After a weekend of planting leased Alabama fields for deer season, Lloyd Bullock was driving home to Shalimar when he suddenly saw something at the edge of the country road that made him do a double-take. It was a boat with a For Sale sign propped on it. But that wasn’t what caught Bullock’s eye. What made him turn his truck around for a second look was the flare of the boat’s bow.
Some guys can’t keep their eyes off fancy curves and these were no different. He parked behind the roadside offering and got out to look her over. The boat’s sagging deck, torn carpet and rusty outboard barely registered in his mental picture gallery. What Lloyd saw more prominently was a widely flared bow that would make a fine fishing deck, one that not only could provide wide enough footing for his substantial frame, but one guaranteed to turn waves back on themselves as cleanly as a plow slicing spring soil.
When he finally finished ogling her front and got around to looking at the rest of her he realized that part was pretty sad. She was a 16-foot-long, 6-foot-wide old glass bass-fishing boat on a battered trailer. Her deck was soft as sponge, so was her transom; her windshield was broken, her cockpit was a shambles, her floorboards were waterlogged, and her outboard was junk. But her best feature, her high, outstanding wide bow was a beaut. As soon as Bullock found her owner he bought her on the spot.
Once he got her home Lloyd called up his long-time buddy to share the good news. Just hearing about it Todd Pumphery got excited. These two understood such things. As rock solid fishing buddies they had built fishing boats together before. Todd was married and had a business to run. Lloyd worked for the local hospital and was unmarried. That meant that they had nights to fish and any other spare moments to work on their boat-building projects. Todd could hardly wait to dive into this restoration project with Lloyd.
First chance they got the two girded themselves for the demolition that had to be done. Wearing goggles, caps, masks, gloves, Tyvac protective clothing, and hefting their demolition tools, the two looked like surgeons about to operate on a Monster Garage project.
“Ripping out the old bassboat-style decks and floor was a nasty job,” admitted Lloyd. “But we were well protected from flying debris.”
With grinders, circular saws, scrapers, diggers and other assorted wrecking tools they began to tear the boat apart. Rotted carpeting, soggy plywood deck, cracked bulkheads and waterlogged flooring were torn out. So was the soft, spongy transom. The dilapidated outboard wasn’t even fit for a museum. When they finished demolishing, all that remained was the shell of the hull with a suspicious gash in it where someone’s circular saw slipped and bit out a chunk. But that flared bow was still there, pristine and intact!
After reducing the boat to its only useable part the pair paused in their labors to make their plans. Lengthy discussions, exchanges of ideas, drawing plans and re-drawing, sketching, changing, designing things the way they wanted, took weeks. Then Lloyd researched core materials and the best deals he could find for boat building supplies on the Internet. Bubblegum containers left over from the Christmas parade were set aside for mixing resin. He found a distributor who would sell them foam, resin and cloth direct if they would meet his driver at one of his regular stops. Clamps, brushes, rollers, adhesives, stainless hardware and a chop gun were purchased. The latter would chop strands of fiberglass like yarn into 1-inch lengths which with resin would strengthen bulkheads. Bondo was bought for faring out areas, then rolls of fiberglass mat along with lots of sandpaper and paint. The necessary supplies were almost endless. But then, so, too, was this affair of the heart.
It took them a year to complete the job, most of it spent just lining up things they needed for the major makeover they intended. But gradually it all came together. When summer’s humid temperatures hit 105, working outdoors became intolerable. So they did the logical thing. Todd and Lloyd dragged half the furniture out of Lloyd’s house so that they could get down to the serious business of building a new deck for their boat in Lloyd’s living room.
“That’s how you can tell I’m single,” grinned Lloyd. “I put down some cardboard, then we cut out, glued together and built the whole top cap of the boat there. It was 16 feet by 6 feet of sheet foam and we built it in air-conditioned comfort. Boy, if I was married I couldn’t have gotten away with that! At least not in the living room!”
After glassing in a new transom, stringers and bulkheads they had to add such below deck things as wiring, tubing, pipes, hardware, cables, gearshift, and then atop the deck went hatches, hardware, an entire new console with control panel, lights, wiring and gauges. Most of these items were found at surplus warehouses on the Internet. It proved an enormous savings.
With it all finally put together they put their boat on a new trailer, mounted the outboard and had a friend weld on something more than an aluminum framed poling platform. The unit they designed was larger and stronger because it was to be a fishing platform, one big enough to move around on with steps on its side. It was the crowning feature of their dreamboat, strong, but not enough weight to be a problem because the boat was purposely kept light.
“One of the main things we wanted and one we talked about before doing this boat was to keep it as light as possible because we spend a lot of time in shallow water where we fish for flounder. Frankly, this boat amazed us,” said Lloyd. “I’m no featherweight, yet I can stand on the very bow and step off on dry land.”
“That’s right,” agreed Todd. “With everything but the tower on it, when it was at the stage before the new 70-horse outboard was put on, we figured the boat weighed less than 400 pounds because we picked it up and flipped it over working on the top and then the bottom. And then, with everything on it after we finished, with all our gear and ice, two batteries, 70-hp motor and with both of us on it she didn’t draft six inches in the deepest part of the boat!”
For a 16-footer with a 6-foot beam they built in plenty of under deck storage space. There are six hatches. Bow hatches handle rope and anchor, the next hold batteries and flotation followed by the main built-in icebox or optional release livewell. Used as an icebox it holds 50 pounds of ice. A second livewell is under the console seat, and then there are two hatches on either side of the stern, one for a battery, the other for the oil reservoir and storage. The last hatch accesses the bilge.
Removable rocket launcher rod holders bungee to the sturdy upright frame of the fishing platform. Just right for trolling or holding rigged rods. Both stow below when not used.
The bow-mounted Motorguide RF electric motor can be controlled by either angler using his own remote control.
“Here in the Panhandle we don’t have miles of flats like other areas of Florida,” said Lloyd. “Our bayou water depths can vary a lot in a small area so a pushpole is not standard equipment on this boat. We fish a little backwards compared to most anglers on a flats boat. Both of us carry a remote control, either in hand or clipped to our belt. We can each control the boat without having to change places or hand off the remote. The person on the fishing platform looks for fish and usually gets the first cast, while the person on the bow handles the boat. Occasionally, though, a picky fish has refused the first offering or another fish will appear out of nowhere. When this happens, the man in the back takes over the motor and the man in the front is on the hook.
“In fact most of our fishing is around docks in 10 to 15 feet of water, so a pole would be useless. That’s why we have remotes. Many docks are so tight that when you first hook a fish you have to head him into deep water fast. There’s no time to worry about moving the boat. Your buddy moves it with his control while you fight the fish. If you clear the dock with the fish and get to deep water you have a good chance of landing him. Also, once away from obstruction, the other angler can go back to fishing…and neither one of us has had to move from our position on the boat.”
Since about the only real time the two fishing buddies have to fish together is at night, gigging flounder aboard their flats boat is big on their menu. The 70-horse is perfect for getting this light boat up on plane and both have been impressed by how shallow they can go with it. When it appears they will run aground they are still afloat.
To aid them for night fishing they can turn on a general “rigging light” behind the windshield on the console when needed. But for floundering they created a clever clip-on removable bow light that folds down into the water. Basically it’s a section of boogie board painted white on its underside to reflect the light. Socketed in its center is a 1,000 lumens 12-volt Whitman Starfire bulb. The upper side of the board is reinforced with duct tape. The unit hooks into the bow and on the water it floats on the waves in front of the boat, moving up and down on its arms, creating a wide bright bottom light whose glare is blocked by the board. It can be switched on or off in the water; folded and stowed away when not in use.
With all these features plus that finely flared bow, you can be sure that Lloyd and Todd couldn’t be happier with this roadside wreck they turned into a nicely customized dreamboat. It doesn’t get much better than that. FS
Florida Sportsman Classics, June 2004