Trim Tabs for Small Boats
Why they're not just for big saltwater cruisers.
Trim tabs on bass and walleye boats are about as common as marlin gaffs; for most anglers, they’re a big-boat option that doesn’t apply to their rigs. But odds are your fishing platform can benefit from the addition of tabs.
You won’t need tabs to get on plane in your freshwater rig, true-not unless there’s something drastically amiss in the power-to-weight ratio or the pitch of the prop. But tabs can give you a better ride, keep you dry and make your boat safer and more versatile.
When it comes to rough-water ride, tabs are a big benefit. They allow you to drop the bow of the boat, bringing the sharp forward vee into first contact with the waves. This eliminates the hammering you get otherwise. (Note that this works only for vee-bottom boats-flat-bottoms and semi-vees won’t benefit from this use of tabs.)
Second, tabs allow you to level the beam of the boat. If your 320-pound fishing buddy creates a distinct lean to port, just dropping the tab a bit on that side will level the boat. If you’re running in the trough-that is, through waves coming from either side-you can make your boat effectively “taller” by using the tabs to raise the upwind side several inches. This knocks down a tremendous amount of spray.
Finally, if you need to get on plane really quick, as you might if you find yourself fishing a little pothole surrounded by shallow flats, completely lowering the tabs on both sides before you drop the hammer means you’ll pop out fast with almost no bow rise.
Of course, you can do some of this stuff with the trim control on your outboard. But when you do, you generally change the running angle of the prop to a less efficient attack angle. That means less speed and poorer fuel economy. With the tabs, you can leave the motor trim where you want it and still play with the running attitude of the hull.
The best-known manufacturers of small boat tabs are Bennett (954-427-1400; www.bennetttrimtabs.com) and Trim Master (800-348-5781; www.trimmaster.net). Both company Web sites have lots of information about installing tabs yourself, as well as product lists. Prices range from around $335 to $400 for tabs suitable for bass and walleye rigs.