Walleye Winners

The snazzy 2003 test fleet proved though enough to handle the worst that Midwestern waters can churn up for walleye fishermen.

We visited Eddy’s Resort at Mille Lacs in northern Minnesota to test the 2003 crop of walleye rigs. Mille Lacs is one of the nation’s hottest walleye lakes and it served up some typical walleye weather in the form of 25-knot winds, rain and 32-degree temperatures on two of our three test days. The fleet took it all in stride, which is only to be expected from a walleye boat. The great thing about these rigs is their size, depth and stability, which makes it possible to take on big water in just about any mood. And they come loaded with the specialized goodies that make walleye fishing a pleasure instead of a chore. Here’s a sampling.

ALUMACRAFT 185 CS
The Tournament Pro 185 CS is a true barge, with a full eight-foot beam and lots of depth to keep you dry. Alumacraft’s “2XB” hull doubles up the bow and bottom areas with a second thickness of aluminum plate, greatly stiffening the areas where wave contact is most severe. The transom is plywood cased in aluminum, with aluminum knee braces for added strength. Seat bases are set into an added aluminum plate below the floors. The centerline rod locker has racks for 10 rods and is lighted, as are both livewells. A lift-out bait bucket fits inside each well for easy access. This rig jumped out of the hole in a scant 2.0 seconds and crashed through the waves at 57.1 mph on top end. Contact: Alumacraft Boats (Dept. OL, 315 West St. Julien Street, St. Peter, MN 56082; 507-931-1050; www.alumacraft.com).

CRESTLINER 202 DC
Crestliner builds perhaps the widest boat in the field, and that extra beam translates into great stability as well as loads of fishing space. It’s also a deep boat, about 23 inches floor to gunwales, which provides a feeling of added security. The tall windshield gives good wind and spray protection, and the elevated seats feature extra-thick upholstery and heavy vinyl covers that should last many years. The all-welded hull, whose bottom and transom are built of .125 aluminum, includes tongue-in-channel construction for added strength. With the four-stroke Yamaha, trolling was whisper quiet. Eleven rod tubes in a locking center trunk secure your walleye sticks, and lift-out minnow buckets forward and aft provide easy bait access. Contact: Crestliner Boats (Dept. OL, 609 13th Ave. NE, Little Falls, MN 56345; 800-889-7020; www.crestliner.com).

FISHER 186 FS
Fisher’s 186 FS boasts 27 inches of interior depth in the cockpit and 15 inches on the bow deck, making it an exceptionally secure rig for rough water. The 17-degree bottom does a nice job of wave-busting. Reversed chines plus four big strakes made for one of the quicker times to plane at just 2.7 seconds. A 50-inch-wide aft livewell offers space even for a husky muskie. There’s a smaller lift-out minnow bucket at the bow, as well as a second livewell. The dual-cable steering produced some torque at the wheel at some trim positions-buyers would probably be happier investing the extra money in hydraulic steering. Locking rod boxes under the aft gunwales will keep your gear out of the weather until it’s time to fish. Four swivel chairs with composite frames and “pinchproof” brackets are standard. Contact: Fisher Boats (Dept. OL, 2500 E. Kearney, Springfield, MO 65803; 888-669-2248; www.fisher boats.com).

G3 V 180C
With a 150-carbureted Yamaha, this was the fastest boat in the fleet for the first 50 yards, delivering head-snapping 1.7-second hole shots repeatedly. It wasn’t bad on top end, either, at 54.9, proving the hole-shot speed was not the result of a trick propeller. The boat had some tendency to porpoise at higher speeds, but a bit of tweaking the trim button flattened this out. A second aluminum plate strengthens bow and bottom against waves and obstructions, and the hull itself is two pieces of .100-gauge. Dual no-feedback steering is standard, and was adequate to handle the torque of the 150 inhe test rig. Both livewells are lighted and lids are insulated to keep your catch cool and in good health. There’s a lift-out bait bucket in the aft well. Rod lockers are under both gunwales and have locking doors. Contact: G3 Boats (Dept. OL, 901 Cowan Drive, Lebanon, MO 65536; 417-588-9787; www.g3boats.com).

LUND 900 SE
Lund is particularly proud of this big boat’s design below the waterline, where the hull carries much of its width right down to the chines.

A wider bottom means more stability, while the reversed chines provide quick planing. The chines did the job during our tests, with the boat skipping out on top in an amazing 2.5 seconds and providing an exceptional ride in really nasty conditions on the big lake. Top speed, 55 mph, was also very good. The company double-plates the riveted bottom from the bow to midships, and the stringers are aluminum I-beams, said to be among the strongest in the industry. We particularly liked the big in-floor rod storage, complete with racks and locks-very easy to get at your gear without standing on your head. There are baitwells bow and stern, and a 54-inch aft livewell will handle a wall-hanger northern. The driver’s seat includes a suspension system that eases bumpy rides. Contact: Lund Boat Company (Dept. OL, P.O. Box 248, New York Mills, MN 56567; 218-385-2235; www. lundboats.com).

MIRROCRAFT 1651
Considering that the Mirrocraft 1651 Aggressor was a smaller boat powered by an outboard of lesser horsepower than most of the test rigs, performance was very good. The Ficht 90 was surprisingly quick out of the hole-take-off time was just 2.7 seconds. The boat was very easy to drive as well, with basically hands-off steering at full throttle. It tended to dip the inside corner a bit in emergency turns pushed too far. Storage space was good for a boat less than 17 feet long, though the 21-inch interior depth is less than that in some of the competition. This is one of the more affordable walleye rigs in the fleet, coming in at just over half what some of the others cost. It is packaged with a Minn Kota Auto Pilot troller, Garmin 160 depth finder and single-axle trailer. Contact: MirroCraft Boats (Dept. OL, 39 N. Harding Ave., Gillett, WI 54124; 920-855-2168; www.mirrocraft.com).

RANGER 621VS
Ranger’s sleek and fast 621 offers exceptional wind and spray protection with tall, clear walk-through windshields. The center-loading rod locker includes trays and racks to keep your gear untangled, plus power-piston lifts and lights for night operation. The seats have shock-absorber springs to smooth out the waves. Two 1,000- gallons-per-hour bilge pumps help get rid of water. The boat was equipped with Yamaha’s 225 four-stroke, which trolled at a whisper and delivered adequate hole shots, averaging around 3.2 seconds. The hatch lids are fiberglass and foam, which means none of the condensation you get with aluminum lids. A three-bank, 15-amp charger is standard, as is Sea Star hydraulic steering. This was the most expensive rig in our test, but it was fully loaded. Contact: Ranger Boats (Dept. OL, P.O. Box 179, Flippin, AR 72634; 870-453-2222; www.rangerboats.com).

SKEETER ZX 2050
Pushed by 250 horses, the Skeeter predictably was one of the faster boats we ran, topping out at 58.7 mph. Thanks to standard Sea Star hydraulic steering, it was virtually a hands-off drive at full speed. The interior depth is 26.5 inches, which seems voluminous. The 19-inch-tall walk-through windshield helps divert spray from your face when running in head seas. The motor well drain goes through twin tubes and out the bottom of the step, assuring that water won’t come in when you’re back-trolling. The two 29-gallon fuel tanks have dual pickups, allowing easy feed for a kicker motor. The composite transom and stringers are coupled with aluminum knee braces that stiffen the whole transom area and a lighted center rod box with 12 tubes keeps your rigs ready for action. This is a top- end rig, but those who can swing it will fish in comfort, style and speed. Contact: Skeeter Boats (Dept. OL, P.O. Box 230, Kilgore, TX 75663; 800- SKEETER; www.skeeterboats.com).

STRATOS 21 MSX DC
With a beam of 8 feet, 1 inch, the Stratos boasted more walk-around space than most of the competition. It was also one of the deeper boats, with an interior depth of 26.5 inches. The pad-vee performed well at top end and the hydraulic steering allowed a torque-free drive with effortless cornering. The 4.4-second time to plane was a bit sluggish due to the slow wind-up of the four-stroke (despite its four-blade prop). Once on top, however, the boat’s acceleration was good and it stayed on plane easily, even at 2,800 rpm. Built-in transom plates provide easy mounting for kicker motors or electric trollers. The construction is all-fiberglass and high-density foam for rot-proof longevity. The 50-inch aft livewell includes a Flo-Rite aeration system and there are added baitwells bow and stern. The twin rod lockers, which are gasketed to keep out rain, have gas-assist piston lifts. The seats are deep and comfortable. Contact: Stratos Boats (Dept. OL, 880 Butler Road, Murfreesboro, TN 37127; 615-895-5190; www.stratosboats.com).

TRACKER TUNDRA 20
A first look at the Tundra convinces most that it’s a fiberglass boat because of the curved, flawless finish. It’s actually stretch-formed aluminum that’s .125 inches thick and painted with a baked-on automotive finish that produces a boat that looks great, is tough and runs very fast. In fact, the Tundra outran all the competition, despite giving up 50 horses to some. With the 200 OptiMax, it topped out at 61.3 mph, even carrying a 15-horse kicker. The formed running pad gives the boat its impressive speed. The hull had a slight tendency to porpoise in the higher rpm ranges, though this can be cured by playing with the trim. The Tundra was one of the deepest boats at 27.5 inches, and the tall console provided plenty of wind and spray protection. The floors and decks are all rot-proof aluminum, and there’s a unique extra for a freshwater boat: a “toe rail” along the floor that allows you to brace yourself while standing in rough seas to tend rods. The upholstery looks great and has a nice feel. The aft livewell is 60 inches long-perhaps the biggest in the class-and the top forms a nice “work table” when you sit aft and run the kicker. Contact: Tracker Marine (Dept. OL, 2500 E. Kearney, Springfield, MO 65803; 417-873-5900; www.trackerboats.com).

TRITON V189 DCF
Triton engineers added 300 pounds of fiberglass reinforcement in the bottom compared to their bass boat hulls of similar size, making a running surface that masters the beating given by big northern lakes. Despite the w and a lighted center rod box with 12 tubes keeps your rigs ready for action. This is a top- end rig, but those who can swing it will fish in comfort, style and speed. Contact: Skeeter Boats (Dept. OL, P.O. Box 230, Kilgore, TX 75663; 800- SKEETER; www.skeeterboats.com).

STRATOS 21 MSX DC
With a beam of 8 feet, 1 inch, the Stratos boasted more walk-around space than most of the competition. It was also one of the deeper boats, with an interior depth of 26.5 inches. The pad-vee performed well at top end and the hydraulic steering allowed a torque-free drive with effortless cornering. The 4.4-second time to plane was a bit sluggish due to the slow wind-up of the four-stroke (despite its four-blade prop). Once on top, however, the boat’s acceleration was good and it stayed on plane easily, even at 2,800 rpm. Built-in transom plates provide easy mounting for kicker motors or electric trollers. The construction is all-fiberglass and high-density foam for rot-proof longevity. The 50-inch aft livewell includes a Flo-Rite aeration system and there are added baitwells bow and stern. The twin rod lockers, which are gasketed to keep out rain, have gas-assist piston lifts. The seats are deep and comfortable. Contact: Stratos Boats (Dept. OL, 880 Butler Road, Murfreesboro, TN 37127; 615-895-5190; www.stratosboats.com).

TRACKER TUNDRA 20
A first look at the Tundra convinces most that it’s a fiberglass boat because of the curved, flawless finish. It’s actually stretch-formed aluminum that’s .125 inches thick and painted with a baked-on automotive finish that produces a boat that looks great, is tough and runs very fast. In fact, the Tundra outran all the competition, despite giving up 50 horses to some. With the 200 OptiMax, it topped out at 61.3 mph, even carrying a 15-horse kicker. The formed running pad gives the boat its impressive speed. The hull had a slight tendency to porpoise in the higher rpm ranges, though this can be cured by playing with the trim. The Tundra was one of the deepest boats at 27.5 inches, and the tall console provided plenty of wind and spray protection. The floors and decks are all rot-proof aluminum, and there’s a unique extra for a freshwater boat: a “toe rail” along the floor that allows you to brace yourself while standing in rough seas to tend rods. The upholstery looks great and has a nice feel. The aft livewell is 60 inches long-perhaps the biggest in the class-and the top forms a nice “work table” when you sit aft and run the kicker. Contact: Tracker Marine (Dept. OL, 2500 E. Kearney, Springfield, MO 65803; 417-873-5900; www.trackerboats.com).

TRITON V189 DCF
Triton engineers added 300 pounds of fiberglass reinforcement in the bottom compared to their bass boat hulls of similar size, making a running surface that masters the beating given by big northern lakes. Despite the w