The Bait Boat Debate
Opinion about bait boat is strongly polarised. To put it simply, you either love them or hate them. I can see both points of view, though I have to confess to owning a bait boat myself. Why then do people have such extreme views? Let's look at the for and against.
1) They enable precise placement of baits and free offerings without having to use the usual tools of the trade, catapults, throwing sticks and spods.
2) You can bait up and drop off hook baits in areas where normal rod and line casting cannot reach. This applies to both pike and carp fishing.
3) For the pike fisherman they can be very useful. You can put baits out that would be impossible to cast and with live baits you can be sure that the bait has not been damaged on the cast.
1) It eliminates the skill required to cast and bait up with accuracy.
2) Bait boats can be intrusive particularly if there are lots of them going up and down.
3) They can be abused with anglers fishing at extreme ranges and taking up half the lake.
Now, because I have a bait boat you might think that I'd be totally for them. Well, I'm happy to use them, but I'm not best pleased by some anglers who seem to think that once they have on the whole water is theirs to fish as they like. Before I discuss the pros and cons of bait boats let me tell readers what I use mine for. I initially bought mine for pike fishing. I opted for an Angling Techniques Microcat. This choice was based on recommendations from various friends who had told me that they were a pretty good piece of kit. I would have liked to have had one with a built-in echo sounder, but because most of the waters I fish are fairly uniform I couldn't justify the additional expense. Needless to say, on fishing much more variably contoured waters I wish I had bought the echo sounder!The Microcat itself is a twin hulled boat driven by water jets as opposed to propellers. It has two hoppers which contain your hook baits and/or free offerings. A hand-held radio control unit enables you to go forward, back or sideways and also to drop the hook bait and free offerings. Directional lights enable the angler to use the boat in poor light. I've no idea what the maximum range of a Microcat is, but would suggest that 200 yards is a sensible limit otherwise you run the risk of going out of radio contact and seeing your expensive bait boat marooned on the other side of the lake.Directional lights enable the angler to use the boat in poor light. I've no idea what the maximum range of a Microcat is, but would suggest that 200 yards is a sensible limit otherwise you run the risk of going out of radio contact and seeing your expensive bait boat marooned on the other side of the lake. Directional lights enable the angler to use the boat in poor light. I've no idea what the maximum range of a Microcat is, but would suggest that 200 yards is a sensible limit otherwise you run the risk of going out of radio contact and seeing your expensive bait boat marooned on the other side of the lake.
I've used mine quite a lot to explore a large gravel pit where there are only three swims on the lake. This is pike fishing, but unfortunately, I've yet to catch a pike using the boat on this particular water. Generally, I'm catching what little I catch on baits cast 40 yards! However, when I'm not catching at 40 yards or even a cast 80 yards at least I am exploring the water. I live in hope that the boat might come up trumps eventually.
Interestingly I have used it much more successfully while carp fishing. While I can cast reasonably well and I can use a catapult or throwing stick, I like using the boat to drop everything off exactly where I want it. I do not care how good a caster someone it, miscasts are still made and I'm not mad keen on the disturbance caused by a couple of miscasts. It is certainly easier to get small pellets where you want them. Where there are overhanging trees a bait boat really comes into its own. You simply cannot cast under some overhanging trees. The bait boat does the job without the risk of leaving lots of broken tackle in the tree.
There is an argument that the bait boat prevents carp from finding anywhere safe from anglers. Well, while this is true, we do not actually harm the carp by catching them. They probably do not like being caught or having to swim through lots of lines. The idea of a carp fishery where the carp cannot be caught is rather pointless. You want people to catch carp and if a bait boat is essential then so be it.
I have seen bait boats abused with some anglers trying to fish four spots covering about 20 acres of water! For this reason, at Daiwa Manton Fisheries, we have a 140 yards bait boat limit. The reason it is 140 yards is that it stops members fishing more than halfway across the lake, thus avoiding the annoying of other anglers. I also dislike the use of bait boats when the lake is weedy. It is plainly irresponsible to drag carp through 100 yards of weed.
Things can go wrong with bait boats, much as can happen with big boats. The favourite one is going aground. This normally comes about because our intrepid radio control operator has gone too close to the bank. You will normally need a proper boat to get the bait boat back! Worse still you can actually lose your boat. A friend of mine found one on an island and though he had to get a replacement handset, he now has a working bait boat for next to nothing.
The bait boat owner also has to take precautions so as to avoid the ingress of water into the hull. The battery compartments should be taped over as should the drain holes at the end of the hull. In really choppy conditions water can get into the boat via these routes. A liberal application of masking tape avoids this problem. When using live baits, you have to use a cover over the bait hopper otherwise the baits can jump out on the way out to where you want them dropped off.
In the end , it is all an individual's choice. Because I believe that bait boats are essentially harmless, I am fine with them. If you're looking for a bait boat or thinking of getting a new better looking bait boat, check this aesthetic CatchX Bait Boat from Rippton.
Adapted from http://www.thetackle-shop.co.uk/articles/1/The-Bait-Boat-Debate/