Here in Pennsylvania we have two of the best smallmouth waters in the country. The Susquehanna and Juniata rivers offer superb smallmouth fishing, but with a price. As both rivers meander through the Pennsylvania countryside, they slice their way through the foundation…
Here in Pa. we have two of the best smallmouth waters in the country. The Susquehanna and Juniata rivers offer superb smallmouth fishing, but with a price. As both rivers meander through the Pennsylvania countryside, they slice their way through the foundation of the state rock. And this rock isn’t flat.
To navigate water this shallow, a fiberglass boat with a prop driven outboard won’t get the job done. A flat bottom boat with a jet drive instead of a prop will get you to the fish. The boat size of choice is a 17′ long, 65″ wide bottom “john boat” style of craft. Most look for hull thickness of .100, but .125 or thicker is better. If you fish water this shallow long enough, you WILL hit rock at some point. Aluminum will dent, but in most cases won’t puncture.
Most boats of this size will have a 90/65HP motor on the back. The reason for the 65 in the 90/65HP is that a jet drive will loose approximately 1/3 the horsepower due to the jet drive. Some of us have a “tunnel” hull installed to make boat draft shallower while on plane. Instead of the hull being flat across where the transom meets the hull, a recessed tunnel is installed so the intake for the motor is slightly above the lowest point of the hull. This helps to keep the intake for the jet pump from striking against rock/wood/debris while on plane.
Steering of the craft can be with a console similar to one found in a fiberglass rig, but many of us use “stick” steering with a front mounted seat just behind the small front deck. Since no steering wheel is used like on a mid craft mounted console, a left hand controlled cable goes from the motor to a stick control left of the driver seat. This control stick when moved forward turns the boat right, pushed backward turns the boat left. When the stick points skyward, the boat goes straight. Throttle control is on a throttle lever like in boats with a console and steering wheel mounted to the right of the driver seat. Having the driver seat mounted up front allows for the best view of the river and “reading” of the shallow water.
Unlike the higher end tournament style boats, less is more. Completely decked boats offering lots of storage work well in glass boats, but in running water less than 1′ deep, less is more. A small front and rear deck with an open floor in the middle of the boat lessens the overall weight and allows the boat to draft shallower. Most will move the trolling motor batteries to the front area of the boat to offset the weight of the motor in the back of the boat. Making the boat sit level front to rear helps the boat draft shallower than a boat that is heavier in the stern.
An average river boat on the local rivers here will draft in about 10″ of water while fishing and 6″ while running on plane. But that doesn’t mean Pennsylvania limestone doesn’t come in contact with your boat. But with a properly set up boat and careful navigation of the river, you can get to where the fish are with minimal chance of hitting bottom.