Shop Smart

Submitted by Bernie Keefe

on Wed, 03/02/2016 - 14:00                                                                  

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With spring just around the corner, anglers around the country are dreaming of open-water adventures in the months ahead. For many, these dreams include buying a new boat.

If you’re thinking of purchasing a new fishing platform for 2016, follow the advice of veteran guide and boating sage Bernie Keefe to land the boat of your dreams, without getting soaked.

“A boat is a major purchase for most of us, so take the time to do your homework and also a little soul-searching to decide which one will best fit your needs and your budget,” he begins.

The internet is a wonderful tool for checking out available boat models, features and prices. “Online research is critical,” says Keefe. “Don’t just show up at a sport show or dealership and buy the first boat you look at.

“You can also use online tools like the “Build Your Own Boat” feature on Crestliner’s website to plug in boat style, length, cost, primary purposes and more,” he adds.

All are key considerations.

“Choosing boat style, whether hardcore fishing, fish-and-ski  or a ski boat comes down to how you plan to use the boat the most,” he says. “I strongly encourage fishermen to talk to their families to collectively determine what’s right for everyone who’ll be using the boat.”

For example, while a serious fishing boat might not be ideal for other watersports or serious leisure cruising, a fish-and-ski could provide a great compromise that keeps everyone happy. “And if the whole family is on board, you’re going to get a lot more use out of the new boat,” he says.

Boat size is likewise important. “If you mainly fish small lakes with primitive access points and only one or two people aboard, you’re not going to want a large big-water rig,” he says. “But if you plan to fish the great lakes, something big and deep like Crestliner’s 22-foot 2250 Authority could be a perfect fit. Besides the ability to handle heavy seas, it has tons of storage space, plenty of elbow room for a large fishing party and is flat-out a troller’s dream.”

It’s worth noting that with shorter boats, a wave-taming deadrise can help the hull cut through the chop. “I’m guiding out of a Fish Hawk 1950 this season, which has a 17-degree deadrise for a smooth ride in rough water,” says Keefe.

Of course, your tow vehicle and available storage space also affect boat size decisions. If you’ll be pulling the boat with a car or light pickup, buying a large, heavy boat is asking for trouble, unless you plan to upgrade the vehicle as well. In a similar vein, pulling home a boat too long for the garage can lead to headaches as well.

Keefe also counsels matching the boat to your style of fishing. “I do a lot of vertical jigging, so a low-profile boat that doesn’t catch the wind makes boat control easier in windy conditions,” he says.

Features such as seating arrangements, storage, livewell and other accessories merit serious consideration. “They can drive up the cost of a boat, but at the same time it’s cheaper to get the features you want now than try to add them on later,” says Keefe. “Figure out what you really need and do your best to fit these features into a package deal.”

Budgeting is also a necessary step. “In this day and age, cost is a factor for most folks,” he says. “Don’t pull the trigger on a budget buster. If it breaks the bank and you can’t afford to take it out and play with it, you’ve defeated the purpose of buying a boat in the first place.”

Don’t overlook the boat’s powerplant, either. “Motors have a huge effect on performance and price, so here, too, choose wisely,” Keefe contends.

After conducting serious online research, you’re ready to kick the tires at a dealership or boat show. “If you attend a show, you have the opportunity to pick the brains of boat company pro staffers, who spend a lot of time on the water and can help talk you through the decision-making process,” he notes.

Follow these steps and Keefe is confident you’ll land your dream boat. “It sounds like a lot of work, but in the end it will pay off with hundreds of hours of on-the-water fun in a boat that makes everyone in the family happy,” he says.