Equipment and Modifications Carried Out To Prepare The Pursuit 3000
For Trolling For Walleye On Lake Erie
First Fishing Boat
Our first fishing boat for Lake Erie was not exactly small, we found and bought a 2000 Wellcraft 230 Fisherman, a center console about 24ft in length with a 225HP Yamaha 2 Stroke engine.
Running out of Vermilion, we cut our teeth trolling pretty much all over the Central Basin.
In the process finding that we needed trolling bags to slow the boat and with both folk wanting to fish an Autopilot was pretty much a must have so that we could leave the helm to set lines and net whatever we were lucky enough to catch. A Garmin GHP20 Autopilot was selected and fitted and with little of no science, and no real experience except reading OGF we became Walleye fishermen mainly trolling.
Needless to say we eventually got the trolling act more or less together, and, far from being professional but actually could catch a few fish.
We were lucky in having a Hunter 34ft sailboat in Vermilion which we sailed and used as the weekend cottage. So all was good, except having 2 boats was quite silly! And the Admiral was not keen on sailing so we were usually out fishing rather than using wind power.
A year went by and in the Fall, the Admiral announced that we needed to sell both boats and buy a bigger fishing boat that could also serve as our weekend cottage.
We all know that The Admiral is always right, so the mate headed off to sell the Hunter and the Wellcraft whilst enjoying researching a decent sized fishing boat with a cabin.
Fortunately we found buyers for both boats within a few short months. [You can always sell a well maintained and equipped boat as long as you know you will only get half of the money back that you poured into its bottomless pit]
The Wellcraft had taught us that we needed a boat, factory equipped for fishing!
After researching a lot of 29 to 35 ft boats we homed in on trying to find, and then buy, a Pursuit 3000 Express.
We looked at a number of boats during the Winter and the following Spring saw the arrival in Vermilion of "Morning Mist II".
The twin gas engine 2003 Pursuit 3000 Express is a very well equipped fishing boat with a top speed [in decent lake conditions] of about 30mph, but trolling on Lake Erie at 1.5 to 2.0 mph it just won't do it, even on just 1 engine, without adding more gear!
This boat was well equipped with Furuno Sonar, Radar and GPS Chart Plotter plus a Simrad Autopilot, and a VHF marine radio.
The electronics were 10 years old, but all worked reasonably well, but certain problems soon became apparent.
We kitted the boat out with a pair of Amish 60" trolling bags and trolling with one engine we got the speed down to about 1.6mph. Great but the Autopilot would only hold if the lake was flat calm and would often just go into "fail" mode and quit holding the course.
With the mates Engineering background, a study of the rudders were made and it was decided that the boat needed bigger rudders to give the Autopilot a chance to work better.
The boat had also been bought knowing there was a serious vibration at 3,100 engine rpm on the Starboard transmission. [The mate was praying that he could fix that and had bought the boat at a healthy discount because of the problem]
So during the first Winter all the running gear was stripped out and two separate exercises were started:-
- Find and cure the vibration problem on the Starboard transmission
- Enlarge the rudders to make them more effective under Autopilot control.
Curing the Vibration
The props were taken to Tom in Huron [North Coast Prop Tech] who set about using his computer Prop Scan equipment and a short while later we had balanced props with each of the prop blades matched in size.
As a part of this process, we had them de-pitched from 19" down to 17" to lower the boat speed at engine idle rpm.
The prop shafts were removed and carefully checked for straightness, both being within factory tolerances but not good enough for the mate.
They were both straightened to half the tolerance and fitted with complete new transmission couplings which themselves were re-worked to tighter tolerances and balanced.
The cutlass bearings were replaced with new and for good measure the prop shafts were switched, the Starboard going on the Port engine etc.
[If the vibration was not cured and went to the Port side we would know it was a prop shaft problem]
Enlarging The Rudders.
The mate designed a 3" addition to the width of the rudders. Pieces of Admiralty Brass were machined and tenoned into slots cut in the rudders and fastened with stainless spring dowels and filled.
Done this way the rudders could easily be returned to standard if ever needed. All was documented and put with the boats papers.
By the end of March all the running gear and the rudders were back on the boat ready for the new season. The boat was splashed mid April and amazingly the vibration was gone and the Autopilot worked much better with the larger rudders.
The vibration was almost certainly caused by the Starboard prop but doing all the other work made for smoother running of each transmission and we knew that all the running gear was in even better condition that would come out of the factory.
We now had a big fishing boat and weekend cottage that could troll on Autopilot down to about 1.5 mph except when going at an angle into 1'-2' waves. It was not perfect at that speed but was so much better. At 2 mph the Autopilot would hold a magnetic course in any direction with 1'-2' waves.
We ran the Pursuit for another year and then decided to pull out all the Furuno electronics, the Autopilot and fit a new Garmin Chart Plotter, Radar, Chirp Sonar, VHF radio and the GHP20 Autopilot with the Smartpump.
We did not go for touch screen versions because buttons are much easier to push when your rocking and rolling at about 15 to 20mph getting back to Vermilion from the Weather Buoy in 3'-4' footers. Yes, you don't go quick in a Pursuit Express in those conditions if you want to have a comfy ride and look after the boat! But it will take a lot more from Lake Erie than either the mate or the Admiral.
We share trolling duty between the Port and the Starboard engine, keeping the engine hours pretty equal.
We normally use just one 60" trolling bag, the bag is rigged on the same side as the engine in use and helps to balance the thrust of the boat making the Autopilots job easier.
By the way, the Garmin GHP20 Autopilot will hold its course with the 60" bag out on the other side of the engine in use and happily hang on with the boat completely out of balance.
For those thinking of adding an Autopilot, this unit can carry out some quite remarkable fishing patterns, such as ZigZaging along a defined course and taking the boat round and round in circles maintaining a GPS position. Not to mention, the ability to automatically steer between or along a route of several GPS marked spots.
The Admiral has quickly learned to hit the Mark button on the Chart Plotter every time we have a pull back so we can return along a path that caught fish.
Somewhere along the path of ownership, we realized that we could accommodate The Admiral, Mate and up to 4 Guests and all we had were in line planer boards so the next addition was to add reels and tow lines to be able to run Big Planar Boards.
The boat had a hard top so we managed without a planar mast and went the lower cost route and added Big Jon reels and made our own Big Boards.
The hand operated reels have stood up well but the boards pull so very hard it really is a PIA getting them reeled back in.
With 150ft long tow lines, when trolling the width of the rig was now 310ft!
The next task was the Mate learning how to turn this expanse of boat, tow ropes, planar boards and about 8 fishing lines hanging off it all without getting into a horrible tangle or worse still, tangling up with another boat and its gear.
The original boat had a total of 8 rod holders, 4 each side, 2 on each gunwale and 2 on each of the hard top side frames. Also there was 8 rocket launchers on the rear of the hard top used for storing rods.
So until recently we have never had more than 8 rods in use.
Just recently have added a trio of Cisco Rod holders each side, positioned between the gunwale mounted holders. So we now have 7 usable rod holders each side, 14 in total.
Must take my hat off to Cisco, they are very well engineered, expensive but you do get what you are paying for.
Will probably replace the Big Jon reels with Cisco motorized reels when I find a spot [and $$$$] to easily mount them. as they will not fit where the Big Jon manual reels are mounted.
We bought a few Okuma rods and reels when we first started trolling and built them up to a total of 8. They have done ok for us, but we are now steadily replacing those with Shimano Talora 8'6" rods and Daiwa Accudepth counter reels. Would love to have the Tekota reels but ...... lol
What other equipment? Well the boat is well equipped with fishing tackle storage in the cockpit area and we have slowly filled them with the likes of cranks, worm harnesses, spoons, TruTrips, Tadpoles, Dipsy's, Inline planar boards, numerous types of big board releases and the list goes on a ways.
All these built up over the last 5 years fishing on Erie.
We consider ourselves just newbies when it comes to trolling for Walleye, so much to learn, some aspects we do well, others well I won't go into those and tangles, no we never tangle the lines, at least never when we are docked ....
Yes, we catch fish, seems we always do ok with guests aboard, maybe the pressure of trying to succeed helps. But I would not run a charter business for any money. They have a tough life!
Maybe this "Epistle to Lake Erie" has helped someone who is considering buying a big fishing boat what might be in store for them.
We love the boat, it costs us a packet to run, but it is our weekend cottage and our holiday home and is the main source of our pleasure, trolling for Walleye somewhere in the Central Basin.
Anyone who is interested in fishing with a big boat is very welcome to visit our dock and talk boats and fishing. We are based in Don Parsons Yard [Mystic Belle] in Vermilion and there most weekends from Friday evening till Sunday.
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