There is a huge selection of small boats for fishing, from paddle-powered kayaks up to small aluminum fishing boats and larger center console bay boats… and a whole lot in between. The term ‘small’ is obviously relative (check out our guide to small boats), and what may seem small to one person is downright spacious to another. It depends on what you’re used to, how many people you want to have on board, and what type of fishing you’d like to do. But any way you look at it, you don’t need a 40-foot center console with four outboard engines on the back to get out on the water and enjoy some fishing. So, let’s take a look at the different types of small fishing boats and nominate some of our top small fishing boat brands in each category.
Types of Small Fishing Boats and Their Top Brands
The seas, bays, lakes, and rivers are teeming with small fishing boats, and a closer look reveals a huge variation in the styles and functions. You’ll find some small fishing boats designed for multi-use, such as the popular fish and ski boats, while others are dedicated to a particular catch like bass boats. But while the differences are enormous, fishing boats will all share some common characteristics. Most will include a range of angling equipment, like livewells, rod holders, and plenty of deck space for reeling in the catch. Many will also often have a trolling motor system which allows for quiet, hands-free movement.
When choosing these top brands we’ve nominated them for specific reasons, whether that’s their luxury, their lightweight trailerability, their robust build, or some other standout feature.
Small Aluminum Fishing Boats
Aluminum is a hugely popular material for building small fishing boats thanks to its lightweight characteristics as well as its ability to be repaired easily if dented. Aluminum boats are easily trailered and launched, even single-handedly, and are fairly inexpensive to buy, especially on the second-hand market. For an easy-to-maintain, no-fuss, compact fishing rig you can’t go wrong with an aluminum boat.
- Affordable: Alumacraft is a brand that gives you a whole lot of boat for your money, making these excellent value. They are specialists in small aluminum fishing boats that are rugged and durable, with a great suite of fishing gear as standard features and more you can add as extras. Starting at 14 feet, you can get out on the water in an Alumacraft for under $10,000.
- Durable: Crestliner Boats is a brand with a long history, and their fishing boats are renowned for their performance and durability. Each hull is welded and has work-hardened sidewalls (adding bends which increase rigidity), transoms are double-welded and wood-free, and the keel is full-length extruded aluminum. Crestliner is so confident in their construction methods that they offer a limited lifetime warranty on all main seam welds and a three year stem-to-stern warranty.
- Great performance: Lund has a huge range of aluminum fishing boats which pack a punch when it comes to performance. Thanks to stout construction (like full-length I-beams and High-Density Performance transoms) and modern design they can take more horsepower than many competitors and the 2275 Baron, for example, can handle a whopping 400 hp outboard.
Check out our guide to the Best Aluminum Fishing Boats on the market today.
Photo credit: Alumacraft
Bass boats are unique in that they are designed for one very specific use. You guessed it: largemouth bass fishing. Eschewing the tradeoffs of multi-use fishing boats, bass boat enthusiasts love these aluminum or fiberglass boats for their single-minded dedication to broad casting decks, large livewells, and copious rod and tackle stowage—all ideal for pursuing largemouth. Usually used on relatively calm inland waterways, bass boats are stable, come equipped with a whole suite of gear, and are high-powered so you can get to the hotspots before the competition.
- Top performance: Ranger Boats are one of the top names in the small fishing boat industry with an excellent reputation for building high-powered, well-built boats. Their Z Comanche series is a choice of many top competitive pros, and when rigged and run properly, can hit eye-watering speeds in the 70 mph range.
- Good value: Lowe is one of the best-known manufacturers of aluminum bass boats, and especially for delivering a solid bang for the buck. Their Stinger series is a stand-out, offering performance of 50-plus mph (with a 150 hp outboard) yet listing for tens of thousands of dollars less than many high-end fiberglass bass boats.
- Hassle-Free: Nitro boats has both high-end performers and smaller, simpler bass boats, but they stand out from the crowd because getting one and going fishing is downright easy. They’re sold as complete packages, including not just the boat, motor, and trailer, but also standard features like trolling motors, fish finders, remote livewell drain controls, and their custom tackle management system. Just add gas and you’re ready to hit the water.
Lightweight and simple, jon boats are proof that you don’t need to spend huge amounts of money to get a solid fishing boat and enjoy days out on the water. These boats are straightforward, with a flat bottom, bench seating, and few amenities beyond that. But they’re lots of fun! Used on calm inland waterways or protected saltwater areas they are perfect for accessing shallow waters and are also the number-one choice of waterfowl hunters. Their light weight means they’re easy to trailer with even the smallest tow vehicles, too.
- Hunting and Fishing: Excel Boats produces some seriously versatile Jon boats, which come equipped with more than your standard fishing gear—meaning they’re perfect for waterfowl hunting, too. They offer a wide range of models with perks like livewells and fishing seats, yet also gun boxes and a camo finish.
- Rugged Construction: G3 Boats is a top brand to consider for quality build, and features a 0.100-inch-thick all-welded hull, protective Dyna-Grip interior coating, and locking stowage compartments even on their smallest models. Packages also come with three-inch tubular steel Trail Guard trailers with 13-inch radial tires and a detachable tongue.
- Bowfishing: Tracker Boats. The Grizzly series of Tracker Jon boats ranges from 16 feet to 20 feet, and the larger models offer the option of a raised shooting deck with integrated lighting. This takes bow fishing from the humble Jon boat to an all new level.
Photo credit: Tracker Boats
Small Center Console Boats
If there’s one type of boat that beats all others when it comes to popularity among anglers, it’s the center console. Essentially, a center console is any boat with a console and helm station in the middle; it can include skiffs, bay boats, and several other designs. They’re ideal for anglers because they allow for 360-degree fishing around the boat.
- Family Friendly: Aquasport’s range of small center consoles offers a whole lot of family fun in a compact package. Well-equipped for serious saltwater fishing, they also ensure plenty of seating and have tall gunwales to keep kids well-protected and inside the boat. They range from 21 feet up to 30 feet.
- Luxurious: Everglades. If you’re looking for a head-turner of a fishing boat, then look no further than Everglades. The smaller 23- to 30-foot models are simply packed with technology, huge outboards, and luxury amenities.
- Saltwater and Freshwater Capabilities: Xpress’s range of aluminum center consoles come in the form of bay boats plus a flats skiff, and they’re suitable for both saltwater and freshwater use. With powerful outboards, trolling motors, and all the features of a fiberglass bay boat but the lighter weight of an aluminum rig, they make for easy trailering and low maintenance.
Photo credit: Everglades Boats
Fish and Ski Boats
Fish and ski boats have long provided anglers and watersports lovers with an option that works well for diverse waterborne activities. They are ideal family boats, allowing for different activities and visiting diverse cruising grounds whether at the lake or on the bay. With convertible seating, ski-tow pylons, and fishing equipment as standard features they are a truly unique style of boat.
Great for Groups: Crestliner has fish and ski models dubbed “Fish and Sport,” including the Sportfish models up to 22 feet, 11 inches that can seat a huge crew of up to 10 people. Downsize to even the smallest 18 foot, 11 inch Sportfish, and you’ll still enjoy seating for eight.
Versatile: Ranger Boats calls their fiberglass multi-use series the Reata, and it delivers the durability, stability, and safety associated with a Ranger boat in a platform that’s geared for just about anything: fishing, waterskiing, tubing, or swimming.
Performance: Triton. If you’re looking for an impressive package that can blast across the water at hat-stripping speeds then Triton’s range of small fish and ski boats is a top option. They are packed with the amenities and just as packed with power—the 206 Allure is just 20 feet six inches long, yet can handle a whopping 300 horsepower on the transom..
Check out our guide to the best fish and ski boats on the market.
Photo credit: Ranger Boats
Fishing Dinghies and Kayaks
Human-powered fishing dinghies and kayaks offer everyone the chance to get out on the water and reel in a catch. They’re ultra-lightweight, can be trailered or put in the bed of a pickup truck, and launched solo. Plus they come with an impressive range of fishing gear in one very small package. The absence of a motor means you can fish in complete silence, and they can be used in both fresh and saltwater. Included in this category are rigid kayaks and dinghies, as well as inflatables and RIBs.
- Pedal Power: Hobie kayaks are known for their efficient fin-like Mirage drive, which can be turned 360-degrees for the ultimate in directional control and has kick-up fins that won’t get damaged when they hit a log or rock. They’re also outfitted with top-end angling features like integrated rod holders and fishfinder transducer pockets.
- Electric Power: Wilderness Systems’ range of fishing kayaks includes models designed specifically for a drop-in or add-on electric motor with LiFePO4 battery power. These electric power options allow you to travel farther and faster, yet still with all the stealth of a kayak.
- Economic Option: Pelican makes a wide range of small, simple, lightweight paddle kayaks that are very popular for their affordability. But they’re still made with the same rugged rotomolded polyethylene as their more expensive counterparts.
Photo credit: Wilderness Systems
Start your Search
Rightboat has hundreds of small fishing boats for sale, so start and end your search here. To make sure you’re buying the perfect boat for your needs read through our Guide to Fishing Boats and get to know the options and choices on the market.
Related Articles and Guides
6th Dec 2023
5th Dec 2023
2nd Dec 2023