How to select an estuary rig
  |  First Published: June 2016

Estuary rigs cover a whole range of boats, from the standard dinghy right through to the pointed punt style of rig. The most popular sizes are from 3.2m right up to 5m, which means there’s a great variety of boats to choose from depending on the kind of fishing you want to do.

Most of the time estuary rigs will be used in waters that, while sometimes a bit choppy, are going to be user-friendly in average conditions. That said, some of the larger estuary/bay craft will find themselves offshore on the right day – such is the diversity of size in today’s estuary rigs.

Think before buying

Like every other facet of boat ownership, it’s always best to look at your budget first. Then you should consider where you’ll use the boat most of the time, how many people will usually be aboard, and finally where the boat will fit in your yard or garage.

When it comes to the initial outlay, a basic package for a new estuary style craft that will take 3-4 anglers is relatively affordable. Prices range anywhere from $20,000 - $30,000 in the smaller sizes. However, that price will increase significantly when you start looking at a larger rig.

If you want to save some money, a used rig can be just as good if you know what points to look for in a pre-owned craft – or if you know someone who can lend you their expertise. You definitely shouldn’t overlook the monetary benefits of getting a used boat.

Dinghy style rigs

Choosing the precise style of boat comes down to a couple of things. The standard open dinghy (the ones we all knew so well for years before pointy punts took over) usually has seating arrangements for up to three or four, a sharp bow and open layout. Some hulls feature a near flat configuration aft, while other larger ones are more sophisticated and sport some vee along with small reversed outer chines.

Driving positions vary from tiller steer in smaller craft right up to side console modules for the larger jobs. This sort of rig can handle a variety of water conditions and will suit a lot of people. Additionally, if it’s high sided enough it will manage within a bay or estuary quite well. Alloy is the most common construction material due to weight advantages and maintenance-free durability.

Storage space is virtually everywhere in a ‘standard’ dinghy. It’s an open boat so you bring along your own storage box or boxes and snug things into areas where they will be out of the way.

Modern craft offer much improved rides these days and are relatively cheap, especially in the 3.65-4.5m range. Many get by nicely with low powered engines, which means that a lot of crabs, fish or prawns can come home for little outlay. At the end of fishing you just give the boat a hose down inside and out, pull the bung aft and let it drain and dry.

Dinghies also come in larger sizes, right up to 5m, and power can range well up towards the 90hp mark. This extends the boat’s use from estuary to offshore in calm conditions. There’s definitely a lot of choice on the market – it just boils down to what you want to use your boat for and what you can afford.

Punts much in demand

Vee-nosed punts offer just as much work room due to entirely open areas all round, plus the advantage of a casting deck up front which conceals a lot of useful storage space. As with some dinghies, many punts come with an electric motor pad standard, or at least optional, which then opens the door to a world of thoroughly enjoyable stealth fishing.

Seating is usually something along the lines of buckets on pedestals. You get a choice of placement, courtesy of additional in-floor spigots.

So we have virtually all of the boat as a fishing workspace, thanks to the great storage under the deck and variable seating. Could it get better?

Well… yes! Punts also have tremendous stability, and that’s a huge selling point. I’m not suggesting that standard dinghies aren’t stable, I’m just saying that the vee-nosed punt has a design that makes it more stable due to the extra in-water contact the punt has.

In a well designed punt the ride won’t be compromised as there’s usually enough rake (the angle of the bow) and clean entry up front to iron out chop. Moreover, most punts have some additional weight about them due to the casting deck and other framework up front, and that bit of extra weight assists in ride quality as well.

Naturally, the punt style rig is going to require a bit more horsepower to kick it along and there’s some extra cost to consider. That said, a lot of folk enjoy their punts these days and virtually every serious alloy maker has one or more models on the books.

So there we have it: two basic styles of boat for the same job. The choice comes down to how much money you want to spend, the sort of fishing you’re planning to do, and whether you need covered storage and want a stand-and-fish casting deck up front, which is handy for a lot of finesse and sports style fishing. Either way, provided the rig is a proven brand and comes with plenty of kudos from reviewers and owners past and present, it won’t be far off the buyer’s mark. Remember, all boats involves some compromises. The trick is to minimise them.
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