Boat-buying tips: How to make sure it fits your needs _lowres

Mike Oncale, left, if Cajun Outboards in Addis talks with with Chase Fitzgerald and Corey Richard, right, about placing the boat dealer's banner at the entrance of display last year before the annual Louisiana Sportsmen's Show in Gonzales. Oncale and Cajun Outbhoards is one of the many boat dealers setting up for the Thursday through Sunday run of the 38th annual show at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center.

ADVOCATE FILE PHOTO BY BILL FEIG

Heading to the Louisiana Sportsman Show anytime during the next four days looking for a boat?

Boats of all makes and models, powered by the small 10-horsepower outboards to the giant 350-horse engines, and sitting on trailers, will occupy acres — yes, the plural of acre — of the latest and greatest vessels to put you on the water hopefully for years to come.

After watching friends and family buy boats for more than 40 years, there’s a paramount message for any boat buyer.

You must ask questions, and have at least 90 percent of the answers before you browse through the double handful of the show’s boat dealers selling aluminum and fiberglass hulls from 14 footers to the near 40-foot-long offshore beauties.

Does the boat of your dreams at special “boat show prices,” do what you want it to do? Does it, or can it, go where you want your boat to go? And what are the add-on options you want to have on this major investment?

For prospective buyers the first step is to talk with fishing and boating friends about dealerships, about how friendly the dealers were, and was that dealer willing to sell the boat they wanted, or to sell you the “right” boat for what you’re going to do in the near future and what you might want to do a few years down the line.

And what about service after the sale? Make sure to ask about the manufacturer’s warranty on everything with your new boat package — everything.

DON’T UNDERPOWER: After boats, prices and service, the warning from boating veterans is more a warning than advice. Don’t underpower your boat to save dollars.

Jumping from horsepower ratings to larger engines does add cost to the package, but underpowering a boat most times winds up costing more money in the end. Boats come with horsepower ratings, and it’s wise not to exceed that rating because most insurance companies writers will not write a boat policy on a boat that exceeds the rating.

While you might not need all the horses an engine can deliver to power your boat, it’s could be better to run at three-quarters power on an engine to conserve fuel than run the throttle wide-open on a lower horsepower outboard.

And there will be times when you need that horsepower, like running from summertime pop-up thunderstorms.

The same goes for a trolling motor. It’s always better to have reserve output on trolling motors than not having enough to maneuver your boat when that power is needed.

CONSIDER THE TRAILER: Pay as much attention to what your boat rides on as anything else in the boat-buying process. Your boat will spend more time on a trailer than it does in the water. And then there’s the matter of getting that boat to and from the water.

South Louisiana fishing and boating makes demands on trailers other places don’t. Can your trailer stand up to saltwater? Rusting is a problem, even if you believe you’re going to fish in freshwater-only places, because there’s a little saltwater in virtually every south Louisiana waterway at one time or another during the year.

Make sure you can easily care for the trailer’s maintenance needs, make sure it comes with “trailer” tires, and it’s a good move to have a trailer you can lock to prevent theft.

THE ACCESSORIES: Don’t skimp on deep-cycle batteries. They’re lifesavers.

After that, it’s your choice on how much you want to invest: GPS, depth finders, bottom-scan and side-scan electronics and the latest options to guide trolling motors from the GPS units add significant dollars.

If you’re directionally challenged, then get a GPS unit and learn how to use every option of these amazing devices. These can be lifesavers, too.

Electric anchors are the latest big-money add-ons. If you decide to add one or two units to your boat, make sure they’re long enough to anchor your boat in the places you want to fish. Yes, these options come in various lengths.

Remember the extras for all boats, things like lifejackets, throwable flotation products. Make sure your boat will meet all federal and state safe-boating requirements. The dealer will have the required list of things like fire extinguishers and signaling devices. And don’t forget to get a 30-50 foot-long length of rope strong enough to pull your boat around at launches and docks.

More food closures

Flooding has forced state Wildlife and Fisheries to close Boyce Tower Road on the Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Area in lower Ascension Parish, and to close the parking area for the Joyce WMA swamp walk off Old U.S. 51 in Tangipahoa Parish south of Hammond.

Muddy Bayou and Bandy Bayou roads have been closed on the Dewey W. Wills WMA in north Louisiana.