Here’s some advice… making the right choice   Make the correct choice the first time

  So you think you want to become a boat owner and feel that you are ready to begin shopping for a new boat. Boating today definitely requires a commitment in several aspects, mostly our time and money.  Let me provide some direction that will help you make the correct choice the first time. Having been a member of the boating family for nearly all of my 60-plus years does not make me an expert, but maybe you can benefit from my learning experiences.  Remembering catching my first fish from a 10’ Montgomery Wards aluminum jon boat that was so narrow it would almost turn over any time another boat came by. Or, if you needed to get another minnow and just lifting the fish basket from over the side was a balancing act. Getting up on a pair of wooden skis for the very first time behind a 14’ boat made of plywood with a 33hp outboard and my big brothers yelling “hang on – hang on;” these are just some of my early memories of living the boating life style. Having actually been in the boating business for more than 30 years should hopefully allow me to share some of what I feel can help in making more good choices than not so good.

  One of the most common “learning experiences” I see happen with becoming a boat owner for the first time is simply buying the “wrong” type or style of boat. A buying choice is not always done for the best of reasons. The choice is made for reasons other than the correct one. The first questions you should ask yourself are “how do I plan on using my boat almost every time I go?” “What will I really be doing in my new boat on the majority of the trips we plan and how will I spend my time on the water?” If you are worried more about the Fourth of July weekend, the family reunion weekend, and taking care of the “group,” chances are you will make a “not so good choice.” You will find the boat is bigger than it really needs to be, or maybe you really did not need that walk-thru windshield.  It should be considered whether the boat has the correct size engine; not just because it seemed to be a” good deal.” “Good deals” are often not the best choice for the long haul and can prove to be a huge factor in not making the best choice the first time. The number of passengers which are going to be with you most of the time and the lake you pick most often will help determine the size of your boat. The overall size of your boat will determine the correct engine size. One of the most common mistakes I see is buying a boat with too small of an engine. If you have a boat that is under powered, almost everything you do is difficult. It is harder to get the boat to plain off, to get underway, and most of the time spent using your new boat is always working very hard. Manufacturers today really do spend a lot of time and dedication to make each model perform efficiently as possible and you really do not have to “reinvent the wheel” or in the case of a boat, the propeller. Almost all of what I have been saying up to now is not about a type or style of a boat. What I really am trying to get you to do is take some time and review just how you intend to spend your time on the water and, just maybe, you will make a smarter choice.

   “Should I buy an aluminum fishing boat or a fiberglass fishing boat?”

 This truly is a question that every new boat shopper should be asking. Today, we have really high quality and extremely well-thought-out aluminum packages. If you really want your new boat mainly for fishing, and maybe to pull the young ones on a tube, you should be looking at today’s aluminum fishing packages. Aluminum fishing boats today truly have come a long way from the 10’ jon I used as a boy. I am going to try to do this without picking on a specific brand, or a specific manufacturer, and this is not as difficult as you might think. When a big, thick, fancy catalog arrives that has a lot of choices for you to consider, please think about what an advertisement is created to do. If the advertisement gets you to consider their product, it has done most of what it was intended to do. You should take the time and really look at the overall boat, motor, trailer, trolling motor, depth sounder, etc. It may look to be a “good deal,” because that is exactly how it is intended. If you start making changes and upgrades, chances are it is “not such a good deal.”

  Most all aluminum fishing boats offered today by several major manufacturers are designed to be powered by a specific horsepower and, if packaged with the correct size and horsepower, you should expect to have a safe and efficient performance. Notice I said both size and horsepower. With today’s four stroke outboards, it is really necessary to consider the weight and size of your engine, as well as horsepower. Most boats, especially aluminum boats, are very weight sensitive and too much can really create control and handling issues, which you should not have to deal with. Aluminum boats today offer many different layouts and hull designs with features for almost any budget. They provide a safe and affordable boat for whatever your fishing demands. Aluminum boats, overall, are less to pull and easier to store than most fiberglass boats.

  You have to make sure that your personal vehicle is big enough to use for a tow vehicle and it must have the proper light hook ups and tow hitch set up.  Overworking your vehicle cannot only be costly, but could prove to be unsafe. Arriving at the lake safely with your new boat should be just as much fun as actually fishing. If you are not having fun getting to the fishing hole, you will usually find out that the fishing is harder. You should be shopping for a boat that is going to do what you need it to for at least five years, give or take. Your aluminum fishing boat will hold its value for many different reasons – low cost of operation, fuel, and maintenance just to mention a few. Aluminum fishing boats are generally less expensive to insure. Your cost of insurance is somewhat less because of the boat’s durability and repair cost is usually lower than repairing fiberglass.  Your aluminum fishing boat simply operates with a smaller engine and your performance is for the most part, done at lower speeds, which greatly reduces your risk of injury or damage to your boat. I feel that an aluminum fishing boat can make a very fine choice for any potential boat owner, especially for the first time boat owner.  

  Fiberglass bass boats of today really are about your budget. You need to narrow down your true needs vs. wants. For the first time boat shopper, you must do a lot of research and homework. It is very important to make the correct choice the first time. Fiberglass bass boats today have very few limitations and are able to perform at a professional level even if you are just a weekend fisher-person. When considering a new or used fiberglass bass boat, always consider the major brands first. The boat, outboard, and trailer are going to need to be maintained on a regular schedule. Occasionally needing repairs and parts and keeping everything current in good working order is are essential. Being able to obtain parts and help when you need it should not be a hassle and expecting your new boat to operate at a top level should be the norm, not the exception. Another article is needed to take you through the different brands and manufacturers. You should now start to gather your list of questions and identify important needs vs. wants.

  Let me encourage you to consider what is one of the most important factors a first time boat shopper should remember; “take advantage of your local dealer.” If a boat dealer today has managed to stay in business after 2007, when the boating industry took one of its biggest downturns ever, they have to be doing several things right. Your local dealer should “want to” sell you a new or a used boat. If you do not feel comfortable and receive the attention you feel you deserve, you need to keep shopping. I would and I do. The sales person should want to earn your business. Boat owners today should be able to rely on their local dealership when things break, or just for normal maintenance and when a question comes up. If you purchase a used boat for instance, from an individual, and you are a first time shopper, or even if you have owned a boat before, you better have a real good friend and a lot of patience. Most used boats do not have any warranties and this is where you find out the real meaning of “as is.”  When you consider a used boat from you local dealer, they should have a history of the boat. The condition should have been checked out and repairs done or disclosed with recommendation of what might be done. When things start to break and you are in need of a little help, the local dealer should get the first call. You may find yourself with a simple question that can help resolve a small issue and all you need is a little help. If the local dealer had been involved from the beginning, the questions would have answers and most of the problems, might not become a problem. 

  Boating has been my life and I hope these few thoughts may guide you to the lake of your choosing, get you safely to and from, find the boat ramp, catch the big one, and getting back on the trailer just a little easier. Making the correct choice the first time does not require a great deal of knowledge, just a little help with your homework.  

If I can ever be of help answering you questions about a boat purchase, please feel free to call me at 903.561.5930.


 by Dennis Burke