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PRACTICAL BOAT FISHING: Plan Your Perfect Boat

Fishing functionality can be overlooked when buying a new (or not so new) fishing boat. Knowing how to maximise your boat’s fishability is the key to long-term boat fishing fun. David Green reveals his blueprint for the ideal boat.

I’VE been involved in a lot of hospital design projects over the years where groups get together to plan and design new hospital facilities or renovate old ones. From this experience I can say people who haven’t ever worked in such a place shouldn’t try and design one!

Similarly, designing a fishing boat should involve someone very experienced in all aspects of fishing. There are plenty of aesthetically pleasing, non-functional “fishing” boats on the market. These are full of useless things such as curved windscreens with tinted glass you can’t see through to sloping surfaces everything falls off or recesses you can’t clean. To the inexperienced angler or their partner a boat might look pretty, but inheriting an unfixable design will see anyone grow to hate their boat.

The right stuff

Getting the best out of a fishing boat by setting it up correctly from the start is relatively easy. Just like designing any other project, you need to decide the main purpose for your boat. If you’re a dedicated heavy tackle marlin angler your plan will be totally different to the bloke who wants to lure cast for bream in tournaments. Designing a single purpose fishing boat requires the input of an expert. While both types of fishing are very specialised, it’s relatively easy to settle on a good boat layout and design for each. The tricky bit is when you want the boat to cover multiple roles, such as offshore work, lure casting for estuary or impoundment fish or live baiting. In this situation there will always be a degree of compromise.

When compromise occurs, the priority should be safety above all other things. As an example, many anglers buy relatively big boats with massive motors to chase bream in the estuaries. Most of these hulls are very capable of good offshore performance and have plenty of power. The problem with the design of the giant casting platforms on these boats is the very inadequate gunwale height for sea conditions. If you want to cast soft plastics for snapper in rough conditions you’re at risk of falling out of the boat. So while casting platforms are great in flat water, low sides and a raised floor have a very dangerous potential if you extend the scope of fishing with that boat. So ditch the casting platform or lower it, and make the electric motor removable. You can still cast from a lower floor level effectively in an estuary and you have a safer boat if you go offshore. This also is very important when you take little kids on board. You don’t want them to walk off the side!

Planning ahead  

Once you’ve worked out what you want to do in your boat, the next phase of setting it up to do so is schematic design. This means you lay things out roughly on the boat where you want them and plan your fishing and circulation space and storage areas. “Fishing space” should be assessed by answering the following questions:

1. Am I fishing predominately behind the boat (e.g. trolling) or in front of the boat (e.g. casting under electric power) or do I need to be able to fish all around the boat?

2. When I hook a big fish do I need to follow it around the boat to land it, and if so will I have unobstructed access?

3. How many anglers will be fishing at once?

Some boats, such as half cabin designs, greatly obstruct the ability to fish from the front of the boat or follow a fish, but may be fine for offshore trolling. Centre cabin designs solve all of these problems. An open plan full access punt has the best fishing space of all. Some boats, such as imported US bass tournament boats, are designed to more effectively fish from the front of the boat.

“Circulation space” planning allows for easy movement around a boat to do essential things such as anchoring, access controls, engine, oil bottles, fuel and cabins. Negotiating narrow circulation gaps will soon wear thin on any boat, no matter how good other features may be.

Storage is of two types. Open storage covers accessible areas without lids or boxes, such as trays, recesses and mounted fittings designed to hold selected items (e.g. a rocket launcher for rods). Closed storage is needed for items that need protection from the elements or are occasional use items. The most useless storage systems of all have small irregularly shaped lids that open into large spaces where large items can’t be stored – you can’t get them in or out.

Tackle boxes on boats should be kept in an open storage situation to avoid time inefficient storage that requires endless opening of lids and drawers each time an item of terminal tackle is needed. The over -riding principle is that items you need to access quickly or frequently (e.g. gaffs, EPIRBs, knives, commonly used tackle) should be easy to get at.

Detailed design

The next part of designing your perfect fishing boat is about making each area (i.e. fishing space/ circulation space and storage space) exactly how you need it for your personal needs. This requires a fair bit of research and time and is where you can be innovative and really customise a boat to your needs.

As an example, you may plan to have a live bait tank in your transom and have allocated space for it. When you get to this part of the planning you work out the drainage points, the electrical wiring, the size of the pumps you will need, the space required to put the fittings in and the position of the overflow pipes or external drainage. In this phase you plan and detail the exact dimensions, shape and size of things to fine detail. This is where yourexperience counts.

Similarly, when it comes to planning things such as seating, you may consider designing storage systems within seat bases, designing open trays or small locked hatches for keys and phones or working out how to get the absolute best vision from a seated position when you drive the boat. The detail in the design only works if your original concepts of “what goes where” are correct.

Detailed design must always be focused on your personal needs. It is important to plan the electrical circuits on your boat so you can access them easily in the future, and try to get small things like hatch seals, drainage ports and saltwater runoff prioritised. These small items make a huge difference to the long-term maintenance of the boat. Don’t scrimp on the small stuff.

Fittings & equipment

You can only fit all your gear into a boat if you designed the layout correctly. If you use large removable tackle boxes and keep them on the deck, you need sufficient protected deck storage so your tackle box sits within reach and is easy to use. You will only fit a large esky in a tinny if you plan and design a place for it to go.

Rod storage requires mounts to be fitted; the length and weight of the outfits being used plus the size of the hull will dictate whether the rod storage is horizontal or vertical. Sounders and other marine electronics need safe protected mounting spots with good visibility. If you’re the type of angler who tends to take half a tackle shop every time they go out, you need to plan how your gear fits in to the boat. Good fittings, such as high quality removable rod holders with flush mounts to rails or gunwales improve the functionality of your boat. Handy items such as knife sheaths, leader boxes, gaff racks, sun cream dispensers and foldable drink holders all improve ease of fishing. Work out a place for all items.

The overall message from all of these steps to setting up a boat is that there are no random plans. Everything must have its place, practicality overrides aesthetics and safety is above all the main guiding principle to better, safer fishing. For these reasons the best fishing boats are often seemingly simple in layout but are the end result of a lot of complex thought.

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