Fishin’ poor: a cheap and effective inflatable set-up

One day, I’ll have a big bass boat with a 200hp-plus motor and all the highest end electronics. I’ll cruise that thing to the most remote locations, and if I get skunked I’ll wipe my tears with 100 dollar bills.

In the meantime, I’ve got fish to catch, and I don’t want to be confined to the shorelines. I built myself a ramshackle setup that gets me out on the water and didn’t break my bank.

Hammering a variety of species in my poor-man’s boat!

The Boat – Intex Mariner 3 – $350

I bought the Index Mariner 3 from Cabela’s. I remember paying about $300 bucks for it. It’s a decently-durable inflatable raft that claims to fit three people. Really, two is the max for fishing, and I usually prefer to have all the space to myself.

The Mariner 3 is sturdy and large enough to handle moderately choppy water. It’s perfect for small-medium lakes, but I’ve definitely taken this thing on Lake Winnipeg, sticking to depths I could stand in if shit went sideways. I got caught in 35km winds a couple times in this raft—I can’t say I recommend that!

The boat is easily patchable when you inevitably poke it with a hook, and it comes with a decent floor, paddles and pump. The inflatable seats are junk. I just straight up put a lawn chair in mine for seat.

The Motor – an old Motorguide trolling motor – $100 (used)

My buddy sold me this old Motorguide troller for about $100. It’s nothing special. It goes forward and backwards, and has just enough power to move me around the water. Look to Kijiji for older motors if you wanna save some cash.

The Battery – EverStart group 31 deep cycle marine battery- $150

I grabbed this battery from Walmart for about $150. I keep it in a tote container with a hole drilled in the side for the wiring. Paired with the motor guide trolling motor, I’ve never killed the battery in one day of fishing. One day of fishing for me is never less than eight hours—if I’m not the king of landing massive fish, I’m at least the king of longevity. I never give up.

The electronics – Lowrance Elite 4X – $250 (used)

I bought my Lowrance Elite 4x for an ice fishing flasher. It works quite well! It’s also easily converted to an open water fish finder, as it comes with a suction-cup boat transducer. On ice, it marks like a dream and works just as well as a mechanical flasher. On water… I’ll know what depth I’m at. I’ll know the water temperature, and I’ll occasionally mark a fish.

Say I’m out at Lyons Lake, I’ll troll around the usually spots, and If I mark some bigger fish, I’ll anchor down and try my luck. Often, since I love fishing trout and bass, the areas I’m fishing are weedy as heck, so the finder doesn’t help much. It will definitely tell me when I’m on fish if I’m trolling a sandy or flat bottom like Lake Winnipeg.

The ramshackle rest

Anchor – Some rope tied around two five-pound barbell plates or a milk jug.

Net – a cheap net from Cabela’s

Life Jacket – a decades-old PFD I found in my garage. I should likely upgrade!

There you have it

A functioning open water set up for less than $1000. Do away with the fish finder and find everything used, and you could spend far less.

You don’t have to be rich to fish. It helps, but with some creativity you can leave the shore behind and get into some great angling.

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