Deep question: Do you need a new boat? Why, of course you do!

There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.”

Comedian Steven Wright said that, and I’m not sure why. I guess he was just being funny. I hope he won’t mind, but I’d like to paraphrase that a bit.

“There’s a fine line between fishing and just sitting in a boat like an idiot.”

Truth is, being on either side of that fine line is lots of fun — just to be fishing. Knowing what you are doing and catching fish is great fun. But I’m pretty sure that sitting in a boat enjoying oneself fishing even in the wrong place with the wrong bait is even more fun than not.

Noted author Zane Grey died before I was even born, but he got it.

“If I fished only to capture fish, my fishing trips would have ended long ago,” he said.

See, I was right. One could make the argument, though, that it is a lot more fun to catch fish or even NOT catch fish in a nice fishing boat than to be on the bank. Besides, everyone knows that the best fishing is on the other side of the lake and you can’t get there without a boat. Even if they aren’t biting.

Boat Show time

“Boat Show time” is a period early in the year when anglers and would-be anglers make annual pilgrimages to look at the latest, greatest fishing boats and try to answer that deep, thought provoking “what is the meaning of life” type question: “Do I need a new boat?”

Just walk around the show, or a dealer’s showroom floor and the answer is apparent: Why, of course you do.

My first boat was a 14-foot Duracraft aluminum boat powered by a little blue three-horse Lightwin Evinrude outboard and a manual trolling motor (paddle) that I made in shop class at Bastrop High School. I can’t imagine how it changed my life and how many hours I put in either fishing or just sitting in it looking like an idiot. But I sure have fond memories.

My dad and I upgraded to a 14-foot fiberglass Hustler stick steering boat in the early 1970’s with a ten-horse Evinrude on the back. We fished mostly at Bussey Brake, which had a ten-horse limit on it. We stacked some fins in that dude, too.

But my very first very all-my-own fishing boat that I picked out and paid for was the prize of my collection of places to sit and look like an idiot in.

Had to have it

In 1975, Ranger revealed the 155A in a magazine ad and when I saw it, I knew I had to have it. It was the first “pad” boat, a wide boat that got up the pad and ran much faster than standard hulls.

I talked to the folks at Howard Griffin Marine in Monroe about it and they told me the first one was coming in the next week. I put $500 down on it and the day it arrived and got rigged out, I was there. I paid $5,345 for the two-tone brown model with an 85-Johnson outboard and Johnson trolling motor plus a fancy new Humminbird 30 depth finder. Before I could hook it up and drive off with it, two other people offered to buy it from me for more than I paid for it. Later that year, it became the official boat of the Bassmaster Classic. I was in high cotton.

I’m to the point in life that I am beyond needing, or even wanting to, buy a new boat. But I’m glad I’ve had a few, including a Tidecraft Shalale that I actually won in a bass fishing tournament in my younger days. Yes, there were more than three people entered.

Deciding to buy a new boat, especially these days, isn’t an easy thing to do. In fact, it’s kind of like choosing whether to get married or not. You know you want to, but with so many makes and models, how do you choose? And which one will last? And can you afford it?

Sticker shock

Remember my little $5,000ish Ranger? Well, today that won’t buy forward facing sonar fish finders for a fancy new boat. Sticker shock isn’t just for cars. I looked it up and found a new 2024 Model Z521R that is listed for $88,985.00 plus tax. I wonder if the fish know somebody will pay that much to try and catch them?

Back to picking a boat. They are expensive and if you take care of them, they’ll last a long, long time. And if you keep your eyes off the newer models, you’ll be happy with it a long time.

Picking out the right one isn’t really that hard. You’ll know it when you see it. I’ve seen it before. Fishermen get that gleam in their eye, they can barely talk, and the thought of a second mortgage on the house seems like common sense economics.

I’ve never been one to trade boats a lot. I kept that old Hustler until a crack in the hull let water seep in the floor and rot out the plywood bottom. I kept that Shalale until the transom rotted out and it developed a severe leak around the motor mount. Unfortunately, when the latter happened, I was on the lake with a livewell full of crappie when I had to pull up to a shallow bank, turn on the bilge, bail like crazy with the minnow bucket and wait for help. And the part I remember most. I had to chuck the fish back in the lake. It took hours to get it loaded on a trailer to salvage what I could.

The Ranger? I burned through two outboard motors on it and finally wore everything out on the rig down to the second set of compartment hinges.

See, buying boats isn’t just for fishing. It’s part of life.

All kidding aside, buying a new boat is a big deal. Focus on what you need, what you can afford, comfort and safety and what makes you happy. Not just for today, but for years to come.

About Kinny Haddox 592 Articles
Kinny Haddox has been writing magazine and newspaper articles about the outdoors in Louisiana for 45 years. He publishes a daily website, and is a member of the Louisiana Chapter of the Outdoor Legends Hall of Fame. He and his wife, DiAnne, live in West Monroe.