When it comes to choosing a fishing boat the sailor is faced with a plethora of choices which may seem bewildering at first glance. In this guide, we’ll look at the variety of boats available, the advantages and disadvantages of the various hull designs and highlight some of the very best boats on the market. It can’t be stressed enough that there isn’t a definitive “best” fishing boat. Every design has its pros and cons and therefore you should consider carefully what is the best fishing boat for you based upon your specific requirements and budget. Whilst some may be happy with a simple fishing kayak, others may have more ambitious wants and needs.
Displacement Hull and Semi Displacement Hulls
A displacement hull is simply designed to push through the water as it powers forwards. This design creates a large amount of drag which will limit top speed. The attainable top speed is governed by a simple equation which states that maximum speed is 1.34 times the square root of the waterline length. For example, a 16-foot hull has a square root of four. Four multiplied by 1.34 is 5.36 knots. An increase in engine size will not increase the top speed and will have a large impact on the safety of the craft by increasing weight and thrust causing the bow to rise which in turn will reduce stability risking the danger of capsizing in rough weather. Slow moving vessels such as tugs and trawlers typically utilize displacement hulls as they are fuel efficient and can cope well in rough seas. More modern designs such as semi-displacement hulls alleviate the limited top speed to a certain degree by flattening the rear hull section to give the bow front end lift to increase the pace and are popular amongst fishermen. The more rounded hull increases comfort and are well suited for craft which needs to move quickly through heavy seas such as pilot vessels.
As the name would suggest, these are designed to rise up and skim or “plane” over the water once they have achieved a high enough speed. As they require a fairly powerful engine, most planning hull boats are made from light materials to keep the weight to a minimum. The concept involves a V-shaped section at the bow to help the hull cut through the water which is extended to a flatter bottomed, wider shape towards the stern thus allowing the craft to skim over the water at sufficient speed, usually around 15 knots. The shallow draft of a planning hulled craft makes them suitable for fishing in small lakes and rivers. They deliver a smooth ride in rough waters but may roll or bank in sharp turns.
Cathedral Hull and Semi-Cathedral Hulls
This is a variation on the planing hull concept. Cathedral hulls feature a deep V shape along the centre with two smaller V-shaped sections either side effectively creating three keels. This design leads to a stable platform that is well suited for fishing. They are great for beach launching as they sit upright when grounded. The big disadvantage is that they can become very fuel thirsty if you come down off the plane by going too slowly. However, they can also slam excessively under power and are not good while on the move in heavy seas. The semi-cathedral hull was designed to counter this flaw by reducing the depth of the two outer keels and extending them further back than the deep centre keel which in turn gives the hull an improved cutting entry into a heavy sea. The downside of this design is that semi-cathedral hulls are less laterally stable than full cathedral hulls. Nowadays semi-cathedral hulls have almost replaced full cathedral hull boats.
Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBS) are a stable, safe and comfortable choice for the fisherman. The V-hull from bow to stern is stabilised by the inflatable tubes which means the craft is fully capable even in the harshest sea conditions. They are fast which allows the fisherman to get to and back from their offshore marks very quickly.
It can be argued that you can fish from any size craft, however, anything smaller than 4 metres is going to be somewhat of a challenge. A 5-metre boat is ideal for the first-time owner and is easily manageable. It can also be launched from a trailer very easily. Boats of 6-metres will need a powerful vehicle with a high towing capacity although the extra metre in length will provide much more usable fishing space. A 6-metres+ craft is well-suited for offshore fishing but as can be expected, is a far larger financial investment in both purchasing and upkeep.
Inboard or outboard engines?
Most small to medium sized fishing craft have outboard engines. On more modern boats these are typically four stroke engines which are quieter than the older two-stroke models. It is generally accepted that outboard engines are best suited for small to medium craft and inboard diesels are better for larger vessels of over 8 metres. Although they last longer, inboards tend to be heavier and more expensive. The correct weight and horsepower are critical to a boats handling. An overpowered engine will affect handling and balance and may even damage the transom whilst an underpowered engine will overheat easily.
Fishing Boat Types
Around the world the range of fishing boats is huge. Ranging from fishing kayaks to small electric powered open boats to dayboats to game boats with huge power reserves and professional “fighting” chairs which conjure up images of Hemingway fighting to land Marlin off the coast of Cuba. However, the choice can be realistically split into two – open configuration/Centre Console or cuddy cabin/Walkaround.
Centre Console craft are the ideal choice for fishing in offshore waters where a truly seaworthy vessel is required. They tend to feature deep V bottoms which are capable of handling large waves and ocean swells with ease. The design offers a level floor and the freedom for fishermen to work their catch around the boat’s entire perimeter. The console usually offers generous storage space and large insulated fish lockers and livewells to store both bait and live catch. A “t-top” overhead offers shade and a self-draining cockpit can make cleaning up at the end of the day far easier especially after landing a messy catch. The helm is in a central position which is both natural for a keen sailor and enables plenty of deck space clear both fore and aft. Most models over 20 feet usually have private heads. The design tends to utilise minimal topside mouldings which help reduce weight and have less pronounced windage which leads to an improved fuel economy.
A cuddy cabin is often seen as the perfect compromise between performance and versatility. In short, the design swaps out the open front seating area of a bowrider for a small enclosed cabin. They typically feature a V-shaped bed to fit with the bow’s contours and a head, freshwater sink and a minimal galley. Many fishing purists think that cuddy cabins are a poor choice compared to Centre Consoles but a design which places the helm farther forwards can offer a perfectly adequate fishing cockpit space. As they are a compromise between compact cruisers and open deck boats, cuddys can offer all the pleasures and benefits of a smaller craft whilst being relatively affordable. They are fairly easy to tow thanks to their small size and running costs can be kept low. They remain a popular choice for fishermen who want a little shelter and storage space but do not want to upgrade to a full cabin boat.
1. A fuel tank with a capacity of double or even triple that of a similar sized dayboat is worth considering. It wouldn’t be considered excessive to have a 300-litre tank on a six or seven metre fishing boat. A secondary fuel tank for extended cruising range is also worth consideration
2. A flared bow for a dry ride and bow buoyancy
3. Undercover shelter from wind, sun and rain
4. A broad, open aft deck for easy movement>
5. Gunwale-mounted rod holders adequately angled to keep lines apart
6. Storage boxes for both fish and equipment
7. A well-appointed helm can be essential for comfort during long voyages
In short, the ideal fishing boat should be dry, safe and reliable, with a good cruising range and have somewhere to take shelter from the elements and somewhere to store your gear and catch. The line between what makes a good fishing boat and what makes a good family boat is very thin.
The Best Fishing Boats from Humble UK Cuddy Cabins to American Dreams
Boston Whaler 370 Outrage
Boston Whaler are famous for heavily built offshore fishing boats and its multi-award-winning craft, the 370 Outrage encapsulates all the marques assets. The console cabin offers a full two-man berth complete with TV, galley area, fridge, microwave and shower. The aft cockpit area has a leaning post as standard plus a freshwater sink and grill, a tackle box, a large livewell and a fridge. The centre helm has an electrically adjustable captain’s seat and a fold-down standing platform. A modest triple rig of 250hp engines are perfectly adequate to power the boat.
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Olympic 580 CC
A great choice for those on a tight budget from Greek family boat specialists, Olympic. The 580 is available in three configurations: Bow Rider, Cabin and Centre Console and a power band from 100hp to 175hp. The Centre Console has a full-beam aft bench, a pair of helm seats, an outboard engine and an open, four-man set-up in the bow. Other features include deep safe freeboards, a step-through pulpit at the bow and an elevated guardrail around all the forward sections. It’s a no-frills craft with seating for eight and is an outstanding entry-level boat.
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Founded on the Isle of Wight in 1989, Cheetah is one of the most loved UK boat builders. They generate seven primary hull lengths from about six to 11 metres. The 7.9 has a beam of 2.7 metres and is the largest Cheetah you can tow in the UK. It offers a soft ride and great lateral stability, plus a large carrying capacity. Cheetah offers a bespoke design service so you can fully utilise the 7.9s vast internal space to your requirements.
With the looks of a classic fishing boat, the Bertram 35 is unrivalled when it comes to performance, construction, interior design and fishablity. However, owning a modern classic doesn’t come cheap. As the adage goes, if you have to ask how much then the chances are you can’t afford it.
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Trophy 2203 CC
The outboard powered 2203 comes with the “Trophy Hull System” (THS), which utilises relatively acute angles and a generous bow flare for a soft and dry ride. With a range of around 400 nautical miles achievable from its 394 litre fuel tank, this robust boat offers deep coamings and a broad beam. There’s plenty of internal safe space, fishing-friendly areas and a small heads compartment. Trophy also offer the option of either inboard or outboard propulsion units.
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The Pursuit 310 is a rounded and versatile fishing boat highly suited to UK waters. 31 feet in length and with a nine-and-a-half-foot beam, this top end Centre Console craft is safe, secure and accessible. It has a prodigious bow flare, plus a 1,000-litre fuel tank. Features include under-helm tackle lockers, drained and insulated macerator-equipped fishboxes, a 200litre baitwell, a slide-out tackle centre, a bait prep station, an insulated fishbox and a folding transom seat. A high-quality craft with an outstanding ride.
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This 18-foot catamaran is not especially beamy and makes full use of the Centre Console layout. It can be specced with a low freeboard for easy beach landing or with a high freeboard for added security at sea. It’s also available with a forward cuddy and walkaround side decks. The twin outboard 60hp engines will deliver 30 knots whilst delivering good fuel economy. Alternatively, it can be equipped with twin 15hp and still achieve an 18-knot performance with running costs as low as 0.6 litres per mile. Although pricier than the equivalent monohull, it offers extra safety, a soft ride and is stable and efficient.
Boston Whaler 280 Outrage
Another great boat from Boston Whaler that will appeal more to the gentrified fisherman who also wants a usable family boat. The bow is utilised as a social area with a removable cocktail table and U-shaped seating. The extended forward console seat makes for a comfortable lounger which accommodates a huge bulk stowage compartment with enough room for rods. Not aimed at the hard-core fisherman but great for those who wish to take their family along for the ride.
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Constructed with moulded foam between fibreglass, the Everglades 325CC is virtually unsinkable. This high-end offshore Centre Console boat is expensive but difficult to beat. It offers a smooth and solid ride even in the heaviest of seas and sports an electric power windshield, plush helm seats, a dive-door and a cocktail table in the bow that can be raised and lowered at the press of a button. With oodles of horsepower and every creature comfort, gadget and gizmo, the Everglades 325CC is one of the very best fishing craft afloat.
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Designed along the same lines as the 525, the larger 695 is available in three configurations: Open Boat, Cuddy Boat and Wheelhouse Boat. All versions come with the same big beam of nigh on three-metres, plus a wide variety of power choices from a pair of 40hp outboards to twin 115s. It’s capable of carrying up to 12 people and handles rough water exceptionally well. An efficient, soft riding, stable and spacious fishing craft.
Trophy 2152 Walkaround
Another great boat from sports fishing specialist Trophy. The boat comes in two formats: Centre Console or Walkaround. The Walkaround is a broad, easy riding, well-built fishing boat which comes with a simple cabin to stow gear or sleep in. it has wide walkways and safe access to the bow. The beam is more than eight feet with a usefully deep freeboard, a 60-litre aerated livewell, an array of rod holders, drained fishwells, and a bimini top and cooler. Powered by a 120hp diesel engine, it can achieve 30mph and a range of around 430 miles.
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Grady-White Canyon 271 FS
The Grady-White 271 FS is an evolution of the highly respected Canyon platform. It has been enhanced by adding forward seating in a way that doesn’t impact significantly on the boat’s fishability. The latch-in table is used to turn the entire bow into an elevated casting platform when it’s fishing time but when the sun goes down and cocktails call, can be converted into a comfortable seating area. All the latches on the boat have been upgraded from rubber to stainless-steel and the redesigned console offers more protection with a wrap-around windshield and integrated lighting in the hardtop.
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This is the smallest model in Pursuits Centre Console range but it delivers far more than you’d expect from an entry-level boat. Weighing in at more than two metric tonnes (including Yamaha’s F250), this 23-foot craft offers a huge beam and has plenty of deck space. With a cruising range of 200 nautical miles and a 43-knot performance, the C230 is a deceptively useful fishing boat. It comes with an integrated cooler in the bow plus a second removable one in the leaning post at the helm. There’s a washdown cockpit hose for cleaning down the deck and rod racks and holders, a large livewell and plenty of storage space. On top of all these features, the C230 is also towable.
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Key West 219FS
Equipped with a Yamaha F175, the 21-foot Key West 219FS is capable of cruising in the mid 30’s with a top end of over 40 knots. It’s an ideal boat for three lightly equipped fishermen and is great in all weather conditions. A little light on stowage but still a great fishing boat for a reasonable price.
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Mako 334 Centre Console
This craft has many features more likely to be found on far more expensive boats. Boasting a half-tower with upper station controls, a massive tackle station, and twin 34-gallon baby-blue oval livewells, the 334 also features a dedicated back-up pump and all the systems draw their raw water from an electroplated sea -chest.
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Admiral Pro-Fish 660
The Pro-Fish 660 is an ideal inshore and offshore fishing boat. The hull is reinforced and is extremely stable and agile. No matter the weather, it will deliver a smooth and comfortable ride. There’s plenty of shelter space for when the weather takes a turn for the worse and the front windows can be fully opened allowing access to the bow and bow locker. It features plenty of storage for stashing both your catch and equipment. Fitted with a 60hp Mariner outboard and retailing at under £20,000, the Pro-Fish is a great entry-level Cuddy Cabin boat.
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Carolina Skiff 218DLV
Introduced over 12 years ago and still one of the best-selling boats in the States, this 20-foot Centre Console is an all composite construction with heavy stainless-steel hardware. It has expansive casting decks both fore and aft, an eight-inch draft with the outboard up and 18-gallon livewell making it ideal for inshore fishing. Great for first time buyers and rated for outboards up to 150hp.
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