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Illinois hunting and fishing

Despite economic problems plaguing some in the boating industry, business has been good this year for Allen Hamm (left) and his son David, who run AAD Custom Boats and Welding in Bartonville.

Demand strong for custom boats

August 22, 2010 at 02:01 AM

AAD Boats information

Click here to learn more about AAD Custom Boats and Welding or call (309) 697-0474.

Catfish tournament

Hamm’s Breading Mix and AAD Custom Boats and Welding is sponsoring a unique catfish tournament Saturday at the Pekin Boat Club.

Anglers will fish the Illinois River from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. The top 15 finishers receive cash or prizes with first place worth $1,200 (based on 50 boats entered). There will also be big-fish payouts of $250, $150 and $100.

Unlike most catfish tournaments, teams can weigh up to 25 fish. And that top 25 cannot include any cats entered for the big-fish award.

“This format is totally different and levels the playing field for guys who fish with dipbait, shad or whatever,” said Russ Nash of Hoss’s Hawg Bait, who is helping promote the event along with Larry’s Fishing and Presley’s Outdoors.

To keep big catfish alive, anglers can return early to weigh any fish over 20 inches.

Registration is Friday from 5-8 p.m. and includes a free barbecue dinner. Anglers can also register Saturday starting at 6 a.m. Cost is $100. Call (309) 565-3241 or 694-2390.

Hamm’s Breading will also hold a fish fry following the tournament.



The last few years have not been easy for the boating industry.

When the U.S. economy went sour, sales of new boats declined. Loans dried up. Marinas closed.

So how do you explain AAD Custom Boats and Welding in Bartonville, where orders for new boats have actually increased?

“Everybody that comes here says they can’t get what they want in a factory boat so they’re just having us do what they want,” David Hamm said. “We’ve got more boats to build than we have in six or seven years.”

That’s welcome news for this small family business, run by David Hamm and his father, Allen Hamm. Actually, David, 42, and his 44-year-old brother Allen Jr. (who helps build trailers) were also the impetus for AAD’s start in 1989.

While spending time on the Illinois River hunting ducks, netting fish and diving for clams, the brothers wrecked their share of boats.

“They were always tearing up our factory boats,” Allen Hamm said. “The boats we bought just wouldn’t hold up to the levee-jumping and the pressure they put on them.”

So instead of buying boats, the Hamms began building their own. Nothing new there. Generations of Hamms have built boats for duck hunting and commercial fishing along the Illinois River, dating back to Dallas Hamm’s Midwest Boat Co.

Like those wooden watercrafts, most of AAD’s early boats were flat-bottomed jon boats designed for duck hunters and commercial fishermen. The major difference is that AAD boats are all aluminum. And all welded.

Welding provides greater strength than do the rivets used in many factory-built aluminum boats. That’s one appeal for customers. So is the opportunity to get a truly custom-built boat and trailer.

Most boats take two to three weeks to complete and, well before they are done, customers are back in the boat yard.

“Once the hull is up they get in the boat and lay out where they want their livewells, rod boxes and gun boxes and tell us if they want a diamond-plate floor or non-skid rubber,” David Hamm said. “Before I weld the steering console in I want the guy sitting there to make sure it feels comfortable to him. There’s no two boats exactly the same.”

That variety keeps the job interesting, David Hamm said. He also enjoys being able to work close to home and to keep an eye on his 9-year-old daughter, Abigail.

“We won’t ever get rich doing this, but I’ve been able to take Abigail to school every day,” David Hamm said. “And when she’s not at school she’s always around here or in the workshop.”
Illinois hunting and fishing

Word of mouth has helped the AAD name spread beyond the Illinois River. And well beyond flat-bottom jon boats.

In recent years AAD has built more boats with semi-v and even deep-v hulls.  “The v-hull is just great for 2- to 3-foot (waves),” David Hamm said. “It will ride just like a Cadillac.”

The Hamms have also built close to 20 boats for the state of South Dakota thanks to a former Illinois Department of Natural Resources worker who transferred. “He liked our boats when he was working here at Jake Wolf (Fish Hatchery) and we kept in touch,” David Hamm said.

This month’s worklist includes a 20-foot boat for the Illinois Natural History Survey that will be used for electro-shocking Asian carp. Another 25-footer was shipped to Missouri for use in carp fishing by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Calls from Missouri are almost sure to come in soon.

“Every time a boat goes somewhere, somebody sees it and says, ‘I want one,’” David Hamm said. “We’ve got them all over. We’ve even got guys duck hunting out of them in Chesapeake Bay.”

Illinois hunting and fishing


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