Aluminum Boats for Savings Both on the Water and at the Pump
Aluminum boats are the most affordable of the fishing boats. From the simple johnboat to the fully rigged bass boat models they are the most popular of the freshwater fishing boats. Besides their affordability they are also the most economical both on the water and behind the tow vehicle.
Since aluminum boats are lighter, they can be powered by a much smaller outboard and run speeds comparable to its big brother, the fiberglass bass boat. You’ll also pass them at the gas pump. When he stops on the way home to fill up for the next days fishing you’ll still have enough fuel for another day or two of fishing.
My first trophies were a 5 lb. and a 7 lb. 11 oz. bass caught in Santee Cooper, S.C. I was fishing from a 12’ v-hull aluminum that I rigged with a front deck complete with storage box and pedestal seat. My only mistake was installing the battery, for the trolling motor, up front with me. This threw the balance off raising the 5 HP motor completely out of the water leaving me no steering control. Each time I moved to a new spot, using the outboard, I would take everything in the boat and move it to the back to counterbalance the weight of the battery. Later I remedied the problem simply by relocating the battery to the back and running wire up to the trolling motor.
These light weight aluminum boats allowed my buddies and me to get into places that were nearly impossible for a bass boat. I towed this boat behind a Plymouth Champ. For those of you that aren’t familiar with this model, it’s a 4 banger made by Mitsubishi for Plymouth in the early eighties, that touted 40 MPG. With gas prices what they are today it’s hard to beat aluminum boats on and off the water. On the water, using a 5 HP motor, a six gallon tank of gas would last for days. Off the water I was getting over 30 MPG allowing me to travel about 300miles on a ten gallon tank of gas.
Towing a light weight aluminum boat has several advantages over a glass boat. Not only can you use a smaller more economical towing vehicle but these boats are also much easier to stop. No need for trailer brakes until you get into the larger 20 foot models.
You can’t beat these boats for the small lakes and pits in Florida. They’re easy to launch and load, especially on those ramps that are in need of maintenance. On the private phosphate pits and even the ones run by state and local authorities often have unimproved ramps. I remember when the Stick Marsh first opened and all you had was a dirt ramp. After a good rain, you had to wait for it to dry and then hope the state would come in and smooth it out with a dozer. A few brave soles would attempt launching when the dirt ramp was wet, digging pot holes from spinning tires. We had to rescue one idiot when he launched a 20’ bass boat behind a sedan and couldn’t even pull the trailer out. We used a winch, mounted on the front of our Suburban to pull him up. With a full sized four wheel drive and a small lightweight aluminum boat these are the kind of places you can get into that the larger glass boats don’t dare go...at least the smart ones.
Aluminum vs. Fiberglass
There’s always two sides to every story. When you’re talking about fiberglass boats vs. aluminum boats the question of stability, comfort and safety come up. You won’t catch me in middle of Lake Kissimmee on a windy day in an aluminum boat unless it’s over 20’. Several of the Florida bass guides use a Big “O” Bass Boat to guide out of. These are all deck except for the driver and passenger section. They handle big water as well as any fiberglass boat and are usually powered by a 200+ HP motor.
If you’re in the market to buy a new boat, there are a few things to consider. When you look at a boat 20’ and over, there’s not a lot you give up with the aluminum. Big “O” Bass Boats, 20’ and over, start around $30,000 and go up from there. So there is no real savings in the cost. These boats also come with trailer brakes and you’ll need a 200 HP or larger to power it. In the smaller aluminum boats you’ll save not only on the initial purchase price but also on operating cost because of the smaller horse power motor to push it with and the lighter tow vehicle to pull it. You also won’t need trailer brakes reducing, not only the purchase price but also maintenance cost.
In the smaller aluminums, 18’ and under, vs. fiberglass the biggest consideration is comfort. On the bigger lakes, Kissimmee, Okeechobee, and Toho, you’ll be restricted to calm days only. You’ll need to keep a close eye on the weather report because, if the wind is expected to pick up, you’ll want to be in a position where you can get to a safe place quickly. I don’t want to make it sound like these boats aren’t safe but they can give a tooth jarring wet ride on rough water.
Another thing to consider is stability. I have fished from fully rigged aluminum bass boats. The thing I noticed most was how they’re always rocking. With a light wind or when boat traffic picks up, you’re constantly rocking back and forth more so than in a glass boat. If someone is walking around in the boat you either need to set down or grab onto something for balance.
The bottom line is choosing a boat to fit your primary fishing waters. If you’ll be fishing mainly big lakes, you might want to consider a glass boat of 18’ or better. If you think you might be interested in a boat over 20’, then I would consider an aluminum. The aluminum walleye boats, built for the big lakes up north and the Great Lakes, are perfect for fishing in Florida. They have all the same accessories as a bass boat including the latest in electronics, outboards and livewells to keep your catch alive or shiners for live bait fishing.
If you’ve planned a trip to Florida and you own or only have access to a small aluminum boat, by all means bring it. If you stay alert and realize your limitations, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be successful. Yes, there will be days when the wind will be a factor and restrict you from venturing too far out on the big lakes. On those days, be smart and look for fish in the canals or stick to the leeward side.
Almost every town in Florida has a small lake with public access. These lakes are just a scaled down version of the big lakes with the same vegetation and good populations of fish. These lakes don’t receive the constant tournament or guide pressure that the bigger more well known lakes get. It’s hard to convince a customer, who just traveled a thousand miles, we can do just as good or better on one of the smaller lakes than on the big name lakes that he’s read about or watched on T.V. like Toho, Kissimmee or Okeechobee.
Don’t get me wrong, you can fish all the big lakes, from aluminum boats, as long as you use a little common since. Our fish will go on the bed as early as December. During this time of year you have front after front come through followed by bright sunny windy days. Don’t forget to bring your thermals; it does get cold in Florida during these early months. My favorite month is March when the weather starts to stabilize and during this time is when the spawn seems to be the strongest.
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