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The 196 Fishmaster Served Me Well

By Mark Romanack

The 196 Fishmaster is about as close to “perfect” as the author has seen in fishing boats. Deep, wide, super sea worthy and with a fisherman friendly interior, the Fishmaster is just that.

Not many fishermen have owned as many boats as I have. In the past 30 something years I’ve owned and fishedfrom as many boats. Getting a new boat every year is an exciting thing but with this perk in the fishing industry comes the burden of rigging and getting comfortable with a wealth of different boats. Every boat has strengths and weaknesses and my job is to make the best of every boat.  That stated, some boats have been near and dear to my heart and others…not so much! To be fair, none of the boats I’ve owned were perfect in every way. A boat that is ideally suited  for trolling may not function as the worlds greatest jigging platform.  Simply said, fishing boats are a compromise of function, design and value. Finding that best mix within that compromise is one of the hardest challenges a fisherman/boat owner is likely to encounter.

Holy Big King! The Fishmaster 196 cries out for big water fishing excitement.

Back in January I took delivery on a Starcraft 196 Fishmaster. One of Starcraft’s most popular boats, this model is super wide, extra deep and tailor made for big water fisheries. I knew going in the Fishmaster would troll well but I wasn’t sure how it would handle other fishing presentations.

Ice out at Lake Nipigon would be my first opportunity to test the Fishmaster in something other than a trolling capacity. On Lake Nipigon, in the spring, I target brook trout by putting the electric trolling motor down and scooting along the shoreline casting spinners in front of the boat.  The Fishmaster’s exceptional depth had me concerned how the boat would control under electric motor power. This fear turned out to be unwarranted as I was amazed at how easily I was able to control the Fishmaster with a 36 volt electric trolling motor. Keeping the electric motor set to constant on, I was able to fish all day with power to spare.

Granted, a lower sided boat might control better with an electric motor but the Fishmaster performed amazingly well for casting applications. On a scale of one to ten I give the Fishmaster a solid eight for its ability to be controlled with an electric motor.

The cut out transom and deep splash well are some of the features the author likes best about the Fishmaster 196. These features make it easy to set lines and net fish.

As a trolling boat, the 196 Fishmaster has no equal. The depth of the boat and the exceptionally large splashwell cries out for rough water trolling. Even in 6-7 foot Lake Michigan swells the Fishmaster proved to be an awesome platform.

In the beginning I wasn’t 100% sure the Fishmaster was the boat for me.  Nine months down the road I’m comfortable targeting any species and any fishing presentation in the 196 Fishmaster. Some of the features I came to love include the jump seats at the transom, the in floor storage, easy battery access, and the wide gunwales that made rigging accessories a snap.

Easy to rig, adaptable to almost any fishing situation and big enough to fish with all my closest friends, the 196 Fishmaster has it going on.