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Making Dreams Come True

October 1st, 2019

eric simmons Making Dreams Come True

Eric Simmons, owner of ES Custom Boats and Simmons Custom Rigging, builds high performance, shallow draft boats.

Eric Simmons of ES Custom Boats and Simmons Custom Rigging builds dream boats one hull at a time

By Brandon Rowan

In 2003, tournament angler and fishing guide Eric Simmons had a decision to make: continue guiding or focus on a dream of building his perfect boat. Fast forward sixteen years later, and Simmons is making others’ dreams come true with his shallow draft, ultra high performance boat, the Revolution.

“The Revolution series builds on our history of know-how,” Eric Simmons said. “We’re always evolving and building a better product.”

trophy trout trophies Making Dreams Come True

Eric’s tournament background played a role in the design of his high speed boats.

BIRDS BEFORE BOATS

Born and raised in Freeport, Eric’s first love was duck hunting and all he ever wanted to do. Needing something to do in the offseason, he later discovered a second love, fishing.

“As soon as I could, I got a boat and a truck and started fishing up and down the Texas Coast. I didn’t come from a big hunting or fishing family so I’m not sure where I got it from. But I loved it. I made a lot of good life long friends doing that,” Simmons said.

Eric was fortunate to be up-and-coming during a lot of the big Mickey Eastman Troutmasters style tournaments. These life experiences shaped his boat’s design.

“Tournament anglers like the Revolution. It’s a boat race with some fishing sprinkled in there, so we do cater to that,” Simmons said.

Through guiding and tournaments, Eric gained a lot of knowledge and insight on what he wanted to see in his perfect fishing boat. Slowly over time he realized what he was looking for didn’t exist. And despite no formal education in nautical design, he decided he was going to build his own. The rest is history.

“I am self taught, a student of the game. I had the desire and want to do it,” Simmons said.

ES Custom Boat’s Revolution is powered by Mercury Racing Outboards.

A LEAGUE APART

The Revolution is CAD designed and blends efficiency with shallow water capability. There’s a lot of shallow draft cats out there but that’s not what sets the Revolution apart.

“The handling characteristics of our boats stand alone,” Simmons said. “The performance and speed are in a different league. Our hulls have some of the best ride quality out there.”

The Revolution is made to order and a waiting list of 12-16 months is typical. But good things come to those that wait. Customers of ES Custom Boats have the privilege of truly crafting their dream boat from the ground up.

“We have a hull and deck mold, but the color, the way you lay it out, and your style of fishing has a lot to do with the end result, as well as your budget and imagination,” Simmons said. “It’s fun to do each one. They’re all a little bit different.”

Everything starts with an idea on paper. Once a plan is in place, the hull is created at the glass shop, gel coat is sprayed and the deck and fuel tanks are added. The hull then moves to the rigging shop where it stays for two to three weeks. Engines, electronics, aluminum work and any and all marine accessories are added. A Power-Pole shallow water anchor system is affixed to every boat. Eric prefers top-shelf, hand picked products from companies like Power-Pole, Simrad, Wet Sounds Audio and Mercury Racing.

The Revolution is outfitted with Simrad electronics.

“I am OEM with Mercury and Mercury Racing. I’ve always liked their product; it has given us an edge. They have a full array of factory props that work well with our boats. Sometimes with custom props you never know what you will get from one to the other,” Simmons said.

The Revolution also features high quality anodized Jack Plates from Bob’s Machine Shop in Florida. Theirs is a superior design; strong, simple and very fast. Eric prides himself on attention to detail and total control over quality.

“We do say no to certain ideas because we may have tinkered with it and realize it didn’t work. We like to keep control so there’s no oddball boats out there somebody isn’t happy with. We don’t go with who is going to give us the deal but who is going to give us the best results,” Simmons said.

The Revolution comes in two lengths, the 23 and 25. Both perform similarly and are a matter of preference. The 23 is preferred by solo anglers, smaller groups and those who don’t have the space to accommodate the 25.

THE FUN PART

Once work is completed in the rigging and aluminum shops, the boat is turned over to Eric.

“I get the fun part of water testing each one,” Eric said with a smile. “My job is to make sure she floats and quality control every little thing I can find.”

After that, the boat is detailed, another checklist is completed and she is out the door to a happy new owner. ES Custom Boats currently produces three boats a month but Eric’s goal for 2020 is to build a boat a week. And if that isn’t enough to keep them busy, Simmons Custom Rigging also outfits boats of other makes, with several aluminum or rigging jobs a year. The shop recently outfitted a bare hull Majek with a riser box, complete aluminum work and the console.

Another attractive aspect for customers of ES Custom Boats is the resale value. A lot of custom boats take a dive in value the second they leave the yard.

“Our resale value is extremely high,” Eric said. “A lot of my return customers have reported that they’ve broken even or made money when they sell. It’s not guaranteed but it seems to be the case out there.”

Eric Simmons with one of his custom coolers and “office security.”

FAMILY GUY

When Eric isn’t in the shop or tinkering with designs, he is passionate about his family.

“We like going out on the boat in the summer time,” Eric said. “We’re a boating family, that’s my biggest thing. I have three kids with my wife Candace; Hailey is 10, Cole is 12, and Olivia is 15 and has her driver’s permit.”

But with the kids back to school, Eric’s attention turns to his two favorite fishing targets, trout and redfish.

“I like winter time fishing. The bays are a lot quieter, there’s less people out there and you’re after a different caliber of fish. That’s what I really enjoy.”

For more information on building your dream boat, visit simmonscustomrigging.com or call the office at (832) 864-2331

Catch and Release Tips

September 1st, 2019

souleredfish Catch and Release Tips

Steve Soule releases a slot redfish with care.

Caring for your catch: Handling fish and releasing properly

By Steve Soule | www.ultimatedetailingllc.com

There are probably not many people reading this article or others in this magazine that don’t have a great respect of fish, wildlife and the great outdoors in general. I know that over many years of fishing and spending time on and around coastal waters, my appreciation of the natural beauty and numerous species it supports has only grown greater.

With the vast majority of us spending too many days in offices, stuck on highways, and staring at small screens, time spent outdoors only grows more precious. It has always felt like time well spent, whether fishing for fun or for money as a tournament angler or guide. Understanding the value of the natural resources we have and consciously working to ensure that we can continue to enjoy it for many generations to come is of paramount importance.

CHANGING OF THE BAY

For those that are younger, newer to an area, or just haven’t spent as much time along the coastal waters, change definitely won’t be so noticeable. For those who have been on and around the coast for 10, 20 or 30 more years, change is striking and often disturbing. Coastal development, land erosion, dredge work and many other factors affect the bays and waterways. Some of these factors are just a part of nature and will happen regardless of human impact. Others are a direct effect of our desire to be on or near the water and the need for infrastructure and transportation in and around waterways. Those of us on the upper Texas Coast utilize and enjoy one of the most heavily populated and heavily trafficked bays in Texas.

Galveston Bay has an uncanny ability to withstand catastrophic events and rebound amazingly well. With near constant dredge work, endless barge and ship traffic, an enormous amount of recreational users, run-off water that none of us want to know the content of, and an occasional spill or collision leaking hazardous chemicals into the system, its truly miraculous how abundant this fishery remains. Wildlife in and around Galveston Bay seems to somehow pull through many challenges. The diversity of the system plays a huge role in this; three major Gulf inlets(for the moment), numerous rivers, creeks and bayous that empty into it and vast satellite nursery areas around the bay provide habitat. Given these facts, plus the sheer size of the bay, fish and other sea creatures seem to thrive on their ability to move around the bay system under varying conditions.

Fish and their food sources move around the bay every year, for the reasons listed above and many others. Couple this fact with the not-always-great water conditions and the prospect of catching fish can become daunting. Kudos to those who have figured out how to consistently catch fish here or in any saltwater bay system, as it is often difficult.

doubleredfish Catch and Release Tips

Clay Sheward and Rick Spillman with a double hookup on redfish.

STEWARDSHIP

Having fished the upper coast for a little over 30 years now, I’ve experienced good and bad. I’ve had more tough days of fishing than I care to admit or recall. I’ve found some great success, and always tried to keep track of how and why, so that I could hopefully repeat those days. I’ve seen some staggering changes and of course developed some very strong opinions based on years of observation.

Though I do eat fish from time to time, and killed more fish in the past for tournaments than I wish that I had, I have come to a point where I only take fish that I can eat that day. I have two primary reasons for this: first, I can assure you that fresh fish tastes much better than frozen. Second, for me, the enjoyment of fishing has always been about the chase and pleasure of fishing and catching them, rather than eating them.

There are laws in place designed to help control and maintain the fish populations that do a reasonably good job of ensuring that we will be able to enjoy the resource for many years to come. Each and every licensed fisher in the state is entitled to participate and enjoy consumption within those laws.

I’m not going to advocate change, though I was pleased when TPWD announced the reduction in speckled trout bag limit this year. I believe that decision will help overall populations. What I would really like to address isn’t the laws, changes to them or enforcement of them. I am of the opinion that those who most frequently use the resource, especially those who make their living from our fisheries, are the ones with the greatest responsibility to maintain the resource and teach future generations.

This group of people, in many cases, knows the condition of the habitat and fishery better than the politicians and lawmakers that govern over it. I have heard many different ideas and opinions about regulations and changes to them and how they will affect guides and commercial fishers. Probably the largest impact that can be controlled is that of the recreational fishing industry.

As a guide, I would say it is in your best interest to encourage that people only take the fish they plan to eat within a short period of time. Definitely, do not catch an additional limit and keep for your customers, since this has been a law for many years now. And as a steward of the fishery and in the interest of ensuring you have fish to catch in the future, encourage catch and release. Trust me, your customers book you because they enjoy fishing with you and respect your knowledge and want your guidance. They aren’t showing up because they have found the best way to feed their families. And yes, they will continue to come back to fish as long as there are fish to catch.

Now that we have jumped onto the catch and release train, we can start thinking about the impact we have there. I’ve spent a lot of years fishing primarily catch and release and have learned a lot about how to make sure fish survive and swim away healthy. I’m going to list some very basic rules to help make sure that are efforts are rewarded with a thriving population of fish.

TIPS FOR CATCH & RELEASE

  • Fight fish quickly to help reduce stress and exhaustion effects
  • Minimize the time fish are out of the water. They can’t breathe when there isn’t water passing their gills!
  • Avoid putting fish in contact with dry surfaces. It removes their protective slime. (wet hands to grab, keep off of hot boat decks)
  • If you can, release the fish without removing from the water.
  • Hold fish horizontally when out of the water. They don’t have support for internal organs so holding vertically can cause damage.
  • If possible, don’t hold fish by lips or jaws. ( Lipping and weighing devices that hold fish by lip or jaws can cause serious damage to connective tissue around the jaw.
  • Always attempt to revive fish by holding in water by the tail until they can swim away strongly.
  • If you’re going to measure a fish, wet the ruler.
  • Don’t force the jaws of a fish to overextend with lipping tools

A FEW MORE THOUGHTS

Fish are fairly durable and can handle being caught and released, but limiting adverse effects helps to make sure our efforts aren’t in vain. Making the effort to encourage and practice catch and release among recreational anglers and guides will almost certainly have a bigger impact on fisheries than regulations. I’ve never been one to believe that government knows or can react fast enough to be the best steward of resources. I firmly believe that as recreational users of the fishery, we stand to lose the most so we should work to maintain it. Killing 30 fish for your customers may be your right, but posting pictures of dead fish in a cooler or on the deck of your boat probably isn’t the best way to market how you help to keep our fishery strong.

Just because you have the opportunity to fish every day, doesn’t mean you should kill fish every day. One day you may just run out of fish. Killing a big trout or redfish for food isn’t great; expect parasitic worms and mushy trout fillets. Plus, the giant rib cage of a bull red yields much less meat than expected. These fish are also important spawners and make future fish generations possible. The same does not apply to flounder fillets, but we do need to maintain a strong breed stock.

Short sided planning around your love of fishing will likely lead to long term disappointment in your catching.