Ted Peck

Outdoors talk with certified Merchant Marine Captain Ted Peck.

Beneficial bayou tool merely a toy here

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Ted Peck
Sunday, August 18, 2013

According to an article in “Boat & Motor Dealer” magazine, the Mason-Dixon line of hull design preference is just south of Rockford, Ill.

Fishers south of here tend to prefer “bass boat” style hulls. In the Land of Cheese, we prefer deep vees.

This does not mean our waters are devoid of boats with Wisconsin registration tags with operators that think fishing is NASCAR on the water. We have many colorful names for these folks.

For some reason many descriptions of rude boating behavior contain a reference to Illinois.

No point in getting upset. Pearls like preference in boat-hull design at certain latitudes can result in better understanding. Perhaps even pity.

The rage in shallow water anchors seen on the stern of many bass boats lately is a case in point. These devices are designed to hold boats in extremely shallow water to enable “sight fishing” for bass.

A price tag of $1,500-$2,000 seems a tad steep—unless you fish for bass to make a living.

About 40 years ago, I had my first experience with fishing tidal flats along the Louisiana gulf coast. The Cajun guide had an eight-foot long piece of re-bar with a heavy washer welded on one end, with a short mooring rope tied to the washer.

When we arrived at the fishy-looking spot, the guide would stab the re-bar in the mud like a javelin. It was a great tool to keep his boat from drifting. This individual was the proud owner of two fishing boats: the rudimentary “flats” boat and a handcrafted prototype of the modern bass boat.

The “bass boat” had carpet, three converted office chairs for seats, a bow-mount electric trolling motor and a fish finder. This boat was much, much nicer than the tarpaper shack this successful guide called home.

Several of his neighbors had similar boats and residential dwellings. In subsequent trips to the South, I had the epiphany that this was not an isolated situation.

Today’s $80,000 bass boat can trace its genesis to swamp people who would sooner spend disposable income on carpet for the boat than a rug for the house or other frivolities—like dental work.

Sadly, almost all American fishing boat manufacturers saw this boat carpet statement as a desirable trend. That includes boat makers who specialize in deep vee boats that anglers north of Rockford, Ill. prefer for chasing toothy critters like pike, muskies and walleyes.

Carpet is a wonderful thing until the first pike comes over the gunnel and coats your pride and joy with fish slime.

My boat is a Lund Alaskan, one of just a few fishing boats that can be ordered with vinyl flooring. Practically every angler who shares the boat with me raves over the brilliance of vinyl decking.

Why have boat manufacturers failed to listen to anglers regarding vinyl as a flooring option? This puzzles me almost as much as the trend of shallow-water anchors on the sterns of bass boats.

These devices only work when attempting to anchor up in less than eight feet of water. That’s not exactly an essential tool for 99 percent of Wisconsin anglers given the way we usually fish.

Why are they selling like hotcakes? Is this really the best use of disposable income earmarked for fishing gear if you have Wisconsin tags on your boat?

Any married angler who can successfully present this argument to a dubious spouse should give up fishing and get into politics.

Two grand for a length of electrically deployed re-bar? If you really like the taste of fish, consider spending this money on a Friday night fish fry at a local restaurant every week for the next three years.

This is the example my wife countered with when I playfully broached the subject of purchasing a shallow-water anchoring system.

She applauded my frugality and judgment when we dined out that evening, even going so far as to say the purchase of another $250 St. Croix rod was a “good idea.”

Fishing is a skill that requires many lures. Sometimes the ol’ bait-and-switch is the best way to go.

Ted Peck, a certified Merchant Marine captain, is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at tedpeck@acegroup.cc.

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