Whether you are exploring the beaver ponds of Colorado’s Alpine Loop National Backcountry Byway or climbing an unimproved boat ramp anywhere else in the country, there’s no substitute for a properly equipped pickup. A self-contained vehicle makes my back country fishing outings much more relaxing. There’s nothing like a stuck truck to spoil the joy of rising trout.
That’s why my pickups are modified with an array of aftermarket accessories. When I build an off-road pickup, I’m thinking ground clearance, traction, self-recovery and lighting.
Some guys modify their fishing pickups specifically for towing boats. Others tow side-by-sides, quads or horses as their off-road transportation. Optimal towing ability is what these fishermen want in a pickup.
For others, it’s all about cargo management. Their pickups have plenty of power. They need them to handle on-road inclement weather situations and be set up for carrying fishing and camping gear. It all depends on your use. Budget and vehicle versatility also play a big role.
Guys that are building a pickup for towing have a specific set of priorities. Their concerns are ability, durability and stability. They look for performance modifications that increase torque and horse power so they address intake, exhaust and electronics in the form of programmers, chips and modules.
They also look for products that help with engine and transmission longevity, like increased air flow over the radiators, increased oil capacity, improved filtering, transmission fluid temperature gauges and aftermarket torque converters.
Suspension mods for a tow vehicle are all about keeping the vehicle level and stable while towing. This can mean on-board air systems for air suspension helper springs, anti-sway bars and improved shocks.
Boat towing anglers usually use conventional hitches while others add a hitch setup for a 5th wheel or gooseneck. A careful study of the owner’s manual tells the fisherman his vehicle’s towing capacity. Often this requires the use of weight distribution equipment for conventional trailers, which can be a trick for boat towing.
After market modifications can make towing easier and safer, but they should not be used to exceed the original tow capacity of the vehicle. These ratings are based on too many factors to be addressed with aftermarket parts.
Trailer brake controllers need to be installed on tow vehicles that were built before the new generation of integrated brake controllers. Tow vehicle brake performance can also be enhanced with bigger brakes and improved rotor and caliper materials.
Increased battery capacity, lights for the trailer hitching areas and rearview cameras are also popular modifications for fishermen who use their pickups to tow.
When the pickup is the primary off-road vehicle, priorities are a little different. Suspension changes dial in off-road performance and usually start with a suspension lift to accommodate bigger wheels and tires. The goal here is to gain ground clearance at the differentials and to lift the body above water crossings and mud.
A good off-road suspension system compensates for the changed ride height and handles the increased weight of bigger wheels and tires. It incorporates improved shock performance for stability, handling and rough surfaces.
Aftermarket tires are one of the most popular modifications to an outdoorsman’s vehicle. The main focus here is traction. Larger voids and more biting surfaces help anglers in a variety of situations. A clean tread is a grippy tread, so look for a tread that is designed specifically to clean out.
For those situations where the tires are overcome by the terrain, the well equipped fishing rig has gear for vehicle recovery. The core of the vehicle recovery equipment is a winch with plenty of capacity for the vehicle’s weight and cargo. A box with recovery rigging is also a must. Snatch blocks, tree straps and shackles may not sound very high tech, but they are marvels when it means getting home.
Of course, a winch needs to be mounted to the vehicle and often the best way to do this is with an aftermarket bumper or bull bar designed for that purpose.
A good aftermarket, off-road bumper not only houses the winch, it offers increased protection for the vehicle’s body and holds auxiliary lights, with minimal effect on the vehicle’s approach angle.
12 Volt Systems
A good onboard air system also aids the vehicle’s traction and recovery. Airing down tires is often the best bet for many terrains and having a way to re-inflate is a must. An air compressor can also operate air jacks, helper springs and air powered tools.
Increased fuel capacity is also a good idea, especially out west where fueling stations are few and far between. Auxiliary fuel tanks can be quite useful, but a transfer tank offers more versatility with a nozzle for refueling other gas-powered machines such as generators, ATVs and chain saws.
Aftermarket lights are a big part of the fishing vehicle setup and include fog lights, driving lights, cargo lights and work lights that can illuminate the areas to the side of the vehicle.
Several of these systems call for batteries with improved deep cycle capacities and for heavy duty wiring harnesses to carry the juice to each corner of the vehicle.
I’ve already mentioned bumpers as part of the body protection but some fishing rigs need additional protection in the form of nerf bars, headache racks, skid plates and brush guards.
Pickup interiors could use some protection with seat covers and floor mats. Bed liners can be a great way to give the cargo area some thicker skin.
Speaking of cargo, there are lots of ways you can increase cargo capacity and make sure that your tools and fishing gear are easily accessible. Tool boxes, bed slides, tonneau covers, truck caps and overhead racks are a big help to the outdoorsman and why they rank high on the most wanted list of aftermarket products for anglers.
When I test drive the newest vehicles as they come to market I think of them as a good start for what they can become – the ultimate fishing machine.