Here are some images that show the S4 in the new Gator Drab Green color. This color and similar ones are popular among Jon boat users, since it blends well with the surroundings in inland fisheries, and it serves as a good base for camouflage. Duck hunters will be interested in it as well, for similar reasons.
On lakes and slow moving rivers, marshes and flats, and whether it is paddled with kayak or canoe paddles, or outfitted with outboard motors and mud motors, if you’re able to see this boat, it will look good anywhere.
Our retirement community of about 2,300 people in Citrus Hills, Florida held its annual Activity Club Showcase yesterday where leaders of the many clubs and activities offered were provided tables on which to display handouts and other club materials. I drafted a handout on the Kayak Fishing Club I established last year and made it available along with other materials highlighting the fishery along Florida’s Nature Coast. I included handouts and pictures describing and depicting the Wavewalk, and answered questions about the sport and fishing kayak types.
While most of the old fogies attending congregated around the poker and bridge club tables, a few of the more adventurous ones stopped by expressing interest in the club. I offered “show-me” outings to a couple who wished to give my Wavewalk a try.
All in all, it was a good three hours spent. Hopefully, it will result in a few more club members.
“My father is retired, and he owns a sixty thousand dollar bass boat that he takes out maybe twice a year, but he fishes out of his Wavewalk nearly every day.” -Clint Harlan, Missouri
Different boats with many similarities
Bass boats and flats boats have a lot in common, and they also differ from each other in some details. Depending on their size and the speed required from them, these two families of small to medium size motorboats are propelled by one or more outboard gas engines, and they are relatively wide for their overall size. The decks of both types of fishing boats are generally flat, and they don’t feature a cabin. Both types of boats feature a special casting area in the front of their deck, where one and sometimes two anglers can sit or stand, and cast comfortably. Both bass boats and flats boats are stable, and their hulls are designed to have a shallow draft, which is why they are generally more flat than the deeper hulls of boats designed to travel offshore, in rough seas. All these boats are comfortable to travel in and fish from, and the more expensive ones offer a plethora of amenities that make traveling and fishing easier, more comfortable, and more enjoyable for their crew.
Another noticeable difference between flats boats and bass boats is color – Flats boats tend to come in light colors, predominantly white, and bass boats tend to have a dark hull, with dark blue being their more popular color.
Many people who own a flats boat use it inland, in freshwater, as a bass boat, but it seems that the opposite is less commonly practiced.
Flats boats are skiffs designed primarily for saltwater, and in general, their makers strive to enable them to go in more ‘skinny’ water, namely very shallow water. They are named ‘flats boats’ after the wide stretches of flat, shallow water in coastal areas in the southern regions of the United States.
How shallow can you go?
Fishing in shallow water is the raison d’être of flats boats, skiffs, etc. This is where fishers of all disciplines, from reel and fly fishing to net casting strive to get those big redfish, snook, seatrout, snapper, tarpon and many other species that live typically in those rich fisheries.
When push comes to shove, it’s the depth of the propeller that determines how shallow the water you can go in can be, and not just the number of inches that the hull drafts.
Unless a boat is outfitted with a special outboard motor called ‘mud motor’, the effective depth where you can drive it is about one foot of water, or more. This is because even a small propeller is about 8 inches in diameter, and it rotates at least an inch below the anti ventilation plate (often referred to as anti cavitation plate), which itself is required to be immersed in one to two inches of water below the hull’s lowest point (typically, its keel). And naturally, you need some good clearance between the propeller and the bottom of the body of water in which you’re navigating, or else… Needless to say that the water you drive in has to be free of seaweed and other types of aquatic vegetation that’s likely to snag your propeller. These are the reasons why you need an alternative mode of propulsion for the really ‘skinny’ water, and this alternative is poling – The quintessential element that makes a boat a flats boat is the poling platform featuring at the stern, and some flats boats are dubbed ‘poling skiff’.
Poling? Come on…
Opinions differ as to how effective poling is in terms of covering any meaningful distance, because in the first place, not too many people are sufficiently fit to pole, and even an athletic, experienced and highly motivated pole pusher cannot move a skiff at a speed that’s comparable to the speed achieved in kayaks and canoes. As for poling against a current, even such as in a slow moving river, and let alone a faster, tidal current – good luck with that. Being flat bottomed, flats boats don’t offer very good directional stability, and their high deck structures tend to catch wind, and for these reasons, plus the overall size and weight of the vessel, poling in unfavorable wind conditions must be ruled out.
To be fair, it would be hard for one person to move a fairly large and heavy boat such as a flats boat just by using their muscles. These boats don’t lend themselves to human powered propulsion, whether it’s paddling, rowing, or poling.
It seems like the only effective human powered mode of propulsion for boats this size could be stand-up sculling, which is a traditional method that’s still popular in Asia, especially with heavier boats. But stand-up sculling is a technique that requires a skilled and experienced rower, namely someone who’s in excellent shape and rows frequently, and let’s face it, this requirement doesn’t fit the description of our typical weekend flats fisherman…
Hey, what about me?
The person who activates the push pole in a flats boat can help their fishing buddy by identifying fish from the height of their poling platform, but they are pretty much prevented from taking part in actual fishing action. Too bad for them…
Whenever you fish in skinny water that’s affected by tides, you risk getting stranded as the tide ebbs, and this means you and your fishing buddy would have to spend many more hours together, and in the company of mosquitoes. Lots of them… In other words, skinny water capabilities are not just about fishing.
Putting in, taking out, etc.
Being full fledged boats, you can launch neither a bass boat nor a flats boat from a beach, let alone one where rocks and oyster beds are present, and you can’t launch from a dock either. You need a facility known as a boat ramp that allows you to access water that’s deep enough with the trailer on which you transport your boat. Such boat ramp has to have a parking lot too, for you and other boat owners like yourself to park your vehicles and trailers. Driving to a boat ramp takes time, waiting for other boaters to launch and beach may take additional time, launching takes some extra time, and so does parking. And none of these activities is something to look forward to, because they’re not fun. Taking your boat out is equally frustrating in terms of time wasted on doing other things that are not fishing.
In dollar terms
Buying, operating and maintaining a bass boat or a flats boat isn’t cheap. However, we will not discuss these well known issues because we assume that if you’re reading this article, you can afford such expenses. Whether you would want to spend this money if you had a good, cheaper alternative to owning such a boat is another question. After all, owning a big and expensive boat offers other advantages that are not directly related to fishing.
In sum, neither bass boats nor flats boats are very practical for really shallow water and for shorter trips.
Not an alternative, really
No sensible angler would consider a SOT or sit-in kayak (SIK) to be an alternative to a full fledged motorboat, because of the obvious shortcomings of fishing kayaks, which are that they are extremely uncomfortable, wet, and slow, and paddling or pedaling them takes too much time and energy. A kayak’s range of travel is limited, even with an electric trolling motor, and besides – why did we even bother to mention these kayaks in the first place?…
Canoes are OK for a crew of two paddlers (well, sort of), but they don’t work well for one paddler, and motorizing a canoe is problematic.
As for Jon boats, dinghies, and other smaller fishing boats, you need a trailer to transport them, and you can’t paddle them effectively.
While the W500 is unrivaled in the world of kayaks, it is limited as far as load capacity is concerned. Its 360 lbs capacity is fine for one large size fisherman, an outboard motor, and plenty of fishing gear, but that’s about it – no carrying capacity for another large size fishing buddy, and this can be a problem for many people who are used to fish in crews of two. And this is where the perfect alternative can be introduced: The Wavewalk 700. This new boat does more than effectively bridging the worlds of kayak fishing and regular fishing from boats – It offers a range of benefits that in some cases make it a better solution than bass boats and flats boats –
The ultra lightweight (80 lbs) W700 can carry on board 580 lbs of passengers, motor and gear, which is enough for two full size fishermen, their fishing gear, and a powerful outboard. The 6 hp outboard featuring in our demo movies is overkill for it. The W700 offers all the advantages listed above for the W500, namely easy car-topping, easy launching anywhere you want, easy paddling, skinny water mobility, easy stand up fishing, comfort, storage, stand up paddling and fishing, etc., plus full tandem capabilities, for both short and long trips. This makes the W700 both a full solo and a full tandem car-top boat and paddle craft, and if you tried to go on a fishing trip in a bass boat or a flats boat by yourself, without a fishing buddy, you’d probably agree that neither of these full-fledged boat types are optimal for one person to use on solo fishing trips. It can be done, but it’s not that much fun.
The W700 is a unique watercraft, and you’re likely to appreciate it either as a great alternative to a bass boat or a flats boat, or simply as a new type of fishing boat that redefines the market.
Driving a motorized fishing kayak or a small motorboat is easier than paddling, and using a motor offers anglers additional advantages, such as a longer range of travel, a chance to spend less time on getting to remote fisheries and more time fishing there, and increased safety and independence in the presence of strong currents and winds. But being easier than paddling doesn’t necessarily mean that driving these motorized kayaks and small boats is comfortable and pleasant. In fact, it may not be easy, especially in rough water and over long distances.
What makes steering a small boat comfortable?
The ergonomics of steering a small boat or a motorized kayak are simple and easy to understand, and the basic factor that determines in what way the boat can be steered is the stability it offers.
Wider boats –
Small boats that are wide enough to provide a high degree of stability, such as wide dinghies and especially inflatable dinghies, offer their driver to sit next to the outboard motor, in the rear corner of the stern, facing the other side of the boat, and thus holding the tiller rather comfortably while moving it forward and backward relatively to their torso, a motion that is not physically demanding. The ergonomic problem with this posture is the need to turn one’s head and torso sideways in order to face the boat’s direction of motion, and this can be straining over long drives and in choppy water. Another disadvantage in this driving position is the decreased stability when making a sharp turn to side where the driver is seated, especially in rough water. Generally, these wide boats offer plenty of stability, but little means for their passengers to balance themselves, and this is true for the driver as well.
Narrower boats –
Other, narrower and therefore less stable boats such as smaller dinghies, Jon boats, small skiffs a.k.a. microskiff, large square stern canoes, etc. force the driver to drive from a position that’s closer to the boat’s center line, and therefore more forward of the outboard and away from the stern area. A stabler design may allow the driver to sit in an intermediary position between the above described sideways facing position and a forward facing position, and consequently, with their arm holding the tiller stretched behind them, to some degree. A narrower, less stable boat, forces its driver to sit in front of the motor, with their torso turned fully sideways, and the arm that’s holding the tiller stretched behind their back while their legs are somehow stretched forward, in a visibly non-ergonomic posture. Using an articulated (U-jointed) tiller extension can help in such cases by allowing the driver to sit while facing forward and holding the tiller extension on their side. However, not all small boats can offer such an option, since in many cases their rear seat or bench (i.e. driver seat) is too close to the stern and therefore to the motor attached to it.
The driver’s seat
After stability, the second most important factor that determines driving comfort is the driver’s seat. Typically, small fishing boats come with a bench type seat, or a box type seat. Since these seats offer the driver to sit higher than common kayak seats do, they are more comfortable, but still, benches and boxes don’t offer much in terms of comfort or the ability to balance yourself easily, which is critical when small boats are concerned. Some small boats are outfitted with padded swivel seats that are usually higher than a bench or a box. A swivel seat certainly improves the driver’s comfort, but it doesn’t necessarily improve the driver’s ability to balance themselves, and sometimes it may even reduce it.
The personal watercraft (PWC a.k.a. jet-ski) is a small boat worth mentioning in the context of this discussion, as these high-performance sports boats feature a high, longitudinal saddle that offers their drivers both a powerful and ergonomic sitting posture, as well as optimal balancing. But jet-skis also feature a steering bar located in front of the driver, in contrast with the above mentioned typical small boats.
What works best for the driver?
If you had drive any vehicle, be it on land or on water, or in the air, you’d want to face forward, and not sideways – to any extent. This is such a basic notion that it requires little or no explanation. Simply put, we’re built this way, and any other posture is between sub-optimal and most uncomfortable.
You want to sit high so that your legs can do their job in supporting your upper body and helping you in balancing yourself. Sitting at floor level with one’s legs stretched in front of them is called the L kayaking position, and it makes kayaks so notoriously uncomfortable and unfit for fishing, at least when sensible anglers are concerned.
Good distance between one’s feet
Sitting with your feet close to each other is both uncomfortable and unstable, and any seating arrangement in a small boat should offer the driver the comfort and stability provided by having their feet located at a good distance from each other, preferably on both sides of their body, such as in the riding posture offered by jet-skis and Wavewalk’s twin-hull kayaks and boats.
Again, when driving anything from a bicycle to a jet fighter or a mega-yacht, you want to hold a steering device that’s located in front of you – Not on your side, and especially not behind you… You want to be able to manipulate this device easily, and hold it with both hands if necessary, such as in adverse conditions, or if you simply feel like it. This steering device can be a bar, as found in bikes, all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles and jet-skis, a steering wheel, such as in cars and boats, or a joystick, such as in airplanes and Wavewalk 700 microskiffs. The steering device should not be placed too low, and the driver should be able to somehow lean on it, or at least have their hands rest on it, for more comfort.
Stand up steering
Jet-skis and any reasonable-size boat that features a steering wheel can be driven standing up. This capability is important for both navigation and ergonomics, as well as for finding fish, and last but not least, for fun, because all these small boats should be fun to drive, since their main purpose is to help people have fun on the water.
Types of steering add-on systems for outboards
The owners of small fishing boats can choose between several types of add-on steering systems for outboards. These systems use either steel cables, hydraulic cables or electric / electronic components. If your boat is permanently docked somewhere or its motor is quasi permanently attached to it because the boat requires transportation by trailer, you are free to choose any steering system. But if your boat is lightweight enough to be car-topped, you need to detach the outboard from it each time that you transport it, which means that the steering system you choose should be easy and quick to attach and detach, and this is where Wavewalk’s joystick steering system shines – It literally takes a few seconds to attach it, or shall we say plug it in, and detach it. No tools are required, and you can even ‘unplug’ it when you’re in the middle of a fishing trip, in case you prefer to have the saddle in front of you free of any object that might interfere with your fishing – You just ‘unplug’ (pull out) the joystick’s base and drop it in the hull behind you, and forget about it until you want to start the motor and drive again. Wavewalk’s joystick steering system offers all the advantages mentioned in this article, including the ability to drive standing up in full comfort and confidence.
One of the great fisheries we have here in Washington State is the pink salmon. They run every two years (so every odd year). They are plentiful and aggressive on anything that is pink. They also have a habit of migrating close to shore. This makes them very accessible to shore fishermen and they are a lot of fun. They are not as desirable on the table as some of the other salmon, but they do better than most fish (it is just that we are spoiled out here on the West Coast). Because of their numbers there is healthy limit (4 salmon) and so a lot of people pursue them. This creates the situation known as “combat fishing.” Fishing elbow to elbow on the rivers. NO THANKS! That is where the Wavewalk comes in. We are able to launch at a park in the City of Tacoma and hit the mouth of the Puyallup River (where the fish are headed) and fish without all the crowds. There are still quite a few boats that come by but it is nothing like the river. Great having a boat that can get you where the fish are and away from the crowds!