Customising your tinnie on a budget
  |  First Published: June 2005

Small second-hand tinnies are fairly cheap, considering the cost of a comparable craft off the showroom floor, not to mention the cost of a new power plant to push it.

Most tinnies up to $4000 can be fairly bare so how do you add that personal touch? This doesn’t mean flashy paint jobs, name-brand decals and expensive accessories, just organising it and clearing up the clutter can make a fishing experience so much more efficient and enjoyable.

This can be as cheap and cheerful as a length of plastic pipe to stow the rods all the way to custom underfloor storage if you or a mate are handy with a drill and a circular saw.


Despite what people will tell you, you do not need to spend hundreds of dollars on genuine marine ply for a false floor. Standard 16mm plywood is more than adequate. Painting standard plywood is a must to ensure its durability.

I can hear a lot of old salts rolling their eyes and saying, “It won’t last!” but I’m afraid it does – especially with coat of paint. And $50 is a lot better that $800!

Cutting it to fit neatly into your boat is another saga but the neater the fit, the fewer hooks and sinkers will make their way past the edges. Weatherproof carpet can be a handy addition to help catch all those stray pieces of tackle; just cut it slightly larger than your floor so it overlaps onto your hull. It won’t stop them all, but it stops a bit more than just bare timber.

Even if you’re sure nothing has been dropped, you should remove your false floor once every couple of months and give it a good cleanout under the ribs with an air compressor or garden hose on full jet. I blasted out 17 sinkers and five rusty hooks from under the ribs of my recently acquired second-hand tinnie.

For smaller tinnies that can’t fit a false floor, a slab of old carpet on the bottom can do wonders for cold feet in Winter and help reduce the amount of noise in the boat as well.

Rod Holders

Rod holders can have several purposes. One is to stow your rods while travelling to the boat ramp or in between fishing possies. Let’s call these Type 1 rod holders. The other is for holding the rod while bait fishing or trolling. Let’s call these Type 2 rod holders.

Type 1 generally stows the rod in a position from which fishing is not possible. By this I mean vertically (ie. rocket launchers) or lying down somewhere in the boat securely out of the way.

Type 2 can be specifically designed to be fully adjustable, removable and give fast and easy access to your rod should you get a strike. Both can be shop-bought or home-made and can be stainless steel or a form of plastic.

For Type 2 rod holders, I prefer the bought ones because they can be quite complex and have many positions they can be adjusted to. These can range between $20 and $60 each but if you look hard enough sometimes you can find them in the bargain bins much cheaper.

These holders should be mounted within easy reach of the driver and passengers. If you can afford it, see if you can purchase additional mounts for them so they can be moved to different positions. For example, in a boat with forward controls and swivel seats, position one mount about 30cm in front of you for trolling and one 30 or 40cm behind you for bait fishing when you are facing the other way.

Type 1 rod holders are easily made with some plastic pipe and if you don’t mind having these less appealing versions in your craft, then by all means slot them in. Factory-built plastic Type 1 rod holders are not that expensive anyway so you may want to go down this path.

Stowing lures and rigs

It is not uncommon for a lure junkie to swap lures several times in a session. When we put wet lures back in the tackle box we are asking for rusted hooks.

For this reason, I like to dry lures if possible before they go back in the box. A neat way to do this is to stick a piece of closed-cell foam rubber to the side of the hull with silicone. Lures, spare rigs, squid jigs and flies can be easily stabbed into this, allowed to dry and ripped out of it with little effort and, surprisingly, it lasts for years.

This also keeps lures from falling where they can stick into carpet, landing nets or feet. This sort of soft rubber can be purchased for just about nothing at rubber or refrigeration supply outlets.


Ah, yes, the spare motor nobody wants to have to use!. They take up a heck of a lot of room in small boats but they are a must to have by law and by commonsense.

To avoid them scattering about the boat you can secure them together with thin electrician’s cable ties. These are easily broken when you need the oars and help stop that annoying vibration when you’re trolling.


Another one of those big, annoying things in the way when on a day’s trolling.

I’ve seen a few pretty good ideas getting about among small boat operators. One bloke had a thick pins either side of a large square bucket. The anchor rope was wound around these pins and kept well out of the way. The biggest disadvantage was getting the deckie (me) to wind it back on after retrieving it a few times per day.

A small galvanised bucket can do the job quite well provided you haven’t got a lot of anchor rope or a very large anchor. Larger square buckets are excellent but not all small tinnies have that sort of space up front.

I’ve gone for a small patch of carpet laid down in the cavity of my bow. This has sort of acted like a shallow bucket and does contain the anchor rope quite well. Carpet doesn’t last too long (especially in the salt) but it does take a heck of a lot of the noise out of the equation and the anchor doesn’t rub on the inside of the hull as it used to.

Tools, flares and spares

This is the sort of stuff you’d like to keep dry. Thankfully, someone has been listening to us and you can now buy a flat tackle box with snap locks and a gasket seal. These are under $20 and big enough to hold a pack of flares, some basic tools and a few essential spares such as shear pins, spake plugs, trailer globes and cable ties.


Fishing can be thirsty work so some bright bloke has invented a foldable, adjustable drink holder and, yes, they do take those old styrene stubby holders. Hunt hard enough and you’ll find them for around $7 each.

A long day on a bench seat can be hard on the rump and back. Seats can keep you keen to stay on the water and make those long mulloway night sessions slightly less painful.

You can lash out and buy upholstered swivel seats but I recommend you hunt down some of those old plastic school seats and purchase the swivel base separately.

You can also buy stainless steel cigarette lighters for dash mounting in boats. Now I’m not really one for smoking close to fuel, but these are an excellent source of 12 volts for spotlights and electronics.


Where possible, try to attach everything with aluminium rivets. This will help reduce electrolysis (aluminium corrosion). Sometimes it is impossible to get a pop rivet gun into tight spaces so if you must use self-tapping screws, always use 316-grade stainless steel ones. A simple test: a magnet won’t pick up a 316 stainless screw.


If you plan on staying out after dark you must have navigation and anchor lights on your boat. You can buy removable lights that attach via suction cap but I’ve already had one set go over the side so I attached a lanyard to my second set. If you’re hard-wiring a set in, make sure they earth back to the battery and nothing is using the hull as an earth because this can promote electrolysis.

It’s quite easy to just mount the port and starboard lights laying flush on top of the foredeck but remember this is not the legal way of doing things. They should be mounted upright on a piece of aluminium or stainless angle so they can be easily seen from the side from the appropriate angles.

The anchor light is best mounted high on the windscreen of forward-control boats or on a long shaft near the stern on tiller-steer craft. If you mount your anchor light low on the bow or anywhere low in your forward vision, you will be staring into it while trying to navigate.

Now get in that shed and get to work!


Customising costs

100 stainless self-tapping screws $10
100 aluminium pop rivets$10
100 cable ties 4.6mm$10
2 metres of aluminium angle (50 x 50mm)$25
2 x 2 metres of 16mm plywood$50
2 x 2 metres of weatherproof carpet$40
Navigation lights$25
Anchor light$15
Pneumatic jockey wheel$60
Trailer lights – waterproof$40
Adjustable rod holders X4$100
Transom saver and mount$50
Thick tie-down strap$30
Seatbelt material winch strap$30
Stainless cabin lights$22
45° flush-mount rod holders$7
Fold-away drink holders$6
Electrical switch panel, fused$30
Horizontal rod holders$15 pair
Waterproof tackle (tool) box$15

60mm poly pipe – ask your plumber for off-cuts

NB: Prices are estimates

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