Why IPS Is Gaining Favor Among Sportfishermen - 12/15/2010

Big game fish are often found where the going can get rough; alternatively, fishing in "destination" tournaments can mean traveling 1500 miles or more from home port. For those two reasons alone, big convertibles are often the fishing machines of choice for serious anglers. In addition to being roomy, they are simply more comfortable in a seaway. But the downside to these behemoths has always been that when a feisty marlin is hooked up and darting from port to starboard, forward and back like an underwater torpedo, the captains have a hard time keeping the transom pointed at the fish. Big marlin and tuna can swim at up to 40 miles an hour. Try chasing one in a 70-footer! And that is exactly why more and more of the world's top big game fishermen are specifying IPS pod drive systems in their new boats. This year a number of anglers with IPS systems brought home the silverware...and big bucks.

Volvo Penta IPS
The 70' custom-built Spencer "PentaGone" has ably demonstrated to the big game sportfishing community how agile a big boat can be with IPS drives when fighting fish.

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The odds of landing a record billfish, or even a tournament winner, make winning at Las Vegas look like a slam dunk. Just getting a hook-up is no easy matter, but once you have that heart-pounding encounter with a potentially winning fish, the pressure is on the angler not to lose it. Keep the rod tip high, never give the animal a break...and don't let the wild one get under your boat or, worse, in front of it! All of this can be going on in six-foot seas or more with the boat rolling from side to side, which means that getting the fish to wire is usually a two-person job: the angler and the helmsman.

Volvo Penta IPS
The Spencer 43 Open is powered by IPS600 for greater fish-fighting agility.

The captain of the vessel must keep up with the billfish streaking through blue water below. Anyone who has seen a billfish light up knows how fast they can go, and how quick they can turn. They can foul a line in an instant, get some slack and throw the hook, or otherwise break off the combat to fight another day. Game fish are nimble and historically the big fishing boats have not been. That is why the helmsman is so important to making a winning catch.

A Premium On Quick Boat Handling

It is the captain's job to keep the vessel's transom pointed at the moving target, making sure there is just the right tension on the line, and keeping the fish behind the boat. That often requires turning the boat on a dime, or accelerating to WOT for three seconds, hard to one side or the other, full stop, and backing down as fast as you dare in a tight circle. It's a high-speed dance and the leader is the fish, and it's no fox trot. Try keeping up with a 800-lb. monster working in three dimensions in a boat with standard inboard straight-shaft propulsion.

Volvo Penta IPS
In the Spencer 49 Open note how the builder tucks the Volvo Penta 700-hp diesels under the bridge deck and the mezzanine seating and uses jack shafts to power the pod drives in the stern. This arrangement has several advantages, including the cockpit sole low and keeping engine weight forward.

The captains of big game fishing boats have been doing that since the sport began. That's why the skippers who could handle boats the best -- and lost the fewest big fish as a result -- became legends, and were paid big bucks. And that is why the sport's top anglers have historically put their captains first among their arsenal of weapons.

Why Captains Like IPS

The advent of the IPS system with its joystick control and individually controlled pods has made boat handling a lot easier. Now, just as anyone can dock a big boat, many more people can do a good job of handling a big boat in Sportfish Mode with the IPS system. In battle mode the control mechanism and pod drives mean a sportfishing captain no longer has to be a Houdini with the throttles and gears.

Some of the first people to realize that were the folks on North Carolina's Outer Banks, home to more custom fishboat builders than probably anywhere else in the United States. Paul Spencer, a former fishing boat mate and captain, has been building custom boats in Wanchese, NC, since 1996.

Spencer Yachts was the first custom sportfishing boat builder in the U.S. that we know of to install an IPS system. Others followed, and it wasn't long until production builders were also installing IPS in their fishing boats - companies like Rampage, Riviera and Luhrs, among others.

Volvo Penta IPS
The custom-built Spencer 70 "PentaGone" is a thing of beauty in addition to being very light on its feet. We applaud Paul Spencer for not being too proud (or stuck on tradition) to take advantage of the Italianesque hull windows to brighten the master stateroom.

Spencer 70

When Volvo Penta wanted to demonstrate the aquatic agility that IPS brings to all fishing boats it chose Spencer to build the boat for it. And why not make it a truly big battlewagon so there could be no doubt in anyone's mind about what IPS could do with the heavyweights? Volvo Penta commissioned Paul to build a 70-footer powered by three new IPS1200 units, just released to the public in 2010. The IPS1200 is the largest IPS system Volvo Penta offers. It utilizes the D13B-G MP 6-cylinder diesel engine rated at 900-hp at 2300 rpm.

Volvo Penta IPS
Jackshafts are also used in the triple IPS1200-powered Spencer 70. In that way all three pods are in a row, the outboard engines can be moved inboard, and engine room space is better utilized.

The name of the Spencer 70 is "PentaGone." She has four joystick-controlled IPS stations. Two of the joysticks are in the aft cockpit (one starboard, one port), one on the aft flybridge helm station, and one on the master helm in the enclosed flying bridge. But the joysticks are used for docking, not fighting fish. When the big ones are on the hook, Sportfish Mode Palm Beach controls are used for playing the big game.

Volvo Penta IPS
This is the "back porch" abaft the enclosed flying bridge on the Spencer 70. Note the single-lever controls and the joystick. Two more joysticks reside, port and starboard, in the cockpit.

What better way to demonstrate that the IPS system could make even a large, relatively heavy (around 100,000 lbs./45,454 kgs.), custom-made convertible as nimble as the prima ballerina at the Met when dancing with big game?

2010 Tournament Wins

Spencer-built IPS-powered boats have had their share of good luck on this year's big game circuit. The Spencer 54 "Scandalous," powered by triple IPS900s, took 1st place in the Tuna category, and 2nd place in the Blue Marlin category in the prestigious 2010 Ocean City White Marlin Open.

Volvo Penta IPS
Sistership of the Spencer 54 "Scandalous," one of the big winners in the Ocean City White Marlin Tournament this year.

Trey Little and crew won $283,168 for first prize in the Tuna competition with its 77.5 lb. (35.2 kg.) catch. Then the "Scandalous" crew racked up another $118,647 for taking second place in the Blue Marlin category with a 790 lb. (359 kg.) trophy fish. In total, Trey and his merry men won over $400k. Overall the tournament officials handed out $2.1 million in prizes. No wonder 255 boats were entered in the event.

The Carman 46 "Lady Luck V" powered by twin IPS600 engines tied for 1st place in the White Marlin category with an 88-lb (40 kg.) catch in the 2010 Mid Atlantic 500 Fishing Tournament, held in August in Cape May, N.J. That tie was worth $298,514 to angler Steve Ramsey and crew.

Volvo Penta IPS
The SeaVee 39 "Kimbuktu" has been hot on the tournament circuit this year. That's right, there are no outboards on this machine - she is powered by twin IPS600s.

The 49' Spencer "Svengali", owned by Marshall Leeds and powered by twin IPS900s, took 1st place in the 2010 Bahamas Wahoo Championship with a 102 lb. (46.3 kg.) wahoo. "Svengali" has the honor of boating the heaviest wahoo ever caught in any of the Bahamas World Championships over the years.

5th Anniversary of IPS

Tempus Fugit. It was about this time of year in 2005 that Volvo Penta announced its revolutionary IPS system. Last week the company revealed it will be sharing its control technology with Yamaha outboards, making its influence felt even in small boats.

Since 2005 hundreds of models of boats have been made available with both gas and diesel IPS systems. Well over 5,000 boats have been built with the diesel IPS systems alone. We are sure the next 5 years holds even more promise as forward thinking leaders in the marine industry, such as Volvo Penta, continue to advance technology to improve the sport.

Volvo Penta IPS
Volvo Penta video of a Spencer 43 Open powered with twin IPS600 435-hp engines can be seen backing down at speed.

See Paul Spencer, owner of Spencer Yachts, describe handling on his Spencer 43 with IPS600 propulsion...

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