- The single most important question
to ask yourself when buying a fishing boat is "Where do I plan to
do most of my fishing?" If your answer is the flats, the next most
important question is, "How much 'ride and dry' am I willing to sacrifice
to gain more shallow water capabilities."
- Running the Skinny Water
- A flat bottom hull runs and floats the shallowest of any hull type.
It may have a rougher ride and be wetter than a hull with a V, but you
will be able to float and jump up shallower and have more deck space. Being
able to run shallow water has its advantages over the obvious. On several
fishing trips we have ran the shoreline and lakes to avoid rough water
and found fish schooled in the calm, shallow water. If we would've cut
across the open bays we wouldn't have seen a thing.
- The Ride
- Pointed bow boats with flat bottoms seem to ride better than the square
bow hulls because of less entry area into the water. Length also plays
a large part of the ride; spanning more waves at a given time. A semi-V
hull, in general, will have a better ride and be dryer but you will lose
on floating, jumping up, and deck space.
- Hulls that taper from a 'V' to flat in a short run, (two to three feet),
are not much more than flat bottoms. Hulls that are built on the deep-V
design may ride great and are dry but are not going to perform as well
as the semi-Vs or flat bottoms. This is because the deep-V is designed
to throw water out from under the hull to improve the ride. The water that
was needed to fill and keep the tunnel full is gone. A deep-V hull is also
a deep draft hull and when a tunnel is cut into the hull displacement is
- Being able to run shallow is only part of the equation of fishing the
flats. You must be able to float and jump up shallow. One can still fish
the Gulf beach and get in closer on good days in a flat bottom hull. Who
wants to be there when it is a test just to stand up in the boat?
- Tunnels come in all sizes and shapes from short pockets to full hull
lengths, short to tall, and round to square. What works the best is a tunnel
that has a ratio of twelve inches in length to one inch in height; five
sided or round; not more that one third the total hull length. This is
not a hard and fast rule. A full hull length tunnel seems to trap more
air causing cavitation. A short tall tunnel is hard to prime and keep primed
when running at lower speeds. Square tunnels cause turbulence and drag.
- Hull Helpers
- Key slots or boxes help in two ways. First, they help when jumping
up as they keep the propeller closer to the hull causing less bow rise.
Second, when the engine is put on a jack plate the balance point moves
aft on the hull. The key slot helps to offset this by adding displacement
beyond the engine. Also a key slot that is designed properly will help
keep the water trapped around the propeller. One may think that longer
the better this is not so because once the key slot becomes too deep it
will hinder turning the boat.
- Propping it Out
- There is a very large number of propeller styles manufactured for tunnel
hulls. I believe a heavy four blade with lots of cup works the best. I
will try to fit a propeller so when the motor is trimmed right and the
jack is up the engine is running at the manufacturers recommended RPMs.
Ask you dealer, boat builder, or propeller manufacturer which prop works
the best with your set up. Most of the time this is going to be a personal
choice between speed or jumping up.
- Jack Plates
- Jack Plates are not a necessity to properly utilize a tunnel hull.
It has its advantages in being able to move the motor up and down in different
situations. When maneuvering around the dock being able to lower the engine
helps to control the boat. When running across the open bay, the engine
can be raised or lowered to help control cavitation and trim. Once headed
for shallow water, raising the engine increases the shallow water capabilities.
On hulls that have tall tunnels I would strongly recommend a jack plate.
If not, you will only utilize half the maneuverablity and half the shallow
- Low Water Pickups
- Low water pickups change the water intake from the side of the lower
unit to the leading lower edge of the gear case ( the bullet shaped area
). This enables the engine to be raised higher than normal. On some tunnels
this helps to get the engine higher and run shallower. The part I like
about a low water pick up is being able to idle around in shallow water.
A boater may idle into deeper water so jumping up causes less bottom damage.
- Hull Makeup
- Construction of a FRP hull may be a combination of glass and wood components
to a complete composite hull using high tech methods. High tech hulls are
great if you are willing to pay a premium for your hull. But, for the everyday
boater, a fiberglass hull built with fiberglass stringers and wooden components
are the most reasonable.
- There are several treated wood products that are made for the FRP industry
that have a ten year warranty. Don't think that the treated wood at your
lumber yard will work. The reasons are it is made from pine and the moisture
content is high. None of these are FRP friendly. A well crafted hull using
this combination should last the average boat owner until the "I wants"
- Whistles and bells are neat and fun except when they do not work. This
causes repair problems; time and money spent that could be spent on fishing.
I try to use the "KISS" method when rigging my own boat. Keep
It Simple Stupid. I have lost a lot of time working on whistles and bells
in the past and not fishing.
- When buying electronics do not buy an all-in-one device. Buy devices
that do a single chore. If one goes out you still have the others to navigate
or see how deep it is.
- - Forest Canion is owner of Marine Service in Port Lavaca, Texas
and is designer and manufacturer of the Flatlander line of flats boats.
You'll also want to look into trailer
hitches to transport your new boat.
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