Get Your Big-Water Boat Ready for Duck Season

Transform your summer fishing boat into a layout tender and pound diving ducks all winter long.

Illustration by Robert L. Prince

Transform your summer fishing boat into a layout tender and pound diving ducks all winter long—simply by drilling a few holes and turning a few screws. These add-ons, upgrades, and layout-hunting necessities can outfit any old fish rig into a big-water duck boat. Just load up your layout and go. Here’s how.

1. Install an anchor reel ($285; anchorwizard.com) for longline deployment and retrieval to minimize tangled lines and tripping hazards. It also comes in handy when hauling up a heavy anchor in deep, weedy waters.

2. Attach four eye hooks near the bow and use two ratchet straps ($16; homedepot.com) to secure your layout boat. This also prevents it from turning into a sail under power or in heavy wind.

3. Pack a boat hook ($35; westmarine.com) for retrieving submerged longlines, and keep a rubber fishing net handy to recover downed birds and cripples diving under the surface ($60; cabelas.com).

4. Mount gunnel decoy bags ($45; customdecoybags.com) on both sides of the boat to better organize your blocks. It will save time and energy while setting the spread, and make for a tangle-free pickup.

5. Halve 2-inch clear tubing ($4 a foot; mcmaster.com) lengthwise, and use it to rubberize the gunnels and protect your layout while loading. It also makes for a quieter ride out in rough seas.

6. Install a fuel-water separator ($29; walmart.com) between your gas tank and outboard to ensure that water or moisture, which is more likely to accumulate in cold weather, doesn't stall your motor.

Need a Layout Boat?
Picking the right style comes down to the environment you intend to hunt. A submerged-box layout has a low profile, which hides well and is suitable for calmer seas. Check out the Erie Layout Boat from Waterfowl-Works ($1,050; waterfowl-works.com). For rough waters, a pumpkinseed is a good choice, such as Bankes Boats' One-Man Layout ($1,695; bankesboats.com). It rides higher and offers a better view of low-flying birds in a chop.