1. Boat Setup Theory
Between The Lines - Ch10: Boat Setup
It is hard to approach the topic of boat set-up for game fishing without first going through the stages of the life of game fishermen, from that of a teenager and then maturing into a fully-fledged fisher person. This maturation process hopefully adds both wealth and wisdom through the years. It’s much the same as the process of aspiring to own cars throughout life.
When young, any boat that will get you to where the fish may be will suffice, and often, getting back is not a great consideration. As finances are accumulated, a small boat becomes the platform that will allow you to fulfil the dreams. (Fig 1) Within a short period, however, you’ll likely find it to be inadequate and aspire to the speedy sports car with no expense spared - even though the loan repayments and fuel costs would finance a decent house and family. At around this time in life, predatory hormones are taken over by others that often lead to the angler disappearing for some period. On their return, they have no boat but do have other people to consider in all future purchases.
Once again the cycle begins with the purchase of a small boat that is soon surpassed with larger ones set-up as purpose-built fishing machines that only do one thing - get you there and get you back. Then the final stage begins as comfort and a growing family become the major consideration on a boat that will accomplish this and still perform as a fishing platform. The saying that the ideal boat is as long in feet as you are in years begins to ring true.
On a personal note, it is obvious I am talking from experience. I have certainly been through all these life stages, and at the time of writing, am pursuing the pure battlewagon dayboat stage with the 30-foot Animal.
Boats of all sizes can be set up to be effective fishing machines, although there are several considerations to take into account when choosing a boat that will make the setup and fish-ability more practical.
It is, of course, obvious that any boat you take to sea should be seaworthy. This includes the integrity of the hull, that the engines have been serviced, the radios functions and the safety gear is in practical reach etc. That said, the most important aspect is that the person in charge of the vessel is also seaworthy and has the experience to handle the boat in any of the conditions the boat is likely to encounter. Respect for the sea is essential.
Boat set-up and safety considerations are more complex on a game and sportfishing boat than general boat safety as it is essential all the gear used has efficient storage when not in use. The deck should be clear for action, everything should have its place that is easily accessible and out of the way of the crew whose adrenalin is pumping.
Consideration should be given to ease of getting around the deck ensuring there are enough places to brace yourself or hang onto when moving around a rolling deck.
To be effective the boat should also be stable at low speeds of 6 to 10-knots. Many boats surge onto the plane at these speeds which makes trolling quite difficult. The boat should also be manoeuvrable at slow speeds to enable effective boat handling when fighting reasonably large fish. Steering is important, hydraulic steering is certainly an advantage and an autopilot a real blessing on boats of all sizes.
As previously discussed, eyes are one of the best assets when fishing, so visibility is a major factor. The ability to have a 360-degree panorama of the ocean is a distinct advantage as is a clear view of the deck, stern and sides from the pilot position as it makes it much easier to know what the crew and fish are doing so the skipper can react quickly.
Just as importantly, the crew should have as much visibility as possible to enable them to spot birds and other signs of life. It is also nice if the anglers and visitors have a comfortable vantage point to view the ocean and lures hypnotically bubbling away in the wash. With some consideration shade for the skipper and others on the boat can also be part of the boat set-up.
The 3D boat set-up concept has been discussed at length and certainly, this should be considered as part of boat set-up.
Regardless of type or size of the boat, customisation is usually part of the set-up procedure. Starting with a boat that has not been set up by previous owners or the factory, so that it can be set up to your personal requirements, is worth consideration.
Essentially, the set-up should be based on the tackle to be used and the area the boat is fishing, not the size of the boat. Often people in small boats fish the same grounds as larger boats. It stands to reason they both should be using similar lures and line classes if they are fishing for the same fish. Just as reasonable is the assumption that regardless of size, all game boats need outriggers that are of the same stiffness, sounders that give similar information, radios with the same range, GPS with the similar information, and temperature gauges that give the same information. Therefore, boat set-up is based on the area you are fishing, the methods you are using, the fish you are targeting and line classes used etc, not the size of, or even the configuration of the boat.