One beautiful purpose-built fishing boat.
By Cam & Diana McRae
Around three o’clock on a weekend afternoon, the gleeful sounds of boarding, tubing or skiing echo around the shorelines. Summer evenings, the pontoons cruise by in the setting sun. But the rest of the time, Eastern Ontario’s Loughborough Lake is devoted to fishing. Like so many Canadian lakes, the long glacier scar has been popular with anglers for over a century. Loughborough Inn, situated on the east shore, has been welcoming fishermen and their families since 1921. The Inn’s marina, nestled in a nearby bay, sells fishing boats. Boats like our Pro Mag 168.
When we tested this boat last fall, it said Sylvan on the side. By the time you see it in 2013, it will be known as a Smokercraft. The manufacturer has decided to bring all of its fishing boats under the time-honoured Smokercraft banner. So, we tested the last of the Sylvans, the first of the Smokercraft. New name, same great boat.
“Pro Mag” tells it all. This long, broad skiff has no fish-and-ski, family fun pretensions. Its sole mission is the pursuit of Loughborough’s big lakers, elusive pike and feisty bass. We had breakfast in the Inn’s dining room on our test day and marveled at the array of mounted trophy fish around the walls. The Inn’s docks were populated with boats like the Pro Mag 168, ready to head out, their owners loading lunch and tackle.
Sixteen feet long with a beam of almost seven results in a lot of room for only two guys and their stuff. The boat is rated to carry five passengers, but, carpeted bow platform and side boxes notwithstanding, this is a two person boat. There are only two pedestal seats, and including the floor socket in the bow, only three places to fit them. If you’ve ever been in the confined and tippy space of a small skiff while your partner is trying to land the catch of the day, you’ll know that it can be chaotic, even dangerous. The big Sylvan/Smokercraft provides plenty of room to move around and stay out of each other’s way. The wide beam (almost six feet at the transom) keeps the boat stable at rest. We wandered all over the Pro Mag while inspecting its features and taking pictures without ever feeling offbalance. Add in the deep freeboard, plus the seaworthy “Gull Wing” hull, and the result is a very safe boat.
The stylish pedestal seats are beautifully upholstered. Particularly comfortable and supportive, they’re designed for long hours of trolling as well the as high speed runs out and back. After so many years of driving from a side seat, it took me a while to get used to operating a tiller motor from a pedestal. At the dock, it seemed clumsy, particularly given the long tiller arm on the 40hp Evinrude. But, once the boat was underway and planing the ergonomics became clear. At speed, both visibility and helm feel were ideal. And there’s lots of speed. Diana and I are a couple of lightweights and forty snappy E-TEC horsepower launched the big hull and sent it flying. Load the boat up with two big fisher-guys, their gear plus water in the livewell and the Evinrude would still get the job done. Forty horsepower seems to be ideal, but if equipped with its 60hp maximum the big boat would be equally competent and not overpowered.
Given Loughborough’s shallows and rocky areas, the quick-acting tilt/trim function and the E-TEC’s calm idle were really appreciated. But, it was good to shut the engine down and enjoy the near-silent running of the Minn-Kota trolling motor.
It’s pre-wired, plug-in, ready to go. The Hummingbird X1-70 depth/fishfinder seemed strange at first. Perched on the gunwale opposite the pilot, it looked stuck-on, vulnerable and in the way of any fishing action.
However, it was never threatened when docking and in that location, back by the engine, it’s unlikely to be fouled by rod or line. More importantly in those difficult waters, its depth readings were welcome.
The lushly carpeted long seat boxes along the sides open to reveal a 21 US gallon livewell on the port side and a rod and paddle locker to starboard. Removable LED running lights – a little stalk for the bow and a pole for the stern – share rack space with the fishing rods. The wide flat floor is covered with a UV resistant, vinyl non-skid material that should be easy to clean.
Simple and practical, the Pro Mag 168 is also a beauty. Tasteful graphics and harmonized hues of blue, grey and beige create a handsome, integrated look. Down at the dock or up on its matching trailer, it will inspire pride of ownership in any outdoor enthusiast.
We paid another visit to the lake, late last fall. The leaves were almost gone. A cold wind was lifting a sharp, grey chop. The fishermen were still out there.
Smokercraft 168 Pro Mag
LOA: 16’ / 4.9m
Beam: 6.75’ / 2m
Weight: 700lbs / 318 kg
Power: Evinrude E-TEC 40 hp Tiller
Test Boat provided by:
Loughborough Lake Marina
For more information:
PO Box 65,
New Paris, IN 46553