Denny Brauer is a pragmatist when it comes to setting up a bass boat.
There are no novelty gadgets. No secret weapons hidden in the bowels of the compartments. No tricked-out, make-me-go-faster thingamajigs on his Evinrude outboard.
Just the essentials.
"My boat fits my personality and that's what I suggest others do when investing in a bass boat," he says. "Think about what suits your fishing style and set it up accordingly."
In an era when bass boats have grown in excess of 22 feet, Brauer is content with a 19-foot Ranger powered with a 225 Evinrude. He's had bigger boats but found the Ranger Z19 meets his needs best.
"Without a doubt, it has become my favorite boat in all the years I've been with Ranger," explains Brauer. "The shorter boat has made me a more efficient shallow water fisherman."
Call him old school, but Brauer is a firm believer in keeping things simple — and practical. You will rarely see more than a couple of rods strapped to his deck. There's a good chance that both of them are long flipping sticks, one rigged with a jig and another with a soft bait.
Who can argue?
The simple approach has carried him through an illustrious career that produced 16 Bassmaster victories, 72 Top 10 finishes, a Bassmaster Classic victory (1998), an Angler-of-the-Year title (1987) and more than $2 million in BASS earnings.
Brauer acknowledges he may be sacrificing a little comfort by opting for a 19-footer over today's 20-plus-foot rigs. But the fishing efficiency, he insists, more than makes up for it.
"There are a lot of advantages to fishing from a smaller boat, and about the only disadvantage comes when you're making long runs in rough water," he offers.
Besides, he notes, smaller boats are more agile and maneuverable in big waves.
"You can do more with the nose of the shorter boat than you can with bigger ones," he describes. "Longer boats have a tendency to submarine when you fall off a wave; I can keep that nose up better with the 19-footer."
"My boat fits my personality and that's what I suggest others do when investing in a bass boat."
But that's only the half of it. Brauer's shallow water fishing style demands a boat that can get over skinny water easier and responds faster to trolling motor operation.
"Because it is shallow drafting, it is more responsive to the trolling motor," he explains. "Big boats are harder to stop and slow down, so you have to reverse the electric motor, which disturbs the water, and can impact fish holding in the shallow cover you're fishing."
Brauer says the 19-footer also requires less horsepower, and that translates to less weight on the transom.
"If I get hung on a log or stump, the electric motor pulls me off more easily than a bigger boat with a heavier motor," he explains.
His single console Z19, he adds, is a wide, low profile boat that is more conducive to his flipping tactics.
"The low profile makes it easier to get the bait into cover and I can swing bass into the boat with less effort," Brauer explains.
Gear placement is critical to boat organization and performance, Brauer says, so don't take it lightly.
His starboard rod locker contains two rainsuits, a paddle, life jackets and a few tackle items. The front storage box holds topwaters, crankbaits and jerkbaits and has room for a partner's gear.
Heavier items — such as jigs and soft plastics, sinkers and spinnerbaits — are stored behind the driver's seat.
"By keeping it on my side, my partner is never in my way when I need something," he explains. "It's another efficiency issue with me."
The rear port-side compartment holds a throwable cushion, rope, spare prop, tools and emergency gear.
Brauer's boat is outfitted with a 36-volt, 101-pound thrust Minn Kota electric, four Dual Pro Batteries and a Dual Pro Charging System. That allows him to fish all day — and sometimes into the next day — without worrying about losing power.
"You probably don't need a 36-volt electric on a 19-foot boat, but if you get caught in wind or heavy current, you've got the power you need," he explains.
Abundant power offers other advantages to shallow anglers on calm water, too.
"I like to work isolated cover from different angles, then zoom to the next one," he describes. "I can ramp up the electric to get there quickly. That saves valuable time."
Other equipment on his boat includes identical Hummingbird 787c graphs at the bow and console. He runs the same unit fore and aft because of the familiarity he has with the features.
"I also carry a spare unit just in case I have a problem," he adds. "And that one spare covers me for both units."
For 2007, he added an Oxygenator by Marine Technologies to his livewells.
"With all the warm weather events we fish in the Elite Series, I'd be a fool to not set the boat up to maximize opportunities to keep my fish alive," he says.
ELIMINATE CLUTTER AND WEIGHT
The more storage a boat offers, the more unnecessary gear an angler tends to carry. That's a mistake, says Missouri pro Denny Brauer.
"There's a natural tendency to throw stuff in a storage box until it's full," he explains. "That not only adds clutter and confusion, but the weight affects the boat's performance."
Brauer organizes lures in utility boxes and carries only those needed for a specific lake or time of year. He also keeps heavier items like jigs and soft plastics in a rear compartment to improve bow lift and boat performance.
"Being organized will make you a more efficient angler and eliminating weight improves boat performance."