The management team at Minneapolis Motor Sports toyed with the idea of customizing a new, jet-powered personal watercraft (PWC) into a sleek little fishing boat.
General Manager Mark Niforopulos had seen it done before — by coastal do-it-yourselfers along the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico. In those waters, anglers for years have been speeding back and forth on 11-foot jet skis to their favorite offshore hot spots.
Could it catch on in Minnesota? At the least, he thought, he could sell a few creations to tournament pros as ideal pre-fishing rigs. It would be easy to store, easy to haul, easy to launch, highly nimble and fast.
As 30,000 visitors to the Minneapolis Boat Show will see this week, Sea-Doo beat him to it.
The Sea-Doo Fish Pro is billed by the Canadian company as the first and only personal watercraft built specifically from the factory for fishing. It was launched last fall in New Zealand and Australia before debuting in the United States at this winter’s boat shows.
Niforopulos, who also runs St. Boni Motor Sports in St. Bonifacius, will display it at the four-day exhibit opening Thursday at the Minneapolis Convention Center. He has positioned the Fish Pro on a high-traffic corner of his floor space.
“It’s definitely going to be the hot unit for 2019,’’ Sea-Doo spokesman Tim McKercher said.
Minnesota registers 15 boats for every 100 residents — the fourth-highest ratio in the country. According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, Minnesotans spent $807 million on boats in 2017, fifth most in the nation and up 12 percent from 2016.
Niforopulos said PWCs are 20 percent of his business. He’s hopeful, but not certain, that targeting anglers will help grow the business.
“Will the weekend warrior buy them? I don’t know,’’ he said.
McKercher said the Fish Pro is aimed at anglers who want something less complicated than a boat that’s high-powered, hassle-free and suitable for solo outings. On the water, it will bring them close to the action and can be maneuvered into locations inaccessible to a full-sized fishing boat.
“It’s for the boater who wants to fish easier,’’ McKercher said.
The specifications include a long, flat seat; removable cooler with rod and bait holders; angled footrests for sitting sideways; trolling controls on the 1,494 cc, Austrian-made engine; rear extension for greater buoyancy and a multifunction Garmin screen for finding fish, spying the lake bottom and GPS navigation. Engineered in Quebec and assembled in Santiago de Queretaro, Mexico, the unit’s list price is $14,799. A new trailer for it would cost $900 to $1,300, McKercher said.
Niforopulos predicted that the Fish Pro will sell out this year on the coasts, where the concept is already part of recreational sea fishing.
“It’s massive in the oceans,’’ Niforopulos said. “People are rigging them up, and they’re becoming really, really popular.’’
At home, he’s hoping Minnesotans will embrace the idea as another way to get out fishing. But he also wonders if Midwest anglers will balk at them because weeds can be a problem for jet-powered PWCs.
Some people think the Fish Pro may appeal to the same type of anglers who have purchased fishing kayaks. But Niforopulos doesn’t see much similarity and is careful not to overstate the potential popularity of PWCs outfitted for fishing.
“It could be very good, but my gut says they won’t be as big inland as they are on the coasts,’’ he said.