Today’s feature is going to be a little different. We’re going to get around to talking about some pretty cool DIY bass boat projects. But first, I want to share a little with you about a man. It’ll all tie together because this man was a real do-it-yourselfer. I’m not talking about the HGTV, spiked haired-type running around amped up on Mountain Dew.
No, this guy was DIY before DIY was cool.
He became a Marine early in life and stayed a fighter until the end. A guy who did it himself, at times because it was cheaper to, at times out of a bit of pride perhaps but always because it just meant more to him to do it that way.
So if you have a DIY spirit in you, this would have been your kind of guy. To me, he was like another grandad, the best friend of my father for four decades. My dad’s tournament partner, until I came of age, then the biggest fan both my dad and I could have ever had from that point forward. A man who loved to fish, loved his family and loved to do things himself.
Neal Webster passed on January 28, 2022 and he was 83 years old. We laid Neal to rest a few days after that with my dad sharing stories that day about their times on the water, learning how to fish and learning what it meant to be a man.
Neal’s wife and family gave me his boat; a material gift for which I’m extremely grateful since I haven’t had a boat of my own for about two years now, but moreover a sentimental one for which I could never express my full gratitude. I want to pause here and make sure they know I am very grateful for it though, to let them know it will be used and used well. And as I know the family would agree and Mrs. Dot has said herself several times now, “Neal wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”
I know Neal knew Jesus and is in Heaven with Him now. I know I’ll join them there one day, by the Grace of God, which brings incomprehensible peace during hard times like these. But I don’t know exactly how all of it works once we get there. I like to think Neal knows somehow, that his Triton is still out on the water, being used to catch fish and that all his hard work and DIY projects are still paying dividends.
I like to think he’s smiling down on me, each time I’m out on the water, still one of my biggest fans, ready to offer up a tip or two no doubt each time I go five minutes without a bite. I have a pretty good idea what the common thread of each of those tips would be—according to Neal, there were only two colors of soft plastics.
Green pumpkin and everything else.
But for now, let’s talk more about his boat. I figure a great way to honor this man would be to show off some of his handiwork and perhaps give you guys a few DIY project ideas to consider trying out around your boat yourself. I know he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Pull up bar and handrail
Neal fished on his own up until a couple months before he passed. As I previously mentioned, he was a Marine and a hard worker. Both took a heavy toll on his knees over the years, resulting in double-knee replacement. A few years ago, he started having a hard time getting up and down out of the driver’s seat but was bound and determined to continue to fish and fish alone when he wanted to.
His solution? Neal mounted a metal pole to the side of his console, attaching it to the floor with a metal plate.
He could then reach up from the seat, grab the pole and pull himself up to a standing position. That worked well enough until last year, at which point Neal had to create a handrail to help him make his way to the front deck, connecting the metal pull up bar to the pedestal of the seat in the front of the boat.
You see the evidence here that Neal was bound and determined to fight to fish. If you’re getting to the age something like this might help you, Neal would be tickled for you to try it and I hope it helps. Knowing how hard he fought just to get to go definitely makes me appreciate my health all the more and inspires me not to waste it.
Padded front deck
Another DIY project of Neal’s that jumps out at you right away is that he went about padding the front deck of this boat himself in a bit of an unconventional manner.
Using interlocking foam floor mats, Neal added a little cushion to the front deck of his boat. Most boats now come with padding under the carpet on the front decks. Neal’s boat predates that design advancement. But one day, he and my dad were talking about ways to take some of the pressure off his knees when he fished. Dad suggested he try adding these, stealing a couple sections of the matting from my nieces’ playroom.
We had used this same trick on the front deck of my little Bass Tender 11.3 molded plastic boat. So Neal decided to give it a try and said it made a lot of difference. This would be an especially good idea for any metal boat fishermen out there. The foam is much cooler in the sun and doesn’t get nearly as slick when wet as metal surfaces do. And the cushion really does help with fatigue, not to mention the added benefit of deadening the sound of a pair of pliers dropping on the deck of a metal boat.
Recessed foot pedal
The next thing you’ll notice is the recessed foot pedal of Neal’s trolling motor. Most boats these days come with cavities in the front deck so your trolling motor foot control can be “recessed”, or mounted flush with the floor.
Neal bought this boat before that era came about and the foot pedals back then were simply mounted on the floor of the boat. But in order to run a foot-controlled trolling motor the old fashioned way, one foot has to be elevated eight or 10 inches off the floor while the other one stands flat.
Again, with Neal’s bad knees, this was causing some problems.
So Neal went online and ordered himself a recessed foot pedal tray, cut a hole in the deck of the boat and mounted the tray with some screws. It’s really about that simple to do. A word of advice though if you want to try this—make sure the tray you order will fit your particular trolling motor pedal. The trays aren’t all necessarily created equally but you should be able to find a list of compatible trolling motor models for each tray.
PVC motor toter
Another nifty little DIY project that I noticed was that Neal decided to make his own motor toter using PVC pipe and fittings. The size of the pipe you need may vary slightly from motor to motor, but by testing out a few pieces of pipe with his particular motor, Neal was able to fashion a pretty dang nice and extremely effective motor toter for his boat. As is the case with most things Neal did however, there was and is no blueprint for this one. If you want to try this yourself, you’ll just have to take a few measurements and cut yours to fit. But if you’re a DIY-er, you’ll be able to figure out the specifics for this one pretty easily.
Adding a step
Back to the bad knees, it got harder and harder over the years for Neal to get into and out of his boat while it was still on the trailer. Whether he was wanting to climb up into the boat while it was in the shop or trying to step into or out of the boat when launching or loading at the ramp, he needed help to do it. And Neal rarely was one to ask for help.
His solution for this dilemma? He ordered himself a set of steps and hand rail to mount to his trailer. Several boat manufacturers offer these as an option now on new boats and it’s definitely an awesome addition even for someone like me who can still get around fine. It’s just a safer and less strenuous way to enter and exit a boat and something I highly recommend adding to your rig. If you don’t already have something like this, there are several options available out there now depending on your trailer design.
DIY Camera Mount
Neal not only fought the good fight physically but mentally as well. He was constantly trying to keep up with the electronics game, even though his favorite technique was flipping shallow cover no more than 10 feet from the bank.
Members of our local bass club (Kowaliga Bassmasters) would often pick at him about this, wagering with one another as to whether or not there was even enough line on his reel to reach the bottom in 20 feet of water. But Neal often got the last laugh as he’d hoist the winning bag onto the scales, though I’m still fairly certain the line on his reels past the first 30 feet never saw the light of day.
One of Neal’s tech battles came by the way of a GoPro camera. Early in my career in the fishing industry, I used GoPros a lot. Neal knew this and mentioned to me one day that he’d like to film his trips. So I told him what to get and the next time I saw him, he had hard-wired a cable directly to his cranking battery and converted an old pedestal seat to a camera mount in the back of his boat.
Now, six or seven years later, we see almost every pro and Joe out there on the water running something similar, albeit most of theirs are store bought. But, as you’re getting to know Neal by now, “store bought” wasn’t really something he was a fan of if he could do it himself.
There are likely a dozen other little tweaks I’ll find around Neal’s boat in the coming months as I continue to explore it; I’ll share those with you as I find them and showcase any DIY improvements of my own I make on the rig.
One thing’s for sure, I don’t have the capacity to do all the projects he was capable of. After all, this man would swap out his lower unit with a spare between fishing trips to “fine tune” the old one a bit. He really could do it all.
But I’ll continue his DIY legacy to the best of my ability with my new-to-me boat. I look forward to spending days on the water, as close to him as anyone can still get.
Inhaling that familiar smell he loved of burned gas and oil as his old Mercury fires up each time.
Sitting in that seasoned seat in which he spent countless hours.
Flipping and pitching from his favorite place on earth—the front deck of that old Triton.
Enjoying God’s creation the way he did for decades.
And hopefully leaving a legacy of a life well lived for someone else to learn from. The same as he did for me.
Thanks Neal, for it all.