“Fear No Rock” is Clackacraft’s motto. I recently took a 16SSG (Salmon & Steelhead Guide Model) on a grueling three week test ride during salmon season in a boat-eating stretch of river to see if I would end up a believer…or would I come home with an extreme case of Rockophobia?
• Centerline Length: 16 feet+
• Bottom Width: 57 inches
• Beam: 83 inches
• Side Height: 23 inches
• Max Capacity: 4 Adults
• Weight: Approx 500 lbs.
• GulfStream® bottom
• Tunnel Hull Technology
• Rolled gunwale edge
• Adjustable front bench passenger seat
• Two Swivel Fold Down Padded Seats
• Molded-In rod storage
• Three sets of raised oarlock positions
• Oarsman’s adjustable rowing bench seat with comfortable tractor seat
• Storage under both benches
• Level floors front and Rear
Before we get into the nitty gritty of what this boat has to offer, let’s take a look at it in action through a bit of rough water…
My first ever-guide boat was a 1998 Salmon-Steelhead model from Clacka, so I was pretty familiar with the series though I’ve had about a 9-year hiatus while I rowed aluminum. It seems they’ve kept all the cool features and then added some nice new ones. The flat, level floors fore and aft are a big upgrade from my old boat…
Back in the day, they didn’t have the split bench, which is also a nice touch…so you don’t have to get up to grab something out of the storage box below the rower’s seat.
The rod holder system is much nicer these days, too (the butt holder piece is an optional upgrade).
And you can carry a couple bonus sticks in the new molded-in holders on both the port and starboard trays. I’m not sure how long these things are, but my 9 footers fit in with no trouble. Just take it slow and easy when inserting and extracting — get in a hurry and you’ll jack up some rod eyes like I did one day when we came around a corner and saw kings rolling everywhere!
Both the front and rear seat benches have adjustment sliders to help balance out your weight. The old system, if I recall, was more of a three-hole deadbolt type of deal, so you have finer control with this slider. Simply turn the screw to loosen and put it in place. The one thing that was a bit of a pain was I seemed to always unscrew the bolt too much and then would have to spend a few minutes fumbling to get it back in the hole.
You can get a Clacka outfitted with a few different anchor configurations. This time around, I went with the foot release pedal on the floor system. This little dude allows you to drop the anchor with your foot so you can keep your hands on the oars, which is a nice feature when you’re anchoring in hot water. To pull the pick, simply pull the line straight up between your knees. Overall, I like the system, but may end up changing it because I will add a kicker motor to the boat at some point, which I can’t do at the moment because the anchor bracket is positioned smack in the middle of the transom cutout.
Clackacraft has made the foot brace more adjustable than it used to be, but I wish it were wider. When I get into some ugly water, I typically have my feet spread about shoulder width apart, not close together like this brace forces me to do. Feet together feels kinda dainty instead of powerful…
With the sliding benches and three-position oar locks, the 16SSG should fit rowers of all sizes and shapes.
I also added a third seat so I could run three guys across the front for plug pulling or two up front and one behind for side-drifting…
In my old model, water would collect in the bow storage compartment (mostly from post-fishing wash-downs) and there wasn’t any way for it to drain back into the boat. In those days, I simply drilled a couple holes, but they’d eventually clog with dirt and my gear up front would end up sitting in water. Clacka has fixed that problem with the newer boats with this no-clog scupper that allows water to immediately flow back onto the floor. A nice, smart fix…
Okay, and so on to perhaps my biggest complaint. I guess if this is the worst thing I can come up with, Calackacraft is doing a pretty damn good job, but here we go anyway. When I tilt the boat up to rinse and drain it, the aft storage compartment fills up with water and sand. When the main hull drains, I have to drop the boat back level again so the rear box can drain and then I have to tilt the boat back up on its end again…yet I always end up with a little water on the floor (which the optional floor mats can be very helpful with). My major design change here would be to enclose the back seat box with a watertight hatch door…
Bottom & Sides
Flip a new Clackacraft over and you’ll see what amounts to a pretty unique bottom. Here’s the little blurb about it from their website that describes the features better than I can…
Starting with the dimpled bottom, I guess the basic gist is there’s less friction over a dimpled surface than a smooth one (that’s why golf balls aren’t smooth), so there’s less drag and more lift. I found that the stopping time didn’t seem any better than a normal bottom, but once I got the boat stopped, it took very little effort to hold in place. In fact in some cases, i actually occasionally had to dig the oars into the current to get her to go downstream. I’m not sure how to describe it, but I can feel the water flowing under and past the hull better in this boat than in previous vessels.
Clackacraft says its tunnel hull and side water tracking channels act as reverse keels, which direct the water straight, keeping the boat in line, without the liability of a square chine. I must admit, initially I wasn’t sure if Clacka was blowing a little smoke up my drain ports or what, but this baby tracks as straight as an arrow. On a choppy steelhead flat, I did a little test. With plugs out, I lifted the oars out of the water and counted to ten before the nose would start to turn. And on anchor, there’s absolutely no swing.
The rounded chines are also pretty cool. Boily back eddies coming off steep riffles felt a lot less grabby than in a square chined drifter.
Dimples and channels aside, the true value of a glass hull is it’s extremely slippery compared to aluminum. So slick in fact, that when I would pull over on a gravel bar to let the dudes out for a shore break, somebody would always have to be on boat detail to keep it from sliding right down the bank and into the middle of the creek. When you’re in a bony stretch of river, the ability slide off boulders is huge.Plus, glass never dents…go over a big rock and the floor flexes and then kicks right back into shape, so your hull integrity will always be there. Of course, the downside to that is the floor in the rower’s cockpit gives a bit when you stand up and takes a bit of getting used to.
Glass is also quieter than aluminum and cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Additionally, is doesn’t oxidize so the paint job looks new for a lot longer than metal or wood.
So, the $25,000 question (or about $8K retail, actually) is how tough is the bottom? Can you really “Fear No Rock?” Well, yes and no. The boats come with a 100 year guarantee against bottom punctures and leaks, so obviously Clackacraft feels pretty strongly that you’re not going to poke a hole in your boat. And you can see why, when you consider the bottoms are nearly 1/2 inch thick and made of what looks to be about 12 layers of glass. This baby is burly and you’d have to do something pretty spectacular to make her leak.
The downside to a glass bottom is you’re going to scratch up your gel coat eventually. Since I was running a tight, rocky canyon,I put a few chine dings in the thing which, though a little unsightly, are purely cosmetic…and easily fixed. So, there are a couple rocks in the Gorge that I fear, but not in a boat-destroying kind of way. Ouchies like this probably would have dented a metal boat.
The 23-inch side height of the boat makes for a little wetter ride in big water than boats I’ve owned in the past, but the lower profile is a plus in the wind. If you’re going to do a lot of gnarly stuff, Clacka now makes a highside model, which I would consider next time (though it would be harder for the older guys to get in and out of). The rolled gunwales did kick a lot of water back where it belonged, though…
Well, what really matters when you get a new boat is: does the thing catch fish? I’m happy to report that the 16SSG has yet to skunk (knock on gel coat!).
But seriously, I was quite impressed overall with the boat. Of course, there’s no one perfect boat and as I noted earlier, there are a couple little things here and there that I’d change. But the long and short of it, I think the Clacka is a very user-friendly rig that fishes well, rows like no other and looks very nice. They also apparently have a very high resale value, which is a plus and you can’t beat the Clackacraft customer service.
Bottom line: you don’t stick around the industry for nearly 40 years by building anything but a quality product…the Clacka 16SSG is a damn fine boat that comes highly recommended on this end.