Local Allegheny River angler Joe Stefanacci learned I was new to the area and was kind enough to offer a boat ride. While our kids were in school one afternoon, I took him up on it.
“How many props do you go through each year?” I asked, looking at all the big rocks in the clear river.
“None,” he said, grinning. “It’s a jet boat.”
When I hear the word “jet,” I think of screaming airplanes, rockets, and a need for ear projection. However, this was not the case. His outboard sounded, and looked like a standard outboard above water, making me wonder how many other boats I’ve seen on the river also were jet boats.
“It is basically a big water pump.”
Though the engine has less horsepower than when fitted with a propeller, we easily reached smallmouth bass shallow river haunts among submerged rocks, logs, and boulders. No nail biting. No gripping the gunnels. No colorful language.
Access is a large part of a successful fishing trip and this was like having 4-wheel drive and plenty of height clearance. We glided up a skinny-water tributary and then he cut the motor, just using a trolling motor occasionally to correct our drift.
It took us a while to find them but on this afternoon, but a 50-yard boulder laden stretch was smallmouth city. While Joe landed another, this time a sturdy two-pounder, I noticed how difficult it would be to try to reach this spot from shore or by a boat with a larger motor.
Back at the ramp, I watched a couple launch a boat with a propeller-fitted outboard. And I noticed their fingernails were exceedingly short…
Andy Whitcomb is a columnist, outdoor humorist, and stressed-out Dad living in Pennsylvania. Visit him at www.justkeepreeling.com.