Project Bass BoatProject Bass Boat This is the first in a three-part series in which we take a used aluminum boat and convert it into a practical and fun fishing boat.
By Cal Tatum
Maybe you like fishing this little 30-acre lake that could be a little rough on your gelcoat. Perhaps, there is a slough you like to fish, but can't get a big boat into the area. If you are facing any of these dilemmas, take heart, Bass West is here for you.
This is the first in a three-part series in which we take a used aluminum boat and convert it into a practical and fun fishing boat.
For this project we first located an inexpensive used boat and then began shopping for products to make the boat complete. Many of the products utilized are used, and some are new. Of course, if you choose to start a similar project, your costs may vary and you could possibly have different needs that could change your expenses.
We thought long and hard about the boat. We decided on an aluminum V-bottom, because of their versatility. A flat bottom jon boat is a great choice, but if you are in an area where the water can get rough, the V-bottom will handle better. We felt we needed a boat at least 14 feet in length to provide enough space for storage and anglers. The 14-footer will also handle the extra weight added by battery, decking, storage compartments, as well as a trolling motor and graph.
Another factor was stability. Our boat needed to be a real wide body boat, providing better side-to-side stability. And, of course, it had to be affordable (cheap).
Luckily for us, the folks out at the Kelsey Bass Ranch, located near Merced, California, had just the ticket. The boat has been used for years out at the ranch, taking clients, friends and family for a day on the water. It is a solid craft that fits all of our requirements. It was a little beat up and the splotchy green paint job wasn't very attractive, but it had the basics. The Kelsey Bass Ranch made us a deal on the boat and we hauled back to Utah to begin the project.
What To Do First
The next thing on our agenda was to locate items needed for the project. Also, to discuss what we would need, keeping costs in mind and factoring weight and weight distribution, along with angler comfort and practicality.
Obviously, the boat would need a motor. We looked around and talked about the required size of motor. We decided that a 9.9 to a 15-horsepower motor would work well for the project. The problem with this is that 10- to 15-horse motors are very popular and difficult to find. We had several people offer to make us great deals on a 40-horse motor (just a bit too much power) and others wanting to sell us 5-horse motors (a bit too weak).
Luckily for us, Brent Halstrom, at Halstrom Marine in American Fork, Utah located a Mercury 9.8 horse motor that was in excellent shape. Brent went through the motor to make sure everything was ship-shape and then gave us a call. The motor cost $700, a far cry from the nearly $2,000 price tag on a new motor.
While many thought it would have been better to hook it up to a 15-horse motor, the difference between the two is not very noticeable, and besides, we used what was available.
What bass boat would be complete without electronics? Yep ... that's what we thought too. Again, we looked at costs, practicality and weight. This brought us to one conclusion: the Eagle Fish Easy. The folks at Eagle have come up with a great combination of a low priced graph with high priced features.
The FishEasy we purchased came with both temperature (essential to bass anglers) and speed (not so essential in a boat loaded with a power packed 9.8- horsepower motor). The FishEasy is simple to operate, has great visibility with a 128 vertical pixel, SuperTwist display the FishEasy has a sharp screen detail for better target separation. It also has what the company calls their ST Grayline feature. This feature helps separate fish and important structure on or near the bottom from the actual bottom and helps to distinguish between hard and soft bottoms for improved interpretation of bottom composition. The fish finder also features Eagle's Fish I.D. and their FishTrack. Eagle's selective on/off Fish I.D. and FishTrack features conveniently display fish symbols in different sizes with corresponding digital depth read-outs, making precise lure presentations easier. When you need details about thermoclines, baitfish or fish movements, you turn off the Fish I.D. and view actual sonar returns.
This Eagle FishEasy costs between $155 to $170 depending on where you purchase it and exactly what features you are looking for. Because of the features and relatively small size, the FishEasy was the perfect choice for this project.
Of course, our project boat would need a trailer, the old boat took three people to lift it up and tie it on top of my pickup for the ride back to Utah and that was without anything added. We shopped all over, looking for a used trailer. We found several of them ranging in prices from $200 to $600. Then we noticed that Cabela's sells a trailer for a 14-foot boat that would fit the bill perfectly. The trailer is brand new but comes in sections that allows even those of us who are not the most adept with tools to put it together easily.
The trailer sells for approximately $500 and comes with a lighting kit and 12-inch tires. We decided to go ahead and spend a little extra on the trailer and have a trailer we could have a lot of confidence in.
These are the basic requirements for the project boat. Next, we look at a trolling motor, decking, and carpeting. The last part of the project will involve wiring, seating and storage. Keep reading and see how the finished project will look.
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