I welcome another week to throw some crazy ideas at you about what I think about when it comes to supporting gear while Surf Fishing. This week, we are going to talk about a not cheap item. Yes, more than the fillet knives that I know, many of you were annoyed at me for writing about expensive ones (I heard you, I’ll have a story soon where I can give a price comparison to make things more dynamic). I have a plan in the future for some of those writings, and I will use some of it in this week's edition when we talk about Surf/Pier Carts. Now that we have that out of the way, let's dig in, shall we?
Images courtesy of Half Hitch Webpage
When hauling gear from your vehicle to the beach or pier, it can be a real PITA. In his comedy sketch about camping, Bill Engvall once said, "As the Dad, I'm the pack mule that brings it in and the jackass that brings it out of there." That's exactly what I thought the first time I hauled my fishing gear and the family's beach stuff out to a spot in the sand. There has got to be a better way to do this! Thankfully, I have an awesome wife that loves me (I didn't do anything wrong to suck up to her, and no, I didn't buy a new rod…. yet) and told me to get the beach cart I was eyeing. Before we get to that part of the story, let's back up a little, shall we?
I saw these carts that many YouTube surf fishing anglers were using to haul all of their gear out to where they were fishing. These things were brilliant pieces of equipment that carried all of their rods, coolers, sand spikes, chairs, and other things to where they were fishing. However, when I watched these, I was sitting on my couch in Springfield, Tennessee, and had nowhere to find them, so it became an afterthought. Once we moved to Navarre, that afterthought became a very apparent forethought and needed to fish with the family. The search began very quickly after getting all of my other gear a few days prior.
I went into Broxson Outdoors and had a conversation with Luke at the front desk. This guy has proved so many times to be an encyclopedia of fishing knowledge and it is always a pleasure to talk with him when I go looking for something there. I told him I was looking for a beach cart to haul everything I needed, and he directed me to the Anglers Fish-N-Mate 310 Senior Cart (they didn't have it on their site, so the link is to Half Hitch Bait & Tackle, which is the other local shop I trust). This thing had enough rod holders, a bait station, and big enough for me to haul everything for the family on fishing days (after modifications, we will get to that shortly). I bought it from Broxson and went home to assemble it.
Here's the quick part: it goes together quickly, and you shouldn't have any issues with assembly as it comes with detailed instructions (no need to put extra fluff in here for you). A part that I knew was essential from several videos on YouTube and Luke were the tires. This cart comes with three different wheel options when you're picking it out: Poly wheels, Plastic wheels, or Inflatable rubber wheels. The poly wheels would glide effortlessly over the sand under heavy loads. The others would be like pulling a sled through it. One particular video KyleForAWhile, did a test between pulling with the poly and the rubber wheels (video here). He was exhausted after pulling the rubber ones. Now, I know I'm in incredible shape and can handle that (I laughed as I typed that joke), but I'm all about work smarter, not harder.
However, the other wheels serve a great purpose as well if you're going onto a pier/dock to fish. They roll over the ground very smoothly and will be better protected from the errant hook or bolt that might be sticking up. You can also purchase those tires separately, however they are not cheap (more on that further down).
To get all of the families and my things to the surf, however, it needed modifications from right out of the box. I started searching the wonderful Internet for beach cart modifications and was pleasantly rewarded via Facebook to be directed to the Surf Cart Builders Sharing Ideas group. This group showed and explained all of the alterations to their carts and was happy to share how they did it. One member, in particular, Paul Vancelette, had a cart that seriously stood out to me. I had seen it in pictures, but I got a serious look at it from a YouTube video (Link here, Paul's cart is at minute 15, but the others are impressive to see as well) shared by The Sinker Guy at a Surf Cart gathering. As you can see, they can be heavily adapted to just about anything you want if you have the time and patience.
Paul Vancelette's before and after picture
One of the very first modified carts I gained knowledge from was from local angler Tom Cabrera. Tom has become one of the voices I genuinely trust when it comes to everything surf fishing (I need to interview him one day), and you will see his name come up several times in my writings. Tom's cart is modified with a bonus of powered wheels! He took the drive wheels off a Power Wheels cart and found a way to get the motor to power his wheels. His is also raised to make transporting it a comfortable height to push/pull as needed.
I have picked up knowledge from Matt Baker (he has 2 wheels but many other mods that are useful) and Mike Smith's (he even set it up to be towed by his bicycle) carts along with Tom's cart. They have modified theirs to 4 wheels and better handles for moving their carts across the sand. You're probably asking me why I am bringing up names in an article that you have no idea who they are. The simple reason you can see their carts in the videos they post to YouTube and in the fishing groups (and they deserve recognition for the work they put in!)
Ok, back to my cart. I knew I needed to haul chairs, sand spikes, a cooler, my tackle, and rods down to the beach. I could do most of that with the available cargo space, but I wanted to make it easier, so I added some PVC pipes in the shape of a four on the side to accomplish this. The chairs sit inside the four's opening, and the sand spike sits on the vertical portions upside down so they cannot fall off.
My Cart as of today
One of the most critical aspects of modifications comes down to one other thing with all the stuff I have learned. Money! Sadly, the parts for these modifications are not cheap! The axle and wheels alone cost about $150 for the lower end wheels and up to $275 for the upgraded gray wheels. But what does that have to do with transporting gear? More gear means more weight and less stability. Quick fun fact, I've had my cart tip over when walking down the beach on an incline. It's not fun! I was overweight and out of balance but had I had four wheels, I may have been fine.
Let us continue to talk about the cost. I've learned from the fillet knife article that more options are better and especially economic ones. If you do a search through your Internet browser for Surf Fishing Beach Carts, you will see many different options available to you. However, the sad part is that these carts, regardless of which company you buy, are going to cost you a bit of coin. Another option entirely is to make one yourself either from PVC or repurpose something you have on hand. There are plans available for you to make them if you're handy and want to spend the time on them to include modifying a Harbor Freight cart! A quick video from The Weekend Handyman shows something like that.
In conclusion, do you NEED a surf/pier cart? No, it is not in the need category. Do I think it is a great support item? Yes, I do for the reasons I already stated, and above all for making it easier on you to get the gear in and back out after a long day of fishing.