Proper gear, including a fishing boat, can be a significant factor contributing to your fishing success. Figuring out which boat to buy, however, can often prove overwhelming when you start considering makes, models, engine configurations and more. Here are a few tips to help sort through all the options.
The biggest variables to consider when narrowing your selection down include: how many people will use it, how much gear you’ll need and where you’ll do most of your fishing. What will work for one or two people in August on a small lake probably won’t cut it on a saltwater bay in January.
The more people you plan to join you on your fishing trips and the bigger the body of water, the more horsepower and larger a boat you will need for safety, storage and comfort. While hull type plays a role in stability and maneuverability, here’s an overall look at some of the most popular types of fishing boats:
Aluminum: Lightweight and durable, aluminum fishing boats come in a variety of styles and sizes. They can be configured with a tiller-mounted engine or a steering-wheel console. They offer more storage capacity and seating arrangements than inflatables — from lockers to mountable fishing-rod racks and bench seating to removable seats.
They’re also heavier than inflatables and can be designed with flat bottoms or V-hulls, giving you options for comfort of ride and drafting, as well as rating higher for engine size. From simple jon boats to more complex bay-style boats, aluminum boats offer an economical alternative to higher-end fiberglass craft; they can last for decades and can take a pounding in the best fishing areas available.
Bass boat: This is a general term for a style of low-profile, sleek boats that can access shallow water, provide plenty of storage and comfort for hours of standing fishing, and boast a live well to keep caught fish alive for a possible weigh-in and an electric trolling motor.
Bass boats can come in aluminum or fiberglass, and can cost from $10,000 to more than $50,000. depending on accessories, overall length and engine size, which can vary from a simple 25-horsepower engine to an unbelievable 250-horsepower motor that pushes 20-plus-foot fiberglass tournament boats across the lake at more than 70 mph.
Fish and Ski: For the family angler that needs a dual-purpose boat, fish-and-ski boats attempt to combine the best of the performance and angling worlds. Featuring a deeper V-hull for banking and turning with skiers and tubes, the fiberglass boats usually have a sundeck for people to lay out during fun time on the water, storage for skis, ropes and more, and requires a larger engine to get the boat up on plane and towing people. Almost like a Transformer, these boats swap ski-friendly attributes for a trolling motor, swivel-mounted seats and a live well when an angler wants to pursue fish instead of a fun in the sun.
The problem with most hybrids, however, is that they never perform equally in all realms. While you can fish deep water with fish-and-skis, because of their v-hull they can’t access as shallow of water as a bass boat, flat-bottomed jon boat or inflatable.
As an editor and writer for such publications as ESPN.com and Outdoor Life, Brian has extensive experience in the outdoors realm. However, his knowledge comes with at the price of experience. You can learn a lot from him because he’s done most of it wrong the first time and can tell you all about what you should do instead.