2010 has been one of the most frustrating years of my fishing career and last week’s Bassmaster Open at Smith Lake certainly fits that pattern. For the third Open this year, I’ve been on a bite that should have produced good strings and results at least high enough to get a check in each event. But once again, I’ve headed home with a mediocre finish after a week of high hopes.
This week’s problem was weather related, but that’s certainly no excuse. I was on a great swimbait bite, but I knew I was going to need wind and maybe cloud cover for it to work in Smith Lake’s clear water. Despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to figure out something that worked as well in the sunny and calm conditions that we got for the two tournament days.
The high point of an otherwise frustrating week at Smith was that it was the first week that I’ve gotten to run the new Phoenix 721 ProXP. I had been with another boat company since 1999, so needless to say, it took a lot to convince me that it was time for a change. One test ride at the Classic and talking to the people at the company, however, convinced me that there was a better fishing tool out there. The last 7 days on the water have certainly reinforced that decision.
Even before getting in the Phoenix, there were several things that impressed me. I couldn’t find one person online or anywhere else that said one negative thing about Phoenix. That alone made me take a look, but once I started looking, I was more and more impressed. First of all, I was impressed by what was included as standard; things that I’ve been paying extra for all these years. Not frills or extras, but things that I consider absolutely essential for my on the water office; like hot foot with slider, livewell pumpouts and lights, flush mount controls, windshield, LED trailer and navigation lights and ratchet tie downs. The only option that I ordered on the new boat was a cover.
The compartments of the Phoenix have a really innovative tackle organization system, including slots for Plano 3700 boxes in the main storage compartment, a rotary organizer for the front storage box and under lid tackle hangers. Even an organizationally challenged angler like me will be able to quickly locate whatever bait I’m looking for.
Then there is the ride and handling. The hole shot is very fast, even with the fuel tanks and livewells full, it’s below 3 seconds. Turns at mid range speeds are scary quick, but without the fear of bow hooking that so many high performance boats have today and at high speeds, the turns are stable and amazingly tight. Crossing wakes is a breeze and I’ve yet to having a jarring impact at any angle, something that I appreciate more and more as I get farther away from my twenties and thirties than I like to admit.
The best way I can describe the handling is that I feel like I’ve stepped out of the family sedan into a sports car. Even with the livewells full, two people and a full tournament load, I was seeing GPS speeds of 71 mph with 500 to 600 rpms left on the tack. With some more wheel time, I expect to see those numbers closer to 75 mph.
Finally, there is the most important part, FISHABILITY. The front deck has more room than anyone will ever need; way more that I’ve become accustomed to in my previous boats and the Phoenix is a very stable fishing platform. The 96 inch beam allows you and your partners to move around without rocking the boat at all and despite the 20’11” length the boat maneuvers on the trolling motor very well, even in tight quarters, making boat positioning a snap. The livewells are huge and have separate pump systems.
All in all, I’d have to say the week at Smith Lake was a week of contrasts; frustration at my inability to capitalize on a pattern that should have placed me well in the money and confirmation of my decision to get into a Phoenix boat. But as they say, “That’s Fishing”, all I can do is move on and get ready for the Open at the Red River later this month.
As always, thanks to the sponsors who make it all possible: Phoenix Boats, Lowrance Electronics, Citrus Stick Rods, BCS Custom Baits, Costa Del Mar Sunglasses and Mississippi Van Lines.