A to Z of Plastics – Boat Based Fishing
  |  First Published: September 2007

Last month we reviewed the options for shore-based techniques for fishing soft plastics. The advantages of fishing soft plastics from a boat is that there is a lot more open water available for an angler. I have had a lot of mates that own boats and at some point have come for a fish with me. It doesn’t take them long to start catching some good fish using soft plastics.

Once they have caught the lurefishing bug, the first thing they do is to modify the layout and functionality of their own boats. Many anglers have seen some flash tournament boats set-up purely to fish soft plastic techniques. The good news is with some thought and DIY skills any boat can be modified to produce a more efficient lurefishing platform.

The first boat-based fishing with soft plastics I did was from a 12ft tinny. It had a 700mm long casting deck (one good walking step!) and no electric motor. I used to have to fish areas that I could drift or structures such as oyster racks with fencing around the perimeter. I would get close to the structure and hold the boat in the current with my foot on the fencing. It certainly wasn’t easy but it worked well until I had enough of a budget to purchase and set-up my 4.1m Polycraft Challenger.

In the following we will explore the reasons for various boat modifications and some of the attributes I find valuable in a good lurefishing boat.


It would have seemed ridiculous a decade ago that many anglers would have motors on either end of their boats. Today it is common to see boats in our waterways equipped with electric bow-mounted motors. I am frequently asked by other anglers what the thing on the front of my boat is, I will explain the theory behind having two motors.

On the back of my boat I have a petrol motor that speedily powers me to my fishing area. Having arrived at my destination, I deploy my electric motor. Electric motors are mounted onto brackets on the front of the boat and typically operated by foot pedals. This allows anglers to fish lures with a hands free approach yet still quietly control the movements of the boat.

The choice of motor is for most anglers restricted by budget. There are many types of fuel motors available today that offer the sophistication found in your average motorcar. The fuel motor used to power your boat has to simply get you from A to B. The more money you spend will result in you getting to your fishing spots more quickly, reliably, quietly and fuel efficiently. I haven’t been able to fault my 50hp, 4-stroke fuel injected Yamaha outboard.

The types of options available to anglers purchasing electric bow-mounted motors includes variable power ratings, fresh or saltwater models, cable or electric steer and the length of shaft to name a few. The type of fishing being undertaken by an angler will largely influence the decision of what attributes to buy.

Freshwater electric motors are designed to operate in freshwater and are therefore cheaper than the salt resistant models. However, many anglers are purchasing the freshwater models and with the addition of a sacrificial anode, lots of washing and an application of protective material such as Lanox, a freshwater model can be used in the salt environment for years.

My mate Tim Morgan at BLA has all sorts of handy ways to protect a freshwater electric motor. There is lots of information available on how to protect freshwater electric motors from salt that can be found at places like your local Minn Kota dealer or the web. Fishing monthly forums are a great place to ask many other anglers how they have done the job. Anglers often debate the value of the cable steer models versus the electric pedal models. There are pro’s and cons associated with both.

The cable steer pedals offer a highly responsive performance. Anglers will produce quick movement/steering of the boat with limited movement of the pedal. The electric pedal option offers autopilot in some models and also allows the pedal to be moved to more extensive positions around the boat. The biggest issue with the electric pedals is the slower response time and the issue of it degrading and becoming faulty as water finds it way into the pedal. I am a fan of the cable steer due to its durability and fast response, however Jason Medcalf prefers the autopilot option of the electric Minn Kota pedal.

The issue of power is another big variable associated with electric motors. The more power you choose the more you will pay. All you ‘Tim-the-toolmen’ out there will have to save your pocket money. The motor you choose has to ultimately push your boat comfortably into the strong current flow or winds you are likely to encounter.

A further consideration is the issue of charge. The more you have to make a smaller motor push a boat, the faster it will drain available battery charge. A mate of mine has recently set up a 12ft tinny as a lurefishing boat. The boat has an 18hp motor and decking installed. A 54lb electric motor is pushing this boat along very well.

Another logistical concern to think of when setting up your boat is the available mounting room to best position the motor. The best advice is to see how other anglers have done it and learn from some of their mistakes. Issues such as covering live wells with a mounted motor, putting too much weight on one side of the boat and mounting the motor in a poor location with relation to power supply are just some of the mistakes commonly made. I have made all the mistakes and tried several motors but I finally have my 80lb cable steer freshwater Minn Kota mounted well and helping me catch more fish every outing.

Platform and Storage:

In my opinion, a critical aspect of setting up a good lurefishing boat is to develop as much platform space as possible. Build the decking in your boat so you have ample room to freely move around when casting lures. Lure fishing today means lots of time on your feet actively casting lures. The more room available and the more stable the platform, the more efficiently and enjoyable this task becomes.

The first step in developing flooring and platform space in your boat is selecting materials. Ideally you want material that will be durable and strong but not add excessive weight to the boat. Many anglers these days are using industrial strength ply in the 12-17mm range. By adding a good dose of marine lacquer to the material you have a cheaper and more durable product to use than marine ply.

Prior to cutting and installing the ply, develop templates from cardboard and check to see they fit and look like the product you imagine. At this stage it is worth checking that the platform will carry out the job it is designed for. Check to see that you have enough space under the platform to store equipment such as tackle, batteries, toolboxes, fuel tanks and boat safety equipment. The more equipment you are able to store under decking the more efficient your platform space becomes. There is usually a lot of equipment to stow so check it all fits prior to cutting ply.

When installing decking try to use contours or ribs in the boat to support the weight of the structure. When bolting and bracketing use stainless steel products. I have done the cheap option before only to be angle grinding off rusted bolts a year or so later.

To finish the decking I highly recommend a carpet finish. Carpet adds to comfort and decreases the wear and tear of the platforms.

By putting some thought into the equation even the smallest of boats can have efficient casting decks installed. My Polycraft 4.1m has been set-up to have front and back casting decks. All my equipment is easily stowed and I can fish three anglers casting lures with ease.


Casting lures from a boat is made a lot easier when done from a stable platform. Many boats are developed these days to improve stability. Hull design considering shape and position of chines can bolster stability. If you are purchasing a boat to use it as a lurefishing boat, review the stability of the craft prior to buying.

If you already own your boat and are decking it out for lurefishing then you might have less choice regarding stability. In this case you have to work with what you have and this means develop balance.

Develop your layout, storage and installation of electric motors to add an even balance to the hull. Place heavier items such as batteries and fuel tanks towards the centre of the boat. If one side of the hull is more heavily weighted, install live wells and the electric motor on the opposite side of the hull.


The construction of a boat is a heavily debated topic these days. The different types of material used to build boats have both negative and positive attributes.

Aluminium boats or tinnies are a well-tested and readily available product. Their disadvantages include a rougher ride in chop and the issue of electrolysis. The latter happens when incompatible metals begin to react and weaken the integrity of the hull. The best tip for aluminium boat owners is to keep the inside of your hull very clean. When purchasing a fitted boat or after fitting out your own, ensure you clean up the inevitable metal shavings and scraps.

Glass boats make for a very soft ride and are now being made with improved durability. The downside is that the boat weighs more and their paint jobs can obviously be damaged when driven into hard and sharp objects.

I ultimately chose a Polycraft plastic boat because they represented a compromise. The boats are made from a durable material that rides softly, is easy to work with and are cost effective boats to purchase. However, the boats are still slightly heavier than the aluminium hulls.

Additional Installations

If you plan to fish tournaments a livewell is gradually becoming obligatory. Regardless of whether I plan to fish tournaments, my livewell is becoming a valuable installation on my boat. I still enjoy a fresh feed without having to kill excessive quantities of fish. I often throw fish into the livewell as a fishing day progresses and at the end of the day choose just the ones I need and release the others.

I like snapping photos of the fish I catch but often won’t take photos at the time of immediate capture. This is due to issues like weather or a hot bite meaning I just want to keep fishing. By throwing fish into the livewell, I am able to take photos when there is improved light or the fishing has slowed down. Livewells also give live bait anglers the ideal tool for keeping bait happy for extended periods.

The installation of electronic equipment is an issue that causes many anglers grief. The layout of wiring in the boat and the location of installed pieces of equipment need to be carefully thought out prior to cutting loose with the drill and jigsaw. I obtained the services of a good mate who is an electrician to complete most of my electrical work. Issues such as setting up fuel tank storage areas sufficiently separate from batteries are often overlooked by electrically inexperienced anglers such as myself. In my experience the result of electrical mishaps can be disastrous so if you don’t have the skills pay for them.

When installing electronic equipment such as sounders and GPS units ensure they are put in the most optimum position first time. Take some time to review how the entire boat will be laid out and how you will spend your time fishing. This will enable you to select the best location to fit your equipment so that you can actually see it when you most need to. My Humminbird electronics can be viewed from any location in the boat because I spent plenty of time modelling the best location prior to drilling holes.

It is easy to set up any boat to make fishing with lures an easier and more enjoyable experience. The information we have covered includes all the aspects I perceive as important in an efficient lurefishing boat. However, if working to a restricted budget, a subset of any of the above areas will make for more effective lurefishing. Ultimately, if I was restricted to a low budget, I would be aiming to have an electric motor and a casting deck installed. These two essential items will allow you to begin fishing straight away while you busily save some dollars to build-up the rest of your boat.

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