For many of us, one of our prized possessions is our fishing boat. And you know what? It really doesn’t matter how old or how much we paid for it. The fishing rig we currently have is the one we have worked so hard to own. Just as we do with our vehicles, when we start out, we usually can’t afford the top-of-the-line. Instead, we work our way up.
Over the past 45 years, I have owned a lot of boats, and each one at that time in my fishing career was “perfect” for that timeline. I can still remember my first one that I purchased in 1973. It was already 14 years old, and it was only a 14’ Crestliner with bench seats powered by a 10-hp Johnson outboard. I was in my 20s and lived in the Black Hills and spent time fishing Angostura Reservoir for four years before I headed east to the Iowa Great Lakes. When I arrived there, I went all over northwest Iowa with that 14-footer…until a friend of mine displayed interest in purchasing my boat…so I could move up.
Well, that’s what I have done throughout my boating/fishing life. Each time I have purchased a fishing rig based on my finances and what type of fishing I would be doing. As I look back, there’s never been one that I didn’t like at that time.
So, that’s the purpose of this column: to research how to choose the right fishing rig for the best price.
Do some research
This is extremely important. First, know what you want out of your boat or more importantly what you will be using it 90% of the time for. Knowing this will help eliminate a lot of headaches down the road…there is no sense looking at something that doesn’t fit your needs. Secondly you need to set your bottom line when it comes to price. Can you pay cash? If not, what is the max you can afford for monthly payments without putting yourself in a bind. Nothing worse than a monthly boat payment that causes us to juggle our regular expenses. It is also important to note that when financing a boat you will be paying interest which adds to the overall cost of the boat, and a payment in most cases you will not get a return on when you chose to sell or trade in your boat. I am not trying to steer you away from financing but just want to give you a heads up. The best thing to do is again have a bottom line and pay what you can afford.
With that out of the road, let’s get to it. Research for me has always been about finding the type of boat I wanted. In the early years, I took home brochures and went to dealerships. With the advent of the Internet, it’s so easy to go on dealer and manufacturers’ websites and look up boat specs, compare models and look at both their new and used rigs. At the same time, you can go on websites like Walleye Central (classifieds) and look at all kinds and models of boats. Finally, Walleye Central and other boating websites have message boards that field a ton of questions about boats, motors, trailers, electronics, etc. These message boards are a great way to find out what others have to say about fishing rigs that they have owned or currently own sharing the “Good, the Bad and the Ugly!” You will find the total spectrum in models and costs to help you know a ballpark figure.
If at all possible, I have gone to friends and fishing buddies and asked them questions and when it worked out, have gone fishing with them. In this way, I have been able to see how the boats work on the water. Nothing beats personal experience. Another good place to watch how boats work, is to check out the fishing shows on television. Also, watching some of the tournament fishing shows will give you a perspective on how they handle in a variety of conditions.
This is often the most cost effective way to go. It’s all about being ready, because you never know when “the buy of a lifetime” will come along. It might be a buddy that is going to get a new boat and can do better if he can sell it outright. Often, this works out well for both parties. Then there are those people who just plain want to get rid of their rig. Maybe they are moving, downsizing, need to pay for some other expense or they are ready to quit fishing. Being on top of this can bring about some good buys.
I always remember that first 14-footer back in my early days: boat, motor and trailer for $500. The owner was a friend of my dad’s and didn’t fish anymore. Well, a check for $500 made it a done deal! Would you believe that eight years later I sold it for $900! It made a good down payment for my first new Lund boat.
There are also lots of pro staffers out there that like to sell their boat every year or so. Maybe they have memo billing or some other kind of perk with their dealer. Finding this out in advance and getting together with them brings peace of mind to both the pro staffer (knows the boat is sold ahead of time) and the buyer. Often times this can be a good deal for both parties.
Several years ago I had the opportunity to be on a memo-billing situation. Twice I was able to get the boat I really wanted, use it for a season and then sell it. I had people that knew I took good care of my boats and that it would be ready for them the following spring. It was a win-win situation for both parties.
Although a lot of people do buy used rigs outside their local area, it is important to see the boat in person and make sure that things look good. If possible, talk to the local mechanic to see what he has to say. An on-the-water demo is always a good idea, which will give you hands on information about the quality of the boat and its components.
Watch for scams
Also, beware of scams out there. Let’s say you are selling your boat privately so that you can buy a different one. I’ve seen some really “good looking” checks that turned out to be bogus-yes worthless. Beware of a buyer that offers to pay more than the asking price. There are some slick online scams, too. The scammer (seller) will have a “good” price on the rig to see if anyone will bite. If they do, then the scammer might ask the buyer to transfer the money into a legitimate sounding escrow account. Often, once they have a potential buyer on the hook, they will push with more emails and phone calls to push the buyer over the top.
I’ve gotten some of these “fishy” email red flags. Often times they come from foreign countries and their giveaway is poor grammar, poor spelling and improper use of the English language.
That’s why I really like to know the individual with whom I am dealing with when purchasing a used fishing rig. Bottom line: if it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is!
Nothing beats new. Of course, with the new rig comes the new price. Timing, again, is extremely important. A couple of times I have gotten really good deals during the winter or before ice goes off the lakes, when a dealer has had a carryover model and wanted to sell it before the new models came in. Buying a never used but a year old model can be a great opportunity.
Here again, this is a good time to go online and see what’s out there. If you are in, say, a 100-mile radius with several boat dealers available, there might be some good deals out there.
One of my favorite things to do is head out to some late winter/early spring sport shows and see a wide range of brands all under one roof. Plus, from December through April or May, boat, motor and accessories usually have some pretty significant rebates available. Sometimes rebates for boats and motors can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars.
I have also found that being able to build a positive boat owner/boat dealer relationship can be a win-win for both parties. Repeat business and positive references from a satisfied customer can be invaluable for dealership owner. At the same time, as a buyer I have always appreciated it when a dealer has believed in keeping me as a customer and has given me a “good buy,” while still being able to make a buck!
By using some common sense and keeping things in perspective, your boat buying experience will result in exactly the fishing rig you want for a price that both you and the seller can live with! One final thought: don’t be hasty. I know that we sometimes have to make the move when the deal is there. However, trust your gut feelings. If it doesn’t feel quite right, it probably won’t be. When the right deal is there, take advantage of it and purchase your “perfect” fishing rig!
We spend a lot of time getting our fishing boat rigged just right: the electronics, the trolling motor, the rod holders, etc. Of course, this all comes down to personal preference. To each his own, so to speak. There are some other accessories, simple things, that I think help make our fishing trip that much better. The good news is these are things that don’t cost very much! So, I will share my thoughts on these accessories.
Hook remover. My choice here is fishing forceps. I know there are lots of fishing pliers, but I like the lightness and ease of opening and maneuvering the forceps. I actually have two different sizes. The first one is smaller and works better for panfish, while the other is larger for walleyes and pike. Don’t think you need them? Several years ago during the walleye opener on East Okoboji, I watched a guy casting a Rapala hook into a big muskie. Well, the muskie had inhaled the lure, and nobody in the boat had a hook remover. So, the guy stuck his hand in the muskie’s mouth. Wham! It closed its mouth with the hand sandwiched in between the jaws. Of course, they couldn’t get the fish to spread its jaws…a pretty bloody mess followed by a trip to the emergency room!
Scissors and clipper. Both my dentist and wife constantly remind me of this. “Do not cut your line with your teeth!” A good scissors and clipper are indispensable, especially if you are working with braided line or Fireline. Have a good place to store these within easy fetching distance.
Tie-up ropes. Have a couple of these, because you never know when you might have to tie up to a dock or maybe even a tree branch. If you tie up to a dock, it’s nice to be able to do so at the front and the back. My choice here is a good nylon rope for three reasons: strength, elasticity (will stretch
a bit) and more resistant to the effects of the sun. Many people don’t think about elasticity, but without any give, the rope can break or the cleats on the boat will take a beating if there is a lot of wave action caused by wind or wakes from other boats.
Small containers. I like a plastic ice cream bucket or plastic coffee container. Ever use nightcrawlers for walleyes or Belgian (leaf) worms for bluegills? Well, I have, and I get sick and tired of having worm bedding or dirt get on my carpet. I’ve had several people using worms for bluegills and by the end of the day, the beige carpet has turned a dingy gray with dirt and bedding ground into the carpet. Oh, sure, it kind of cleans up, but what a mess! That’s what the plastic containers are for. When I get to my fishing spot, I will put water in the containers and then put the crawlers or worms in the water. It cleans the worms off, and there is no muss or fuss, and the carpet stays clean! Plus, the cool water seems to invigorate the worms. However, make sure to keep the containers in the shade and out of the sun. Any leftover worms go right back into the bedding at the end of the fishing trip.
Rags or fishing towels. These are so important. I don’t care what fish I catch, when I handle the fish, there will be fish slime. Rather than wipe my hands on my pants (and hear my wife chewing me out later), I use a fishing towel. Make sure, though, that you don’t just throw the towel in a corner or in a compartment after using. A wet towel with fish slime on it that is balled up in a compartment can cause quite an odor.
Rod Holders. While not absolutely necessary I would recommend a set of rod holders. There are several varieties on the market and for the most part they are fairly simple to install. These are especially handy for trolling!
Packable Rain Gear. You never think you need a set of rain gear until you do! Weather can change in an instant and the last thing you want is a wet ride back to the dock. Plus rain gear, if the weather is not dangerous, can extend time on the water.
Jumper Cables. Every mode of transportation whether it be by sea or land should have a pair of jumper cables for the obvious reasons. They could be the difference in drifting for hours or a quick jolt of energy that gets you dockside quickly.
Flashlight. As far as I know most people can’t see in the dark, at least not very well. Make sure to pack at least one good water proof flashlight, it will make night fishing and looking for gear a lot easier.
Spare Prop/Nut. It happens! A damaged prop or even one that falls off into the water. I know it may seem overkill but you will be counting your lucky stars when you pull out a spare prop when you are dead in the water. Also the spare nut will be extremely handy. I have on many accounts heard anglers who were doing on the water maintenance of their prop, drop the nut into the water…problem solved when you have a spare nut.
Spare Drain Plug. It happens to everyone sometime in their fishing gear. Your boat starts to take on water and your bilge can’t keep up! Come to find out you forgot to put your drain plug back in before launching. Save the hassle of a mad dash back to the dock with a spare drain plug.
Spare Motor Parts. Spark plugs, hoses, clamps, oil filter, etc. Whatever you can fit into storage should always be in the boat. Motors are engineered to fail! As unfortunate as that sounds, it is the truth. Spare parts to fix the problem can relieve a lot of stress and headaches.
Tool Kit. If you don’t have the tools to fix a problem then you can have all the gear in world and still be up you know whose creek. Make sure and have a small tool kit on your boat at all times. Also check and see that the tool kit has the tools to get the most common jobs done.
Lifejackets. Lastly, probably the most obvious item every boat needs to have is enough life jackets for every person in the boat. It is not a bad idea to carry even a few extra than you think you need just in case you come to the aid of another fishing vessel in need.
These are definitely simple little ideas, but they are all meant to make our fishing excursion an enjoyable one and a safe one!