Look closely at Gerald Wiser's Crestliner pontoon, and you'll notice two boats in one — a prudent combination in this time of stretching interests and a gallon of fuel.
"I can take a cruise, do some serious fishing, or both," says Wiser of his floating playground on Tennessee's Cumberland River outside Nashville. "I can have twice the fun with half the expense."
Wiser grew fond of leisurely forays along the meandering river, yet occasionally longed for his bass boat when he passed by a favorite fishing spot. Jim Duckworth, who converted Wiser's aluminum bass craft, provided boating bliss by morphing the pontoon into a fishing rig with five do-it-yourself additions.
1: On the bow, Duckworth added a trolling motor featuring autopilot and remote control. Now Wiser can sit astern munching on a snack with one hand, while using the other to press a remote control and maneuver his 20-footer around a fishing hotspot or ease it into a boat slip. "He can troll up to 3 mph and not burn any fuel," brags Duckworth of the 80-pound-thrust Minn Kota Terrova. A removable mount opens up more deck space in the bow when needed.
2: Two traditional swiveling fishing chairs were welcome additions to the bow. Without them, Wiser would be using wobbly lawn chairs or standing a lot. With them, he can sit down with that snack and stay on top of the action.
3: Driftmaster Lil' Pro rod holders ($24.99; cabelas.com) bolt on the pontoon rails and keep rods positioned horizontally for fishing tightline over deep cover, or they can be adjusted-position rods for trolling. "I can see all of my rods from any vantage point in the boat, so I can grab a cold drink from the cooler without missing a bite," notes Wiser.
4: An Igloo cooler retrofitted with a portable battery-operated aerator keeps live bait healthy and ready for use when game fish want the real thing instead of fakes (see Keeping Bait Alive, July/August 2008).
5: A Humminbird 787ci Combo sonar unit (from $774 at cabelas.com) was the real coup. It comes with a 16-channel GPS, track plotter and chart plotter, and is preloaded with Navionics electronic fishing charts with premarked hotspots.
"The bow mount is convenient and essential," acknowledges Wiser. "It gives me a view below the water surface when approaching a structure, instead of what I've already passed."
It goes with out saying, Wiser doesn't long for that bass boat anymore.