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Tinny pimped to fish
  |  First Published: December 2016



Finding the perfect boat to suit your fishing style can be a real challenge, especially if you have budget constraints. If you are satisfied with the performance of the hull, yet your vessel is missing the fish-ability factor, then maybe it’s time to pimp your tinny.

How many people do you know who have purchased a boat and been totally happy with it, not having to make a single alteration? I have owned various inshore fishing boats, from American bass boats to aluminium hulls and made changes to all of them to fit my style of fishing. I am now back in an aluminium boat, because it suits the areas I fish in CQ and it’s a little safer for my young family than a bass boat travelling at 90km/h.

One thing I found with coming back to a tinny was that it was missing all the finer points that the American bass boat builders do so well. The Australian aluminium boat builders are making inroads here and I strongly recommend taking a look at the Stacer Assault Pro range. Storage and casting deck space are the two main areas that really need attention in this market. Casting lures is more popular than ever and a sturdy casting platform is paramount, and there is no such thing as enough storage space. Let me walk you through some changes made to my now 2-year old tinny to make it more fishable.

As anglers purchasing a boats, we usually start with researching a hull based on our style of fishing. The size of the boat and versatility, max horsepower and then the pros and cons of various Australian made hulls. The storage and casting deck was not a big focus for me, as I was prepared to make changes to suit my requirements; however a basic platform was good place to start.

I found the hull I wanted, then researched Queensland dealers that could supply the motor I wanted pushing my vessel. This was an easy drill, as there was only one Queensland dealer that sold the hull and the motor I wanted. Once I got the boat home and then on the water, I found some real prickles in the rose bush.

Early modifications

The hull porpoised worse than any boat I had been in, the carpets then had a UV stabilization problem, which sent them black within the first month. Some of the storage compartments would not open without removing seats. The rod locker would not open as it was hitting on the front casting deck overlap and then there were the additions added to the boat that were not requested, like anchor roller and full hand rails on the bow. All of which were listed as options on the boat builder website and some would see these added options as a bonus, unless of course the layout you are trying to achieve is built around sports fishing.

Anyway, I have worked through these frustrations and as a result have removed the manufacturer decals so there will be no mention of the hull in this article.

I am a self-confessed marine electronics junkie, so the first thing I needed to do was make room for extra batteries to power the tools of the trade. Under the front casting deck I added extra flooring, using 12mm marine ply and marine carpet for the batteries, leaving enough room for safety gear and other water proof containers such as cameras and tackle bags.

My mate Jarrod and I fish and have fished the World Sooty Grunter Championships run by MAFSA held at Eungella every year since its conception and the need for a functioning live well was the next move. Because I don’t require a live well other than for this event, I made a removable aerator, which also acts as a divider.

The deck modifications came next. I measured a piece of 12mm Marine ply and carpeted the area I wanted to extend my casting deck by, then took this into my mates at Rifen Boats in Rockhampton. Brent and the boys built an aluminium base for the deck extension and put hinges on the top for me, which doubles as a storage space for my tackle trays. I also had the boys at Rifen Boats fabricate and fit a carpeted section the length of my rod locker just above the hatch lid to protect my rods from banging against the hull braces when lying on the deck.

Adding strips of Blue LED under the gunnel on either side of the casting deck for my night barra fishing on Lake Awoonga added. That pimped look and also helps with rod selection at night and a little light to hopefully prevent a size 2 treble hook entering my foot.

Networking

As anglers, we are spoilt for choice with modern electronics to enhance our fishing and ‘networking your boat’ is a common phrase thrown around by anglers these days. Whether you are a tournament angler sitting behind the wheel of a $75,000 Fibre Glass Bass Boat or a weekend barra warrior fishing from a tinny in Far North Queensland, networking your electronics should not be overlooked.

When we are in the market to purchase a new computer or laptop, we look for the most current plug in capabilities. Blue Tooth, HDMI, USB and Wi-Fi are standard features now days because they are all critical for networking with our phone, Tablet, TV, printer/scanner, Home network, storage devices and of course the Internet.

When making a decision on your marine electronics networking should also be a key factor in the decision making process, I refer to this as future proofing. Much like the key players in Tablets, phones and computers the marine electronics industry is forever improving and a solid backbone or cabling platform is the key to keeping up to date and being able to add and adapt options to your boat.

Ethernet and NMEA2000 are typical networking and data sharing platforms between Fish finder/GPS units, bow mount electrics, marine radio and entertainment units, even the motor. If your current sounder/GPS does not have these options then networking will be a problem. Let me give you an insight to how I run my boat and the capabilities and advantages of networking.

I run two HDS12 Gen 3 sounders on my boat, one at the helm and one on the bow. My choice of bow mount electric is a Motorguide Xi5 12v 55lb thrust Freshwater model with Pin Point GPS. I chose the freshwater unit as it has a built in 83/200 transducer and comes standard with the wireless foot controller.

Hanging off the transom is a 2015 Mercury 60HP Command Thrust, Big Tiller. To increase the accuracy and speed of my GPS I installed a Lowrance Point 1 head unit. The most recent addition to the boat is my entertainment unit, the Lowrance Sonic hub. The Lowrance HDS12 Gen3 at the Helm is the heart of the system.

From here I run Ethernet to link the bow mounted HDS12, which shares data such as structure scan and broadband transducer information between the two units. From the helm unit I ran a NMEA2000 cable to a backbone. A backbone consists of linked T piece connectors, from each T joint a device can be added to the network. The NMEA2000 back bone also connects the HDS12 on the bow. Added to the network is my Motorguide Xi5, also via NMEA2000. The Motorguide required a gateway module connected between the backbone and the NMEA2000 connection on the Xi5, giving me full control of my Motorguide Xi5 from both my HDS12’s. Also on the NMEA2000 network I tied in the Point 1 GPS head.

Connecting the sonic hub to the backbone offered me control of my entertainment unit from my HDS12’s. The sonic hub can either source music from a dock, essentially a USB connection, or via Blue Tooth from an audio device. I personally connect via Blue Tooth from my phone, giving me volume control and a bunch of other features from either of my HDS12’s.

The last piece of the network was linking my Mercury 60HP CT. This was the most complex step as there are specific cables and junction boxes required for sharing the data from the motor; however the final connection is also made via NMEA2000 into the backbone.

From my HDS12s I can see all diagnostics such as RPM, engine hours, running temperature and even fuel usage plus much more. As mentioned earlier in the article, running the amount of electronics I do can be a drain on your battery power, so I chose to put in an independent house battery under the casting deck.

The isolation between the sounder battery and trolling motor battery also cleaned up my picture quality on my HDS 12s. I linked the Mercury alternator output with a Voltage Sensing Relay that detects the voltage between your cranking battery and house battery. Once the cranking battery is at capacity the relay switches and starts topping up your house battery.

The other key advantage of running a VSR is it stops any damaging spikes on start-up from affecting your marine electronics. You might be asking where do you hide all this cabling and backbone on a tiller steer boat? I made a carpeted panel; again out of 12mm ply that sits next to the Helm to surface mount all fuses, isolation switch and all other electronics out of view and the weather. This is also a great place to hang lures in preparation or after a change of lure.

Pimp your tinny

Now this might all seem a little over the top for a tinny, and by no means am I suggesting you need all the features I have on my boat, however if you want the best from your boat and the electronics available then put a plan together and start pimping.

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