Best upgrades for an older fishing boat
I was incredibly blessed by the wife and family of a dear friend upon his passing two years ago. I’ve written about this before, but Neil Webster was like a grandfather to me. When he died, his wife gave me his 2001 Triton. At the time, I was working hard to pay off a large portion of the debt I had accumulated in my previous life. Which, thank God, is now gone, minus what was owed on the house and land. So I have an old boat and thought I would share how I make it fish a lot newer with Best upgrades for fishing boats.
In my previous attempt to pay off my debt, I had gotten rid of my previous newer boat. So, I didn’t have my own boat at that time. I believe with all my heart that this boat now is a blessing from God like that family I don’t deserve, but I’m so grateful for it.
After all, my trip is now over the legal voting age in all 50 states. The engine can also consume any fluid of its choice without reprimand, if it is so inclined – as gasoline does at the moment.
Hence, upgrades are in order. There are some things Neil did to the boat while he still owned it, and others I’m looking up and working on now. So, I thought it would be a good idea to go through what I think are the five best upgrades you can make to an older device. here they are.
Nothing is subjected to more brutal torture day in and day out than a trolling motor, especially by a shallow water angler like me (and Neil). While keeping the boat, Neil upgraded the trolling motor twice, once from a very basic Minn Kota trolling motor to a mini trolling motor. From Kota Vortrex. And again a few years ago to A From Kota Ultrix.
Not only do trolling motors wear out over time, regardless of brand or quality, but the advances in power, efficiency, and technology have been tremendous in the more than two decades since my boat left the assembly line. Upgrading to a trolling motor like the Ultrex, with extra power and advanced features like Spot Lock, is the best thing you can do in my opinion.
Although I think the updated trolling motor is the most impactful addition that can be made to a boat, the gap between that and the newer fish finders is very narrow, and even negligible for the offshore angler. Here again the developments in tools and technologies have been amazing over the past decade. Not just those in forward-facing sonar, but also in traditional 2D sonar, side imaging, down scanning, mapping, and the processors used to run it all.
Neil tried a few different charts along the way, finally settling on a Lowrance Elite 9 on the lunge and a Hummingbird Helix 9 on the bow. These have been very useful, although I will say it’s better to choose charts from the same brand, so they can be linked together and share information like waypoints, routes and mapping.
I am currently searching for the best budget friendly (if I may dare to use such a term here) forward facing sonar for my rig; Contact Humminbird, Lawrence, and Garmin to find out what they have to offer the angler who has an old rig and wants to look beneath the surface, without having to mortgage his house to do so. Look for an in-depth article related to this in the coming weeks.
Lithium batteries can be used to start an outboard motor, run trolling motors, run live wells, charts, and other boat functions much more effectively than lead acid batteries can or do – primarily because they weigh a fraction of what lead batteries do .
Although lithium batteries are certainly an expensive investment, a single 36-volt battery (which would be necessary to power a 36-volt fishing motor) will weigh about 45 pounds. This single battery can do the work of three 12-volt lead-acid batteries (which can each weigh up to 70 pounds, for a grand total of 210 pounds).
So, simply replacing your trolling and cranking batteries with lithium can easily result in a net loss of over 200 pounds of boat weight. That’s someone else entirely.
Again, these batteries are expensive across the board. But the benefits are amazing in terms of power and weight and most come backed by a 10-year warranty, with lead batteries good to last a year or two now. If you plan to keep your boat for another 10 years, calculations show that a one-time investment in lithium batteries is roughly the same cost as swapping out batteries over and over again over the next decade.
This is another upgrade I haven’t done yet, and it’s an area I’m also researching extensively to first determine the best option for powering my 24V Ultrex, and then replacing my cranking battery as well in the future.
Shallow water anchorages
Whether you primarily fish deep or shallow water, shallow water anchors like Power-Poles or the two options from Minn Kota (Talons and Raptors), can be a huge upgrade for any boat. Neil actually installed a power pole on my boat years ago, and I use it regularly to keep myself in shallow water while fishing.
But even when I’m not fishing, I like to use the anchor in shallow water to hold the boat in place while working on the gear and especially when I’m launching and loading the boat. My boat has a keel guard along the hull, so I can place the boat on or next to the ramp when I load and unload the boat. And while you can certainly do without an anchor in shallow water to hold the boat there, it’s nice to know that the rig will be there when I get back, not floating around while I watch from shore scratching my head and weighing my options.
Marine outboard engines
The knock on the Achilles’ heel for any old boat is to repower the rig with a new outboard motor. Now, although this is the most expensive investment you can put into an old boat, it will pay huge dividends should you ever want to sell it, and it may make sense to do in some cases.
Let’s say the power head goes off on my 2001 Mercury Optimax next week. Although I don’t have the $5,000 or $6,000 it would likely take to fix it for such an unfortunate incident, it would be worth considering saving a little more to put a whole new motor on the boat.
For three or four times the amount, which is undoubtedly a very large sum of money, I can put a brand new 225 Pro
Again, this will be a difficult decision to make, but worth considering. Especially if your hull and the rest of the boat are in great condition (which they aren’t), and you’re looking to keep it for another 10 years or more.
Wrapping everything up
The last thing I want to do when posting this piece is stir up discontent in anyone’s heart. Fishing can turn into a measuring match in the blink of an eye if you’re not careful, and want to get your hands on all the new toys and gear that other anglers are posting on their social media – many of whom have undoubtedly benefited financially, relying on tournament betting worth 200. Win to make the next payment.
Please, don’t put yourself in this position just to get the latest and greatest gadgets. Consider yourself, as I do, incredibly blessed and lucky to have a boat to fish from; And for health to go fishing. Ultimately, figuring out how to improve your boat is one of your main interests in life right now.
But if you’re thinking about investing in your own rig, I hope this conversation helps nudge you in the right direction. I will keep you updated in the coming months on the progress of my rig.
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