Predator Blog Part Sixteen

Wed 18 December 13


Bait Boats, Mud, Lost Waders & Modifications

Al Rawlings talks about early bait boat disasters , and later the necessary modifications that has been carried out to his Micro cat boat, to tackle the large loughs of Ireland.
Love them or hate them, bait boats have helped to catch loads of pike over the years and some good one’s too, my first bait boat was back in the eighties, and this was just a toy one from the local model shop, this was simply converted to take out a bait on a flat tray at the rear, and a small wire bendy clip to hold the bomb until pulled off just at the right moment. Boy, I had some trouble with that boat, there’s one day out at Hollowell reservoir that I would like to forget but can’t, and I think it’s damaged me for life!

Fishing off the dam wall with a gentle wind off my back I took out the first bait of the day and dropped it at 100 odd yrds, then the nightmare started, I lost power and the thing just drifted off into the distance! Now this puts the angler in a strange sort of place, first it ruins the days fishing, as at some point your going to have to pack up and drive around the res to find and collect it most probably armed with waders and a landing net pole or maybe a lure rod to hook it and get your now hated pride and woe out of the wind battered reeds before someone else spots it and gets a free bait boat?


At first your angry, swearing and saying things like “good bloody riddance” to that no good piece of sh-t, then you remember the hours of work that was put into the boat and how proud you were at converting it, and would really like it back and see what went wrong to cause such a failure. I was sitting on the dam wall thinking all this and very deflated about the whole affair, with just one rod fishing, and looking through the binoculars for any sign of a white spot on the watery horizon hopefully to give some sort of indication of eventual landing position is all you can do at such times.

The Search

Eventually when I couldn’t see the white speck anymore I decided to go looking for the damn thing, I packed up and trudged back up the muddy Hollowell hill to the car park. Driving around the res, muttering and swearing about the events I arrived at the arm, it was a mild winters day and I was already sweating nicely from the hill climb back to the car earlier with all the gear, but nothing could of prepared me for the next 2 hours ahead.

Suitably dressed and with bait boat retrieval gear I made my way down to the water, binoculars at hand scouring the reed beds for any white signs, bloody swans everywhere were not making things any easier. After about an hour of searching around I eventually see it in a rather over grown area of the bay. Pleased that I’ve at least found it I made my way through the brush, over fences and ditches and through the trees near to the water and mud, yes stinky sloppy mud! Wading out I was sinking into the mud pretty badly, water bubbling and gurgling all around me, but was determined to get my boat back, then the inevitable happened my foot became stuck solid, then I lost my wader then my balance! I was now wet and covered in mud, I lost my temper again and threw everything off me and just went for it big time. Half swimming half wading through the muddy water I collected my boat. Back at the car some time later I stripped myself down and cleaned off the best I could, and then drove home in just wet underwear.
I can tell you that I abandoned the bait boat idea for quite some time after that ordeal, later using it only in a head wind or where I could retrieve it easily if something went wrong again. I think eventually the boat died and I never bought a replacement for some time after.

Surfing Lisa!

In fact it was along time after when I was in Ireland I looked at bait boats again, I was fishing a certain Lough where I had to walk in with the tackle but once there needed a bait boat to get into the start of the deeper water. I was looking around on the internet for something suitable that would be small and light weight, and came across a radio controlled surf board I kid you not! It was called “Surfing Lisa”, as it had a standing doll figure in surfing stance wearing a bikini on it! All jokes aside, she would be coming off and replaced with a hooked pike bait and bomb tube. The board actually worked pretty well at first, and caught me pike up to 23 pounds, the beauty about the surf board was I could slip it into the long side pocket on the rucksack, but eventually the rubber seal for the electronics failed and I lost her and that was that.

I was now looking for something to replace Lisa, and decided to buy a professional bait boat next, I saw plenty of potential here in Ireland for owning one, and would definitely help to catch lots of good pike over the years I’m sure. I was saving up money, and through Neville I eventually bought a Angling Technics Micro cat boat with the essential echo sounder, I also purchased the heavy duty batteries too. One day not long after it had arrived here in Ireland I wanted to echo sound a small water and took the Micro cat down with the heavy duty batteries fitted to do the sounding. All was working well, the day in question was a flat calm and sunny one, the boat was making its way up the middle of the Lough, I was looking at the sounder to note where the depth change would happen, when I saw the boat was a little low in the water, she was a long way out probably 150yrds + so was hard to see at first, she was still moving ok though but a little lower than normal I felt. Then all of a sudden the bow shot into the air and the whole boat turned over dropping the two brand new heavy duty batteries into the Lough. I was speechless!!! She then drifted to the far bank reeds still up side down. What the hell went wrong I do not know to this day? Obviously water got in, possibly through one of the pump seals? But it’s never happened again, although I’ve heard other stories like this one about the cat. I had to go home and fetch the real boat to collect the cat back. Needless to say I was not a happy camper.

Modifications Needed

After that ordeal, I was having a good think about improving the cat for pike fishing, I mean, if a disaster like that can happen in a flat calm, what about 100yrds+ in a 2ft + wave on a wild Lough going to do to it? Let’s be honest, this boat was designed for Carp fishing for a nice sunny UK gravel pit, not an Irish windswept Lough, the design as standard would let water into the boat even in a small wave through the battery inserts, I went though a faze of taping these battery holes up and using the velcro plastic covers but still water would get in, and it was a pain to keep having to tape up every time, and then take the tape off once at home to dry the inside out.

After a good think I decided to do the mods needed for some proper pike fishing, I was a little hesitant at first as it entailed using a hacksaw, but thought it was worth the risk. First I cut off the dividing bar between the two hoppers this made one big hopper for big baits and rigs, I had to seal up the two exposed ends with “Wurth” bond and seal, very good stuff I can recommend. Next I wanted to make a proper high handle so its easy to grab and make bait boating life easier. Then the water proofing, I bought two food storage boxes from asda, aprox 4” x 12” and cut out the bottoms but leaving a lip for the seal, then just bonded them on to the boat. This created two completely 100% waterproof compartments for the batteries with easy access. Next I wired in a switch for the sounder so I could turn it off when fishing shallow same depth venues to preserve battery life. Then a waterproof master power switch too, as I noticed there was some battery drain even though the boat was off? I now have a very capable and water tight bait boat, capable of 2ft + waves at 100+yrds and now when I look inside there is not the slightest sign of water anywhere. It might of lost some looks, but it really is a great work tool now, and that’s how I see all my tackle as work tools , has to be up for the job or its just no good.

It’s been a few seasons now since the mod, and I can report it’s all very good and working properly. One thing that did crop up, was the fact that the wires to the batteries are best soldered on tight, as once when the doors opened a wire must of jolted a little off one of the battery terminals and I lost power for a split second, that was enough to close her down and she floated off a couple of miles into a massive reed bed where I left her over night and then came down with the proper boat the next day to retrieve her. It only needed the blue button to be pressed again, of course you cant do this from 100+yrds away can you ! I made sure all battery connections were soldered after that, and she’s been behaving her self ever since.

She’s caught some pike for me over the years too, the best catch was a Lough caught 32.01 in February from an anchored boat, where I used the bait boat to position a bait halfway up a drop off using the echo sounder from the big boat, not long after this several high twenties followed leading up to spawning time.

The bait boat for me has become an essential part of my piking kit, I seem to take it everywhere with me nowadays, one thing I have purchased as a peace of mind, is an inflatable dinghy which I keep with me in the van for possible bait boat rescues if needed with the compulsory life jacket of course. It’s become a handy boat for fair weather short trips to islands for short sessions too, and can be deployed and blown up in less than 10 minutes if I rush it, much better than mud and lost waders don’t ya think.

Al Rawlings


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