Giving Your Boat A Sport Fishing Makeover – Quimby's Cruising Guide

Giving Your Boat A Sport Fishing Makeover

Whether you intend to tow the family boat to the coast or rent one when you get there, if your spring or summer plans include saltwater fishing, you’ll want to come prepared with the right accessories to maximize the experience. I actually maintain a “ready bag” with a dozen items I’ve found handy when I don’t know if the boat I’ll be on is rigged for angling. Here are some of my go-to items:

Portable rod holder. If you have room for a single item when planning to fish from a boat that you aren’t certain will be so-equipped, take a portable rod holder with a rail clamp designed for temporary mounting. Most of these adapt to handholds, bow rails or even bimini top supports.

Portable fishfinder. Most major fishfinder manufacturers offer portable models that utilize a suction cup or clamp mount for the transducer and internal batteries, or plugs to allow use of the boat’s 12-volt electrical system.

Portable GPS. A GPS will allow you to find fishing spots recommended by bait shop owners and fellow anglers, make a beeline back to the boat ramp regardless of visibility and, if it has chart capabilities, complement (and hopefully confirm) your paper charts and compass information.

Portable VHF Radio. For everything from weather reports and sea conditions to listening in on local fishermen to learn where the action is taking place — let alone being able to summon assistance in the event of an emergency — a VHF radio and spare batteries is essential.

Portable bait container. Much of the fishing done in saltwater includes the use of live bait, and you need to be able to keep the critters kicking over the course of the day. I like the Frabill Flow Troll bucket ( because its design allows me to drag it slowly behind the boat to keep water flowing through holes to the bait, and bring the pail and its contents aboard without having to place it in a separate bucket or well. You can also consider portable battery-powered baitwells, several models and styles of which are available that use everything from small containers to oversized coolers as their bait basins.

Cutting board and knife. Saltwater fishing often involves cutting fish for bait. I take along a common cutting board of wood or nylon, or there are rod holder-mounted versions — and recently I found a nylon cutting board fitted with suction cups to hold onto flat surfaces that worked well.

Needle-nosed pliers. Lots of saltwater gamefish have teeth, and because you may be using live or cut bait that fish tend to swallow, you’ll need the extra reach offered by the slender jaws of these pliers. The wire-cutting capability will come in handy when you have to twist wire leaders, cut heavy mono or superbraids, or clip off a hook barb before removing it from your hide.

Boga grip. These lip-locking devices allow you to land even the toothiest fish without a net or to control a fish in the water boat-side while removing the hook when practicing catch and release. I like the original, stainless-steel Boga brand (, which are well made, stand up to the salt and have a scale built into the handle to allow you to weigh your catch without touching the fish.

Landing net. This doesn’t fit in the ditch bag, but if space allows, there are several brands of folding or telescoping landing nets on the market that break down to make transporting and stowing simpler. EGO ( makes a popular line of extendable nets, as does Frabill. You’ll want one with a handle at least 3 feet long, to reach over the side of the boat, and with a hoop diameter of at least 24 inches to handle the catch.

Author: Dan Armitage is a regular contributor to HeartLand Boating

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