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An Old Friend Comes Home

Fishing 411 TV

Mark Romanack


It’s always nice when an old friend comes to visit. When that friend is a trusted fishing boat, it can be double sweet. Recently we finished rigging a Starcraft Freedom 180. The 180 is 18’-11” long and features an 89 inch beam. The maximum horsepower rating on this boat is 90 for tiller models and 115 for console versions.


The Freedom 180 is a utility style craft that delivers a lot of boat, for not a lot of money.


A few years ago a Freedom 180 tiller model with a 75 horsepower outboard came to visit. That boat served us well, but ultimately when another angler offered up the right number we opted to sell that boat. In retrospect selling the Freedom 180 was something I later regretted.

The Freedom 180 is a lot of boat for not a lot of money. Functional for fishing rivers, inland lakes and even larger reservoirs and the Great Lakes, the Freedom is everything you need in a fishing boat without all the bells and whistles. This utility style boat trailers beautiful and is easy to launch and load even by yourself.

The new Freedom 180 sitting in the garage is a console rig with a 90 horsepower Yamaha. As much as I love fishing from tiller rigs, the console version of the 180 will be even more versatile as a fishing machine. What attracted me to the Freedom line up of fishing boats is the wide open floor plan. A flat floor from bow to stern is only interrupted by two boxes that run down the port and starboard sides of the boat.


The wide open floor plan is what originally attracted the author to the Freedom series of fishing/utility boats.


On the port side there is a small livewell near the back of the boat and a small dry storage compartment near the front. On the starboard side of the boat this box houses a large rod locker and ties into the console. I like to joke that the Freedom has lots of room for “activities”, but the truth is boats with open floor plans are not only functional, they are easy to rig and a joy to fish from.


ON THE BOW

On the bow of the Freedom 180 we have mounted one of the new Lowrance Ghost electric motors in the 60 inch shaft model. This electric motor features a GPS navigation system built in that can be controlled from the foot control pedal, a remote key fob and also from the touch screen Lowrance HDS Live sonar/GPS units mounted in the boat.


On the bow of the Freedom 180 the author opted for a 60 inch Lowrance Ghost electric motor, a nine inch HDS Live sonar/GPS unit and digital battery charger mounted in the forward storage compartment. A pair of 27 group deep cycle batteries are mounted in a conveniently located floor locker.


Some of the critically functional features the Ghost brings to the party include anchor mode for hovering in open water, this motor can be used to lock in on a compass heading or programmed to navigate to a waypoint or series of waypoints. The brushless motor delivers hours more service than conventional electric motors per battery charge and the Ghost can be operated as either a 24 or 36 volt system making it one of the most unique electric motors on the market.

Also on the bow of the Freedom a Lowrance HDS Live nine inch touch screen sonar/GPS links to the Ghost electric motor. In addition to operating the Ghost electric motor functions, the HDS Live is equipped with 3-in-1 Structure Scan, Active Target, Broad Beam Sonar and CHIRP sonar. This nine inch unit is networked to a 12 inch HDS Live unit mounted on the console making it possible to save waypoints to both units and also to control the boat from two different locations.

Mounted in a small dry storage compartment on the bow there is a digital three bank battery charger that charges the 24 volt deep cycle batteries for the electric motor and a 12 volt deep cycle battery at the back of the boat that becomes the house battery. The house battery powers all the boat accessories including sonar/GPS, Active Target, NEMA 2000, bilge pump, livewell pump, navigation lights, the VHF radio and a USB charging port.

In a floor mounted storage compartment near the bow, two 27 group deep cycle batteries power the Ghost electric motor.


CONSOLE

On the console a 12 inch Lowrance HDS Live unit becomes the primary sonar. The console also houses a VHF radio, USB charging port and a standard cigarette style charging port. Beneath the console there is room for four life jackets and a tackle box that accommodates half a dozen 3700 style utility tackle boxes.

The drivers seat has been equipped with a Smooth Moves Ultra suspension seat. This spring assist suspension seat has proven itself to be trustworthy, durable and the best thing since ibuprofen for running in rough water situations.

Also on the bow we added a TackleWeb storage system for holding bulky items like sea bags that need to dry off completely between uses.


The console of the Freedom 180 can be easily customized. Pictured in this image the author used a TackleWebs panel to create additional storage for trolling bags, dock lines and a Coast Guard throwable.


The flat and spacious console of the Freedom 180 easily accepts a large screen 12 inch sonar/GPS unit, a VHF radio and under the console is plenty of space to store life jackets and extra utility tackle boxes.


STORAGE BOXES

On top of the port and starboard storage boxes there are a pair of 12 inch and 18 inch track that accepts a pair of Cisco Fishing Systems rod holder trees and also set of three bank cradle rod holders. Cannon Optimum TS electric downriggers also mount in the rear track. On the port side we added a small Tempress tackle storage box to house commonly used tackle such as hooks, Snap Weights, Tadpole Divers and spools of fluorocarbon leader material.


The author added a Smooth Moves Ultra suspension seat at the driver’s position and the standard swivel seat pedestal for the passenger seat. A Tempress tackle box was also mounted on the port box to provide storage for fishing essentials such as hooks, swivels, trolling sinkers and fluorocarbon leader material.


TRANSOM

At the transom a 90 HP Yamaha pushes this boat about 35 MPH. Also mounted at the back of the boat we wired in a battery cut off switch that makes it possible to turn all power off to the batteries. This feature eliminates any static draw on the batteries, increasing the life of the batteries and helping to reduce the chances of a dead battery ruining a day of fishing.


A 90 HP Yamaha pushes the Freedom 180 about 38 MPH. Track mounted rod holders like these Cisco Fishing Systems cradle holders can be moved forward for board trolling applications.


Also on the transom there is a broad beam skimmer transducer, a transducer for the Cannon Bottom Track feature and also a transducer for the Fish Hawk X4D.

The engine is powered by a 27 group starting battery and the house battery is a second 27 group deep cycle battery mounted beneath the splash well of the boat.


WRAPPING IT UP

The Freedom 180 is resting on a Trailmaster single axle trailer with swing-away tongue and mag aluminum wheels. This series of boats is sold under both the SmokerCraft and Starcraft brands. Anglers can choose from tiller or console models in both a 160 and 180 version.


The Freedom 180 rests on a Trailmaster single axle trailer with swing-away tongue making this boat easy to tow and even easier to stow.


The Freedom is offered in a black/Gray fishing model or a dead grass color for those who are interested in both hunting and fishing from this boat.

At Fishing 411 the Freedom 180 is an old and trusted friend. This go around the Freedom is going to become a permanent member of the family.

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