May 16, 2011
Comfort for your flats boat.
Comfortable seats aboard a flats boat are a rare commodity, and most anglers end the day with a major pain in the back thanks to sitting hunched forward anytime the boat is running—and maybe some pains a bit farther south, too, from bouncing on the hard aft deck that functions as a seat. But there’s a solution that’s cheap, easy and quick.
Plastic deck chairs can save your back during a long day on the water.
The big problem in add-on chairs in any flats boat is getting them to stay put; if they’re not bolted down, they slide or upset, often with people sitting in them. And if they are bolted down, they seriously interfere with fishing room.
To say nothing of the fact that “real” boat seats often cost hundreds of dollars because they have to be made strong, durable and saltwater resistant.
Everglades guide Charles Wright came up with a neat solution—the “Wright idea” you might call it. The chairs are cheap plastic deck chairs; you can buy them for less than $10 at any big-box store. But it’s the customization that makes them work.
The trick is to cut off the two rear legs, and rest that part of the chair on the aft casting deck of the boat, while the remaining two front legs rest on the floor.
Propping against the elevated deck gives the chair great stability, while the front legs keep it from sliding. You get a full-size, formed backrest, shaped armrests, and you can add a padded cushion to the seat if you want. It’s a huge step up in riding comfort, for almost no cost.
Getting the height of the cutoff on the back legs is the only point of concern; measure the height of your aft deck and then cut off just that much of the rear legs, so that the finished chair sits level.
Most of these chairs have a shoulder or thicker area where the seat meets the leg. Ideally, you want to cut right at this joint, so that the back of the chair rests on the thicker plastic of the seat support. But, depending on the height of your aft deck, you may have to add an inch or two of leg to get it to sit flat.
Cut the legs off with a hack-saw—the fine teeth work better on plastic than a more coarse wood saw. Sand lightly to get rid of the filings and that’s it.
The chairs don’t require any fastening to stay in place. And that’s a double benefit, because when it’s time to fish, you can simply pick them up and stack them on top of each other on the seat in front of the console in most flats rigs. They’re out of the way of both bow and stern anglers in that position. All boats can sit two across, and wider boats can handle three.
The only negative I’ve found is that unoccupied chairs can get a little squirrelly at times, particularly if you cross bumpy water at speed. Some anglers add a couple of bungee cords and stainless U eyes to fasten the chairs down as needed.
The back legs will wear marks on your deck if used steadily over many months, so you might consider putting a stick-on pad there to protect against abrasion, and also to prevent the chair from sliding sideways. Carpet-protector cups can be glued to either the deck or the cut-off chairleg to do the job—use a strong, flexible epoxy-type glue like Gorilla Glue, which does the job better than glues that set rock-hard and then crack under stress.
When your fishing day is done, you can either bungee the chairs in place, or take them inside. They will last a long time if kept out of the sun. If you leave them in the boat, expect to replace them about every six months as the UV eats up their plasticity and causes early cracking.
White is better than green or other dark colors because it stays cool. And the white resin will fend off UV rays longer than darker colors, too. You don’t want folding chairs, which have hardware to break or rust, or anything with steel or aluminum legs which can corrode; cheap, all-plastic molded jobs are best.
Add a drink holder or a PVC tube rodholder if you want—secure either with stainless bolts, washers and nuts. Another PVC tube on the back of the chair can hold a golf umbrella for shade when you’re not running.
Fish scales and dried bait won’t faze the chairs—a squirt of Castrol cleaner and they’re like new. You might add a coating of vinyl conditioner if you’re a maintenance freak, but otherwise, just use them and abuse them until they die, then recycle and get some more.