Owning and operating a modestly priced powerboat is still something many Americans can afford — and justify — even when the stock market isn't soaring. To prove this point, I went fishing.
It started last summer with a conversation with a co-worker. My contention was that a weekend on the water isn't any more expensive than a golf outing or a road trip to a football game, and still represented a bargain in terms of vacation spending. Various sums were batted about, and we finally agreed that something like $400 would suffice for a two-day golf getaway for two or a tailgate adventure for four. Could I pull off a fishing trip for the same coin? Only one way to find out: Take a road trip with a relatively thin wallet.
Step one was tacking a couple of extra days onto an existing business trip to Springfield, Missouri. Once there, I'd rendezvous with an old friend and then head for the lake...or the river...or where? And with what?
The Perfect (Borrowed) Boat
The next best thing to owning a boat is being able to borrow one from a manufacturer's demo fleet — it's one of the perks of being a boating writer. A moderate-size aluminum fishing boat would be the way to go, and it just so happens that Missouri is home to several of the country's premier aluminum-boat builders, including G3, which had recently introduced a new model: the Eagle 176.
The 176 is an interesting new concept for G3. It's built on an economical, easy-planing jon-boat hull, but has the deck configuration of a dual-console bass boat, with pedestal fishing chairs front and back, plus livewells, a trolling motor and a fish finder for productive outings. Weighing in at a little more than 1,000 pounds and measuring a bit less than 18 feet, the boat would be easy to tow through the foothills — even with the midsize Toyota Tacoma we'd be using.
We test so many boats with big motors, when the reality is that 50 horsepower and under dominate the recreational market — so for this adventure, we went with a 50 hp Yamaha. The light weight of the boat would ease the cost at the gas pump for the Tacoma, and the modest motor would do the same for the boat.