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Match boat choice to your needs

August 28, 2010

One of the most asked questions from anglers is, "What is the perfect boat for this area?"

Answer: It does not exist.

Most all boat choices are compromises. Before investing ask yourself the following questions:

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

1 - What species do I intend to target?

2 - Where do these fish live, shallow, mid, or deep water?

3 - Is this a family boat or a hard core fishing machine?

4 - Will I trailer or use a backyard lift; will it be stored at a marina or moored in a slip?

5 - How big a boat and how fast do I want to go?

6 - Will I be carrying lots of live bait or do I fish lures only?

7 - New vs. used?

If you are an offshore angler and never fish shallow backwaters the obvious choice is a deeper draft, sharp entry (bow) boat, with high sides (freeboard) and one to three engines. If your thing is sight fishing in six inches of water a poling skiff or shallow draft flats boat is the ticket. If most trips are family outings in the river or harbor, a pontoon style boat may be the answer.

There is one style of boat that has the ability to cover most of these needs - the bay boat.

Several companies offer a bay boat platform. One of the best is the Maverick Pathfinder. If you went fishing today I guarantee you will see many Pathfinders on the water. Pathfinders are offered from 20-24-foot models and can be powered with 115 to 300 HP engines.

Pathfinder packages (boat, motor, trailer) start in the mid-$30,000 to $50,000 or more depending on extras. Good used ones can be found for $20,000-$30,000 and up (

Other companies offer cheaper and more expensive bay boat models.

Add a quality tee-top for shade ($2,000-$2,500). A 24-volt trolling motor/charger/two batteries ($1,600). An electric power pole for anchoring silently in water up to eight feet deep ($1,200) add GPS, sonar, radios, etc., and the bill keeps climbing.

Many used bay boat packages have these accessories already installed and if you do your homework you can save thousands of dollars. That is why good used boats sell quickly in our sick economy.

When buying any used boat -buyer beware!

Remember the golden rule - saltwater eventually ruins everything. Any used boat should be thoroughly gone over by a competent marine mechanic. Compression checks, fuel tests for water contamination, wiring condition, trailer brakes and bearings, hull cracks, are just some of the basics to consider.

Even though the bay boat is the best all-around choice for our area, when going offshore always be aware of the weather. In bad weather your 24-footer may suddenly feel like a canoe.

Capt. Dick May of Easy Rider Charters reports the rain this past week made it tough to get out, but if you did you may have noticed the redfish are really turned on. Most fish are in the slot (20-25 inches) with an occasional fish over 30 inches. Best live baits are pilchards, pinfish, fresh or frozen shrimp and ladyfish steaks. Best artificials are soft jerk baits, DOA Shrimp or anything that resembles a small pilchard.

Spanish mackerel and bluefish are near or in the passes. Watch for diving birds or troll near the bars in the passes with small silver spoons. If you find a school stop and chum them with live pilchards then throw top water lures or a hooked live pilchard to them. To reduce cutoffs use a six-inch piece of wire ahead of your bait.

Tarpon are just off the beaches. They will take a pinfish or large thread herrings free lined to them.

Best fishing is first light to mid morning. This is true of all species this week until water cools.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.



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