Going in to the 2012 fishing season, I knew I was going to be spending much more time on the water. Between guide trips, pre-fishing for tournaments and fun fishing, my schedule told me I would be on the water 4 to 5 days a week. That being said, the forecast for gas prices of $4.00 a gallon, was a huge concern for me.
On an average day of pre-fishing in my boat with a 250 HP outboard, I burn 10 to 20 gallons of gas – by far the biggest expense incurred for me in the sport of fishing. On tournament day or when guiding, it is hard to ignore the fact that time is money, and that the speed at which you get to a fishing spot will net you more time fishing in an 8 hour day. But I did feel that I needed an alternative for pre-fishing and fun fishing. I was determined to get a second boat that could take the edge off of my pre-fishing budget.
When I started shopping, my criterion was simple:
- The boat needed to be a flat bottom or modified V – I spend my fair share of time on the river, and a flat bottom is the best choice for running the backwater – I also enjoy deer hunting via boat and an occasional duck hunt was on my agenda as well. The boat needed to be in the 16’ category and have a wide enough beam to be stable.
- I didn’t need to go 70+ miles an hour, but one of my requirements was that I wanted to be able to see 30 mph. My research told me that if I wanted to touch 30 mph loaded in a 16’ boat, I needed an outboard that was in the 40 hp range.
- I wanted a low maintenance outboard that was quiet, so what I really wanted was a 4 stroke motor. I have always hated the mess and expense (now $40 a gallon) that comes with 2 stroke oil.
- Finally, I wanted warranty on the boat and the outboard. Modern day outboards typically have a 3 year warranty, but typically there are incentives during certain times of the year in which you can add 2 to 3 years of warranty for little or no cost. Because I wanted a warranty, I was going to shop for new boats.
After shopping for a few weeks, I settled on a 16’ flat with a modified-V bow – it was equipped with a 40 hp 4 stroke motor. This combo with me, 4 batteries, a full livewell and 150 lbs of miscellaneous fishing gear, is a 30 mph boat. It is plenty fast to get me off the water fast during inclement weather, yet it is a gas miser!
It didn’t take me but a week to find out all of the benefits of having a second boat like this. It would be remiss to not touch on each of those benefits that I learned in my first year of running this boat:
- Fuel economy – on my maiden voyage, I pre-fished for a tournament on the Holcombe flowage. I fished for 14 hours and covered the whole lake. Some of this time was spent side-imaging, but most of my time was spent running and gunning. It had been so long since I had a boat with a 6 gallon gas tank I didn’t know what to think. I had never owned a smaller 4 stroke motor. Throughout the day, I kept looking at the gas gauge on the tank and it was moving. I actually un-strapped the tank so I could shake it and tip it, but the gauge wasn’t lying – it was full. At the end of the day, I stopped to top off the tank and it took 1.61 gallons of gas – wow!! On a day that I would have burned 15 gallons of gas ($60 worth) in the big boat – I just put in $6.44 in gas – an 89% gas savings! What I learned though the summer, is even if a person fished 6 times a month, the fuel savings alone, MORE than makes the boat payment! It was a no brainer for me!
- Learning new water – I installed RAM mounts, transducers, antenna receiver and power cables on my flat so I could use the same Humminbirds on the flat as I did on the big boat. When I would pull the boat off the trailer in the morning, I would immediately clear the current route. If I ran areas I was not familiar with, especially the backwater of the Mississippi River, I could save a track at any given point. With the big boat it would take so much more time to idle around and store a track – I have put the big boat on a sand bar or hit rocks far too many times in my life. This flat broadened my horizons in regards to finding new water.
- Dodging the GPS pirates – the truth is, that in today’s environment, a big, shiny bass or walleye boat is an easy target to follow around to fishing spots. The flat bottom is a subtle approach to pre-fishing. In olive drab green or camouflage boat, you can just go out and do your thing with out being followed like the Pied Piper. Stealth is one of the most important factors in today’s competitive fishing.
- Fun fishing – I like to take advantage of the February and March walleye bite on the river. With the glass boat I didn’t get out anywhere near as often as I would have liked. Something about ice chunks bouncing off the boat always made me sick. The flat almost welcomes the thought of not only have ice graze the boat, but you can skim over new ice with ease.
- Maintenance – besides being extremely quiet, the new 4 stroke motors are so easy to take care of that it is ridiculous. Most manufacturers require 1 oil change per 100 hours of use. For most anglers that is 1 oil change a year!
- Easy towing – you use less gas in your tow vehicle pulling 1,000 lbs behind you than towing a big boat. I get 15 mpg in the hauler towing the flat, and 11 mpg towing the big boat!
I have touched on only a few of the benefits of a second boat. Your imagination is the only limitation. I have friends that run tournaments in older glass boats. To save hours on the big motor and stretch the life out of their glass boat, they only run that boat on tournament day. All of their pre-fishing and fun fishing is from a flat bottom. It is pretty hard to argue that logic as well!
Once you do the math on your fishing expenses and recognize the other benefits of running a second boat, the decision is pretty simple. If you fish more than a couple of times a month, the boat payment is less than your savings – and that is the financial benefit of a flat! It truly can take your game to another level!