Ron â€śPippâ€ť Rhodes calls it a Golden Age: the 1960s and 1970s, when he was going out with his father and brothers, fishing along the New Jersey coast. â€śFishing was my life as a youngster,â€ť says the 75-year-old retired New York City policeman. â€śI grew up on Staten Island, and I started out by ferrying people to their moorings in a rowboat with a three-hp Evinrude, doing it for tips.â€ť
Jobs on a party boat and at a marina followed. In 1971, when Rhodes was 28, he and his fellow anglers from the Staten Island Tuna Club competed in the United States Atlantic Tuna Tournamentâ€”and won it. â€śThat was the height of my fishing career,â€ť Rhodes says. â€śI tell my son that it was like winning the World Series.â€ť
As with most serious anglers, Rhodes has owned a fleet of boats, 10 of them to date, all geared toward his passion for fishing. There was a 68-foot lapstrake Old Town that his father bought in 1947, followed by a couple of Staten Island-built boats. In later years, Rhodes, his father and brother combined their resources to buy a 30-foot Olsen Sea Skiff built in Keyport, New Jersey, as well as a 36-foot custom walkaround and a 34-foot Striker. By 2013, he was on the water in a 1977 Pacemaker Wahoo 26, a center console with a single gas inboard. â€śMy oldest brother had one, and I always wanted one, too,â€ť Rhodes says. Now looking forward to his seventh season with Pipp, Rhodes says sheâ€™s the perfect boat for the kind of fishing he likes to do. â€śAt my age, I just want to go out and drift around,â€ť he says. â€śThe Wahoo is a beamy boat with walkaround decks, so I can take it out and handle it myself.â€ť
The boat was in excellent condition when he bought her, with upgrades from the former owner, who once worked at Pacemaker and was redoing boats as a hobby. Power comes from an 18-year-old 260-hp Crusader gas engine. Rhodes figures there are about 600 hours on the power plant. â€śI was a little concerned at first, but Iâ€™ve had no problems,â€ť he says. â€śItâ€™s a good engine, and they seem to last forever.â€ť Inboard power was a selling point for Rhodes. â€śItâ€™s more work, a little more complicated, but outboards take up a lot of room when youâ€™re trolling.â€ť
Rhodes doesnâ€™t invite bad weather, but he says the Wahoo handles the normal stuff easily. â€śYou trim the bow down just a bit and it doesnâ€™t pound,â€ť he says of his rough-water experiences. â€śAnd itâ€™s good in a following sea. We have to come across Sandy Hook Bay to go home, and in the afternoon, that southerly breeze comes up at 15 to 20 knots, making a good two- to three-foot chop. But even so, we can cross the bay at pretty much full cruise.â€ť
He starts each fishing season by chasing striped bass, then moves on to fluke during the summer, going back to the stripers in the autumn and hauling out for the winter. â€śWe do a lot of striped bass,â€ť says Rhodes, who fishes with his son. â€śWe troll off Sandy Hook, along the New Jersey shore, near the Ambrose Channel, and this boat is perfect for that. I can be at the console and just sit there and fish. Or, I can put a chair in the stern and fish there. If I want to go up front and cast, I can do that, too.â€ť
Sometimes, he has great fishing days, such as the one he spent in a fluke tournament with about 50 boats in New York Harbor. â€śWe were in third place after the first day,â€ť he says. â€śThe second day, I knew I had the winner, but the fish got away. That was a very memorable fishing trip.â€ť Rhodes puts 100 to 150 hours a year on the Pacemaker Wahoo 26, and says the boat is â€śholding up pretty good. It still shows well. When other people see it they donâ€™t always know what it is. To me, it looks like a $100,000 center console.â€ť
The Pacemaker Wahoo 26 is a husky-looking, no-nonsense fishing boat with high freeboard, a modest sheer and a broad, rounded transom. Power comes from a single gas inboard with conventional running gear.
The boat has an all-fiberglass, modified deep-V hull with a hard-chine bottom and lifting strakes. The wide gunwales (equipped with eight rod holders) surround a deep, walkaround deck with low handrails forward. Rod stowage compartments with locking doors are under the gunwales on both sides of the cockpit. The bow has a raised casting platform with an in-deck locker. The engine box is just abaft amidships, providing a base for pedestal seats at the center console.
This article originally appeared in the April 2019 issue.