Fishing the Florida Keys...(Sept./Oct. 2000 edition)
Interview with Capt. Buddy LaPointe
Innovative flats boat has lots of fishing-friendly features.
In silhouette, the Fishin' Buddy's lines are easy to appreciate. Capt. Buddy LaPointe worked with the manufacturer to customize his 23-foot craft.
Capt. Buddy LaPointe has been charter fishing in the Marathon area of the Florida Keys for over twenty years. Although he broke into the business by fishing bluewater, his interests are now focused on backcountry, flats, and tarpon fishing.
Recently he had a fishing boat designed to his specifications. It is unlike the typical flats skiff one normally encounters here in the Keys. We thought our readers might enjoy hearing about some of the features that make this boat truly unique. The following is an interview with Capt. Buddy regarding his custom backcountry skiff, the Fishin Buddy.
FTFK Thirteen years ago I understand you did an about face, leaving the bluewater scene for shallow water inshore fishing. Why didnt you go out and buy a stock 16 to 18 foot flats skiff like all of the other guides.
Capt. Buddy I almost did! However, I wanted something large enough to fish 3 or 4 people comfortably while live bait tarpon fishing around the bridges. I also wanted to be able to take a family out into Florida Bay snapper fishing...you know...the "bent rods and smiling faces" sort of fishing that really appeals to a family with young children.
Yet, I didnt want to compromise the ability to fish the flats. And I wanted a boat that was fly fisherman friendly. This new boat met all of my requirements and then some.
FTFK What kind of boat is the Fishin Buddy, and who makes it?
Capt. Buddy Its a 23 foot custom Tremblay made by Tremblay Marine Fabrications up in Chiefland, Florida. Originally, the hull was designed for netting mullet. Ive seen a number of these along the west coast of Florida; theyre designed with a huge open area in the back of the boat for setting and hauling gill nets. The outboard motor on these hulls was in a motor well 2/3s of the way back from the bow...the motor actually stuck down through the middle of the deck. The bow itself extended well above the water, and the helm was placed up there to allow the driver maximum visibility of the water in front of him and the netting operation taking place in the stern. Strangest boat you ever saw, but they were perfect for netting mullet in the shallows.
Using this same hull, Tremblay started building custom flats skiffs. Capt. Frank Bachnik out of Port Charlotte and Capt. Mike Locklear out of Hommosassa were kind enough to let me ride in their 23 custom Tremblays before I ordered mine. When I say custom I mean it...the two boats were as different as night and day; there are literally no two alike.
After seeing how this boat could be "tailor made" to match the kinds of fishing I wanted to do, I knew that I had to have one. I started putting together a "wish list" of features I wanted on mine. By the time I was finished, I had four full pages of specs for the boat builder.
FTFK And you actually got everything you wanted?
Capt. Buddy Absolutely everything. Its a great feeling to actually have a part in the design and layout of a boat. Really makes it feel like a part of you or vice versa.
FTFK So what are some of the features on your new boat?
Capt. Buddy This boat has an amazingly shallow draft for a 23 footer. It can be poled in 8 inches of water with two anglers and a guide. And in can run in less than a foot of water without tearing up the seagrass because of the tunnel hull design working in combination with a jackplate on the transom. Once the boat is underway, the tunnel forces a column of water to rise up from the middle of the transom of the boat. The jackplate is a hydraulic device that vertically raises the motor so that the prop runs in this uplifted column of water. Thus, the prop rides above the bottom of the boat, instead of below it like on standard hulls. I can now get into places that I could never have fished in a typical flats skiff.
FTFK What other goodies did you have on that wish list?
Capt. Buddy This boat also features a huge elevated, snag free casting deck in the bow. This deck puts a sightcaster (fly or spin) about a foot higher than on standard flats skiffs, allowing him to see fish from a greater distance. The size of the casting deck also allows room for more than one angler. All of the cleats are retractable (as are the pushpole holders), meaning my fly fishermen have a clutter-free casting deck to work with.
Other features include a removable electronics box that houses a GPS and sonar. I like the fact that I can detach the box because I spend a lot of time standing atop the center console when were staked out in ambush mode for cruising tarpon. It puts me closer to the angler where I can better direct his casting efforts.
The foot-wide gunnels provide a nice walkway around the boat; I spend as much time up on the side of the boat as I do on the deck.
On a skiff, you want features that will perform double duty. Beneath the casting deck is an oversized dry-storage area. The built-in food and drink cooler on the front of the center console serves as seat for two. And the heavy duty fiberglass fish cooler behind the console doubles as a cushioned seat with a backrest that swings either way. This works out great for keeping anglers seated comfortably while live bait tarpon fishing at the bridges. And when were underway, I just swing the backrest toward the stern, and I can sit down as well.
FTFK What is the Fishin Buddy powered with?
Capt. Buddy I am presently running a fuel and oil injected 150 HP Mariner outboard. Although Ive never had any problems with this model (Ive owned 3 of them), Ill be switching to the 150 Mercury Optimax later this month. From all Ive read, the Optimax is going to save me 25% or better on fuel and oil costs. Especially during the winter when Im fishing way up in Everglades National Park nearly every day, the savings should add up in a hurry.
FTFK So what would you consider the most innovative item on your boat.
Capt. Buddy Clearly that would have to be the poling platform. You see, one of the things that really was important to me is to have an uncluttered stern for fishing while anchored, whether it be tarpon fishing or simple bay snapper fishing. Those poling platforms just flat out get in the way. I went to Tom Tucker at Marathon Welding and he designed a removable poling tower. Talk about having your cake and eating it too. Many days in the spring Im poling a fly fisherman across the flats in the morning, and then live bait tarpon fishing at the bridge in the evening with a different party. In about five minutes I can add or remove the tower to suit my needs.
The other thing I like about the tower is that its got me standing a good five feet above the water. The extra height provides an incredible advantage for spotting fish on the flats.
FTFK So I guess youre saying you have the perfect boat, right?
Capt. Buddy Honestly, I dont think the perfect boat exists! Somewhere along the line you have to compromise. If you want to fish ultra-shallow water like I do, then youre not going to be running out to the edge of the reef for yellowtail when its blowing 15 to 20. Nor is one able to enjoy the shallow-water performance of a tunnel hull without giving up some ground on fuel economy.
Truthfully, there are days when Im poling in a wind, that I find myself wishing this boat were smaller. And there are days during the winter when Im running against a stiff chop in the bay on the way out to the mackerel grounds when I find myself wishing I had more of a vee bottom to cut the seas, rather than the 3 degree deadrise that allows me to fish in ultra skinny water.
But when I think of all I can do with this boat, it keeps me from worrying about what I cant or shouldnt be doing with it. Versatility is what this boat is about, and its what my business is about, so I guess you can get away with saying that this is the perfect boat for me!
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