Bernie Schultz on rigging a new boat


Seigo Saito

As the 2012 Bassmaster Elite Series approaches, most pros are busy preparing for the new season. Part of that includes ordering and rigging a new boat. While the prospects of that process may sound exciting, it can also lead to a lot of stressful decisions.

How does the saying go? “The best two days of a boat owner’s life are the day he buys and the day he sells!” Well, mine is sold and I’m now on the upside of that phrase — it’s time to order a new boat.

Getting Started

With so many styles, options and accessories to choose from, narrowing the selection can be somewhat challenging. I try to keep things simple, so I ordered another Z-520, the same hull I ran last year. These boats perform great, and they’re safe, plus they float shallow, which is critical to the way I fish. I also like their interior layout — it's perfect for arranging tackle and other essential gear.

Although the deck design offers two lockers for rod storage, I stow mine on the port (left) side. This locker holds up to a dozen rods with the tips secured inside PVC tubes running toward the bow. The butt sections are then cradled on a rack at the back of the compartment. It’s a neat way to store high-dollar rods and reels while preventing snags and snarls that can occur during rough water rides.

The starboard (right) rod compartment is where I keep my butt seat, 2-piece push-pole, paddle, sea-anchors and other essential gear. It’s also where the fire extinguisher is kept.

The center deck compartment is configured with sectional dividers for organizing utility-type storage containers, like those used for terminal tackle and various types of lures. This helps me arrange my boxes in sort of a filing system, all stacked like books and easy to read.

The back deck features two large dry-storage compartments, side-by-side livewells, and a large bilge compartment for the batteries, which houses the onboard charger, pumps and various electrical components. Access is simple and easy.

The boat carries approximately 50 gallons of fuel in two separate tanks stowed below the seats. Between the seats is a small water-tight compartment for keeping maps, shades, and other essentials. It also serves as a step to the back deck. Both bucket-style seats are designed with a spring system for impact absorption, which makes the ride much smoother in a chop.

Electronic Essentials

Electronics are a major consideration. I ordered two Lowrance HDS-8 Insight units with the Structure Scan option. That way I can see what’s going on at multiple angles. Last year I got my butt kicked on all the structure lakes, simply because I didn’t have the Structure Scan feature. Not this time!

One of the HDS units fits snugly within a designated space at the center of the driver’s console, the other is secured to a RAM mount at the bow. I recommend a RAM mount to anyone considering a removable unit. They’re sturdy and practical, and when not in use, you simply disconnect the cords, loosen the fastening knob, and your GPS/Graph is ready for storage in a more secure place. While in use, the RAM is fully adjustable to position the graph for convenience and avoiding bad lighting angles.

The transducer for the bow unit is mounted at the foot of the trolling motor — that way I see what’s directly below my feet, rather than viewing an image of something 20 feet behind me. The transducer for the console unit is mounted externally at the transom rather than through the hull, which maximizes detail imaging of any subsurface features. Both units provide side imaging capability. It may sound like overkill, but without this advanced imaging, I’d be blindfolded against a field of sharpshooters.

Safety & Performance

I add options like a Hot Foot gas pedal with blinker-style trim and tilt switches. I learned a long time ago that it’s always better, for safety sake, to have both hands on the wheel. The Hot Foot eliminates having to throttle by hand, and the blinker-style trim switches can be accessed without ever taking my hands off the steering wheel. One switch controls tilt and trim, the other raises and lowers the hydraulic jackplate. By working them in unison, I can tweak the outboard’s height and pitch at various speeds to reach optimal performance.

The trolling motor I prefer is the MotorGuide Tour Edition 109 foot-control model. Wired to three Group-4 deep-cycle marine batteries, the 36-volt system provides tons of thrust and is super efficient — I can even go two days without a charge. The foot pedal is mounted in Ranger’s optional sunken deck well. This allows the operator a straighter, more normal stance, which improves balance while reducing long-term back fatigue.

Another option I highly recommend is the Power-Pole shallow-water anchoring system. This is one of the most innovative boating features ever introduced to angling. The Power-Pole’s swift and silent application saves me from spooking fish or overrunning a potential hotspot. They also make docking at the ramp a breeze. While I choose a single unit that I can plant and swivel the boat around, many pros prefer a tandem setup for more stability, and I can see the advantages of that. Whatever your preference, I firmly believe the Power-Pole will enhance your fishing experience.

When you catch a good tournament bag, you’ll obviously want to keep those fish alive. And while most boat manufacturers offer state-of-the-art aeration systems, my preferred setup features dual livewell pumps and an optional oxygenator, which forces millions of miniscule bubbles into the tank. With adequate amounts of ice, there’s no reason to ever lose a fish in the hot summer months — even when your stringer exceeds the 20-pound mark.

Completing the Process

Considering the cost of all this equipment, I choose to protect my investment with a Two-Way Alarm system. The base unit mounts easily beneath the console and is controlled by a key-fob style remote. You can set it for a loud audible alarm, or in the silent mode, to alert only you through the remote. Two-Way Alarms are sensitive to both sound and vibration, and they alert the user to distances of more than 100 yards.

All of the options and features discussed are itemized on an order form. Once selected and checked off, the form is then paired with a schematic, which tells the rigging department how and where to place the electronics and other accessories.

With all the boat features designated, the trailer becomes my next consideration. I always choose a tandem-axle model with disc brakes and an extended tongue, which can be swiveled for tight storage.

The tires are all steel-belted radials mounted on alloy rims, complete with a mounted spare and hub assembly —an important option when you're on the road as much as we are. Add fiberglass fenders matched to the boat’s color scheme and you have a picture-perfect towing package.

Now, if it would just get here!

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