The clock struck midnight and fireworks lit up the dark skies in Key Largo. The usual Florida Keys crowd welcomed a new year in toasts, noise makers, and well wishes.
I started my first fishing trip of 2012 the following morning. Another year passed and we are now settled into 2012 looking forward to the next string of tarpon to flush down our coast line in the Florida Keys. The small windows that allowed for some pooning gave us a small tease of what is to come when the full swing comes around. As I sit in front of this iMac tying away, I stare up at my wall of fly rods and my 12wt immediately catches my eyes. I continue to become anxious as I get flashbacks of January 1st 2012. The miraculous even that took place that day still has me in awe as Tim and I experienced a taste of 2012′s laid up tarpon fishery. We hooked a bunch of fish that day and brought 3 to the glove. The cold fronts have since pushed the fish away as they await their turn to slide into spring time migration mode.
With tarpon fishing tactics constantly evolving, both my arsenal, ammunition, and vehicle had to keep up with these changes as well. So I advance forward this tarpon season with new Nautilus Monster Fly reels, improved versions of last year’s flies, and more power at my stern.
Capt. Willy Le and I made our way North to the Mosquito Lagoon, the day after the tournament in Vero. A front was threatening to approach us further south so we drove north of the cold front and fished behind it. This would prove to be a good choice as I had a little time to fish before having to head back down to Miami. The cloudy conditions always make it tough to sight fish but we had small 5 minute windows of light that would allow us to capitalize on what shots we had… patterning out the fish, we set ourselves up for quite a few great shots as the sun peaked. The fishing was nothing short of spectacular. We caught 8 redfish out of the 13 we stuck metal to in the 3 hours. This was definitely a lot of fun feeding fish that aggressively attack a well placed fly. We got to test a few new fly patterns I had developed earlier that week and I am happy to report great success and a new fly that has found itself into my back of tricks.
I got to cast and test some new gear this trip so stay tuned for an update for all the fly and spin gear heads out there…
The Everglades is part of what I consider my local waters. The usual shallow water suspects sought after during chillier days are redfish and snook (yes snook). The temperatures are starting to stabilize with highs in the 80s during the day and lows into the 60s in the evening and wee hours of morning. Though I did not miss the massive cold temperatures of this past winter, I did miss the occassional warmer winter days and slightly chilly morning run through buttonwood canal. The backcountry of Flamingo becomes a real special place after extreme warmth of summer passes. Whether planning on coralling wads of finger mullet and pilchards into your baitwell or simply tying on your favorite lure or fly, the Everglades will fail to dissapoint the bait soaker or sight fisherman in us. Once you are exiting out of Buttonwood canal you enter natures realm of big fish eat small fish, starting from Coot Bay, into Whitewater Bay, Oyster Bay, Shark River, and the entire gulf coast outside of there. The incredible fishing is only bested by the vast unspoiled wildlife that surrounds you. Now that the mullet are here, porpoises, tarpon, and other big predators are having their fill devouring massive quantities of these half-brained delicacies. It’s pretty cool watching a redfish chase down and flare it’s gills at a small mullet imitation fly or soft plastic, but feeling a helpless baitfish at the end of your line struggling as a big redfish or snook closes in, is pretty exciting in it’s own aspect.
Chapter V… Pre-Absolute (almost done)
The last month had definitely been the longest month of my life. For the first time in half a decade, I was boatless for an extended period of time. Though the wait was actually not that long, it felt like forever but finally my dream boat has been realized. The result of a shopping list of little nit pick details I gave to Maverick Boat Company gave way for my new skiff… a 2011 Maverick Mirage HPX-V 18.
Yamaha F90: After having fished out of 3 different setups… Yamaha F150, F115, and F90, I decided to go with an F90 for this 18 HPX. Even I was skeptical of the F90 on a bigger skiff at first but after having spent an afternoon on Capt. Mark Krowka’s 18 HPX wit F90, I was absolutely convinced. The lighter motor in the rear will not only allow the 18 HPX-V to be poled in less then 8 inches of water, but it will also allow the HPX to spin quicker and quieter (it also helps that the boat does not need sponsons to float shallow). Speed was not an issue as the F90 setup should have no problems running in the mid 40s. I spend most of my time chasing fish on my push pole, not on the big motor.
Custom Hull/Deck color: I’ve always liked the subtle look and have always been in the pursuit of sharp looks without sacraficing function. I am a firm beleiver in the cliche “form follows function.” I’ve pondered on several different hull color combinations and in a last minute move (and some inspiration from my buddy Jeremy’s 18 HPX), I decided to go with a 2 tone deck. I chose a custom color called Whisper Grey for the non-skid, hull, and console. This was a popular color back in the early Maverick days and one which would suit the look I was going for perfectly. Whisper grey is a really light grey, almost white, but shaded just enough so that there would be absolutely no glare reflecting off this color. No more glare in your eyes when looking down from the poling platform and no more white balance blowouts in photos. The color stays cool after being in the sun for long periods of time, unlike the darker greys and blacks. It was a no brainer. Another added plus is that the whipser grey also cleans up fairly easy. Accenting the Whipser grey on the deck of my mirage, I had Maverick use their “ice blue” for the trim around the non-skid and front and rear bulkheads. The 2 tone look added some sex appeal while retaining it’s functionality. I would say win-win!!
Console and switches: I chose to go with the smaller 17 HPX-V console to make room for a bigger cooler and bigger deck. Maverick installs a bigger hatch opening on the console now that allows for easier access. A removable shelf was also put in to hold small accessories. Rather then go with the toggle switches, I upgraded to the Lenco push button switches which is more erganomic in my opinion when you are modulating the throttle and playing with the trim at the same time. I had these same style switch setup on my old 17 HPX-V and loved it.
Trailer: Ameratrail Trailer with zero degree torsion axle, side carpeted bunks, and rollers on the rear crossmember… for the closest thing to absolute dry launch. The hubs never get wet.
Accessorizing: This part of the skiff is totally subjective to every indivudials’ needs. Some like to deck out the skiff with every accessory known to man from power poles to full blown GPS/Radars, to harpoon canons. I decided to keep this skiff simple. I went with a Pro-Trim casting platform on the bow of the skiff as I have become very familiar with that foot print. I chose a simple but sexy Garmin 546 GPSMap as a Nav Aid (ordered and on the way). To keep my drinks cool, I chose a mid sized Yeti cooler (ordered and on the way) to rest in front of my console and will probably be getting a second larger cooler for food fish gathering missions. Of coarse, no skiff is complete these days without Sea Deck. I had Tyler from Castaway Customs install the Sea Deck pads under the rod gunnels, on my poling platform, and casting platform. To complete the setup, I will be installing a Wang Anchor setup and possibly a removable Minnkota iPilot trolling motor.
I drove up to Fort Pierce to picked up my new skiff this past Friday and spent today breaking in the motor. The arena would be the weekend warrior and wind driven turbid waters of the northern recesses of Biscayne Bay in metropolitan Miami; just within sight of Government Cut and Brickell. Once I got passed the 3 hour mark, I got to open her up a little. The results were nothing short of amazing. My buddy Juanki and I decided to do a quick test run to see what potential this type of power will have on this hull. With 2 anglers, an almost full tank of gas, cooler full of ice and drinks, and fishing gear; I made a quick short run and reached 45mph in mere seconds. I looked down at the tach to see that I wasn’t fully trimmed up yet and that I would still have a bit of room to play with but decided to back it down until after the motor is completely broken in. No doubt this boat is going to be a 48-49mph skiff running a lighter load. What truley amazed me were the cruise speeds… 36-37mph @ 4600rpms.
The 10 kt breeze turned into a consistant 15kt wind with 20kt gusts in the afternoon. Taking this opportunity, I decided to run straight across the roughest part of Biscayne Bay from Key Biscayne on the east side of the bay straight to Gables by the Sea on the west side of the bay. We got the skiff running up on it’s pad and never got a drop of water in the boat. What was also amazing was the incredible bow lift and the willingness of the hull to stay in the water instead of leaping airborne. This was a true testament to the genius design of the brainchilds over at Maverick Boat Company.
Everyone’s got that one friend who nit picks at every little details and will always find something negative to say about the slightest details. I brought that one friend along with me today and in his exact words… “I honestly can’t think of anything negative I can point out about this boat.” I just grinned… thinking about the next time on the water and finally getting some slime on the deck (figure of speech).
Stay tuned for the next chapter… I ran out of smart ideas to name the next chapter as I have absolutely no clue what will be in store for us on the next outing. There is only one way to find out…
Spring break had finally come and I took a week off to log some days on the water. The initial plans were to spend 3 days down in the lower Keys but due to circustances, that plan had to be put on hold for now. Instead, I chose to do something I had wanted to do in a long time. In 5 days straight, I fished in 4 different locations throughout Florida in 4 different style Maverick Mirage skiffs. Fishing had it’s ups and downs, but company was great, the overall experience was great, and I had a blast doing this. Upon introduction of the Mirage series of skiffs, Maverick Boat Co. revolutionalized the shallow water fishing industry. In 2000, Maverick introduced the HPX series of Mirage skiffs. These new hulls, floated shallower, rode drier, and were dead quiet. The HPX-Tunnel introduced stealth with the ability to float shallow, run in water once through too shallow for anything but a jon boat, zero hull slap. The 17 HPX-V allowed for anglers to take advantage of shallower draft while still providing a dry smooth ride in the rough and of coarse, zero hull slap. The 15 HPX-V, HPX-Micro, and 18 HPX-V later joined the line of Mirage line of skiffs and continue to raise the bar. I got to fish all 4 models in the last 5 days.
Skiff: Maverick Mirage HPX-Tunnel
Desitnation: Titusville, FL
My buddy Will invited me to spend a day fishing on his HPX-Tunnel up in Titusville so I took advantage of the situation and got to get out on the water with him for a few hours before I had to head back down to pick up my skiff at Maverick Boat Co. and head back home. We met up at dawn and got an early start, making our way through the shallows to get to our destination. The Mirage tunnel skiff handled the Lagoon chop fairly well and got us into some real shallow water where we would start our search. The sun was still hidden behind the clouds so we waited for the water to warm up, blind casting some shorelines in the meanwhile. Blind casting was not too fruitful so we made our way to the flats a little early to wait out the tailers. Once the sun broke through the clouds, the water warmed up, and the light revealed to us a couple of big red tails flags waving in the distance. With 9wt in hand, I tied on a simple modified redfish slider and had a few refusals before coming tight to a few smaller redfish. The day then revealed to us something different. Big grey tails began popping up and the through of being cold and throwing at reluctant oversized redfish had left my mind in a hurry. Being from South FL, we don’t get many opportunities to fish tailing black drum. We approached the first of many and this fish ate my redfish slider. After landing that big drum, we caught several more on a variety of flies ranging from a black merkin crab to black rattle shrimp flies. These drum aggresively attacked the rattle shrimp. It was pretty amazing. My buddy Will is fairly new to the fly game and managed to catch his first and second black drum on fly. Screams and high fives defined the degree to Will’s new fly fishing addiction. Time ran out and we left the fish tailing for the next group of dedicated anglers to find. This was definitely a cool experience neither of us will ever forget. I then headed home and made a stop at Maverick Boat Co. to bring my skiff back home after a minor nip/tuck.
Day 2 & 3
Skiff: Maverick Mirage 18 HPX-V
Desination: Key Largo and Florida Bay
My buddy Jeremy picked up a new 18 HPX-V with a Yamaha F115 last weekend so we spent the next couple of days tweaking the boat, testing it under real life conditions, and trying to get this boat dialed in properly. Unfortunately, the TRO model prop we have on this motor is not the right prop for the job so we are still waiting on different props to test out. Rest assured, several props are on their way and this boat will be dialed in. We will have more technical info for this setup shortly. Our first day on the water was rained out so we just took the boat out to run around Blackwater sound in Key Largo to make sure everything was in top order. The weather finally gave us a break the next day and we were able to take the 18 HPX out that afternoon for her maiden fishing voyage. We started out fishing East of Flamingo and had a few shots at some very big redfish that were reluctant to eat any of our offerings. From here, we boogeyd out to the oceanside of the Keys and paid a visit to one of flats where bonefish have taken residence. Jeremy managed to hook his first bonefish but the fish ran away from the boat first filling the air with the sound of the screaming drag. Then the bonefish turned and screamed towards the boat. My buddy reeled as fast as he could but could not keep up as the fish ran under the boat and spit the hook. The wind had picked up and the clouds rolled in so we headed back in staying bone dry and comfortable as we ran through a 2ft chop. Earlier in the day, while poling around in some real skinny stuff, I was amazed again to see how this boat performs on the pushpole. The 18 HPX drafted significantly shallow as we poled through some real skinny water. To put things into perspective, the only part of the push pole submerged in the water was the foot. It had to be no deeper then 8 inches and the 18 HPX was not even touching the bottom. When we had hit a hump no deeper then 6 inches, the 18 HPX was a breeze to push off it. The effort to push this boat was no more then pushing my 17 HPX-V with F90 but the stability when poling around in rough water and heavy winds was second to none. This is truley a remarkable poling skiff with an amazing hull. I will likely find myself in one in the near future.
Skiff: Maverick Mirage HPX-Micro
My buddy Jason also picked up a new Maverick Mirage this last week. For the type of shallow water fishing he plans to do and the long range runs out west, Jason opted for the HPX-Micro. With the inevitable implementation of the pole and troll zones that are to be enfored at Flamingo in the near future, the ability to run in shallow water will not as big of a factor as the ability to pole easily for longer distances, float shallower, and be a ble to take to handle running in a slight chop. The HPX-Micro fits this bill perfectly. The skiff floats in extremely shallow water. We poled around in water with the tips of grass protruding from the surface and slid along with ease as we poled for great lengths chasing down big schools of redfish pushing across the flats. The ability to be able to pole fast and set up on these fish is vital to success. Jason and I managed to feed countless numbers of redfish on a variety of lures and flies. I must admit, even having caught plenty of redfish on fly in my past, there is still nothing cooler then watching a big school of redfish dogpile on top of each other to try to eat a topwater plug. After being taken in by the cool ad I’d seen in a fishing magazine, I bought one of Bomber’s new Badonkadonk ( I also liked the name) topwater plugs and fed it to a bunch of redfish today. The fishing this day was spectacular as we plucked doubles off of each of the different schools of fish. Not only were there large numbers of fish in each school, but we encountered at least a dozen different schools of redfish up in the real skinny stuff. With the water continuing to warm the sight fishing opportunities on the flats is returning to the way it should be. Fishing can only get better from here. On the way back to the ramp, the wind had kicked up pretty bad but the Micro took to the chop surprisingly well and we stayed dry. The only thing I would change on the Micro is the engine HP rating. I would love to see a F60 or F70 on the rear of this boat. The F40 performed nicely and fuel economy is second to none, but the ability to scoot around faster would be nice. I must say though that even with an F40, the Micro was able to jump on plane in less then a boat’s length and with very little squat once tabs were applied. I also got to test one of Carbon Marine/Loop’s new push poles. These poles are amazingly stiff and light weight. I did not find a problem at all poling it in both shallow or deep water. The Carbon Marine Loop push poles are pretty impressive and priced unbeleivably cheaper then the Stiffy poles. After having used the Loop push pole, I highly recommend one for the absolute best value per performance.
Skiff: Maverick Mirage 17 HPX-V
Location: Key West and The Marquesas
During my 5th and final day on the water, I decided to take my own 17 HPX-V out to fish as south as I can go. Jeremy, David McCleaf, and I headed down to Key West to throw crabs and flies at Permit. Jeremy had never caught nor had a shot at a permit before but this day we produced many shots. Our first few shots came off a strip bank where there we had shots at 3 big fish. One cast was dead on but the fish spooked and didn’t eat (welcome to permit fishing). Towards the end of the day, we decided to make the journey across Boca Grande channel and look for some permit over at the Marquesas. We had 5 more solid shots at the end of the day and Jeremy ended up hooking his first permit. The fish ran under the boat during the fight and somehow ended up breaking off. This was a heart breaker but we were very content with the amount of shots we had and the fish we hooked. The day was growing late and the wind was steadily picking up so we decided to head back. Running back was no walk in the park. We made our way across Boca Grande channel again but the wind and current had sped up this time creating a consistant 3ft chop with a 4 to 5 footer mixed in here and there. I had the skiff airborne several times but she felt solid running across the chop and brought us home dry, humbled, and in one peice. Boca Grande channel is a definitely a force to be reckoned with but having the right skiff for the crossing is a must. Once Jeremy gets his GPS installed, we are going to try taking the 18 across to the Marquesas. This time, I can perhaps hopefully capitalize on my first permit on fly.
Spring is finally here and I am absolutely THRILLED about the warmer weather and good fishing to come. Stay tuned… the next journey has just begun!!
Mavericks’ New Mirage 18 HPX-V
Maverick Boats introduced the new 18 HPX-V at the 2009 Miami Boat Show. The skiff is a new design from the ground up, based on the popular 17 HPX-V. Designed with input from several well-known guides including Mark Crocker. It incorporates angler friendly features such as an integrated removable cooler in front of the console. Recessed deck cap lip against aft bulkhead so passenger can use the lip for a handhold when running. Then allows for the seat cushion to fold down completely out of the way giving full access to the rear deck. A 28-gallon livewell located on centerline with recessed drain system, that allows water height adjustment and evacuates water at all levels in the well. Perfect for large finfish baits, enough whitebait for chumming or as a tournament release well.
The 18 HPX-V was developed as a Tournament boat, covering large amounts of water in short time. To accomplish this a larger more stable platform than the 17 HPX V, but not so large as to be considered a Bay Boat was designed. Thus the 18 HPX V was born. Length Over all is 18’4” with a beam of 6’8” and a maximum horsepower rating of 150. The new skiff is a serious backcountry bullet. Rigged and loaded with 3 persons we achieved a top speed of 57.7mph. In tournament dress with skilled hands at the helm, the skiff has pushed 62.5mph.
Amazingly though, with a beefy F150 Yamaha 4 Stroke hung off the back, the skiff does not suffer from overly pronounced squat while at rest. While it draws more than it’s smaller sibling the 17 HPX V, the skiff does not become unusable when propulsion is shifted to push pole. The large front deck offers the angler a wide stable platform to cast from.
Admittedly I was smitten by the pure power and speed of the new HPX V with the F150 Yamaha, but it’s usability once off plane that captured my attention. If the need for speed does not course through one’s veins then the option of a lighter 115 or even 90 hp engines would fit the bill. Top end and hole shot performance would be less than the larger motor, but poling draft would greatly improve.
Rod storage is ample with 13 rod tubes fore and aft facing. Cockpit is spacious and deeper than it’s sibling the 17 HPX V. The removable cooler/seat is comfortable and functional. Fore and aft storage compartments are ample for everything from the weekender to the full out tournament guide.
Most notable is the redesigned center console. Controls are ergonomically designed so the operator rarely needs to remove their eyes from where they are going to activate trim or jack plate controls. Tilt helm improves ergonomics while operating the skiff from a standing position. The center console also features a large flat surface to flush mount today’s most popular mid sized electronics. The console also has a locking removable door that gives access to an interior shelf and battery switch with main breakers.
Hull construction starts with Mavericks’ proprietary VARIS (Vacuum Assisted Resin Infusion System) with a specially blended vinylester resin formulated for the application. The hull is built using a combination of e-glass, Kevlar, Carbon Kevlar and rigid core material varying in thickness and density depending upon location and requisite structural needs. The finished hull weight, including stringers and reinforced transom, is only 275 lbs. Then premium grade wiring harnesses made in-house, custom to each boat, with Duestch connectors are installed. Lastly the skiff is assembled using premium grade hardware, including lockable compression latches, then dunk tank tested at the factory before being delivered to the customer. Final dry weight before engine is 965 lbs.
Is there room for improvement? The recessed lip on the rear cockpit bulkhead was a nice feature but after about 50 mph I prefer a more traditional grab rail mounted on the console or gunnels. Storage was spacious but having tested other skiffs from MBC I liked the non-drop in liners used on the HPX Micro and HPX 15T.
Overall MBC has developed a solid tournament skiff for the angler looking for a larger backcountry boat with speed and range. Yet does not become cumbersome when the fish push skinny.
3207 Industrial 29 Street
Fort Pierce, FL 34946
web site: www.maverickboats.com
SPECIFICATIONS AS SUPPLIED BY MANUFACTURER
LOA – 18′ 04″
Beam – 6′ 08″
Deadrise – 13 deg.
Draft – 9″ w/ F150
Fuel capacity – 26 gal.
Maximum capacities – 4 persons or 600 lbs
Maximum HP – 150 hp
Weight (approx. w/ engine) – 1,400 lbs. w/ F150
Trim tabs (recessed)
Yamaha multi-function gauges
Aluminum motor-bolt reinforcement plates
Freeboard carpet (redfish & tarpon)
No wood, no rot foam & core w/ premium resin
Premium fade-resistant gelcoat
Recessed hardware for snag-free fishing
Stainless steel thru-hulls w/ seacocks below water line
VARIS – Vacuum Assisted Resin Infusion System
VARIS carbon fiber/Kevlar laminate
Cushion package (1 aft deck)
Completely flush forward & aft casting decks
Muliple below-deck conduits, both fore & aft
Push pole holder (3 deck-mount, shipped loose)
Rod tubes for tip protection (4 bow port, 5 bow stbd, 3 aft port, 3 aft stbd)
Wide gunnels for walk around fishing
Automatic bilge pump
Livewell/Releasewell (28 gal, aft center)
Foam insulated box (2)
Large guttered, gasketed, lock-down dry storage compartments (3)
Lockable center console
Flush-mount bow cleat (6 in)
Full closed-foam flotation throughout
12-volt accessory jack
Battery switch, 4-position
Console courtesy lights, LED (2)
Livewell light (aft center)
Navigation lights, LED (console)
Nickel-tinned fused wiring harness
Under-gunnel courtesy lights, LED (2)