Eight ways to make your bay boat more fishable.
Bay boats are typically 17- to 25-foot, multipurpose center consoles. If you have or are buying a bay boat, here are eight ways to make it more fishable.
A trolling motor provides slow vessel motion for varying situations. If you install a foot-controlled motor, it gives you the option of hands-free maneuverability. Those with a GPS/autopilot feature are useful for keeping you automatically trolling on course or held over a hotspot.
A quick-release mount allows you to easily remove the motor if you’re not going to be using it. Minn Kota is one of the leading brands, and it manufactures several saltwater versions. Its Riptide Terrova, for example, provides 80 pounds of thrust. It includes a lift assist, push-to-test battery meter, automatic boat positioning by GPS, “indestructible” 54-inch composite shaft and weedless wedge. They start at $1,649.99 and range up to $3,199.99.
Trim tabs are independent, dual-planing mechanisms attached to the bottom edge of a boat’s transom, which allow a boat to plane more easily and at slower speeds. Trim tabs reduce pounding and stern drag while increasing speed, fuel economy, and visibility due to a lowered bow.
Trim tabs are advantageous because bay boats lack a wave-parting, deep-V offshore hull. When it’s rough and you don’t want to take a beating, they can ‘nose down’ the bow to smooth out the ride. And if you have extra weight on one side of the boat, you can level it out.
An additional accessory battery can run your trolling motor and other electronics without depleting the starting battery. But accessory batteries need to be recharged after each trip.
You can install a dedicated and permanent dual battery setup, allowing you to disconnect the starter battery from the electric system when the motor is off, ensuring you’ll have starting power. Conversely, you can connect to both batteries to start the engine if the primary battery is weak. Marine batteries last from two to five years, depending on their level of care. Purchase only marine/RV-rated batteries, which withstand the pounding on the water.
A T-top is useful for sun and rain protection. It also serves as the support structure upon which to hang gear. They’re usually optional equipment, so figure it into the price of a new boat. A T-top with a tubular frame and canvas (rather than fiberglass) roof has the advantage of being lightweight and inexpensive. Because of its metal frame you can equip it with a storage box, radio, rod holders, and speakers. Conversely, Bimini tops are not as fisherman friendly; however, nor are T-tops to some fly-casting enthusiasts.
Raw Water Washdown
Fishing creates blood, chum remnants, squashed baits, and anchor mud that need to be cleaned before the gunk dries. A strong raw water washdown makes cleanup fast and easy. Be sure a washdown system has its own pump and doesn’t share one from the livewell. Drilling holes in your hull and installing hoses and electrical components should only be performed by a trained professional.
Casting platforms are usually affixed to the bow, although could also be placed in the stern. A platform elevates anglers for better sightcasting ability. Platforms are typically 12 to 18 inches tall and have a nonskid fiberglass surface of about 32 by 24 inches. A quick-release turnbuckle device can secure it to the deck if you don’t want a permanent install.
Many cooler manufactures produce heavy-duty/marine super coolers, which can multipurpose as a casting platform in calm water. A quick Google search for “cooler tie downs” provides many options for fastening a cooler securely to the deck.
A casting cage is solution to an angler’s stability concerns while fishing from the bow of a rocking boat. Large piping and wide, smooth curves make casting cages comfortable to lean into and are standard on many fly fishing charter boats. A cage is ideal when chasing schoolie bluefins or false albacore in choppy or fast-paced conditions.
A poling platform is helpful for sightcasting the flats. It can turn a 17- to 22-foot bay boat—which can keep you safe and dry in a 2- to 3-foot chop—into a flats machine. Mount a large poling platform about 30 inches x 40 inches with a 38-inch height. This is important to safely move around on the platform. The height depends on your comfort level, sightline, and clearance over the motor. Use a longer push-pole to be effective on a bay boat, like a 22- to 24-footer as made by Stiffy, Carbon Marine, and Temple Fork Outfitters.