You hear a lot of chatter these days online or at the boat ramp about one boat brand over another or talking bad about some particular brand or another. But looking back thorough some of my old photos, I’m struck by just how good we have it in the boating world these days. Oh man, that makes me sound like my Grandfather talking about the good old days but I guess I’m forced to admit that I’m an old fart now, so I might as well sound like one.
The earliest fishing I did out of a boat was in an old Thompson wooden runabout. Dad would sit up on the bow of this thing and use a paddle to get us around. Mostly we would bream or crappie fish, because that was about all you could do. Livewells, electronic, trolling motors and even casting decks were a few years away at the time, but it still got the job done. We caught a bunch of fish out of that thing but we also spent a fair amount of time bailing it out since it leaked for the first few hours every time you put it into the water. After a while the boards would swell up and the leaks would slow down but you never left the dock without an old coffee can since bilge pumps were still a ways down the line.
Next in line was a Terry Bass boat. Now this was a fishing dream at the time. 16 feet with an 85 Mercury and we were in fishing heaven. It even had a trolling motor; which because I’d gotten old enough to paddle by this time, I thought was the greatest invention ever. This boat even had one of the old green Lowrance box flashers on the front deck. If I remember correctly, the top speed had to be about 30 mph but I made the longest boat trip I ever made in that boat. Dad, my two brothers and I put it in the Mississippi River at Vicksburg and went all the way to Waveland, MS on the Gulf coast, camping on the river sandbars two nights and tying up to the old Jax brewery in New Orleans, so we could have breakfast in the Quarter.
Next was a 16 foot aluminum Fishermarine with a 20 Mercury and stick steering. My wife to be and I spent every summer weekend up the Pearl River in that boat. Of all the boats I’ve ever owned or used, this one was her favorite and the only boat I’ve ever wished I’d kept rather than selling. It had front and back seating and you never had to leave the driver’s seat to fish. We’d run that 20 Mercury on a 14 foot aluminum jon boat before mounting it on this boat and Dad had bought it used, so there’s no telling how many hours it had, but it never missed a beat. It started first pull everytime.
After that boat, we moved up to what would have to be the first true bass boat of my life, a 1976 Ranger 1776. This was one of the first boats built for speed and with a 135 Evinrude, it would run about 52mph at the top end. Unfortunately, you could only run it wide open or at an idle since it would porpoise (bounce the bow up and down) at any other speed. This boat was a real handful to drive but it taught me to always pay attention and drive every minute. It was also the first boat that we had with depth finders at both the bow and console.
Next was an 18 foot Cajun Brute with a Black Max Mercury 150. Now this boat handled great and would run about 55 mph. It had a livewell on the front deck and one in the back that was big enough to take a nap in. I still remember the day that Dad hit a rouge wave on Barnett and launched that boat straight up. The boat landed on the transom and kicked the bow down so violently that it emptied the entire front livewell, fish and all into my lap.
Since those days, there have been a string of boats for me, a Cajun Scrambler, a couple of Rangers, a couple of Nitros, 6 Basscats and now a 2011 Phoenix 721. Each of those boats has been a improvement over the last but all of them did the job. You don’t need a $60,000 bass boat to go have a great time on the water and catch fish, but they sure are nice. I wouldn’t trade the Phoenix for anything other than a newer model but I wouldn’t trade the memories built over a lifetime in all the boats I’ve been in for anything.
Thanks to the sponsors who make this all possible: Scoutlookweather.com, Lowrance Electronics, Phoenix Bass Boats, Mercury Motors, Motorguide Trolling Motors, Costa del Mar Sunglasses, Bass Angler Magazine and Mississippi Van Lines. Without all of you, none of this would be possible.