Part of the joy and part of the pain of outfitting a new boat is figuring out how to best organize everything you’re going to need to navigate, communicate, find fish, operate the fishing gear, handle fish, process and store fish as well as stow food, drinks, jackets, tackle boxes and lots of other stuff. Planning it all out is a big project, which I usually begin by standing quietly and staring at the boat for a very long time.
In my mind, I’m working through all the scenarios, thinking about what helpful products are available and what will work best to make this particular boat a wildly successful fishing machine. But you have to start somewhere, so let’s look at towers and rocket launchers for now.
A tower—built atop of a boat—places someone up at a height where it is much more effective to scan for surface activity, temperature breaks and far-off bird activity. That, right there, is sufficient justification for the cost of a good tower because you can measure the benefit in fish. That, my friend, is the coin of our realm!
But there is more. A tower also provides numerous places to mount other things that help organize your gear and help streamline your processes, including fishing. For one, the underside of the standing platform of the tower is a good place to mount VHF or single sideband radios and perhaps display screens or standalone marine electronics units such as radar, navigation and fishfinder. Doing so saves valuable real estate on the dashboard, which can become awfully crowded with equipment.
That dash will still be busy with engine instrumentation, perhaps an autopilot and, of course, the most important piece of navigation equipment aboard: the compass. It is wise not to crowd your compass with electronic devices which can cause compass deviation, which puts you off course.
Other things that can be mounted on the tower and aid in rapid deployment are gaffs and nets. I’ve even seen tackle tray holders mounted in spaces between tower supports. One of the most important things you can attach to your tower is a row or rows of rocket launchers (rod holders). These handy devices really help get rods out of the way, yet readily accessible when the fishing action starts.
One important piece of advice I offer as a seasoned charter captain: Keep those rocket launchers aimed upright, rather than raked back toward the stern. They look really nice angled aft and it is indeed easier to grab the rods they hold at that angle, but it puts those sensitive rod tips right smack in the way of casting.
One last and very important thing before you strike a deal with a tower builder and sign a contract: Make certain that your boat can handle the change in center of gravity of the combined weight of the tower plus the gear you attach to it and the person you put up there while at sea. In boat-building terms, this issue is called the “righting moment” and can be expressed mathematically. The basic concept is making sure the boat can right itself in heavy seas, even with more weight up high. You may need to talk with your boat’s manufacturer to get an idea of how much weight your tower, all attached gear and personnel should be limited to.
How GPS Helps
Catch More Fish
Ohhh, this topic makes me feel old! Heck, I was fishing from skiffs when all we had was a compass and dead reckoning. Back then, fisherfolk had to put in their time (and lots of it) to find productive spots. It was important to find good visual lineups (such as a certain telephone pole lined up with a break in a rooftop behind it) to find that same spots again. We kept notes … on pen and paper, no less. Hey, at least I was beyond quill, bottle of ink and parchment!
When conditions limited visibility and we couldn’t see our lineups, we were reduced to compass course and speed/distance/time calculations. Those were flawed because we were really guessing at our speed. Veering off course and coming back to course threw off the calculation enough to miss a smaller reef or wreck. Finding a hotspot again was not taken for granted and successfully doing so was a source of pride.
Back then, I could not even conceive of the electronic advantages of the advanced marine electronics we have today. I began to understand when LORAN C became available to the public. The term “repeatability” became important because we could find a small hotspot again with reasonably good (but far from great) repeatability. In other words, the device would put us within 30 yards or so from a saved spot.
GPS (global positioning system) works relative miracles, especially when combined with scanning sonar and with radar interface that allows us to save a GPS waypoint at a location we spot on the radar. With GPS, repeatability means putting you back right smack atop a small pinnacle sticking up off the bottom and loaded with “lingasaur,” vermilion and copper rockfish. Time to break out the Lingslayer and go to work!
Integrated, networked and “black box” systems allow us to set up routes to navigate treacherous waters more safely than ever before. It allows us to set up a trolling pattern which the boat happily follows for as long as we allow it or until we’ve caught our limits or filled the fish box.
There is always room for improvements in technology and I just have to believe that what the future of electronics holds will be just as mind-blowing as GPS systems were to those of us who fished the old school way. Here is something on my wish list for improvement: GPS chartplotter manufacturers will cozy up to online sea-floor mapping resources (Google Earth is one example and there may be far better ones) so that we can look for topographical anomalies with sea-floor maps and then mark them for our GPS units to do a much better job of taking us to exactly that spot.
Hey, it’s a thought. ■