Fish Big in a Small BoatFish Big in a Small Boat There are tons of options for getting on the water no matter what your price range might be. You may be surprised at how affordable and compact they can be.
There are a lot of reasons why you might choose to buy a small boat for bass fishing. For starters, a fully-rigged fiberglass bass boat costs upwards of $70,000 by the time you add in taxes, rigging, electronics, shallow water anchors, and destination charges. A big bass boat also takes up plenty of room, which may be a problem if you live in an apartment, especially in a big city. If there’s nowhere to park your boat, you have to pay storage charges and keep it somewhere else. Or maybe you already have a big bass boat, but on family vacations when you’re towing the pop-up camper or travel trailer, there’s no way to tow the boat at the same time, which means you miss out on a lot of great opportunities to fish.
It could also very well be that money and space are not a problem, but you’re just starting out in bass fishing and you’re not sure you’re ready to invest quite that much just yet. Aside from joining tournaments as a non-boater, what options are there for bass fishermen without bass boats?
Fortunately, there are a lot of options -- it all depends on your circumstances. If storage space is limited or you need something you can strap to the roof or to the side of an RV, a folding boat might be the answer. If space is even more limited than that, an inflatable could fit the bill. If you have a little more room and a way to tow it or strap it to your vehicle, a small boat like a kayak could be just what you’re looking for.
Folding boats are a super alternative to a big fishing boat. You can use a small outboard motor with a folding boat so you can cover a lot of water, plus you can get folding boats that are big enough for several people. They are stable enough that you can stand to fish, and there is plenty of room inside for fishing gear. Most of them fold up to about the size of a surf board or two, so they can be strapped to the roof or to the side of your pop-up or RV.
The Porta-Bote folding boat has been around for 40 years or so, and even Porta-botes that old are still working just fine. You can assemble one in less than three minutes, and you can launch them anywhere. The hull of a Porta-Bote flexes but is stable to stand on, and with a 4-inch draft, you can take it just about anywhere. The downside to such a shallow draft and a light boat is that wind can move you around pretty easily. However, you can use an outboard and/or a trolling motor with a Porta-bote, and a trolling motor will help you counter the wind. The boats cost from around $2,600 for an 8-footer to $3,300 or so for a 14-footer, which makes them affordable even as a second boat. You can also add accessories such as a deck for flyfishing, a dolly, oars, RV mounts, etc. Check them out at porta-bote.com.
Another folding boat is a packable kayak called the K-Pak that consists of a frame and a skin. It literally folds into its own backpack, so you can take it anywhere. Once you put it together (takes about 4 minutes), you’ve got a full-sized kayak and you’re ready to hit the water. It weighs 21 pounds and it’s actually a bit of a hybrid – the bottom inflates, making for a comfortable ride. This one has considerably less room for tackle, and you do have to beware of punctures, but you can’t beat it for portability. It costs less than $900 and you can see them at foldingboatco.com.
Klepper makes folding kayaks in a variety of sizes and models. Prices range from under $3,000 to over $5,600. They also have a huge list of options including outriggers, sails, and motor mounts. The boats hold one to three people depending on the model, and assemble in under 20 minutes, thanks to their “Snap-Lock” fittings. You can see all the models and options at Klepperamerica.com.
If you’re handy with tools you can even buy plans to build your own folding boat out of plywood. It’s just over 10 feet long, 52 inches wide, and weighs in at 105 pounds, which you can split into two packages – 39 pounds and 66 pounds. The plans and pattern are $96 and the assembly kit for the folding part is $219. You’ll still have to buy some hardware and whatever paint or finish you decide on. You can use up to a 2 hp gas or electric motor with it. How cool would that be to build your own boat? See more information at boatdesigns.com (enter “fold up” in the search bar).
There is also a folding canoe on kickstarter – it starts out as a carrying case and transforms into a full-sized canoe in 10 minutes. It’s got plenty of room inside for two people and fishing gear, and it’s extremely easy to store and set up. Stabilizers are available to help with fishing, and the MyCanoe Plus that includes oarlocks and paddles is just $995 and ships anywhere in the world. There’s no snapping parts together with this – it’s like origami. You can see all the options available at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2058251373/mycanoe-performance-origami-folding-portable-canoe.
Inflatable boats are easily the most compact boats to store, once they are deflated. The obvious drawback is the possibility of a puncture from a hook or even from a bass fin. Inflatables come in an incredible array of sizes and prices – you can get anything from a float tube to a raft big enough for eight or more people.
Float tubes are ideal for small bodies of water or for backwaters and streams. I’ve seen guys fishing from float tubes in coves on the big reservoirs out west. They are designed for fishing so they have tackle storage built in, and many have cup holders and even shoulder straps so you can backpack them in to waters regular boats can’t reach. These deflate and fold down to stow in any car trunk, and you could store one in a closet or even under a bed. They are people-powered, but you can drive or hike to wherever you want to fish and just hop right in. Your lower half is going to be in the water, so you’ll probably want to invest in a good pair of waders as well. But float tubes are incredibly affordable: Bass Pro Shops has them starting as low as $129. Add a pair of waders and some flippers and you can be ready to hit the water for less than $300. At that price you can get one for everyone in the family.
Larger inflatables can be used with motors and will hold a lot more gear. You can even get rod holders for them. Remember that the bigger the boat, the more space it takes up and the heavier it is, even when deflated. Also, inflating a really big raft can take a while. Inflatables can be had as rafts, kayaks, catamarans, pontoons, or float tubes. Depending on the size and type, you may be able to use a motor with your inflatable. You can also do a little research before you head out – many areas have places where you can rent inflatable boats by the day.
SMALL BOATS AND KAYAKS
Kayaks are incredibly popular among fishermen – kayak bass tournaments are a growing phenomenon because kayaks are easy to paddle and transport, hold quite a bit of gear, and can negotiate all kinds of water that big bass boats cannot. A kayak is fairly easy to strap to the bed of a truck, car roof or the RV, or even the pop-up camper. Kayaks can be paddled, driven by pedals that power small props or paddles, or even powered by wind. There are also kayaks that have a place to mount an electric motor. You can get a lot of bells and whistles for kayaks these days, including outriggers so you can stand to fish.
Hobie has several models specifically designed for fishing. The Mirage Pro Angler 12 weighs 129.5 pounds fully rigged. It’s 12 feet long, 3 feet wide, powered by pedals that move flippers, and will hold 500 pounds. With a comfortable chair, cup holder, and plenty of room to store your gear, this kayak is a fisherman’s dream. You can launch it anywhere and there’s no need to assemble anything. Just pop it in the water, get in, and fish. The Mirage Pro also comes in 14 and 17 foot models – the 17 has two seats AND two sets of pedals. You can actually buy a Hobie Pro Angler 12 on Amazon for $3,449.
While a kayak takes up a bit more room than a folding boat or an inflatable, you don’t have to worry about punctures or assembly. I’ve paddled kayaks and found them to be stable and comfortable even when paddling all day. You can take them anywhere, and you can even load up enough gear for a camping/fishing trip. Storing the boat might be the only problem if you are tight on storage space.
If the $70,000 price tag is the only thing keeping you out of a bass boat, maybe you should consider an aluminum bass boat. My Ranger RT188 is an 18-foot, 8-inch bass boat with all the bells and whistles: big central rod locker, tons of locking storage, electronics, boarding ladder – the works. The only thing it doesn’t have is the whopping price tag. In fact, we took ours home for far less than half the price of a big fiberglass boat. It toodles around the lake at about 40 mph, has great livewells, and fishes beautifully. And seriously, it rides so smooth you’d swear you were in a fiberglass boat.
If tin cans spring to mind when you think of aluminum boats, you’re way off the mark when it comes to the Ranger. Virtually every cavity in this boat is filled with closed cell foam, making it incredibly safe and extremely quiet. These boats exceed the Coast Guard specs for flotation. They’ll even stay afloat with major sections cut out. Parallel to the keel are four welds to reinforce the boat – it’s super strong, safe, and quiet. Not at all like a tin can – more like a fiberglass boat without the price tag.
There are tons of options for getting on the water no matter what your price range might be. If you’re tired of fishing from shore or not being able to fish while you’re on the road with the family, check out alternative boats. You may be surprised at how affordable and compact they can be.
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