What do you need to outfit your new flats/bay boat to make it the perfect fishing machine? If you just spent $40,000-plus on a hull, motor, and trailer why not outfit it with all the goodies?
First, do you need a poling platform? Many hulls come equipped with them or you can spend several hundred for the option.
It's been my observation that most anglers that come home with the platform rarely use them other than for a lunch counter, work bench or an occasional spare seat. After actually climbing up on one and using the pole in the 100 degree heat, many soon tire of the labor and come back down and use the trolling motor. Push poling is the best method available to sneak up on a school of feeding fish in shallow water.
Capt. George Tunison
A good push pole is made from graphite/composite mixes, are featherweight and cost $500-$700. An old fashioned fiberglass pole is very heavy and can be had for $100-$250. Make sure you are going to pole before investing.
For most 18-24-foot bay boats buy a good quality trolling motor. For saltwater boats that have to deal with currents, buy a 24 volt motor. For big bay boats get a 36 volt motor. The downside is a 24 volt motor requires two deep cycle batteries and a 36 volt needs three, which adds weight.
Two companies make the majority of saltwater trolling motors, Minn Kota and Motor Guide. I am a Minn Kota fan and highly recommend a Riptide series, 24 volt setup. Usually about $1,500-$1,600 installed.
Tip: always have your motor installed using # 6 gauge wire and also install an onboard charger. My flats boats incorporate both a poling platform and trolling motor.
An electric jack plate to vertically raise and lower the engine is a great addition - $800-$1,200 installed. Try a Bobs Machine product.
Trim tabs on a shallow water boat are a great addition to your hull allowing you to easily get up on plane in skinny water without destroying the sea grass. Many quality hulls come with recessed trim tabs already installed and need not be purchased separately.
When prowling the flats, an electric anchor or Power Pole is an invaluable device. The Power Pole came on the market about eight years ago and although costly is worth every penny. If you are not familiar, a power pole is a hydraulically operated apparatus used to stop a boat and keep it in position. They are push-button operated and remotely controlled with a mobile personal, or dash mounted switch. At the push of a button, the power pole deploys a hard fiber glass pole into the bottom in depths of up to eight feet.
Otherwise, one must deploy an anchor, a chain and a rope, taking up valuable time, making noise, and scaring fish. Most power poles are mounted directly onto the transom and thru-hull bolted, or mounted to a stainless adaptor plate between the engine and hull. I prefer an adapter plate rather than four more holes in my hull.
T-tops or fold-down Bimini tops are a great addition in our subtropical climate. The shade offered by a T-top that also serves as a multiple rod holder and multiple interior boat light platform can be invaluable. Bimini tops are mostly found in family style boats, and offer more shade. Expect to pay up to $2,500 for a quality aftermarket T-top.
A good GPS unit, along with your compass, is invaluable for foggy conditions and night fishing. Since I usually fish in 1-4 feet of water I don't have need for a depth finder. If you fish in deeper water, get a combination depth finder/GPS unit. Costs range from $200 to thousands of dollars. Garmin, Lowrance, and Raymarine are highly recommended.
Be safe and courteous on the water.
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.