When buying a boat, consider its uses

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Well-equipped: The Tracker V175 Combo is considered by some boating experts to be a great choice because of its versatility. It is available at Bass Pro Shops in Portage. | Supplied photo

Some folks ply Lake Michigan’s tributaries in search of salmon. Others prefer taking bass from shallower waters. There are those who like to pull fish from the bottom, while others troll with spinners in hopes of landing walleye.

Every fan of fishing is unique, said Mike Vargo, marine manager at Bass Pro Shops in Portage, and that’s why his store doesn’t offer a generic “starter” package for those people in the market for a new fishing boat.

Rather, he said, there are so many customizable variables that he tries to get to know each customer before selling them equipment that might not be right for them.

For example, though a $3,000 precision fish finder that can map the bottom of a waterway and distinguish between a submerged stump and a clump of mud may make many anglers salivate, its power and resolution may be wasted on bass fishers, whose prey doesn’t often lurk in waters’ lower regions. There are units that will work fine for some types of fishing that cost under $100, Vargo said.

Because of the wide range of boating opportunities available in Northwest Indiana, ranging from Lake Michigan and its tributaries to smaller, inland lakes, Vargo said he recommends boats in the 17- to 18-foot range for those who want to take advantage of all the nearby waters.

“At that size, they can still handle the bigger waves you can get on Lake Michigan, but it’s still small enough to get into the inland waterways,” he said.

But after that, no two boats leaving the lot at Bass Pro Shops are likely to be just alike.

Anchors a plenty

Even the iconic anchor, seemingly a constant in the boat industry, has gotten a technological facelift. At the top of the line of the bottom of the line, so to speak, there are different types of anchors for different kinds of boating. For someone who fishes smaller, inland lakes, Vargo recommends an electric anchor, which will deploy and retract at the touch of a button. Others may be better served by a trolling motor equipped with “iPilot” technology, which uses GPS readings to keep a boat within a 5-foot radius of a designated point. Those who routinely fish shallower, moving water may prefer a “spike” to a regular anchor. The spike can descend about 8-feet from the end of a boat and lodge into a riverbed more effectively than traditional weighted anchors.

Motors for boaters

There are a variety of motors for boaters to choose from as well, but Vargo advises customers not to skimp on horsepower.

“Again, it depends on someone’s needs,” he said. “But it’s not a good idea to get a motor below 75 percent of a boat’s horsepower rating,” he said.

A motor that doesn’t pack enough punch may not enable a boat to handle Lake Michigan’s waves on a windy day, or it may struggle to move a fully loaded watercraft through even calm waters. And those who want to pull a waterskier or someone on an innertube should take speed into account as well, he said.

With the exception of the size of the boat itself, boats are always upgradable and can be retrofitted with fancier equipment as the needs of a boater change. That said, there is no “starter package” for someone purchasing their first watercraft, Vargo said.

“Once again, we have to get to know the customer before we know what’s right for them,” he said. “What’s the size of their family? We have to fit everybody who’s going to regularly be going out. Are they going to be just fishing, or skiing and tubing?”

And, of course, the type of fishing one will be doing affects one’s purchase as well. For some, a smaller bass boat will be just fine. For others, Vargo said, a good place to start would be a Tracker 17-foot Pro V175 Combo, he said.

“It’s a versatile boat,” Vargo said.

And like all Bass Pro Shops’ watercraft, it can be customized to do exactly what the boater wants.

For more information about boats at Bass Pro Shops, call (219) 787-1869.