Keep your cock­pit or­ga­nized and catch more fish.

HOW TO SET UP YOUR BOAT’S COCK­PIT FOR MAX­I­MUM EF­FI­CIENCY.

Power & Motor Yacht - - IN THIS ISSUE - BY JOHN BROWN­LEE

Just as no per­fect boat ex­ists, no per­fect cock­pit does ei­ther. Even though per­sonal pref­er­ence and fish­ing style will drive in­di­vid­u­als to set up their own cock­pit as they see fit, most big-game cap­tains will agree on cer­tain ba­sic at­tributes that a well-de­signed cock­pit should have. Start with am­ple, un­clut­tered space in which to move around. If you plan to tan­gle with big, pow­er­ful fish, you must have a sea­soned crew work­ing the pit to sup­port your an­gler. Whether you use a fight­ing chair or pre­fer stand-up gear, the mates need clear paths around the cock­pit and to the tran­som.

This means hav­ing ad­e­quate stor­age for loose gear that might get un­der­foot in the heat of bat­tle and trip some­body up. Buck­ets, cool­ers, har­nesses, etc. need a ded­i­cated space to live where they won’t get in the way. But you also need to have a place where you can or­ga­nize and keep gear that you’ll need through­out the day.

This might in­clude leader ma­te­rial, crimpers, pli­ers, hooks (don’t forget those), floss, and other ma­te­ri­als vi­tal to cre­at­ing ter­mi­nal tackle. Mates should be able to ac­cess these things and more with­out hav­ing to rum­mage through draw­ers ev­ery time they need some­thing. It’s all about ef­fi­ciency.

Hav­ing a rig­ging sur­face where these items can be spread out and or­ga­nized makes a big dif­fer­ence. A rocket launcher usu­ally serves such a role, of­ten in con­junc­tion with a fight­ing chair. Launch­ers that serve as seat­backs do dou­ble duty and give you a much-needed place to rig.

Other items that may not be needed so fre­quently can be stored else­where, and the de­vel­op­ment and near ubiq­ui­tous pres­ence of mez­za­nines has made life a lot sim­pler for se­ri­ous fish­er­men. Mez­za­nines cre­ate a wealth of stowage space and can be set up to an owner’s taste. They also pro­vide seat­ing for guests and ob­servers—al­ways a plus.

Fish­boxes, freez­ers, tackle stowage of all sizes and shapes, and even grills now com­monly re­side within these handy spa­ces, mak­ing the some­times daunt­ing task of bring­ing ev­ery­thing along that you need that much sim­pler.

The big­ger your boat, the more space you typ­i­cally have to work with, of course, and even on smaller boats, you can or­ga­nize your gear for the best ef­fect based on what species you’re tar­get­ing at the time. But a well-planned cock­pit goes fur­ther than ba­sic or­ga­ni­za­tional fea­tures.

Cer­tain as­pects of a cock­pit can’t be eas­ily changed, so it pays to be aware of these items be­fore you buy a par­tic­u­lar boat. For in­stance, if you’re go­ing to use a fight­ing chair, make sure the mate has room to pass be­tween the footrest and the tran­som while an an­gler fights a fish. The wire or gaff man must be able to move with ease from one side of the pit to the other dur­ing the end game.

This can be prob­lem­atic on boats with fish­boxes in­stalled in the cen­ter of the tran­som. Such place­ment re­quires the chair to be mounted far­ther for­ward in the cock­pit to keep those al­leys open. And on larger, wide-beam boats, you’ll al­most al­ways need an off­set stan­chion for the chair to make sure you can clear the tran­som cor­ners with the fish­ing line when the fish gets close.

The cock­pit sole should be low enough so that mates can eas­ily reach the wa­ter’s sur­face, mak­ing a re­lease much eas­ier in cer­tain in­stances. Like­wise, the cov­er­ing boards should be the right height so stand-up an­glers or mates can lock their knees be­neath the boards for se­cu­rity and safety. This

be­comes paramount when wiring a pow­er­ful fish, or when it’s ex­cep­tion­ally rough.

Other cock­pit con­sid­er­a­tions in­clude the size and ac­ces­si­bil­ity of fish­boxes, livewells, and lazarrette ac­cess to pumps, rud­der ta­bles, and fuel tanks. If you don’t plan to har­vest many fish for the ta­ble, a huge fish­box might not be a big deal. But when you hap­pen across a tro­phy yel­lowfin tuna, it’s nice to have am­ple space to store it. And hav­ing an ice ma­chine to keep it chilled makes a big dif­fer­ence, too.

If you live bait a lot, plan­ning out a func­tional livewell sys­tem be­comes a ne­ces­sity. Above-deck wells have be­come the norm, es­pe­cially with South Florida sail­fish teams, so you must scout out routes for be­low-deck plumb­ing, for both raw-wa­ter sup­ply and drainage. A sturdy pump box can help en­sure suf­fi­cient wa­ter flow.

Fi­nally, be sure your cock­pit has firm foot­ing when con­di­tions are less than ideal. I can’t tell you how many boats I’ve fished on that lacked this seem­ingly ba­sic de­tail. Slip­pery foot­ing in the heat of bat­tle is un­ac­cept­able and can lead to se­ri­ous in­jury. Whether a boat has teak or fiber­glass deck­ing, it must have an ad­e­quate non­skid sur­face as sure foot­ing at sea should be a given on any boat.

Be­ing aware of cer­tain pa­ram­e­ters that a good cock­pit should pos­sess will make your fish­ing more pro­duc­tive and more en­joy­able. On top of that, learn­ing to or­ga­nize your gear for max­i­mum ef­fi­ciency will help you dial it up at the right time. You’ve got to be or­ga­nized to catch big fish, and hav­ing the right cock­pit set up the right way will give you the best chance for suc­cess.

Not all cock­pits are cre­ated equal; learn what to look for.

Any suc­cess­ful cap­tain will tell you or­ga­ni­za­tion is key.

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