All the fun of a rollercoaster

The benefits of fishing from small boats

By Justin Paynter

[Originally published in the November 2022 issue of SKI-BOAT magazine]

BIGGER isn’t always better. With our current petrol price sitting at R26,70 a litre, many of us need to think twice before we put our beloved boat on the water for a day’s fishing.
Based on a quick calculation, three tanks of fuel for the boat, fuel in the vehicle to get the boat to the launchsite, a boat wash, boat lunch and cool drinks, bait etc, will set you back approximately R3 000. This excludes tackle, club membership, lunch at the club and some cold ones at the wash bay afterwards.
The question is, is this sport becoming unaffordable? The answer is no!
All you need is R100 for fuel, six cool drinks or waters, and eight mackerel/red eyes or — if you’re lucky — a walla or two, to get you a decent day out on the water. And no, I’m not talking about buying a kayak and spending R100 on a pre-workout or energy bars to fuel your arms.
I am talking about fishing on what I perceive to be the ultimate fishing platform that brings more enjoyment and more time on the water than big boats can offer.
Let me break it down for you.

My 4m Crusader semi-rigid rubber duck has a unique story. After salvaging it off a rubbish dump, my father-in-law and I spent hours restoring her to probably the most pimped out inflatable on the market today.
For years I have dealt with the guys from Boat World — Carl and Donovan — and they are the masters when it comes to inflatables. They currently supply most our lifeguard vessels along the South African coastline.
having already owned a few semirigids, I knew what I was looking for in this vessel. I wanted a craft that was light enough for two guys to handle on the beach, quick in the surf and that had a set place for everything we needed to go fishing.
Armed with my list, Carl and Donovan, surpassed all my expectations.
“The Duck” is fitted with 10mm high density foam on the floor and then Flotex carpet on top. This is to reduce any impact a crew member might endure during an outing on the ocean. I have also placed foot straps on the floor for the crew member to use during launching and beaching, to help them feel safer.
We fitted a nose cone so that everything can be stowed away will not bounce around when we’re in the surf zone and take off a toe nail or three.  The nose cone is able to hold all the safety equipment, two 25 litre tanks, a fish bag, spare tackle and some food.
Next the nose cone’s upright was fitted with four rocket launcher rod holders, two cup holders and a mount for my GPS/fishfinder combo. I have also mounted two rod holders onto the transom for trolling. We are able have three sticks in the water at any given time and have a throwing rod ready just in case we come across something.
Attached to the deck is a clip strap with an Evakool cooler box to store drinks and ice inside.
I was quite specific when I got the pontoons done — I wanted the biggest ones the boat would allow for so they would be more comfortable to sit on. I also wanted an extra layer of canvas to protect the pontoons from the zips on our board shorts and the odd hook that might go astray while loading a wild ’cuda onto the boat.
Each side of the boat has been fitted with two life jacket bags — one used for storage and the other for the jackets. I have also placed a bag on either side to store phones and tackle.
I haven’t gone for a console because it takes up a lot of space, it adds a lot of weight, and more can go wrong if do turn over in the surf. On a duck like this the weight distribution is critical for a comfy ride, and I think adding a console, especially on a small boat like this, will affect the ride.
I have fitted “The Duck” with a 30hp Suzuki, but ultimately a 40hp would be ideal. I say this because there have been a few occasions that I needed a little bit more power to outrun what was behind me when beaching.
Mike Barnes from Mallards and I have played around with the prop size and this seems to have helped but, as they say, you can never have too much power.
So that’s the rig — a blow up boat with an engine… what’s the big deal? The game changer is this: Convenience.
• It’s easy to tow.
• It’s easy to launch (launchable from any launch site and also very forgiving in the surf).
• It’s light on fuel.
• You don’t need many friends — one is enough (we all know how unreliable crew can be).
• You are able to travel to different launch sites when you hear the fish are around and launch there. On a big boat, it’s not always that easy, especially if you require a tractor to put your boat in.
• It allows you to fish differently to how you would on a big boat (see details below of what this boat has taught me).
• It takes just 30 minutes to wash and pack away.
• Most importantly, it hardly impacts family time. Your wife will let you fish more than you think because you will launch, fish and beach before she has even decided which breakfast spot you will be taking her to.
This boat has taught me a lot about fishing, including:
• The art of dead bait fishing.
• It has taught me not to take too much stuff with me. It’s actually crazy how carried away we get with tackle if you have space for it on the boat.
• It’s taught me to perfect the art of gaffing. There has only been one occasion on which we had to pull out the duct tape to patch a hole. We actually carried on our afternoon’s fishing trip after we’d done the patch.
Guys, don’t knock it till you have tried it. Many people have been sceptical until they have actually been out on “The Duck”; afterwards they have either fallen in love with her or have gone out and bought one for themselves.
Don’t take my word for it, give me a ring or drop me a DM on instagram jt_paynter and let me put you through an Umdloti shorebreak. Hopefully we’ll have ’cuda by 7.30am and be back home by 9am, getting ready for breakfast with your better half. That R200 fishing trip sounds a lot more appetising now, doesn’t it?

The other benefit of fishing from a small boat like this is the added excitement.
Who doesn’t love a racing heartbeat and having your tongue stuck to the top of your mouth while you decide to push into a 3ft shorebreak? A surf launch is exhilarating; it’s like the Incredible Hulk rollercoaster at Universal Orlando Resort — always unexpected and keeping you hoping you make it out alive.
So why do we do it? High risk equals high reward.
Some areas are blessed with a sheltered launch like Durban Ski-Boat Club and Richards Bay, but others aren’t, and getting to the fishing grounds means making it behind back line unscathed.
Generally, if you are launching from a sheltered site you have to travel great distances to reach the good fishing areas, so the questions is, do I save a grand or two and put my equipment through the surf or do I pay the fuel bill and not even get my feet wet?
For me, the answer is simple — travel to where the fish are!
In this case, that means a surf launch wherever you are going.
Preparation for a surf launch is important, especially when you are doing it on one engine and you don’t have a back up to save you. If it dies in the surf, well … then it becomes interesting.
One of my good mates, Ryan Dalton, will be able to tell you all about that. We did a mid-afternoon launch off Umdloti in April. The’cuda were wild, but the surf was cracking and the backline was a solid 5ft. Having a two-stroke engine, we pre-warmed it, and the hull of the duck had been sprayed with Mr Min which helps to get the boat into the water a lot easier.
We were ready to go when Ryan turned to me and said, “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Right, let’s go,” I replied.
We hit the water in magnificent  style, not even getting wet. After two quick turns in the shorebreak, we were heading for the backline, the words “Go! Go! Go!” ringing in the air when Ryan saw what was standing up in front of us.
The next second, the engine died and all we had time to do was brace ourselves as we took a green monster on the nose. The boat was swamped, and it was the first time I thought, “Is this the day you’re going over, Paynter?”
I pulled that pull start like a hyperactive child who has just demolished a slab of chocolate. The engine fired up and I managed to get us on the plane. We were soon back in action — nose pointing out again, headed for the honey hole, when lo and behold, the engine died again. This time we took two over the boat, and as the third one was standing up, Ryan turned to me and said “I’m out!”
The next thing I knew, Ryan was looking like Chad le Clos streaking through the water heading for the beach, while I was stuck on a swamped boat being pushed sideways towards the shore. I jumped back on the engine, pumping the bulb and pulling the cord, and eventually I managed to get it going!
I drained the water with some shift turns and beached the duck. After some colourful words were exchange on the beach between Ryan and I, we pushed back out and the rest is history — we beached later that afternoon with four ’cuda in the bag.
As I said, a lot goes into a pre-launch preparations and getting the boat ready, and you must be prepared for the unexpected. Fortunately I also had peace of mind as I knew I had comprehensive insurance cover with Club Marine and if the worst had to happen, they would take care of my craft.
Make sure you are careful and don’t take unnecessary risks, but come on, live a little. Take a ride on the wild side by trying fishing on a small boat — it’s where our sport started, and you might just develop a love for a new aspect of fishing … and save a lot of money on your fuel bill.

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