You don't need a big boat to catch big fish.
Here are a few of the most important things to make your small boat safe in any conditions. A sturdy hull, and reliable power source are the most important when pushing your boat to the absolute limits it was designed for. A few other things to equip your boat with are all Coast Guard required safety gear, and one thing I strongly recommend is a high-capacity bilge pump. One other thing to make sure you get home safe is a backup power source, whether this be oars or a reliable trolling motor. Sometimes all this is hard to equip a small boat with, but with proper planning its not hard to create a fishing machine that will outfish much larger boats. One benefit to running a smaller boat for hunting and fishing is the lower maintenance costs, and who doesn't love saving money!
I am excited to share with you all how the River Rat team makes the most of a 14 foot boat on Lake Champlain year round (March-January). If we can find an open launch we are putting that 1970's Smokercraft to work! To give you all a quick rundown of my setup it is a 14-foot Smokercraft hull from the 70's repowered with a 2018 Mercury fuel injected four stroke. Over the years I have turned this boat into the ultimate fishing machine for almost any conditions Champlain throws at us. Picking the proper equipment and days to fish will keep you comfortable, and award you with the best fishing our lake has to offer.
Building the boat I use today has been a several year project of deciding what I needed from my boat. I fish a huge variety of species in tons of different conditions. Last year I finally completed the boat to my satisfaction. I will quickly share with you what that setup looks like. The main species the River Rat team targets are lake trout, salmon, walleye, pike, and bass. As many of you know many of these fish require very different techniques to catch in large numbers.
One piece of equipment we utilize a lot is Canon Uni-troll downriggers, the boat is equipped with two riggers on swivel bases. These riggers are great, as they are very small and compact but fully capable for trolling up to 80-90 feet deep without much blowback. I run 6lb balls from these riggers and that seems to be perfect. This is our main approach for fishing lake trout and salmon in summer months. Both riggers are easily removed when we need more space for other types of fishing.
Another technique we use out of this little boat year round is flat lining. This is a great fishing approach to catch a ton of different species with very little equipment. All you need is a few high-quality pole holders, and trolling poles. If you are running more than two poles, we have found planer boards to be a huge asset.
The River Rat team also spends a ton of time targeting spring walleye. For this I highly recommend a bow mounted trolling motor. My boat is equipped with a Minn Kota Powerdrive V2. These is key for reaching those low trolling speeds that trigger walleye. A bow mount also offers the utmost control in stiff river currents.
I would love to share all my secrets with you all but the learning curve is what makes this sport so fun! Hopefully this has helped you all see that a small boat is very capable of competing with boats twice its size. Stay safe out there and utilize the equipment you have to its fullest capacity. I look forward to seeing many of you on the water this spring. Keep an eye out for a small camo boat flying across the lake heading to chase our dreams.
Chase your dreams no matter how ambitious they are.