Renovating a Bowfishing Boat
By Kathleen Kalina
Bowfishing for carp, gar and other rough fish is an exciting type of hunting nationwide. Around walleye country, the saying goes: “Spear a carp, save a walleye”. Carp are a major cause for destroying walleye habitat. Bowhunting for fish can be done from shore, but having a platform on a boat can make it more successful. In some states it’s possible to bowfish at night with halogen or metal halide lights and a generator. I am going to show you a photo step by step of how I recently renovated a boat for bowfishing. If I could do it, then you can too.
Two types of boats are best for bowfishing from a platform: a jon boat and a wide semi-vee boat. The key is width and stability. It’s best to buy a boat 16ft or longer with at least 6ft width at the gunwale (sides). Purchasing the best motor you can find is a key factor in reliable boating. An aluminum boat doesn’t need the horsepower that a heavy fiberglass needs. It’s cheaper to buy a 25 hp motor than a 50 hp.
On Jan 1st of this year, I bought a 16-foot lund boat and trailer that seemed in good condition but needed a lot of cosmetic work.
|The 16ft lund boat, the day I got it.||The finished bowfishing boat.|
Finished renovated boat April 22, 2008.
The process of renovating a boat does not require experience in marine work. There are many books around that can help you with ideas and the wiring (which is the hardest thing to do).
Start your renovation with painting the boat first before you insert the carpet or anything else.
Using camouflage Rust-Oleum (TM). It is just as good as spray painting any flat color. Buy a spray handle for $2, to save your hand from pressing on the top nozzle.
Use grey primer on your boat before painting the basic green. Also use primer on your trailer too if you intend to paint over any rust. The primer will help the paint to adhere to the surface and cover the color underneath.
Wear gloves and a mask when you spray paint. Spray paint is very toxic.
Paint the entire boat green first. This gives you a good layer before putting on the camo designs. I put on 3 layers of green because my original color was silver and red. For a 16ft boat, I used 10 cans of green for the 3 layers for both the inside and outside of the boat. The other colors do not need more than 2 cans each of brown, black and tan camo rust-oleum
After the green paint, start the camo design with the dark brown vertical stripes.
Now add black to the brown vertical stripes.
Cover your registration numbers with masking tape.
For the top layer, use actual cattails and grasses as a template to spray over.
Close up shot of the cattails and grasses look spectacular.
A long view shows that the camo design looks like cattails and grasses.
Spraying tan color over the cattails makes the darker colors underneath show up looking like real cattails.
Make sure to paint the transom before you put the motor on.
You need a friend to help you install the carpet.
Notice that the roll of closed cell foam is ready to be cut (located on platform deck). (Alva Paiva in photo).
Now is the time to measure the seats for green outdoor carpet. Start measuring and cutting carpet for the floors and bench seats first.
Before you staple the carpet on the seats, you need to cut foam pads. I put a closed cell foam under the carpet on the bench seat to make it more comfortable. The closed cell will not absorb water. Leave edges for stapling the carpet since the foam is too thick for ½”staples and carpet. Use a ½” staples in the staple gun to tack the carpet down.
It takes two people to accurately measure and then staple carpet, since it can shift on you. You really want the carpet to a tight fit so that it doesn’t bubble up. Use ½” staples in a staple gun to attach the carpet to the wood.
After the carpet is stapled down on the floors and the seats, the boat really looks transformed. Note that the square board with bolts is for a seat to be bolted on later.
Put the carpet on the deck platform. You can use spray adhesive and staples. The platform should be screwed to the sides (gunwales) of the boat so that it will not blow off while you are trailering the boat. If your carpet isn’t wide enough for one sheet to make it across, then you will have a seam to overlap in the middle. Note that the old registration numbers have not been replaced yet.
Clamps help hold down the adhesive connecting the carpet on the deck. It was stapled too.
The wiring goes in next. Start with the wiring for the navigational lights (bow and stern). Be sure to put an inline fuse of 5 amps nearest to the battery in the positive line. Use red wire to attach to the positive wire of the lights and then attach to the switch panel, from the switch the positive wire goes to the positive post of battery. The black wire (negative) goes straight from the lights to the negative post of the battery. Use plastic flexible conduit to hold the wires together.
Note: Red (positive) wires are the only ones to go to a switch placed under your deck. The black wire goes from each light or bilge and then goes directly to battery.
Make sure to install a bilge pump, it is the law and can save you when you are taking on water.
This is a homemade switch panel that I installed under the platform. The toggle switches have backs where the wires can be attached. The toggle switch is pushed through a hole in the board and glued. I put the bolts holding the panel facing with the nuts out so that I could remove it easily. Its not beautiful, but it works. You can always spend $20 on a fancy marine panel.
Black and red wires go behind any obstacles.
Wire should be put inside of a conduit.
Black flexible conduit opens up so that you can slide the wires inside. This conduit will protect your wires from weather or pressure on wires from outside objects.
The fuse is installed near the battery in the positive line of wire. This will protect your electric flow from overload that could burn up your lights or accessories.
Purchase a removable stern light to protect the light during trailering. The photo shows the receptacle that the light goes into.
Install a bracket to hold the stern light while traveling.
The stern light is inserted when needed. Purchasing a telescoping light is very handy.
The bilge pump is mounted in the transom area.
Camo seats like this are comfortable, but water can pool in the chair unless you drill an opening in the low spot for the water to drain off.
Deck railings can be made from steel pipes; they attach to the deck by a plates.
Get ½”steel pipe with pre-cut grooves from a Fleet Farm store. 90 deg elbows and surface plates to attach to the deck make it simple to put together. Get some camo tape in the duct tape dept and wrap the pipe. This will become your railings for the bowfishing deck.
When using screw on pipes make sure to put pipe thread tape on the areas where you want the pipe to be tightened into the elbows.
Some fittings (90” elbow) can attach to others.
Get some camo tape and wind it around the pipe. This will cut down on the metal reflection and make your grip better. The rule for bowfishers is that the railing should be only as high as your knee, otherwise your bow will be difficult to shoot.
A spotlight is installed on the deck. PVC pipe is installed for carrying the gaff hook and another one for arrows. Note: For night fishing you need 4-6 Halogen lights 300watt each hooked up to the platform and powered by a generator (not seen here).
Notice that the railings have an opening in front for shooting fish and putting in an trolling motor. New registration letters give an extra nice touch. Painting the old rusty trailer white helps retard the rust and looks nice. Having a seat up on the platform is great for those of us who need extra help with balance when the boat is moving. Both sides of the railing have PVC pipes to hold arrows. Your buddy will want to keep their arrows separate.
Carrying a battery gauge can be very important when you are running lights for awhile without the motor on. Carry 2-3 drain plugs in case you lose one or one fails. You do not want to be at the landing or in the water without a spare.
The gunwale straps are vital to keep the bow and stern stable on trailer. However, the winch can bounce and make stratches on your paint job, so I devised a way to install the foam (leftover from the carpet and seat project) to attach using black ties. This protects your boat from the winch hitting it while blowing in the wind when trailered.
Here is the finished boat with a nice 2005 25Hp Mercury motor with electric start on the tiller. Hallberg Marine in Wyoming Minnesota gave me a great deal on this motor and installed it by bolting it on. Randy Stevens, the salesman, worked with me on 90 day payments and made sure that I got the right size transom adjuster. The motor is typically the most expensive part of a boat. Getting a reliable one and taking good care of it could save your life if you are out on rivers. You want to know it will start every time. Having a trolling motor hooked up to a spare deep cycle battery can been crucial for sneaking into shallows. It can also get you home if you main motor goes down.
First shakedown of boat on the Vermillion river in Minnesota before the May 1 bowfishing opener. The next phase of the boat renovation is Halogen lights and a generator for night bowfishing in June.Toolbox: Keep your boat registration and some money in it for emergencies. Electrical tape, duct tape, extra electrical wires, flares, knife, muffler clamps, screws, bolts, socket set, screw drivers and pipe wrench.
The author Kathleen Kalina and renovator of the 16 ft, Lund bowfishing boat recommends that you join a local bowfishing club. Look at photos on the American Bowfishing Association website to get ideas for your boat renovation. Stability is of the utmost importance. A bigger wide boat can really make the difference. Some young men build very high platforms on their boat and that can become very tippy and also prevent the boat from getting under low bridges. Putting a platform right on top of sides (gunwales) of the boat is good enough. Kathleen is also a member of the Land of Lakes Bowfishing Association.
Some states allow night fishing; for installation tips of lights, read the instructions at the American Bowfishing Association website. Kathleen will be installing lights before the June night bowfishing starts in Minnesota.
Here is the photo of a carp shot from renovated boat.
33inch carp taken by bow from renovated boat.