By James Richardson.
Photography courtesy of James Richardson, breakwateradventures.com and paradisepad.com
Spring has sprung early this year and the water beckons. Being in the Mid-South with rivers and lakes all around, it is no doubt the call of the water is so strong. This year, as in years past, new toys await those who may be suffering from cabin fever, even though our winter was seemingly non-existent.
New boats and several new water toys will be available to cure that fever. Then a new conundrum will present itself: To buy or to rent?
For true fishermen, that question rarely comes up. Warren Martin, a sales consultant at the Tracker Boat Center in the Bass Pro Shops at the Memphis Pyramid, has a few new boats ready for the water.
“The Tracker Pro Team 195 TXW, Tournament Edition, is ready to go to the lake as rigged. It has high end electronics and is our biggest aluminum boat. If you were a bass fisherman and didn’t want to pay the fiberglass price, and you fished tournaments, at $28,000, this boat is for you. Then, there is the Nitro D17 also new for 2017. This is considered an entry level fiberglass boat. It’s 17-foot and under $30,000.”
For the occasional fisherman, renting a boat may be an option. For instance, at the Bent Hook Marina at Bass Pro’s Big Cedar Lodge near Branson, the part-time fisherman can rent a Bass Tracker Pro 175 for half a day for $135 and all day for $270.
An alternative to the traditional fishing boat is the new Ascend Sit Down Kayak. According to Bill Swiatkowski, another sales associate at Bass Pro Shops, “We sell a lot of the Ascend Model 128T. It is just over 12 feet long and has a seat that swivels 360 degrees. It is pre-wired for stern lights or other accessories. It has a rubber mat that makes it more stable while standing up fishing. It can be used on lakes and rivers. It is not for white water, but is great for cruising down calmer rivers.” It is priced at $850.
Not everyone who enjoys water sports is a fisherman. Enrique Martinez, director of Sales and Marketing at the Memphis Boat Center, shares a few solutions.
“The Slingshot Wakefoiler is new for 2017. It is a hydrafoil attached to a surfboard. Hydrafoiling became popular a couple years ago when the air chair was introduced. The air chair was a board with a hydrafoil underneath that you sat on. So, they took that technology and custom fitted it to the surfer. You can ride on water that’s really choppy. But at the same time, it’s a board that rides smooth and is easy to learn. Once people start seeing it on the lake, it will spread like wildfire. This is the most exciting product that came out this year.”
Another solution for the water lover is “The Paradise Pad, which is a floating foam pad that attaches to your dock, boat, or anywhere in the water. The pads actually hold up a lot of weight. You can walk on them.Your kids can play ‘king of the mat.’ The prices start at $475. It will last a long time because it’s built very well. I love how it floats on the water. It’s like standing on the water.”
He also suggests the new inflatable tubes by Slingshot which have a material that’s called ‘soft shell.’ “In the past when kids rode tubes for a long time, they would get rashes and their skin would become irritated because the material was rough on their skin. The new soft shell material won’t cause rashes or irritations to the skin. So, your kids can ride on the tube all day long. Tubes run anywhere from $120 to $350. They come in different sizes and different models from one person, two person, or up to a five-person tube.
Another interesting new entree into the market is the Slingshot Inflatable Crossbreed Boards, or paddleboards.
“You can inflate the boards up to 17 psi, and at that pressure, it’s actually a rigid board. You can paddle across the lake on it. You can put it behind a boat and surf. You can go out and do yoga with friends. Also, when you deflate them, they fit into a small backpack. The rigid boards, unfortunately, just stay rigid and are very big and hard to move around. But when you get the inflatable ones, you can put them in the backpack and take them wherever you want. The boards are $879 with the paddles being extra.”
Other water options exist besides buying boats and equipment. At Pickwick Boat Rentals, pontoon boats are available from between $250 and $350 per day, depending on their capacity and horsepower. At a Middle Tennessee lake, pontoons with a capacity of 12 to 14 rent for around $250 and ski boats that can accommodate ten people go for nearly $500 per day. At that same marina a paddleboard rents for around $70 per day.
So, if water is your thing, then 2017 may be the year to explore the newest water toys and boats. And with so many local and regional lakes, rivers and streams, finding the water will be just as easy.