Boats for the ardent recreational angler, according to Bill Murphy and me

Boats for the ardent recreational angler, according to Bill Murphy and me

As bass anglers, the late Bill Murphy and I are as nearly divergent as night and day.

His piscatorial mission was focused upon catching giant largemouth bass.  He magnificently explained and illustrated how he pursued these behemoths  in a 376-page tome entitled "In Pursuit of Giant Bass." It was edited by Paul Prorok and published in 1992.

Murphy lived in San Diego County, California, and fished for the giant largemouth that inhabited several of the small and heavily fished reservoirs of southern California.

Unlike Murphy, I primarily focus on catching small largemouth and smallmouth bass as I attempt to catch 101bass during every four-hour outing at the heavily fished small public reservoirs in suburban and exurban areas of northeastern Kansas.

Our differences are also reflected by the fact that Murphy lampooned the professional tournament anglers, calling them small bass anglers, whereas I shun their tactics because they don't catch enough bass and focus on catching only five bass that will be big enough to win a tournament. For different reasons Murphy and I contend that recreational anglers, like him, who fish for giant bass or recreational anglers, like me, who attempt to catch 25 bass an hour, should not employ the tactics that tournament anglers employ.

Another one of the many ways that Murphy and I differ is that he was a major proponent of being a versatile angler. Thus he adroitly used a variety rods, reels, baits, and presentations. I, on the other hand, shun versatility. Instead, I wield only spinning outfits, and all of them are identical. My repertoire of lures consists of only 10 soft-plastic finesse lures that are affixed to a Gopher Tackle's Original Mushroom Head Jig or Gopher's TJ's jig for tubes. The difference among these 10 baits is extremely subtle, while the difference among the baits that Murphy used was significant.  My presentation of these 10 baits is limited to merely five basic retrieve style, and they differ only subtly, but Murphy's various presentations were quiet diverse.

But one of the realms of bass fishing that we agree upon are our thoughts about the manifold virtues of using a small aluminum boat.

In his book, Murphy noted that "part of being versatile is having a boat that can do it all," and he "found that smaller aluminum boats are more ideally suited for all presentations" than big bass boats. He used a small v-hull boat made by Gregor Boats of Fresno, California.

Three photographs of his boat appear in his book on pages 40, 104 and 106 Readers can see a current rendition of a Gregor Boat similar to what Murphy used at .

His boat was powered by a 25 horsepower tiller-steering Johnson outboard motor. He mounted a Minn Kota hand-controlled electric trolling motor on the bow and stern. It was also outfitted with two sonar units.

On page 104, he listed six reasons why he preferred his small boat.  He liked the way it trolled and its maneuverability in tight places. He said that it was easy to anchor in the wind and launch at shallow-water boat ramps. Its low profile and unobtrusive silhouette made him a much more stealthful angler than anglers who employ a big bass boat.  On top of all of that, Murphy relished its fuel economy.

Murphy didn't mention it, but the sales and property taxes on boats similar to his are significantly less than those paid by anglers who have big and expensive bass boats.

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 a good angler.

Some readers of this blog site and members of the Finesse News Network have inquired about the boat that I use, and perhaps this is an appropriate time and space to elaborate on these details.

The boat is a 2003 AlumacraftYukon165, which cost $3300. In my eyes, one of the finest attributes of this boat is the floor is covered with vinyl rather than marine carpet. In fact, most of the ardent recreational anglers that I have crossed paths can't fathom why a fishing boat would be decked out with carpet.

The boat trailer is a 2003 Shoreland'r SLB14STM , which cost  $840. The outboard is a 1995, tiller-steering, 40-horsepower Honda, which cost $3,224.  In 2011, I fished 127 times, and the outboard consumed about 50 gallons of gasoline.

A Minn Kota Maxxum M65/H is mounted on the boat's bow, and a Minn Kota Maxxum 65T is mounted on the transom, which cost $940 for the pair.  To assist the trolling motors and expedite boat control during windy outings, which occur regularly in Kansas, I employ a 30-inch wind sock that cost $30.  A Lowrance X135 sonar is mounted near the transom, as is a vintage Zercom Clearwater Pro flasher, and another Clearwater Pro is mounted on the bow. The X135 cost $400, and each Clearwater Pro cost $400.  Three batteries power the trolling motors, starter motor for the Honda and sonars. Nowadays the three batteries cost $325, and the trolling motor batteries last about 2 1/2 years.  Each trolling motor has a foot-operated off-and-on switch that cost $18.

I am 72 years old and intend on working out of this boat until body doesn't possess the wherewithal to make another cast.

This the boat that I use. Normally on a calm day, I would use the transom-mounted trolling motor to move the boat backwards along a shoreline or around an offshore lair. But on this outing, I was helping our granddaughter Emily Myers work on her casting and retrieving of various finesse baits along an outside edge of a patch of submergent vegetation, and it is easier for two anglers to  fish next to each other in the bow of the boat than it is in the back of the boat. 

Transom-mounted trolling motor: a relic from the dark ages

When most bass anglers see me using the transom-mounted trolling motor, they often surmise that I am a panfish angler. Thus when we intersect with one another, they occasionally ask: "How are the crappie biting?"

Occasionally when these anglers realize that I am bass fishing, a few of them will ask why I am using a trolling motor on the transom and moving the boat backwards. I respond by saying that back trolling provides more precise boat control than can be achieved by maneuvering the boat with a bow-mounted unit.  What's more, it allows an angler to easily ply a lair from a variety of angles. Then I often tell them that only a float tube is more precise and effective on the water than back trolling in a small aluminum boat with a transom-mounted trolling motor. By the look on most of their faces, I can tell that they don't have a clue about what I am talking about. The reason for that is these anglers are extremely young and back trolling and float tubes are relics that stretch back into the 1950s and 1960s, which are now considered the dark ages of the piscatorial world.

Most of the time that the wind isn't blowing more 7 mph, I will use the transom trolling motor. But when the wind is blowing, I use the front one with a drift sock hanging off the transom (See the blog about drift socks at During the winter, even when the wind is blowing, I normally use the transom-mounted trolling motor because the largemouth bass are often congregated around submergent vegetation on shallow mud flats, and they are often stationary.  Thus, it is easier to control the boat and stay in a stationary position by methodically backing the boat into the wind.

As for Murphy's transom-mounted trolling motor, it can be seen from the photographs of his boat that he didn't turn the head or handle portion of the transom trolling motor around as the traditional backtrollers did. Therefore, we suspect he rarely used it.

In his book, Murphy spent less than two pages on when, how and where to use trolling motors, and he wrote more than 18 pages on when, how and where to anchor,

We ask George Kramer of Lake Elsinore, California about Murphy and his trolling motors.  Kramer used to fish with him and wants to petition the Fresh Water Hall of Fame to recognize Murphy.  He wrote in an e-mail on April 4:  "The partner (bow anchorman) sat in the front of his boat, so Bill controlled things from behind. He did some trolling with electric, but mostly used the gas motor. He also used the trolling motor to anchor: drop, scope, drop and pull back. He rarely fished with the electric, just occasionally when fishing a crank or spinnerbait. In the days of the wooden Bomber, they called their cranking, "bombing," and in the early days had no TM [tolling motors]. The couple of times I fished with him in his last years, he never put the trolling motor in the water. Having said this, he was certainly capable of doing a number of things I didn't witness."

In essence, Kramer suggests that Murphy was a master at wielding an anchor, which once again reveals that our difference are almost as stark as night and day. Murphy would have called me  a maladroit with an anchor. In fact, I  don't carry an anchor in my boat.

(In a few weeks, I hope to post a few words about Rich Zaleski's perspectives on boats for the serious recreational angler.)

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