I have never had a hydraulic jack plate on any of my boats. When I ordered my new Nitro Z-20, I thought I put it on my order to have one installed on the boat right from the factory. Much to my dismay, I accidentally checked the wrong box.
For those of you that read my columns regularly, you know I love fishing shallow water for bass, mainly with swimbaits. This puts me in areas where it’s often impossible to get the boat up on plane when I want to leave and run somewhere else. I have idled for 10 minutes or more just to get to deep enough water where I can jump the boat up on plane. This happened to me at my last tournament on Lake Monroe while I was practicing.
Lakes that are controlled by the locks are seeing very low water levels this spring. It appears that Okeechobee and Kissimmee, both connected to the Kissimmee River which flows out to the Gulf of Mexico through a lock system, have had the water dumped out of them early this year in hopes of preventing the algae blooms from flowing out to the Gulf. While that is a step in the right direction to improving a bad situation, it makes it tough to get to certain areas on these lakes and fish them — and even tougher to get up and leave.
As most of you know, you can run a bass boat in some very shallow water. However, once you are off plane and the boat settles, if you don’t have a jack plate, it makes it very difficult to get that boat back up out of the water and on plane. With a jack plate, you can bring that motor up to run in literally 8 inches of water and have a pretty decent shot at getting the boat up on plane again where you can run it effectively.
You can make the argument that maybe it’s not a good idea to run the boat in such shallow water to begin with. Point taken: If you aren’t familiar with your surroundings, you should never do that. But when you want to get to certain areas where you know there is deeper water, but you have to run through shallow water to get there, having a jack plate will make that happen.
Because I unintentionally ordered a manually adjustable jack plate (which can only be done while the boat is out of the water), I feel like I’ve sold myself short. Today I spoke to my dealer about getting a hydraulic jack plate installed on the boat, which will allow me to adjust that thing while I am out on the water and moving. With lower water levels on some of my favorite lakes, it should also help prevent me from hitting anything, including the bottom, in that shallow water. Considering the lake levels today, that just seems like a good idea.
For the money it will cost me, it will give me some peace of mind, and some flexibility in getting in and out of that skinny water I like to fish so much. It just seems like the smart thing to do.
Hydraulic jack plates are not for everyone. In some scenarios, though, they can be very effective and even prevent you from doing damage to your lower unit. Every option on a boat has its pros and cons. Trust me, a jack plate like I am looking at is simply an added option. But like all options, you have to decide if it not only fits your situation, but also if it solves a problem or potentially prevents something bad from happening.
Considering that I am taking a look at fishing the B.A.S.S. Southern Opens here in the next couple of years — something I have always wanted to try — I think it’s the best solution for me to go ahead and have that hydraulic jack plate installed. You never know what a schedule will look like for the Opens, so maybe it’s best to have all the tools I may need in order to give myself that peace of mind.
Well, look at that: I talked myself into it. I believe I’ll go ahead and get one installed. As for whether you should do the same, that’s up to and your situation — but I think you ought to at least consider it.
Greg Bartz is a tournament bass fisherman based in Lakeland. Greg fishes lakes throughout Florida’s Heartland and enjoys RV travel around the Southeast with his wife and tournament partner, Missy. Contact him at Greg.Bartz@SummitHoldings.com.