Some entrepreneurial individuals have taken their own designs and begun to make them commercially. Some R/C boats on the market can best be described as toy remote controlled boats with an adaptation for anglers, but they do have the advantage of being quite cheap. Others have been designed from the ground up (or is it the plimpsole line up?) specifically for angling, and subsequently are rather more expensive items. I have been using the Angling Technics single hull bait boat since 1997 for carp, pike and catfish fishing and I will attempt to review the product from my years of use and describe how to use it for different situations.
All three of the above species require different tactics but there are some overall doís and doníts that should be observed in using an R/C. Bait Boats should not be considered as devices that can only reach distances, they can also be used to position baits next to features that are a bit tricky to cast to. Some waters forbid them, and some are not sure what to do about them. Bans and general bad feeling have usually been caused by abuse by anglers of a very valuable piece of equipment. Chasing ducks and dropping baits in front of other anglers (although out of their casting range) will only wind people up. So keep bait boats within a sensible hinterland.
When using a Bait Boat for the first time you will probably get in a bit of a mess. The wind will probably be howling, and you will have picked a swim that is either rocky or a big drop to the water. Bait Boats need to be treated with a bit of care, so launch them from gently sloping beachy type swims, and do not send them out in really choppy water. Force 7-8 and 6-inch waves are about their limit. Having picked a swim that a boat can be launched from and not likely to cause annoyance to anyone, you now need to consider how you are going to use the Bait Boat to best effect for the species that you are after. I will deal with the specifics of this later in this article. Some guidelines to follow for launching and use are thus:-
Make sure you are launching your R/C boat from a swim clear of debris, e.g. dead reeds or twigs.
A gently sloping beach is better than a steep rock face, even small 2 inch waves will batter a boat against rocks.
Make sure the line is clear running on your rod with the rig on, i.e. no tip tangles or line behind spools.
Switch on your handset, then the R/C boat, if you do it the other way round, I have known my boat to shoot off as it picks up another signal it interprets as "Full Ahead".
Never put your bait boat into the water without it being switched on or without the reel line being attached. You turn your back for one moment, and it has drifted off. Swimming time!
Avoid floating weed/algae areas. It clogs the water intakes, or even worse, it clogs just one and then your boat goes round in circles.
Give the R/C boat a shove to quickly clear the rods and then engage "slow" forward.
If you are aiming for a specific feature then it's best to mark it with something that can be seen at night. Alternatively, make a mental note of a feature, e.g. a tree, that is visible against the night sky, and gently cruise out until the predefined stop knot is reached. Thus giving you a bearing and journey length. (All very nautical this).
As the Bait Boat is driven out, itís best to prop your rod up at an angle or hold onto it. Line does tend to bed down and this will interfere with the boatís ability to drive out. So you need to keep paying attention to the spool.
When the bait boat is nearing its destination, if you have a bait-runner reel, itís best to engage the bait runner, or alternatively let the bait boat back-wind the reel for a few yards. This will ensure that the line tightens up, before dropping the bait.
If, on the boat, you have the bait in one hopper and a lead in the other, drop the bait first, quickly followed by the rig. This avoids any tangles.
If you are fishing at more than 100 yards you should have binoculars at the ready. (At 200 yards a bait boat can look like a coot). Also, if itís foggy they have a habit of disappearing, and at sunrise the bright sun makes them difficult to see.
All of this is important, because if you are navigating a £400-£1000 (yes with all the toys it can cost this) piece of hardware around reedbeds and sunken trees, you do not want it to get stuck. You will have to go swimming for it, and you can bet it will be in the middle of winter when this happens. An Angling Technics Bait boat has a range of about 400 yards, but in reality I have rarely used it at beyond 150 yards -probably because I canít swim that far!
Fishing for Carp
When carp fishing, a Bait Boat will tow out two baits at a time, assuming that you are using a standard rig of lead and hook, with no more than 18-inches between hook and weight. A Bait Boat can carry a significant amount of bait, but the original single hull version is limited as to how much it can deploy depending on the bait itself. If dry baits, such as trout pellets or boilies, are all that are being used, then the hoppers will hold a full load and deploy correctly. A mixture of gravity, a sloping hopper and a plastic sheet attached to the bottom of the hopper doors will normally sort things out. With wet baits such as soaked particles, only a small load can be carried. I find that a couple of handfuls in each hopper about right. Any more, and the wet, sticky load will either stop the doors from opening or, if the doors do open, refuse to slide out. If you keep your boat hoppers polished with "Mr Sheen", this problem can be slightly reduced, but I am afraid the only real way to deploy more particles in a single load is to buy the Microcat. This can carry a 6kg load of particles and the hopper design ensures a full deployment everytime.
The precise positioning of bait means that there are substantive cost savings in bait usage, which is good news for your pocket and also prevents over-baiting. With carp anglers often casting to the horizon, snap offs can occur. This can have detrimental effects upon fish and wildfowl - think about those baited hooks and fixed leads. On Orchid Lake for instance, the owner, Marsh Prattley, has seen a massive decrease in snap offs in the trees and subsequently wild fowl deaths. This owner is a strong advocate of R/C boats use, guided by conservation, which is refreshing to hear. Too often bait boats are banned by verbal "have-nots" who are jealous of the "haves" with their increased catch rates. It is worth trying to think of what is in the best interest of the water, rather than whatís in the best interest of the angler.
In some carp lakes, where R/C boats have been used a lot, the carp have associated the sound of the boat with food, and will actively follow the boat out to a chosen spot. I have even been told of an incident where a carp bumped a Bait Boat because it could not wait to be fed!
This is altogether a different ball game to carping. The challenge is more about positioning bait in uncastable swims rather than baiting up. Letís deal with deadbaiting first. If you are free-lining or just straight legering, then two baits can be deployed in a single trip, one in each hopper. You can also use the hoppers to offer a bit of free-bait too, chopped up fish from previous casts or trips will all add to the attraction of the area. Deadbaiting for pike is what I spend 6 months a year doing, and I find that I am now catching unknown fish from previously unfished swims. These can be long range bars and plateaus or up against reed beds in areas where there are no bank swims within casting range. However, I must say that my overall catch size has not increased. I catch slightly more fish, but generally itís more of the same. Do not think for one moment that 30ís surround the island at 250 yards. It will be the same size as the pike that you catch from 30 yards, but possibly a little less wary.
Livebaiting for pike offers the chance to present bait beyond the standard 30 yards and also enables the bait to avoid the experience of being cast out. Your bait arrives at the chosen spot lively and in pristine condition, which is all the better to attract pike. I personally choose to tow my live baits out, with the lead in one hopper and keeping the line under a little pressure, to stop the bait dropping behind the boat too far. High speed is too fast for livebaits, they skim across the surface and end up exhausted. If you use a buoyancy aid to pop-up your livebait, use about a nine-inch hair, and you can then put the polyball in the other hopper. Do not attempt to tow two livebaits out at the same time, as they will tangle. Especially trout or rudd livebaits.
You may occasionally find that pike will take a bait almost immediately. I donít believe that I Ďm that good at putting baits over pike. What I believe happens is, that the towed bait passed over a pike on the way out, it followed, and then grabbed the bait on the drop. I suppose this is rather like wobbling a bait, but away from the bank.
In summary, I find the single hull boat excellent for piking, I do not put livebaits in the hoppers but the new Microcat will allow a stream of water through the hoppers, which keeps everything neat and tidy onboard.
Fishing for catfish is becoming increasingly popular with UK Anglers. The techniques used by some anglers are often adapted from carp fishing or pike fishing, but increasingly catting is developing techniques that occupy its own niche. I will attempt to describe a method I have been fishing for the past three seasons.
My catting generally takes place at night and I have been fishing mid-water and surface-fished livebaits. The problem with casting livebaits, is that the impact with the surface can stun the baitfish and repeated casts reduce the bait's longevity. If you want to use baits of around a pound in weight, these are uncastable. Using the boat will get around this problem. Distance is always a problem and an alternative to a bait boat is to use a rowing boat to paddle the baits out, but on many waters this is obtrusive to other anglers, and lets face it, rather dangerous in the middle of the night.
When designing rigs for R/C boats you do not have to worry about castability, it can merely be towed out and deployed cleanly without tangles.
Assuming that you have to position a bait at night, the following should keep you out of trouble: Place (without bait) the lead in one hopper and polyball in the other. Close the doors. You can then add extra ground bait, I use sinking trout pellets, chopped up fish, old fishmeal boilies and last winters deadbaits to create a general smelly ambience to the area to be fished. Add these equally to both hoppers. Then attach the livebait, either though direct hooking or hair rig, and send the boat out. Release the bait. After opening the hopper doors, tighten up your line to the lead and then give some line until the polyball stops pulling line, and has reached the surface.
I have found that my R/C boat will happily tow out a 1lb trout livebait and deploy this rig without tangles everytime. The other main advantage is that your livebaits are positioned in pristine condition without having to resort to dangerous boating in the middle of the night. Baits can be back in action a minute or two after a run or fish, often when catfish feed, it can be in a narrow window of an hour or two, the more baits in the water in a lively condition, the better.
Gadgets and the Future
There are all sorts of add-onís for the Angling Technics Bait Boat, but I use a solar charger on trips where greater than a days use is needed. I find that on slow speed I can get about 2 hours running time out of a fully charged boat, for every hour sunbathing I will add about 10 minutes running time to the boat, which is perfectly acceptable. The other item I would find very useful is a sounder. The current sounder on offer is rather limited, and offers a numeric read-out of the depth. When this feature develops into a "Eagle" type fish finder, then I definitely will have to have one.
Bait Boats will continue to get developed, as technologies that are used in other disciplines are applied to angling. It will not be long before your bait boat will be able to offer topographical mapping with storage of the details for later use, underwater infra-red video cameras and even an auto-pilot navigation system, so the boat can return to the same spot everytime, and find itís way home. Some people will find this daunting and will have nothing to do with it. Personally I canít wait! Now, whereís that anorak?