With strong south-westerly winds, a chop on the water and the threat of yet more rain, conditions were less than ideal. Chichester Harbour in West Sussex is over 9000 acres of creeks and mudflats. It’s a huge expanse to explore by boat and the ideal location to test the capability of a boat to fish in ultra shallow water, which at only a few feet deep in places is accessible only to boats with very shallow drafts – those that that can creep up on bass and mullet, with barely enough water to cover their dorsal fins.
I was here with Ben Stevens to test out the Tracker Targa V-19 WT, a new boat being imported from the USA into the UK by RBS Marine. Trackers are deep-V aluminium hulled boats built in the landlocked US state of Missouri and used for freshwater small and large mouth bass fishing in the vast lakes across much of America. However, they are gaining popularity in saltwater and it was time to put one to the test in the brine of Chichester Harbour.
All in one
The first standout features of the Tracker Targa is the fact is comes as a complete package; everything is included to get on the water: engine, electronics, trailer, trolling motor and more. The second feature is that this is very much a fishing boat, designed and built for the sole purpose of catching fish – it’s not a powerboat with a few angling accessories bolted on. Every single detail has been considered with the angler in mind.
The standard model comes with six upholstered seats – more can be added as the boat is coded to carry eight people. The seats are removable and can be rearranged across the deck including on the bow and stern. The two rear seats fold down
which creates a huge amount of additional useable deck space for such a small boat. Rod storage is immense with lockers located on both gunwales and in a compartment on the bow. The boat has two lit, recessed, live bait tanks and endless lockers; wherever there was unused space the manufacturer has installed a locker or stowage compartment.
The Tracker Targa also has the VersaTrack system running around the gunwale which allows you any number and configuration of rod holders, bait boards etc. at the exact location you want them. Being American the boat also has a generous number of a cup holders for those all-important tasty beverages!
Despite having a low gunwale the seated position on the main deck is low enough that you feel you are in the boat rather than on top of it and the wrap around glass wind shield, along with the reverse chined hull, does a great job at keeping you dry from the bow splash. However, once standing, or sitting, on the raised bow or stern positions the gunwale is only inches high. While this means it’s easy to fall into the water it also makes getting down to the water level much easier to land or release fish. With a wide beam the boat is extremely stable.
The Targa 18 comes with the option of a 150hp, 200hp or 225hp Mercury outboard. This model has a 200hp Pro XS sport engine which growled and grunted satisfyingly like a classic American muscle car. Being limited to a measly 8kt within the harbour the engine was like a caged animal desperate to be released to its cruising speed of 34kt. Wherever you want to get to with the Tracker, it’ll get you there, and back, fast! The throttle and steering are both super responsive and the stylish instrument panel, again, reminds you of a sports car.
The harbour is a designated Bass Nursery Area – you cannot legally fish for bass between April 30th and November 1st. However, the harbour is typical of the type of shallow water estuary that many anglers would be using the Tracker to fish in. Ben’s usual tactic when fishing waters such as this is to drift through the schools of feeding fish. However, the Tracker allowed us to test a new tactic, one that we soon realised would be a game changer and could be the single best feature of the boat; it was time to deploy the trolling motor.
Despite the low profile of the Tracker the strong winds were still getting hold of the boat which, along with the tide, were pushing us along at quite a lick. Dropping an anchor for such mobile fishing simply isn’t practical, and even if it was, we would have been swinging around in the wind. The other option of holding our position with the outboard wasn’t either, principally due to the shallow water and the noise of the engine scaring any fish off within a 100m radius – not to mention one of us having to forgo fishing to take control of the engine.
The game-changing realisation came when Ben dropped the GPS controlled trolling motor from the bow and set it to hold our position. Not only did it keep us on the head of a pin by constantly making micro adjustments based on our GPS position but it kept the bow of the boat in the position we had set, not having to face into the tide as you would when at anchor. In addition, the electric motor was virtually silent causing all but no disturbance in the shallow creeks of the harbour.
With a sonar on the trolling motor and a second plotter on the bow Ben was able to see the fishfinder from the forward fishing position and control our position using the foot peddle control (pictured above) leaving his hands free to continue fishing. Over short distances we moved the boat using the trolling motor rather than starting the engine. I was impressed with the battery consumption of the trolling motor too. After four hours on the water and some pretty heavy use the battery was still at 75 per cent power. We didn’t get the opportunity to explore the other functions of the trolling motor but these include being able to programme it via the Humminbird plotter, to follow contours on the chart, retrace previous drifts or circle objects at a set distance which might be fish holding features.
While the conditions may not have been as we had hoped the trip had been a spectacular success in getting some first-hand experience of the benefits of using a trolling motor. These American boats are jammed packed with awesome features and are the perfect vessel for shallow water lure and fly fishing where being nimble and having the ability to move location quickly and easily are part of the game. The aluminium hull makes the boat light and easily trailerable with the electronics and interior protected by a high-quality travel cover that comes as standard. Adding up the features that come as part of the package it’s priced very competitively and stands out on the water. I have no doubt we’ll be seeing many more Trackers fishing from the coast around the UK just as soon as the word gets out. Ben and the Tracker Targa will be at the Southampton International Boat Show in September. Why not go along and check it out for yourself?
- Tracker V19 WT Combo Tournament Edition
- Length w/swim platform: 5.82m
- Beam: 2.59m
- Max. recommended hp: 225hp
- Fuel capacity: 151.4l
- Max. person capacity: 8 persons
- Max. person, motor & gear weight: 748.43kg
- Interior depth: 73.025cm
- Draft: 47.625cm
- Average dry weight: 1000kg
- Engine options: 150, 200 or 225 XL FourStroke Mercury® Pro XS®
- Removable seat cushions
- 18in wide jump seats
- Removable ski tow pylon
- Bow & console Hummingbird®
- HELIX™ 9 G4N fish finders (MDI at bow, MSI at console)
- Minn Kota® Terrova® 24V, 80-lb.thrust 60in (1.52 m) shaft,
- Foot-control trolling motor with MEGA Down Imaging® and
- i-Pilot® Link
- From: £46,350+VAT
- includes UK delivery, Customs, PDI and CE certification)