Chuck Uzzle: Small boats serve a big purpose
Endless expanses of shin deep water conjure up images of wide backed redfish and long as your leg trout. The shallow water that is just a cast or two away may as well be on the other side of the world if you are in the wrong boat. The 21st century fiberglass rockets that will take you from 0 to 60 in a matter of seconds are useless in a situation like this and wading some of these areas just isn’t the ticket either. What you need is a skiff, a bona fide shallow water stalker that will take you where few others go and even fewer fish. Now I have had the good fortune to run some of these high tech skiffs like the Maverick HPX and they are incredible machines to say the least. Now not everyone can afford the high end skiff but that’s not the end of the road, you have some other options and they are quite practical.
One of the drawbacks to a top of the line skiff besides the price tag is the fact that they are so nice you feel like you really need to be careful in order to protect your investment. Not many people are going to put a duck dog and decoys in a poling skiff with a 30K price tag and take off hunting. Many coastal anglers not only fish but they also hunt so a small boat that doubles as a way to get into backwater for fishing and hunting serves many purposes. The more you can use the smaller boat, the easier it is to justify having one; this comes in handy when you are negotiating with your spouse. My lovely bride once told me during a conversation that “you need two boats, you can’t run your business without them,” did I mention how much I love my wife?
Now that we have made convincing arguments for the small boat which way do we turn? In my part of the world up here on the upper coast I have seen two styles become really popular, one is the flat bottom fiberglass skiff like the Carolina Skiff and the other is the aluminum tunnel hull. My good friend Capt. Ron Begnaud of Lake Charles, La. has tricked out a small Carolina Skiff and it works great. The best part of the whole process is customizing the boat just like you want it and not spending a fortune in the process. Ron had a poling platform welded up, added a jack plate to his 25 horse Yamaha outboard, installed rod holders, pop up cleats, push pole holders, and low profile lights for a fraction of what they might cost on a high end craft. All in all Ron has less than 9K invested in the whole rig and believe me it floats super skinny and many redfish have made the trip over the gunnels.
Now the other option is an aluminum boat, preferably a tunnel model if possible. I have been running an Alumacraft 1650 with a 40 horse Yamaha for several years and I love it. The little boat is tiller steer so I have a ton of room for gear and less stuff to get in the way for my fly fishing clients. The floor and sides have all been covered in a thin sheet of aluminum so no ribs are exposed; it gives the boat a clean finished look. Under the floor there is extra floatation so the noise is reduced considerably. I had a custom poling platform fabricated and also had float boxes welded on the back for even better shallow water performance. I added holders from Pole Cat Push poles to cradle the 21 foot Stiffy Carbon push pole. A set of $20 rod holders, 4 industrial mats from Home Depot cut to fit the floor and decks, along with a pole holder for the platform round out the modifications. The rubber mats in the floor and on the deck make clean up easy after hunting season, add to the “quiet factor” of the boat, and make walking on the aluminum floor in the summer much more bearable if you know what I mean.
The little Alumacraft is surprisingly quiet for an aluminum boat, it really will surprise you. I love using less gas and going where the crowds fear to tread, there are very few places this little rig won’t go and the best thing is you don’t have to worry about scratches or dings. My black lab Sally appreciates the float boxes on the back after a long retrieve and I really like them when I need to get back in the boat from a long wade. In fact one of the best things about the little boat is how much fun I have had customizing the rig to my own specifications, the creativity and ergonomic appeal is top shelf. The idea of a small boat or second boat is one that many folks are embracing and for the money it’s an awful tough concept not to fall in love with. Take a look at a small “budget boat” you will like what you see I guarantee it.