Inshore Towers

The Pros & Cons of Elevation

Capt. John Rivers October 12, 2011

Whether it’s adding a new rod and reel to the arsenal or making significant modifications to their boat, inshore anglers are always looking for ways to enhance their time on the water. And while we all have our own opinions, one thing we can agree on is that scanning the shallows for bait, tailing fish or other subtle signs of life is crucial to successful sight fishing. Getting a leg up on our quarry is often quite literally the best way stay ahead of the competition.

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Inshore towers increase sight fishing capabilities and situational awareness. Photo: Captain John Rivers

Offshore anglers searching for signs of life have relied on towers for decades, but it wasn’t until recently that backcountry and near-coastal anglers utilizing inshore skiffs and bay boats have been experimenting with higher vantage points. More than ever before, you owe it to yourself to see what you’ve been missing.

After we discussed my desires and concerns, we came up with a design that would not only be safe and sturdy, but would also get me on more fish!

Before you order a custom tower there are a few aspects you must take into consideration. Although aluminum towers are light, they do add a significant amount of weight and may very well alter your vessel’s center of gravity. Because of this you may also experience a change in performance characteristics with a slight decrease in top end speed and a slight increase in fuel consumption. In addition, you need to make sure your vessel’s deck is durable enough to support the necessary tower legs and mounting brackets. Another key consideration is whether or not the extra height will allow your boat to fit under any low power lines or overpasses en route to your favorite launch ramp. Because of the inherent safety aspects with aftermarket additions such as a tower it’s highly recommended you consult with your boat’s manufacturer before making such an extreme purchasing and installation decision. Yet, once the deposit check has been written you can rest assured that a higher vantage point is extremely beneficial. Here is what I learned in my quest for increased visibility.

While aluminum tower manufacturers can successfully modify an existing T-top to a more user-friendly tower with an additional helm station, I opted to install a brand new half tower on my bay boat and couldn’t be happier. I learned that there are many options and variations, so choose wisely. I knew I wanted the shade afforded by a T-top. I also wanted a second helm station, extra rod holders and stylish looks, not to mention an elevated view where I could search out reds on the flats and cobia along the beaches. I contacted B&D Welding Fabrication Solutions (bdweldingfabrication.com) in Pensacola to get their expert advice on what type of tower design would work best for the size and style of my boat. After we discussed my desires and concerns, we came up with a design that would not only be safe and sturdy, but would also get me on more fish!

Like previously mentioned, I really wanted the shade that a typical T-top offers, especially since I’m out on the water almost every day. The problem I had with my original T-top was that quite often one of my clients would snag or hit the canvas with their lure or rod tip. To remedy this, we designed and fabricated a more streamlined top that was not any wider than the leaning post.

Another big decision you will face is how high to make a new top deck. In my particular case, since I would still have controls at my console, I needed to be able to see above or below the new floor, which would be right in front of me. I also had to make sure not to go too high with the floor because that would make the uppermost portion of the tower extend beyond the 13.2 foot residential road limit. You could go with a folding tower, but I wanted the rigidity of a single-piece design for worry-free use in choppy seas. In the end, we went with the floor at 53 inches, which is right at my chest level, and allows me to see the entire front deck of the boat while navigating from the console. Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of not determining the perfect height for your particular application.

Next, discuss the placement of the side ladder(s) and rod holders. These are extremely important items in any tower installation, as you want to be able to climb up and dismount the upper station as easily and as quickly as possible.

It was especially helpful that the professionals at B&D Welding Fabrication Solutions listened to my input on what my wishes were for building the perfect half tower. If you decide to add a half tower or T-top to your current configuration, be sure to hire professionals who are willing to modify and tweak their design to best suit your particular needs. Your boat is your pride and joy and maybe even your livelihood, so don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and settle for nothing less. Now that Mega-Bite is tricked out, I can easily navigate the shallows with a bird’s eye view while my clients relax in the shade.

Inshore towers come in a variety of shapes and sizes but they all offer the same key advantages. Outfit your inshore vessel with a half tower and see what you’ve been missing.

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