Planning the Build of Your Bait Boat

The first part of building or buying your bait boat has to be the planning stage and the more time and thought you put into this, the happier you will be with your bait boat.

Planning Your Bait Boat Construction

As with most things, lets start from the bottom with the hull and how you plan to use your bait boat. This is the first decision you will need to make as how you plan to use your bait boat will partly dictate the hull shape, lets take a look at some of the basics of hull choice:

Starting with how you plan to use your bait boat:

  • Is weight important? Will you use a barrow and not mind that your boat weighs more than most of your other tackle? Big bait boats use big and heavy batteries, while the smaller bait boats, like the YBB Stalker use smaller batteries and are therefore lighter to carry.
  • Will you want to put out a lot of bait at one time? Fishing for cats over a large bed of pellet can be a very successful method and needs a large capacity bait boat with the ability to drop a couple of kilos of pellets at a time. If this is only an occasional use, you could use the YBB Stalker with a hopper extender or make multiple trips to set the area up, but for cat anglers who are doing this regularly, I would choose a bigger bait boat.
  • Will you be fishing at extreme range? If you are trying to fish to the far horizon on big pits or meres, it would make more sense to use a large boat just so that you can see it at extreme range. But as most of our fishing is done at less than 100 metres, the extra weight of big catamaran is rarely required and the convenience of a smaller boat has distinct advantages.

The next set of choices come down to hull shape:

  • Mono planing hull - These tend to be cheaper and of course there are a large range available. The first bait boat that I built was based on the Fairy Huntsman hull with a flip-up hopper and worked for me for a season (in fact I still have it!). The main difficulty with a mono hull is the bait hopper as they don't lend themselves to drop through style of hopper and usually need some sort of deck mounted hopper that either flips or is emptied over the stern. Another solution is a box tacked on the back of the stern (like a Ken Boat) and I have seen these work quite successfully.
  • Mono tug hull - Model tug hulls are the exception to the rule as they generally are designed to work with twin propellers and have sufficient width at the stern to allow the fitting of the bait hopper. The YBB Stalker was originally built using a much modified Gerhard hull from Mobile Marine Models, all that was needed was to move the propeller supports further outboard and create a glass fibre hopper that was then installed in the hull.
  • Catamaran hull - In my opinion, you cant beat a catamaran hull if you want a large capacity bait boat, the space down the centre if the pontoons is perfect for a bait hopper and the bait can be dropped well clear of the propellers for minimum disturbance. The only difficulty is finding a suitable hull (watch this space!) as most of the catamaran hulls are to narrow to be used as your bait boat. The YBB Stalker bait boat is a good compromise between catamaran and mono hulls, but lacks the carrying capacity of a good sized cat.
  • Combination hull - These have sprung up as converted mono hulls with a pair of pontoons added to the back or the bait hopper cut into a planing hull with a single propeller in front of the hopper. They tend to be clumsy, but they work and are a solution if you want to convert an existing planing hull.

Your Choice of Bait Hopper

  • On-deck hopper - While an on-deck hopper is the easiest to build and release, either with elastic bands, mouse traps or a sail servo, they are limited in what they can carry and very exposed both when using your bait boat under trees or low vegetation and in transit.
  • Over stern hopper - Having a box hanging on/over the stern of your bait boat is again a very easy to option for a bait hopper, but tends to be limited in size and, unless you have a very short boat!, tends to be a bit prone in transit.
  • Through hull hopper - The through hull hopper is perhaps the best you can get, providing a neat and tidy solution to bait loading and, as it exists inside the boat, is not prone to damage in transit or fouling under trees. The only problem with this setup is the construction as you not only need to customize the hull or find a custom built hull, but you also have to deal with a tricky release mechanism.

Propulsion and Steering:

  • Twin propeller and motor - My preference has always been a twin motor/propeller bait boat as it gives me the greatest flexibility and manoeuvrability, such a craft can turn in it's own length and has the power needed to get it out and back quickly and it can carry a vast amount of bait for those times when you want to layout a bed of bait or particles..
  • Single motor/propeller + rudder - A common combination on model boat mono hulls and it works well, although not as manoeuvrable as twin motor as the hull needs to be moving to steer. The rudder also acts an additional hazard for getting hooked up or snagging your line.
  • Jet propulsion - A popular option on the more expensive bait boats and has many benefits as it is virtually impossible to snag your line with one of these and they are extremely tolerant of weedy conditions, but they tend to lack power and reverse is usually limited to say the least.
  • Propellers - Just a short note on the propeller (assuming your bait boat will have them). The choice of brass or nylon props is perhaps the first step and while brass are obviously preferred as they are more rugged, they are considerably more expensive. The only time that ruggedness becomes an issue is generally when launching and landing your bait boat as this is when the props are likely to hit stones or other debris that can ruin the props over time, so take care in the edge. The other options are the number of blades and as most bait boats sit in the water rather than plane on top of it, you are better off with 3 blades just as the scale model boat guys use.

Radio Gear

  • Frequency - The choice of frequencies for your bait boat can be confusing, but the current modern choice is for a 2.4Ghz radio system and you can't go far wrong with this. The earlier 27Mhz and 35/40Mhz systems still work but are now outdated and while there is less chance on someone using the same crystal as you on the bank! (a common problem in the early days), they are still prone to interference and best avoided. 2.4Ghz receivers also have smaller aerials which are positioned inside the hull, so there is nothing sticking up to snag you in a tree.
  • Range - Generally this is not important as most of us fish well within 100 meters and any bait boat radio system will be good for at least 150 meters. However, if you want to fish at vast ranges on monster gravel pits, reservoirs or meres, then using a full range 2.4Ghz radio system is sensible, radio systems like the Spektrum DX5e are both full range and resistant to interference at long range.
  • Channels - Generally a 4 or 5 channel system is more than adequate for your bait boat, the channels needed are; Forward/Reverse, Left/Right, Bait Release and optionally Lights, so a 4 channel radio is all that's needed. There were systems in the past that used 2 channel radios by combining the channels or the trim to make a mix of steering/bait release, but this is no longer necessary as it would be as expensive to get a 2 channel radio systems as a 4 or 5 channel system.
  • Cost - Astonishingly, the preferred 2.4Ghz radio systems are substantially cheaper than the earlier 40mzs systems with 4/5 channel combos (Transmitter and Receiver) available for as little as £40.00 with a full range, top end Spektrum DX5e available for less than £90.00. Compared to the £100.00 plus that we were paying for a 4 channel 40mhz system combo a few years ago, a good mid range radio combo like the Saturn X4 is quite a bargain at £40.00.

Timing & Cost

  • Build or Buy - The choice to build or buy is very much down to ability and cost and the easiest way to get out on the water catching carp or catfish is to buy a ready to run bait boat. But if you are looking for a winter project or are constrained by money, the build option can not only save you money but also give you a bait boat more suited to your ideal.
  • How Long to Build - This is not an easy answer as the length of time it will take depends on where you start. If you start with a part built hull and deck with the prop shafts, hopper release, hatch and lights installed and just need to install the electrics, your time to get back out fishing will be short, but if you want to start from just the hull or even from scratch you will be looking at several hours/days work.

Spend a little time thinking about what you want to achieve with a bait boat before committing to either buying or building your own bait boat.