Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Time for a Change

Saying Goodbye to an Era
This time of year brings me back to my days growing up in Eleva, Wisconsin.  The first part of April meant the suckers were biting and at 10 years old my friend Kevin and I would be the first to dig worms in the newly thawed soil and head down behind Bud Tollefson's to catch them from the bank.  A simple hook and sinker along with a branch stuck in the ground, we would catch fish there as well as our other typical haunts on the Buffalo River such as Trix's, The Culvert, The Trestle, The Buffalo Bridge, and Catfish.  As soon as we secured our driver's license it was off to rent a row boat at Wilbur's, located just up river from Alma, Wisconsin in the back sloughs of the Mississippi River to catch the northern pike that had just got done spawning.  We didn't travel very far in those boats but we sure caught fish.  Soon Kevin secured a 14 foot aluminum boat from Ray Filla of Independence, who's wife was Ardis Bue, daughter of our good friend Claude and Ardelene Bue. Finding a 1950's vintage 10 hp direct drive Merc outboard, the kind that turned the prop the second the motor ran and reverse was turning the motor 180 degrees, we were in seventh heaven.  A couple of years later in 1980 Kevin noticed a boat that was in Paul Wichmann's pasture so for $200 and using a trailer that my brother Steve had, I bought it. All the wood was rotted so I replaced the seat and the transom, threw a 15 hp Evinrude tiller on it and was in business.  2 years later I sold the motor to Tom McAtee, the boat to another guy and bought a new 1982 Lund S14 DLX with a 25 hp Evinrude tiller.  In 1986 my next boat was a 1985 Lund Pro Angler with a 50 hp Mercury tiller followed in 1988 with a 16 foot Lund Nisswa Guide, both bought from my good friend Chuck Teasley.  On the Nisswa Guide I eventually swapped out the 45 hp tiller for a 55 hp Suzuki tiller as it was simply too heavy for that Merc.  By 1990 I upgraded to a 1989 Ranger 680T with the same Suzuki, in 1993 a 17 foot Skeeter S135 and a 75 hp Mariner tiller.  In 2001 I traded it for a 20 foot Ranger 620T with a 4 stroke Suzuki 115 hp tiller and in 2009 I did the same again.  All of my fishing boats for the last 40 years have had one thing in common, a tiller controlled motor, it's a matter of convenience and fishing style.  Last year's fishing opener found me in a concerning situation as I hit another boat while cruising towards Pine Point.  Although no one was hurt it really got me thinking about the events that lead up to this, my lack of visibility, and letting myself fall into the scenario of not being in total control.  As well, it was getting harder to turn the 115 tiller and yes, I understand one can get a power assist for it, but at 60 years old I finally decided that after over 50 years of fishing, it was time for a change.

Ranger 620 FS with the New Evinrude G2, 250 hp HO
At this year's St. Paul Sport Show my first stop was Frankie's Marine display, just as you come in.  I have been doing business with him since 1989 and have never looked back.  We discussed my thoughts and concerns and of course he had the solution I should consider.  A couple more visits and I pulled the trigger on a new Ranger 620 FS with a full walk thru windshield and steering wheel. Hanging on the back I decided to go back to Evinrude with their newly designed from scratch E-Tec G2, 250 hp HO model that really has a lot of nice features.  In addition, Ranger's come with the best trailer in the business and I have never had a bit of trouble with them.  After running 4 stroke Suzuki's for 14 years it will be interesting to see the changes in these new 2 stroke engines.  Not wanting to give up either back or forward trolling, the boat will come with a 9.9hp 4 stroke kicker motor to meet the slower speeds and boat control needed, I just won't be able to control it from the back anymore. The other interesting thing is the new Motorguide bow mounted trolling motor which communicates with my Lowrance electronics.  The old 620T had the Minnkota I-pilot with the anchor lock position and although it worked well the accuracy of staying in one position was about +/- 30 feet whereas the new Motorguide reports verify a +/- 5 feet, which is significantly better when holding on a structure. Because of the communication with the Lowrance electronics one can now simply control the trolling motor through the screen on my depthfinder, something the Minnkota would only work with a Humminbird since Johnson Fishing acquired both (I think this is a big mistake but....).  Some of my friends have stated, sure Dave now you can go even faster but all reports state that the ideal cruising speed for the best economy is around 30 mph, at about half throttle where the fuel usage is not much different that my Suzuki at 30 mph.  The other thing that's nice is Ranger offer's a limited edition color with matching engine panels as shown above.  One of the nice things about dealing with Frankie is he knows my boats pretty well and without even seeing my 620T we agreed on a price knowing it would be in excellent shape.  It sold pretty fast which is good and bad, good for Frankie but bad if my boat doesn't get here in time for opener!  Part of the fun will be organizing my gear, thinking about the best fishability for my style, where am I going to put what, and just getting to know all of the nuances of the new rig.

The ice is going out pretty early this year as most of the lakes south of Brainerd Minnesota are now open.  The extended forecast looks like Leech will be prime for our 42nd annual Team Walleye event and the following weekend should find me back at Lac Seul for the Canadian opener.  Trying to get all of my chores done prior to fishing season I took off the snow blower and cab off the lawn tractor assuming it doesn't snow anymore and installed a front mounted dethatcher and the lawn vacuum. It should make short work of the spring lawn work and help the spring green up.  With a nice weekend forecasted it will be a good time to burn my garden and get the asparagus beds ready, I have over 100 plants and there is nothing better than fresh asparagus coated with olive oil and thrown on the grill.


Jeff King said...

How exciting, getting a new boat. If ya can do it why not, this ain't a dress rehearsal. I went the other way, after 25 years of center console I went to the tiller...and still fight with it a bit. The steering kinda forces you to look ahead maybe just because you're not tucked away at the back of the boat and you sit up higher. Like you, my next boat will have a steering station, gas ride helm seat, lowrance brand electronics, Rule pumps, all l.e.d. lights and ....of course, beer holders.

Jeff King said...

And ya know Dave, comes a day when other things are as important as the catching...and that's a wonderful place. I say this because the tiller is certainly quicker and more versatile and of course makes the boat bigger...but...comfort, safety,...and never mind that the new Ranger is one sexy machine and looks to be a better 'big water' boat.

Beaver Creek Cabins & Guide Service said...

I was a Ranger tiller guy and was reluctant to move up to a larger motor and console. All I can say is with a little saddle time and removing the muscle memory from running a tiller, you're going to love it. And that 30mph thing, even though your boat can go a lot faster, the reality is with rough water you're not going to run any faster than that. Other than when it's flat calm, you're going to be running 1/2 to 3/4 throttle anyway. Can't wait to see actual photos of your rig.

Anonymous said...


It has been 50 years of waiting for the best ever and your there big brother !!!! Enjoy the sh-- out of it and remembering the small guys that all have to start out like we did..

love ya man


Dave Anderson said...

I appreciate the feedback from the "Pro's"!!! With more trips to Lac Seul and possibly Lake Oahe, the bigger boat will be nice. The good news is that if I don't like it, its easier to trade down.

And for Jeff.....As I have always said, if you're not catching fish at least you're lookin good!

Duane said...

Lookin' good is the most important thing....

Kent Garner said...

Thank you for sharing the kinds of boats you’ve used throughout the years. You are truly a fishing aficionado! Good luck with your new boat, and may you have wonderful new adventures in it, Jeff! Cheers!

Kent Garner @ Whites Marine Center