Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Frontier Tinkerin' by Ken Ziomek


I love to tinker.  In fact, I love to tinker almost as much as I love to fish.  The flexibility and possibilities for tinkerin’ with the Frontier make it the perfect fishing boat for me.  I think about possible changes and ways to improve fishing from the Frontier most of the time, especially while I’m fishing.  And, once I come up with an idea, I usually won’t fish again until I make the change.  Some of my ideas are more involved and require assorted power and hand tools, while others are very minor and may only involve a new procedure to follow while I’m on the water.  

It took me approximately five days to complete my first round of tinkerin’ with my Frontier once it arrived in the middle of February.  Since that time, the evolution of my Frontier has continued.  Following are seven items that I addressed as part of that evolution.  They range from substantial effort in a multi-hour project to simple changes in my fishing procedures.  I offer them to Frontier owners and prospective owners as suggestions to improve their time on the water.  Since the arrival of my Frontier, I’ve landed approximately 200 bass, so even though I’m tinkerin’ a good deal in my garage; I’m also spending a bunch of time on the water.

1 - INCREASING MY SEAT HEIGHT – Anyone that has read any of my input on my NuCanoes or my Frontier knows that my mature age (I’ll be 70 next year) has brought with it back problems that greatly limit my time on the water unless I’m seated comfortably.  The seats that come with the Frontier are a great idea; one side is a bench seat and the other provides a mounting for the swivel seat bracket.  It works fine.  However, I needed something elevated but not so high that it would change the center of gravity and cause the boat to rock with my movements.  As you can see in the photos, I built a simple design base that raises the level of the swivel seat mount 4 ½ inches above the Freedom Track.  This ends up raising me approximately 2 ½ inches higher than the original Frontier seat.  That doesn’t sound like much, however try sitting on two seats with a height difference of 2 ½ inches and you will notice the difference.  The higher seat also makes it much easier for me to stand up for either fishing or to get in and out of the Frontier.  

I built my base from ¾ inch exterior plywood (actually 23/32).  I use the empty space in my seat mount to house a digital scale, tape measure, camera, and first aid kit.  A piece of ethafoam is used in the front and back openings to keep these items in place.  The plywood base is 26 inches long and 11 ¾ inches wide.  The raised portion is 11 ¾ inches square.  I drilled two holes for mounting in the Freedom Track on each side and employ the two threaded ends of the Freedom Track Slider.  I built a similar seat base for the front seat when I’m fishing with a partner; however I kept this seat base only 1 inch higher than the original seat.  The Frontier hull is narrower at the front seat position than at the rear.  I feared that duplicating the rear seat height at the front would indeed increase rocking. 

2 - SEAT BRACKET SUGGESTION – I really like the seat mounting bracket for quick mounting and release of the swivel seats.  While the mounting bracket works perfectly, there was some “play” when the 6 ¾ x 6 ¾ seat swivel base was snapped in place.  To address this, I applied three to four strips of duct tape on each side of the swivel arrangement.  This alleviates all of the looseness in the seat mounting and still allows quick attachment and release.

3 - MOUNTING TROLLING ROD HOLDERS - My original configuration for my trolling rod holders was a 5 x 26 inch strip of Starboard marine lumber with two lock-down screws at each end.  This is a very strong arrangement and has worked well for me.  I did run into a slight problem however when my brother landed a 23 ½ inch bass and we wanted to take a photo of the fish next to a measuring tape.  The Frontier deck is only 20 inches wide so we had to lay the fish lengthwise on the deck.  This placed the fish under the trolling board mount and we couldn’t get a complete photo.  In respect to the many problems of life, this is either last or next to last, however my urge to tinker took over and I created a separate trolling rod holder on each side.  Using two mounting screws in the end holes of a Freedom Track Slider, I believe it is strong enough for trolling.  This arrangement also allows me to place both rod holders on one side for those times when I may be drift fishing or fishing for crappie with multiple rigs off one side of the boat.  Using separate trolling rod holders also open up the deck for easier movement.

4 - SPACERS FOR LOCK-DOWN SCREWS – I ordered lock-down screws to use in my Frontier in three lengths and styles for use in the Freedom Track.  This allows me to mount the Frontier seats in a bench seat arrangement, fasten small tackle containers or a tackle box, secure my trolling rod holders and electronics which are positioned on ½ inch Starboard Marine Lumber, and position my custom ¾ inch plywood seat mounts.  Even with three sizes, you will need various thickness washers or other spacers to ensure a secure fit.  I use plastic bottle caps as spacers only for those applications where strength is not required.

5 - RUBBER WASHERS FOR LOCK-DOWN SCREWS – As I plan the spacers for the lock-down screws, I always allow room for a rubber washer.  I purchase rubber washers in two sizes, 3/16 x 1 ¼ x 1/16 and 3/16 x 1 ½ x 1/16.  The rubber washers serve two purposes.  First, they offer a better grip for the lock-down screw and second, the 3/16 hole provides a tight fit on the ¼ inch locking screw to hold any washers or spacers in place.  I learned the hard way that if I removed a lock-down screw and did not hold the washers and spacers in place, they would slide off and roll away into every hard-to-reach spot in my garage.

6 - KEEPING EXTRA SLIDERS IN THE FREEDOM TRACK – I set up my Frontier differently depending upon whether I’m fishing by myself or with a partner.  When I remove the extra gear for a partner, I’m left with extra Sliders in the Freedom Track.  Rather than removing them and misplacing them as we older people so often do with things that we value, I use an extra lock-down screw to hold the end slider in place.  After coming home from a solo outing and finding that I had extra sliders all over the boat, I realized that I needed this extra step.

7 - FRONT HANDLE POSITIONING – This is by far the simplest of my suggestions and can be accomplished in less than a second before a fishing outing.  I like the front and rear handles on the Frontier, and consider them more comfortable to use than those on the NuCanoe.  They do, however, offer some potential for disaster.  Before I enter my Frontier and move away from shore I always take a second to lay the front handle of the Frontier inside the boat.  On one outing, with the handle hanging outside the Frontier I hooked a bass that moved from one side to the other across the front of the Frontier and wrapped my line around the handle.  I was able to quickly maneuver my line off the handle.  As you can see in the photo, a handle hanging outside the boat is a fishing disaster waiting to happen.

I’m certain that in the coming weeks I’ll be making more changes to make my Frontier the perfect fishing boat for me.  If you have questions, please e-mail me at ken@teamnucanoe.com .  I’ve received inquiries from owners and prospective owners in many of the states plus two Canadian Provinces about my customized features.  I’m very willing to offer suggestions and share some of my design efforts.

Ken Ziomek