Versatility is an admirable trait in a boat, which explains why one style continues to be so popular with coastal anglers. Bay boats have a fairly shallow draft yet enough deadrise to also provide a dry, comfortable ride in a chop. As a result, they are being used for everything from drifting the flats to coastal trolling for king mackerel to competing in redfish or striper tournaments. That’s why builders have refined the bait and livewell systems on these boats to meet the growing demand.
“It’s important to determine how you are going to fish when comparing livewells,” says Scott Deal, president of Maverick Boat Company, builder of the Pathfinder bay-boat line. “For example, Texas anglers might fish exclusively with artificials or only live croakers, which are very hardy and don’t require as much water. Some guys in Florida, however, are loading up with hundreds of delicate baits like Spanish sardines or pilchards for live-chumming, so capacity and circulation are important. For flexibility, we provide our customers with different lengths of stand pipes to control the water volume. It’s crazy to put a couple dozen shrimp or finger mullet in a full 40-gallon livewell.”
Deal says Pathfinder wells are designed to meet three criteria: to maximize space, ensure there are no dead spots and remove bad water. Every Pathfinder can be ordered with two wells; the TE tournament editions have a capacity of up to 50 gallons each.
“Most of our models draw from a sea chest, so the well stays full without being overpressurized,” Deal explains. “They also have upper and lower fills. If you feed and exhaust water only from the top, then the slime, waste, and ammonia from the bait settles to the bottom and contaminates the well. We have a unique design with the stand pipe behind a filter plate so raw water comes in and mixes all the way up and then exits, so there’s always a clean, fresh flow.”
Keep It Real
Wylie Nagler, president of Yellowfin Yachts, is another builder who pays special attention to keeping baits and trophy fish alive and hardy. Yellowfin offers the 21 Hybrid and 24 Bay models. Both come standard with 35-gallon bait and release wells with ice-blue finishes. Adding recirculation is an option.
“We design our wells and then build the boat around them,” Nagler says. “We carefully consider factors like where the water comes in and exits, the shape, water volume and pressurization. Ideally you create a natural environment with current. The closer to real-world conditions your well is, the better your bait will be.”