Nostalgia is important—it’s the history that can teach us both the mistakes and successes of a previous time. Recognizing the good and the bad, learning from both and figuring out a better way to do things takes reflection and I see it everyday both in fishing and in life.
I love the history of fishing and have found as I get older, there are few things that are “new” but rather some sort of spin-off of something that was done earlier. I see the same things each year on the catching side of things but also in the boat builds I am fortunate to have been part of the last several years. Taking the old and doing everything possible to bring in the new for a blended finished product allows me to keep a boat from the scrap yard and breathe new life into it.
This past winter, I found a well taken care of Skeeter ZX150D. It was a 1995 model with a few battle scars but for the most part, it was in excellent shape. The gelcoat still shined, the bottom of the boat was pristine and for me, it brought back memories of one of my first real bass boats, a SF150, purchased in 1985. I also had a couple SF175s along the way but it was important to me to have another one before I got too old to enjoy the fishing part out of it.
The before has become the now for me and my latest labor of love brought me back to the days living in Florida and meeting the likes of Shaw Grigsby, Bernie Schultz, Peter Thliveros, Jim Bitter and a host of others who I competed against and donated a bunch of frog skins (dollars) to them learning how to fish Florida waters along the way.
I was a member of the St. Johns Bass Anglers, one of the oldest B.A.S.S. clubs back then and we fished all over the state on weekends for trophies and bragging rights. I know we had payouts but I honestly couldn’t tell you how much they were; that didn’t matter. I still have the trophies, though. Fishing places like Orange Lake, Rodman Reservoir, Lake Santa Fe, Lake Toho and of course the St. Johns River is vivid in my memories but riding in that old Skeeter is what I remember most.
Purchased at Palatka Marine from B.A.S.S. angler owner Jeff Van Horn and Ronnie Tumlin and located next to another iconic landmark, The Tackle Box, still operated by another great angler Gary Simpson along Highway 19, my memories are what got me to today. I know names like Zeta Bait, Ditto, Sugar Shad, Culprit, and Bagley and Cotton Cordell from my times there. The smells of wood pulp plants, eating breakfast at the Clock Restaurant and hitting Sonny’s BBQ now and again are still vivid in my memories from those days too but those Skeeter Boats I had there are the real story.
Rigged with either a Yamaha 150- or 175-horsepower engine, both models were screamers. They could be squirrely and you had to drive them but they were, at the time, one of the fastest boats on the water. My memories there meant so much I wanted to find one more Skeeter of that vintage, equipped similarly and then updated to today’s standards.
For years, I looked and looked and kept up with boats for sale of that lineage. Most were in bad shape, full of leaves and the gelcoat weathered past my ability to bring them back until one day this past winter when I ran across this one and believe it or not, it was only a couple hours from me. I made a call or two, jumped in the Suburban and headed down to take a look at it. It was colder than a well digger’s hind-end but seeing it covered next to a metal building in the country brought a smile that cannot be explained. It was a special find owned by a great guy and his dad and hearing his memories of the times they spent together in it, I knew I had to have it. He wanted a little more than I wanted to spend but we agreed to a price and I pulled it home.
Like a kid in a candy store, the minute I got it home I had to go through it. Every carpeted aluminum lid was opened, every switch was tested and all the wiring and pumps were gone through. Everything worked and the seats still looked like new too, which is a rarity in the boat of its age. I quickly repaired one small tear and the real work began.
Blending the old with the new
Although all my prior Skeeters came with Yamaha motors, this one came equipped with a low-hours 1996 Mariner 150. I love the sound and the smell of those old engines and this one had recently been gone through with compression checks, impeller replacement and lower unit lube changed. I touched up the skeg and a few scuffs and immediately put on a coat of Pro-Tec Nu-Paint Moisturizer followed by Pro-Tec Sealant Polish that brought it back to showroom shape.
This boat was equipped with a Lowrance 1240A flasher and it still worked, too. I have a spare one in the event it dies as they are no longer repairable. All of the gauges work and although the steering was rack-and-pinion dual cable, it will be replaced with hydraulic steering mainly to help this old guy out and make the boat manageable at high speeds without pulling my arms off. That is the last thing I have to do and will fit it in as time allows but will fish without it for the time being.
One of the key ingredients in this build was a wire upgrade to Sea Clear. I am running four graphs, three Garmin units: A 106sv and two 93sv units, plus a Lowrance Elite-9 Ti2 I will use for mapping.
I also added a T-H Marine Hydrowave unit but do not include it in the power provided by the Sea Clear. It has its own power run directly to the batteries and the Garmin LiveScope black box is also connected via the wiring harness. I also upgraded the compartments with LED lights. I upgraded the horn and all the latches and re-glued all the padding and loose carpet on this boat as well. I added New Pro Products V-T2s to the livewell lids, too.
The Power-Pole CHARGE was also added and I am so used to checking my batteries during the day, I would be lost without it. Battery power is provided by three Dakota Lithium 100 Ah batteries for the trolling motor and an OPTIMA BLUETOP AGM for the starting battery, pumps and accessories.
I will not have a boat without a T-H Marine ATLAS Hydraulic Jack Plate and have also added two 12-foot Minn Kota Talons and brackets including kick-down brackets. New gear blended with an older boat saves money but also provide the amenities I love and am used to using.
Trolling motor and engine
Keeping with what I had on many of my first boats, I added a 36-volt MotorGuide Tour Pro trolling motor with Pinpoint GPS and cable steer. For a little bling, I went with the DD26 Fishing Foot Pad.
The engine is a lightly used, old-school 150-horsepower Mariner Magnum with oil injection and a four-blade Mercury prop. This boat is just a little over 18 feet long and the four-blade allows it to jump on plane and hold without much ventilation or chine walking at intermediate speeds.
I completely went over the Skeeter trailer and sanded and repainted those spots that had a light bit of rust. I have also added a Gator Guards KeelShield to the keel of the boat and a Trick Step to get into and out of the boat. I changed out the winch and replaced the LED trailer lights and added BoatBuckle Retractable Transom Tie-Downs to the trailer.
I will eventually replace all of the pumps to larger GPH pumps and add a T-H Marine Oxygenator and a new spray bar in the livewell. There is not much left to do except for keeping it clean and shined; I’m excited to be using this boat for all of my fishing moving forward. To date, I have spent around $12,000-$14,000 and that is pretty cheap for what I have and I’m proud of the finished product.
I’m not sure if I am up to the challenge of doing another one of these boats but you never know what the future holds. I can hardly wait to see how well this little jewel will do under a tournament load. I live for the weekends and evenings and piddling on my boats but also bringing back some fond memories of days gone by is really where the value is.