer can raise its resale price.

Second, examine your financing package. Should you pay cash? That eliminates financing costs, but you lose your interest on money taken from accounts and the leverage with withheld payments if problems come up. Financing is available from banks, credit unions, thrifts, dealers and others. Wise shoppers might finance first, then make a deal on the boat. Separate out any trade-ins. Then ask about terms for cash. Some sellers will handle their own financing. This is worth checking.

You need to "sharp pencil" your own deal. It's your money at stake! Don't overlook tax advantages either; some larger live-aboard vessels may quality for tax savings under second home statutes.

Once you get the money organized, try to attend boat shows that let you see dozens of different types of craft in one spot. This gives you the perspective you need to price used craft. Collect booklets and talk to dealers and other boaters. TIP: talk to boaters who want to buy or trade up to a more expensive model in the same line. They must be satisfied.

If possible shop all summer. Then buy at season end sales when owners and dealers seem anxious for sales to solve off-season cash flow problems.

To insure boat quality, look at the boat up on the trailer. A slick trailer with sturdy bunkers that exactly fit the boat and may include a travel cover is a plus. Owners who take the time to detail their craft seem careful in other areas too.

Hidden surfaces seem a good test of overall quality. Run your hand carefully into areas on the hull you can't spot. Rough surfaces or screws where well-found boats use bolt-through fittings and inexpensive chrome in place of stainless grab rails and such suggest similar problems in areas you can't see.

Aluminum hulls seem easy to check. Look for careful, even rivets and secure seats or casting platforms. Avoid hulls with projecting bolt heads or sharp metal edges or odd creaks and groans. Pay close attention to the transom fit and check rivets and keel.

Fiberglass hulls are normally molded. Kiln-dry solid wood stringers and/or fiberglass box beams with or without molded-in floatation foam work well. Most makers mold in internal wood stringers and add bulkheads to stiffen the hull before the mold is popped. Plywood covered with fiberglass seems to eventually dry rot; such is especially the case with "home-made" craft. Realize that hand laid glass uses sheets of different types of roving and mat. This is preferred to "chopper gun" hulls that merely spray on glass. Some foam in the entire hull for extra floatation and to set internal tanks and such solidly in place. This can, unfortunately, also hide defects.

You can get a rough idea of hull quality if you glance down the side of the hull. A buddy who builds some of the best off-shore racing boats in the world says, "If you see distorted reflections you don't have a good gel coat. That's the reason only quality boats come in dark colors. White and light colors can hide defects." Check hull graphics too. Those stuck on abrade or tear off; graphics under gel coats do not.

Cockpit seats and upholstery tell a lot about the care a used boat enjoyed, or suffered. Even welting, nice decorative touches and durable fabric and plastics look better and last longer than the least expensive vinyl. Cockpit console finish and carpet type tell you more. Look at a half dozen boats from different owners; you can easily see quality construction and, in some cases, quality care.

If possible peek underneath the console -- I use a dentist's mirror on a stick to check overall in odd spots. Then too a tidy wiring harness testifies to that extra care which signals quality. Old candy wrappers tell another story. Don't get snowed by electric radio antennas, wipers, horns and the like. Look for basics.

Basic instruments are worth the money. Besides the usual RPM and MPH gauges, oil PSI, engine temperature, fuel, amp and the like are useful. So is an engine hour gauge to insure proper tune-ups on inboards and I/Os. Tilt and trim gauges, depth finders, CB (inshore) or SSB (offshore) and other electronics usual in your area repay their investment in ease and safety.

However, electronic add-ons, such as depth gauges, Loran or radar do not help much on resale. New buyers often have their own preferences. So, when I sell a boat, I remove these items or substitute less expensive alternatives so my well-tested and carefully maintained electronic gear goes onto the new boat.

If you check used boats at a dealership, survey the sales area quickly. Listen to the salesman. Pros know everything about the boats and gear they sell, but don't show off. Then go around back to the parts and service department which makes such a big difference in owner satisfaction. Look for full parts bins, and listen for an hour on a weekend as customers come in. If too many must wait too long for parts and service, look elsewhere.

Buying new boats makes demands on boaters. Buying used boats can sink the expertise of most. If possible, look boats over, check the typical resale price, ask the owner why he's selling and then, if you are still interested, get an option or contract of sale subject to inspection by an expert who might charge $50 to $100 to inspect the boat or hull. Then have another expert check the engine or engines. Work a deal so that if the pros pass the boat and motor, you pay; if the craft fails, the owner picks up the tab.

Buy a better boat for a fair price, keep it up and it should last for years before you sell or trade it in for top dollar. That, not flash and a bigger hole in the water, insures real value.