There’s something about a truck. Beyond the functional utility, there’s just something that having a truck adds to your life experiences. I’ve always – literally always, as in my entire driving life – driven trucks. I commute in them, play in them, customize them, and generally have truck time as part of daily life. To say my truck is important to me would be a severe understatement.
My truck is the single most important piece of fishing equipment I have, period. Not the Ranger boat; she’s too heavy to drag. Not the kayak; can only drag that thing so far. Sure I could walk someplace to fish, but that’s way limiting. Yes, more than any rod, reel, sonar, or lure, the truck is pivotal in us catching fish. After all, you just can’t catch ‘em on the couch.
I know, you’re thinking, “this is a fishing column, why are you talking trucks?” Valid question, to which I answer that it’s always the Fishful Thinker’s goal to help you catch more fish. More fish are caught when you fish more, and you fish more when you have a more competent truck to get you out there in any condition that you desire to go. As a professional fisherman, we do just that, a lot. Conditions are a side note; we’re going fishing.
Last month I surpassed 400,000 miles in Toyota Tundras. I have been driving them since 2002. That’s 33,000+ miles per year, and I’m based in Colorado. We have high plains, a few, umm, hills, and of course four seasons, sometimes all in the same day. From highways to two-tracks, our truck sees it all, most often while hauling a load. We fish, hunt, and film 26 TV shows per year with the truck as our base camp. We take it seriously. So what have we learned about trucks in all that experience? Here it goes:
There is no substitute for drivetrain performance. “Performance” is a strong motor mated to a quality transmission that is tuned for towing. In the mountains, that means torque and an automatic transmission with descent assist and tow-haul mode that can be driven in manual mode, too. It means huge disc brakes all the way around, beefy drive shafts, and balanced spring and dampening rates that handle loads and corners, all at the same time.
A point that is often lost in drivetrain evaluation is turning radius; try snaking a 21’ boat into a tight spot and you’ll see what I’m saying. Performance also includes reliability; a big ole’ radiator and a transmission cooler are required. A big alternator helps, too.
Those are items a modern truck has to have to do any serious hauling or towing in the Mountain West. Here are a couple of features we’ve grown especially fond of and use a bunch. First is an integrated back-up camera. Want to hitch and go solo, in a snap? The camera makes it easy.
Along those lines, we’re so accustomed to in-dash navigation systems that I don’t know how we ever got around with out it. Mine has hundreds of waypoints; lot’s of programmed destinations, and the location of every Sportsman’s Warehouse in our region, you know, just in case we need some last minute tackle. Geez, I even mark waypoints at my favorite river pullouts, glassing spots and the like, so they can be found in the pre-dawn hours.
Speaking of pre-dawn darkness, we’ve modified all our trucks over the years to help with their utility, and lighting is one of the first things we add. My current truck is equipped with Rigid Industries LED lighting products on the front and rear. We installed fog lighting for, well, fog and other wet conditions, along with two major driving light bars for back road use.
Many deer and elk have squinted for hours after we spotted them in the train-like beam way ahead of the truck! We also installed a pair of diffused back-up lights into the rear bumper that are switched hot; I can leave them on when the truck is off for hitching in the dark or general use, or set the switch so they come on when in reverse only. Very handy.
In our minds, a pick-up needs a topper. It keeps your stuff dry and secure and can even provide sleeping quarters. We use a LEER that is carpet lined to prevent condensation and has a slider and opening side windows to air out stinky waders on the ride home. We also utilize a padded bed rug that protects fancy tackle and old knees, plus keeps stuff from sliding around. It can be pulled out easily to accommodate more rugged loads.
One of my all-time favorite modifications are the four tiny LED lights mounted inside the topper roof; I’ve had houses with poorer lighting in the kitchen. The best part is they draw almost no amps; we can leave them on for extended time while working on gear in or around the truck bed. Combined with the aforementioned back-up lighting, we have a great workspace.
Getting back to the drivetrain performance theme, we think upgraded tires, while not part of the factory truck, are just about as important. We always upgrade to all-terrain tread, E load rated tires slightly wider than stock for all surface traction and lateral stability under a load.
Wrapping them around lightweight aluminum wheels helps keep unsprung weight in line. A leveling block kit provides a smidge more tire clearance in the wheel wells while maintaining the excellent stock suspension. Do you really have to have all of this to catch fish? Of course not, and that could be said about almost all of your tackle. But, like your tackle, a well chosen and set-up truck is not only a point of pride, but an integral part of your success. And unlike your tackle, a well set-up and performing truck that gets you to and from the field is also a safety feature.
If you’re going to the hills, rain or shine, like most outdoorsmen do, you’ll undoubtedly encounter conditions that make you happy you spent at least as much time thinking about your truck as you do your tackle!
Check out FishfulThinker’s Toyota Tundra featuring Rigid Industries LED Lighting in this featured video.
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