What's the best boat to get that is good in shallower water but can also handle miles away from shore?
Thanks for your question. I started my guide career in a 16 foot skiff with a 90 hp motor. We fished the flats from The Marquesas to Key Largo and, at that point, I felt as though the skiff was the most versatile boat. However, Rich and I started to fish the IFA and ESPN Redfish Tournaments and traveled to Louisiana and Texas. Once there, we saw the guides using a bayboat.
Their boats were 18-24 feet long wth a 150-250 hp motor and they were able to go in almost as shallow water as we could in the skiff, but their boats could go much faster across the open bays and fish in rougher water on the offshore jetties. Rich and I took notice and thought that we might be able to use boats like that in the Keys. We knew we could get a bayboat into many of the areas we wanted to fish, but the spooky keys fish required alot of boat control to keep the boat from getting too close. We accomplished this in the skiff with the pushpole.
I brought my 2400 Skeeter to the Keys and started trying to fish out of it. It was a welcome change as far as family trips and rough days were concerned, but it was not a technical fishing boat at all. I could move the boat where I wanted with the trolling motor, but I had no control over it. I couldn't stop and ran over the fish I was trying to catch.
It was about this time that John Oliverio was creating a device in his garage that would change inshore fishing as we knew it. John also saw the need to stop the boat before you ran over a school of fish. Getting out a noisy anchor usually wasn't an option on super spooky schools so John thought up a solution. What if we had a device that would simply anchor the boat quietly anywhere at any time that we wanted? It was this thought that crept into John's head that was the birth of the Power-Pole.
If you don't know about the Power-Pole, it is a revolutionary design that bolts onto the stern and, using hydralic pressure, scissors out and lowers a fiberglass stake into the bottom, stopping the boat quietly and efficiently. The first design would reach the bottom in a couple of feet of water. John continued to improve upon the designs and within a few years, we had Power-Poles that could reach 10 feet deep and operate on a remote control key fob. This changed everything!
A few years later, Bass Fishermen would discover the Power-Pole and install twin Power-Poles for even more boat control. Seeing this, I also put two on my bayboat and realized ultimate boat control.
With the ability to stop the boat when we needed to, the bayboat became a weapon. I now had the ability to run MUCH farther in a day because of a 75-100 gallon fuel tank, but the major advantage was that I could now carry 50 gallons of livewell storage rather than 10 in my skiff. The bayboat could go pretty shallow, but it could also comfortably run out to the nearshore reefs and wrecks. Immediately, I was doing things I did not dream were possible in the skiff.
Our partnership with Yellowfin began in 2008. The first time I rode in a Yellowfin 24 Bay, I knew that fishing as I knew it just changed completely. This boat was on an entirely different level than anything I had ever been in before. The stepped hull and Mercury 300 hp engine made the boat fast, really fast. It was also fuel efficient which increased my range even further. It could handle MUCH rougher water than the skiff or other bayboats I had been in while still floating in water that rivaled the draft of most skiffs. Offshore targets were suddenly possible on alot of days.
The biggest difference was that I could now carry 150 gallons of livewell storage! With this amount of bait, I could do anything that the offshore boats were doing on the days I could get there.
It was now possible to catch tuna in the morning and bonefish in the afternoon. The number of slams (Bonefish, Permit and Tarpon in one day) skyrocketed, and my mind went crazy with the possibilities in front of me.
Through this experience, I learned just how versatile the Bayboat can be. The versatility really comes from the ability to control a larger boat in shallow water through the new trolling motor technology like the MotorGuide xi5 motor and twin Power-Poles. Now, the MotorGuide xi5 motor has a anchor mode that can hold the boat in heavy current above a bridge or over a wreck in 250 feet of water.
The bayboat style is simply more versatile than most boats because it can go in shallow water, but also venture offshore. The real key to the versatility though is the control in shallow water, add to it the ability to use the motor in deep water to anchor or navigate and there is no other boat as versatile as the bayboat and specifically the Yellowfin 24 bay with twin Power-Poles and a MotorGuide xi5 motor.
Here is how I rigged up my last boat (click for post)
I hope that answers your question. Remember this; Every Boat Is A Compromise! There is no one boat that will do everything so you are always in some sort of compromise. Figure out what you want to do and find the boat that can most efficiently do it while still operating on the fringe. For me, there is no other choice than the Yellowfin 24 Bay. Whichever style you decide is right for you, remember to always stay safe and keep the limits of your vessel in mind. If you are using a bayboat, you may be able to go offshore in it on nice days...but never forget that it is a bayboat, not an offshore boat. The further offshore you go, the faster things can change. Make your decisions early and head for the dock if you think you could be in danger.
All the best,
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