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Bulls Bay Boats are made in Walterboro

Capt. Mike McDonald shows off a spotted seatrout in his Bulls Bay 1700.
Photo by Jeff Dennis

Fishermen want more features than ever on their boats, but the folks making Bulls Bay boats decided to keep their design simple and functional. Their main focus is to keep the price reasonable so that the hard working folks of the Lowcountry can afford to have an all-purpose 17-foot watercraft. These boats are made in Walterboro right at the Pioneer Boats warehouse near I-95 and Henry Sikes is their point man on promoting this new line of Bulls Bay boats.

Sikes is involved in the daily social scene in Walterboro and I spoke to him at length during the recent Criterium bike race downtown. The next day we toured the Pioneer facility and I learned that the Bulls Bay boats were only about a year old and that customer feedback had been very positive. But how does it ride? Sikes mentioned that a fishing guide near Georgetown had one of the first Bulls Bay 1700 boats and we agreed that I should meet up with him and get on the water.

Captain Mike McDonald was born and raised in Georgetown and he has been a fishing guide there for 21 years. His Gul-R-Boy Charter Service is known far and wide and when I asked him about the best time to fish he replied to just come on and let him worry about that. Meaning that whether the tide was rising or falling, he knows which fishing spots to visit near the Belle Island public boat ramp where most of his charters depart from. He has a 115-horsepower Mercury Opti-Max motor, which is the maximum recommended for the 17-foot bay boat.

“When Henry called me about the Bulls Bay boats being built, I drove right up to Walterboro to come take a look at one,” said McDonald. “It looked like a perfect fit for me and he was willing to customize the center console to accommodate some extra fishing rods, so I just about drove it home that day. That was May of 2014 so I have had it for a year now, and find it to be a good fishing platform.”

We rode out into the Muddy Bay section of Winyah Bay, which is ‘big water’ similar to St. Helena Sound. The tide was rising and we quickly stopped at some shell banks next to a marshy island to cast some D.O.A. baits for spotted seatrout. It didn’t take long to pick up a few trout as I rested comfortably on the leaning post in the bow. The anchor stowed neatly in a forward compartment, and in general there was lots of storage on the Bulls Bay, and Capt. McDonald has fishing tackle stored all over his boat!

We went for a little longer boat ride to North Island, the home of the Georgetown lighthouse right on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. No fish were biting at the old lighthouse dock, but the tide turned at midday and the wind picked up right on cue. The water that we had come across already now had some whitecaps on it, and McDonald said now you get to see what this little boat can do.

In boating lingo if you get a ‘dry ride’ from a boat that means that the spray from the water and waves the boat is running through does not end up on anyone riding behind the center console. I can report that the Bulls Bay 1700 ran well in the chop, and did indeed offer a dry ride. In summer it might not be a bad thing to catch a little spray, but it’s no fun to be wet when it’s a little cooler so it’s a fairly important aspect in boat performance.

After the tide turned and the wind picked up the fish quit biting, so we called it a day and returned to the boat ramp. After a half-day fishing in the Bulls Bay 1700 I can report that there was room for one more angler, but after that space might have been an issue. Keep in mind the Bulls Bay boats also come in a 22-foot size. Overall, the boat is great for getaways and fishing forays, and is sure to win over new customers after they learn of the Bulls Bay reputation for a quality product with a reasonable price.

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com

 

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (234 Posts)

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com