drag boat mark rackay outdoors

My son, sitting behind the wheel, and I built this little drag boat. I am only asking for a little fishing boat this time around. 

My wife of many years claims I am the hardest person on earth to buy presents for. She says every time there is something I want, I just purchase it, making it near impossible for anyone to get me a gift. She also takes issue with the cost of some of the items that head my list.

Her claim is pure nonsense. While I admit that occasionally I request something that may have to clear the finance committee, I take vigorous exception the need for filing an application for a grant request to fund my few necessary items. After all, I give so much and ask so little.

After spending 45 years under this management, I have learned a few things, and this year I was ready when she asked the question, “What do you want for Christmas?”

I told her that I have decided I would like a boat this year. We have the place in Florida where we will be spending some fishing time and I think a nice flats boat would be perfect for chasing the tarpon and snook around.

It is very difficult to have a serious conversation with your spouse when she is rolling around on the floor with tears of mirth running down her face. I gathered up my shattered dignity and retreated to the room we laughingly refer to as my office.

Boats have been a part of my life since my eighth summer when my grandfather cut me lose on the chain of lakes, we lived on with a 12-foot wooden boat. This boat weighed slightly less than a full-sized Buick, and probably was more difficult to row. Nonetheless, I cut my teeth with that boat, showing determination as I rowed it around all day in pursuit of fish.

The next Christmas there was a 1 lung Johnson outboard under the tree. My grandfather said he did not think it was right for an 8-year-old to have such big arms from rowing all the time and bought me the little kicker. That rig carried me around for years, and I learned about my lifelong love affair with boats.

Boats have been a big part of my life ever since. When we moved to the Florida Keys, I discovered the two greatest saltwater fishing adventures in the world: offshore sport-fishing, and inshore flats and backcountry. Of course, this discovery required more than one type of boat.

For the offshore side, we started with a Boston Whaler Outrage, but quickly decided it was too small to effectively fish for big game in the deep waters. We upgraded to a 32-foot Albemarle with twin inboards for power and discovered the wonders of offshore.

Next addition was a 45-foot sport-fishing boat, complete with a tuna tower. We put this boat in charter service in Islamorada. This boat, called the Tag ‘em, was the only boat that actually paid for itself as all the others were holes in the water in which you just threw money.

From there we got into flats fishing and the backcountry, thereby requiring a flats boat. The shallow waters are where the tarpon, bonefish, snook, redfish and others all live. It is a much calmer method of angling compared to offshore, as the wave heights are much smaller. My wife very much enjoyed this type of fishing and that is the only fishing this old body of mine can stand anymore.

Flats boats are the saltwater version of the bass boats you see on the lakes out here. The difference is that flats boats can run much shallower and take much rougher water, being built different. Flats boats are much sturdier because of the harsh saltwater environment they live in. They also go very fast so you can cover many miles of water in a short time.

The bay areas of Florida, to include all of Everglades National Park and the surrounding waters, encompass many miles of flats, basins, bays, rivers and passes, but they are miles apart. On a typical day of fishing in the back, we might put 75 miles on a boat, so speed is a necessity.

Speed on the water kicked in my adrenaline rush brain cells, and I got into offshore racing and go-fast big boats. We did have sponsors to help with the costs, so my wife’s claims of my herniating the family finances are without merit.

Alas, I got too old to run 150 mph in boats and had to give up the sport. The human spinal cord can only take so much pounding before it sends mayday messages to the brain, telling you to take up golf.

I love my hunting and everything outdoors, but something has been missing. The fishing is what needs to come back in my life. A nice flats boat will run nicely on some of the lakes and reservoirs here at home, and also work very nicely for when I take a few jaunts to the Everglades each year.

I am not seeking anything too fancy, a mere 18-footer with a 150 Mercury Pro XS on the back will do nicely. Throw a double set of Power poles on the back and a saltwater trolling motor on the bow, and I am good to go. Of course, I will need a solid aluminum trailer to haul it back and forth.

Perhaps with some convincing, my wife will come around to the idea of a boat becoming a part of our family again. She may hate to admit it, but she had many good times fishing, snorkeling and diving off our boats, and hopefully will again one day take to the waters with me. I am just a little bit concerned about how she is going to wrap the boat, let alone sneak it under the tree Christmas morning.

Mark Rackay is a columnist for several newspapers and is a feature writer for numerous sporting magazines. A world-class saltwater angler and an avid hunter promoting ethical and fair chase hunting and fishing, he travels the world in search of adventure. Feel free to contact him on his personal email for questions, comments or story ideas. elkhunter77@icloud.com

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