River rats I need your help picking a boat


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Sep 11, 2018
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Hi all,
Still trying to figure out my best boat option (without breaking the bank). I moved to WI and have a small place on a small river here. I've been a lake guy all my life so have been trying to figure out my best option for using the river. Was hoping some of you more experienced river folks might have some insight.

The river averages about 300' across. Rocky bottom with some weeds, infrequent boulders and occasional logs. I go by depth of the reporting station a mile away as the bottom is pretty flat without a lot of variance maybe +/- a foot, with the odd deep hole. To give an idea of what I can do with the current setup, when the station reports 2' I can make it about a mile upstream with the skeg guard bumping once or twice. Floating down from the launch in 1.8' I had to put the motor up in a few spots, and there were exposed boulder tops and a couple of (very) small "rapids" where it shallowed out pretty good. This summer depth has averaged around 2', as low as 1.8' and as high as 7' (two years ago it was 15' for a couple of days). Looking at past three year history that looks pretty normal with one year being closer to 2.2 avg and the next 1.8.

My current setup is a Alumacraft MV1448 with a old 9.9 on it. I purchased some small bevertail pods I was planning on adding to the back. I was thinking of making a deck in the front and adding a small trolling motor (so a little more weight). I'd like to switch out to a four stroke. As I get older I appreciate something that starts easier, maybe elect trim, and I don't have to constantly repair as much as a two stroke. Since I'm thinking about making these changes I'm open to just selling this one and get something closer to the setup I'm thinking of.

I don't need to run it all the time but would like to get out more often than I am now. As you can see I don't need a lot more clearance, 4"-6" and I'd probably be fine. The way I see it my options are:
  • Keep the 1448, shift some of the weight to the front, put a small four stroke on it, add the pods and hope that brings the rear up enough. Perhaps adding a jack plate so I can get a longshaft with the elect tilt/trim.
  • Just buy the setup above instead of doing all the effin' around with it. Its not a common setup but I have seen them and I have time to watch.
  • Instead of adding the four stroke, I could add a surface drive motor with the pods to the existing 14'.
  • Switch over to a jet outboard. This would probably mean buying a 16' boat as most of the jets I see are 40's so too big for the 14'.
  • Go with a (used) tunnel hull, the smaller ones I've seen on marketplace tend to be with a prop outboard.

Any thoughts on the best route?
Your situation sounds similar to mine. The river has been really low this summer and all the big rocks are claiming victims. We mark them with buoy's but they tend to get washed away during the high water in the winter. I've run prop boats for years and when the water gets to a certain point, I won't risk going through some areas which would limit my range. I got lucky and found a 2001 Lowe 1652 jet tunnel hull boat (it had a prop motor on it) and then found a 1994 Mercury 60/45 short shaft jet to put on. It's the perfect combination for my situation. You can run shallow when it's low and it has the power to run against the stronger current. Don't go with an under powered jet setup, if you have other people in the boat and try to go against a strong current it will struggle. The jet uses more gas but if you go upstream and float down like I do, gas is not a big factor. Get something with a forward console and it moves the weight up (I put the battery under the console) and evens it out better. Here's a couple of pictures showing how high the motor sits and the tunnel, and the boat sitting in the water at the dock.


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I can only respond to the issues you have with your 2 stroke outboard, if it doesnt start right up, get it fixed !! Have had 2 strokes all my 50 plus years of boating and never had starting issues, if I did, I would fix it...No reason a 2 stroke should have high maintence issues, in fact, there is less than a 4 stroke.. Sorry I cant be more helpfull with your real inquirey, but there shoukd be no issues with your 2 stroke, unless there is a problem that needs fixed.
Thanks Jeff, that is the way I'm leaning if I can find one around here used.
Airshot I hear what you are saying but I've had horrible luck with 2cycles. This one I've had serviced three times since I got it and I still don't trust it to go down stream. The one before that was a lemon as well. The older four stroke on my pontoon, hasn't had a hiccup in three years. I've just had better luck with them.
One thing to watch out for is the transom height vs the jet outboard shaft length. Short shaft (15") jets are not easy to find and most mod v boats have a shorter transom so you would need a riser plate to mount a long shaft jet to have it tucked up properly. Some guys say the tunnel hull loses some buoyancy but the jet tunnel is not very big so I'm not sure about that. The 4 stroke will be heavier than the same size 2 stroke so more weight at the back of the boat. Most 2 strokes have carbs which will tend to need cleaning/rebuilding over time, especially with ethanol in the fuel that can eat up fuel lines. The 4 strokes may have multiple fuel pumps for the fuel injection and they can act up and need attention. It may really come down to what you can actually find available in your area.
On the NY section of the Susquehanna, have seen just about everything including air boats and the car that can drive down and ito the water, like the ebay commercial. :)

Even though your description can fit some of our water, your local old river rats are much better informed and can guide you more than genralallities.

I do not recommend setting up a jet boat yourself. Buy a package that was all set-up from the mfg. I'm new to running a jet, and they do take some getting use to. In water a foot or less, you have to be up on plane, and you need to be in about 2' of water to take off without vacuuming the bottom. You want enough HP to get on plane quickly, before you run out of deep enough water. Need to learn to power slide to navigate between those boulders, etc. There are allot of videos out there of river running with jets, watch and make sure it will be the right thing for you.

I have never driven a surface drive or mud motor. Only know of one in our area. Research on how much effort it takes to control these motors. My understanding is that they can be fatigueing, and a full day of fishing can wipe me out, as it is.

A prop boat may still work for you. Just hard to tell as an armchair captain. If so, treat yourself to a new or nearly new 4-stroke EFI and power trim motor. Easy turn-key starts, quiet, efficient, and no lifting the motor, which will get harder, every year. The power trim would also work well with a mid or forward console. From your description and prior discussion it is mainly your weight at the transom that you needed/wanted the pods. I've run a 1648 Mod-v jon, w/25hp merc, for many years, and was still doing fine. Like anything, just need to understand the limitations, so you don't get into trouble.

I have never run a prop tunnel, so don't know what the trade-offs are.
Know this thread is a little of a month old, but i might have an idea you might like. 10 years ago, i was where you are today. I bought a 16 hp go-devil for my 15ft jon. When i ordered it i got the optional rock guard. The rivers i fish most are very rocky and shallow with potholes in bends. This motor is a briggs vanguard and has an almost bullet proof drive system. I highly recommend them. The only maintenance besides yearly oil changes are a occasional greasing, of the u joints and tail shaft. Careful set-up is trial and error. If it is set properly you will not have steering torque, run it too deep and it is a bear to drive. Since these engines are air cooled, prop height is not critical. Good luck if you decide to go that way.
Along about 2019, i installed pods on the rear of the boat. It picked up the rear 4 inches. Now i can navigate through tough obstacles. Good luck, which ever way you decide to go.
I have a different idea for you. There is a composite prop on the market that has changeable blades. You can carry a spare set of blades. If you bust a prop while under way you can replace the blades on the water with little effort and get home. It takes all the brunt so your lower unit doesn’t….however you can still grind up your skeg……
, I'd be happy to help you pick a boat! To assist you better, could you please provide more details about your preferences and requirements? Here are some questions to consider:

Intended Use: What do you plan to use the boat for? Fishing, recreational cruising, water sports, or something else?

Size and Capacity: How many people do you expect to accommodate on the boat? Do you need a larger boat for gatherings or a smaller one for personal use?

Type of Water: Will you be using the boat on rivers, lakes, or coastal waters? Different boats are better suited for different types of water.

Budget: What is your budget range for purchasing a boat? This will help narrow down your options.

Features: Are there any specific features you're looking for, such as a cabin, fishing amenities, seating arrangements, or storage?

Power: Are you considering a motorized boat (outboard or inboard) or a non-motorized option like a kayak or canoe?

Maintenance: How comfortable are you with boat maintenance? Some boats require more upkeep than others.

Experience: Do you have experience operating boats, or are you a beginner? This can influence the type of boat that would be suitable for you.

Trailering: Do you have the means to transport the boat to different bodies of water, or will it primarily stay in one location?

Brands: Do you have any preferences for boat brands, or are you open to exploring different options?