For the News-Leader
I recently fished the fishy waters of Cumberland Sound and the St. Marys jetty rocks with longtime friend Keith Williams. I was really impressed with his new Yellowfin 24 bay boat as it skipped right over some fairly large waves while the Mercury 300 powered the boat efficiently.
I always try to rig my fishing boats so my outboard RPMs match the speed of the boat. Williams’s boat was running 40 mph at exactly 4,000 RPMs. Perfect.
Once we had reached the jetty rocks, Williams pushed the remote button for his Minn Kota GPS electric trolling motor, and the motor automatically deployed itself into the water. We began to watch his GPS/Fish Finder for signs of structure, bait fish and game fish. Once Williams’ electronics located these valuable fishing signs, he put his electric trolling motor in the anchor mode, which held the boat in position for us to cast our lures and baits exactly in the “sweet spot” where we had located fish.
When it was time to move and find new fishing waters, Williams electronically raised his electric motor and we would soon navigate to new fishing waters and repeat this same process.
Fishermen have a wide variety of fishing boats and ways to outfit their boat of choice with fishing gear and electronics. In many cases, their first boat proves to be too small and, when conditions permit, a new and much larger fishing boat is purchased.
Make sure the fishing boat you are thinking of purchasing is big enough for your fishing waters.
Also, a big factor in purchasing a fishing boat to fish our local bays and tidal rivers is the draft and dryness of the boat. When you are mostly targeting shallow bays and local flats, shallow draft boats have low bows and gunnels, which will produce a wet ride during a rough and windy day.
Bay boats, which are the most popular style of fishing boat for fishing in open bays where waves can build up to six and even more feet, are the boat of choice, with their higher gunnels and bows.
In Northeast Florida, most bay boats can also navigate shallow waters where the ever-popular redfish are found feeding on shrimp and crustaceans. Boats for shallow water flats boats will draft less than eight inches of water, but many bay boats will need at least 10-12 inches of water to navigate. So, when purchasing a fishing boat for fishing in the bays and rivers, you will have to decide which type of fishing boat suits your fishing needs best.
The ideal situation has fishermen owning two boats — a bay boat for fishing deep bays and rivers and a second flats boat or kayak for the few times that they are targeting shallow-water redfish.
Today’s bay boats are fast too, if you want to get from point A to point B in a hurry. Many of the 24-foot and larger bay boats can be rigged with a 300- to 400-hp outboard which, when rigged properly with the correct propeller and hydraulic jack plate, will reach speeds up to 70 mph.
Bay boats are also deadly fishing platforms when outfitted with one of the new GPS electric trolling motors that can keep your bay boat positioned dead on the spot without tossing over a cumbersome anchor, which often spooks the fish below.
Also important are the large release fish wells, which can keep a pair of 27-inch tournament-size redfish alive all day until the weigh-in.
Both bait wells and release wells are typically outfitted with two live well pumps, including a recirculating pump and a freshwater pump. Both offer pop-in replacement pumps, so it can be easily replaced if one stops working.
Bay boats can be easily stored with a boat cover or in a small boat shed. They are also easy to trailer and launch at your local boat ramp. Clean your bay boat with a small pressure washer.
Bay boats are made of all fiberglass and stainless-steel fittings, so there is no need to worry about wood rotting or rusting connections.
Today’s bay boats are truly the perfect fishing boat.