Boats For Folks

I would like to officially detach myself from any and all influences attempting to coerce anyone into owning a boat bigger than they need. In his recent post, "Boats for the ardent recreational angler," Ned Kehde says:

"(Famous trophy bass angler, the late Bill) Murphy and I are also in the same boat when it comes to not fretting about our images because we don't fish out of an expensive and big bass boat and don't use the state-of-the-art and most popular rods, reels, lines, lures and other kinds of equipment.  The fretting about possessing the newest and best equipment is similar to the socio-economic phenomenon known as  keeping up with the Joneses, which is a form of envy and covetousness. And to be possessed with those afflictions  would interfere with our abilities to be good anglers."

Here-here. True, I'm guilty of using a lot of state-of-the-art equipment. Like side-finding sonar, very light and powerful ultra-modern graphite rods, super-light new reels, and all the new "slick" braids I discuss in articles on New Wave tactics. I can't help it. People want me to have those things so I can write about them. Most of that stuff is pretty darn cool, too. But I don't need all that stuff to be successful or to have a good time on the water. And some of it could be smaller and less expensive. Some of it is downright extraneous, so don't miss Ned's point: If you buy quality stuff to begin with and take care of it, you can use it to catch fish for the rest of your life.

Ned fishes from a 2003 Alumacraft Yukon165. I always liked Alumacrafts and I'm jealous (darn it, Ned — there you go making me want to keep up). My boat, a Starcraft PM140, is even smaller. But what a great boat. This little 14 footer, powered with a 25-horse Johnson, allows me to do at least 90% of what I did in all those 18-foot boats powered with 225-horse engines I fished from for so many years. It allows me to fish smaller lakes, streams, and ponds. It's more maneuverable, gets into shallower places, and it can be dropped in at much rougher landings. And that 10% that I can't do — like going out in 6 footers — I don't necessarily want to do anyway. I haven't been happy about fighting the elements from the deck of a boat since I was 30. I've been out in 10 footers and bigger on each of the Great Lakes, and I've been caught in sudden, unexpected gales that created 6- to 8-foot waves on bigger inland lakes many, many times. Never cared for it much.

As a general rule, if the wind's blowing big and I'm not fishing a tournament, I head for small lakes, or I grab a fly rod and plot a course for the nearest trout stream. That was my m.o. with 18-foot boats, too. Rolling around on rough seas is not my idea of a good time. Too many broken bolts, and too much multi-tasking going on. Multi-tasking is another myth that belongs way up there on the brainwashing list, right next to keeping up with the Joneses. People that say they like multi-tasking are A/ talking to their boss, B/ ADD,  or C/ in deep denial about how the best work gets done.

I spend far less on gas towing the boat around, with less wear-and-tear on my truck. Feels like I have no boat back there at all. And I spend a lot less on gas and oil while fishing. Takes me longer to get to some spots, but so what? I followed other guys in their 18-foot boats on lakes 35 miles long last year and it cost me an average of 3 to 4 minutes of fishing time on each spot. I'll trade that for the extra $144 they spent on gas any day. Caught more fish, too — and I'm not saying that just to be an ass, but to point out that a small boat has a smaller impact. It's also called stealth.

If I destroy this boat, so what? It actually belongs to Curtis Dumdie of Mankato, Minnesota. Kidding, Curtis — you're a great friend and your boat is in better shape now than when you loaned it to me. Point is, if I do destroy the boat, it won't cost me $40,000 to replace it for Curtis. In fact, it will cost 10 times less. What huge peace of mind that can provide.

Peace of mind is what it's all about. Ned's "keeping up with the Joneses" reference is right on the money. A recently published, peer-reviewed study from Northwestern University demonstrated that consumerism causes depression. Says researcher Galen Bodenhausen, "We found that, irrespective of personality, in situations that activate a consumer mindset, people show the same sorts of problematic patterns in wellbeing, including negative affect and social disengagement." Researchers also concluded that consumerism leads to less cooperation and less trust, concluding consumerism "did not unite, it divided." The bottom line? People all wrapped up in consumerism don't party. They worry. They do more paperwork. They fuss with possessions. What a drag.

Half of you must be thinking, "Damn it, Straw — you're the reason I bought all this stuff in the first place." Guilty. And I'm certain to make you want even more stuff in the near future. I'm a horribly bad influence and I spend a lot on fishing. But I spend very little on "stuff." I don't own any of the electronic gadgets people are so enamored of these days. I don't have a fancy car, a big-screen TV, trendy clothes, new shoes, or expensive furnishings. And I don't want them, which is liberating beyond description.

I'm just trying to help you enjoy the sport. The Joneses are trying to kill you. Take a look in the attic and the garage and tell me you need all that stuff. Life is better when you can slow down, relax, and just be satisfied with what you have (even if it's a big boat, or a fiberglass rod made the last time Kehde bought a new stick). Go fishing instead of shopping online at least three times this year. See if it doesn't become a dozen times in 2013. You'll save money and your peace-of-mind readings will start flying off the charts. Let the Joneses take a flying leap at a rolling life saver while the paint peels. You're not working for them (are you?).

If you need a big boat, you need it. But when it comes to spending, if you're going to invest in fishing, spend wisely. One ounce of angling knowledge is worth a ton of boats, rods, reels, and electronics. If you know how to find fish, you can catch them with a safety pin and some string. Which is easy to store.

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