Fishing is a fun sport for many boaters and an all-consuming passion for others. To get to the best fishing spots, you need a good fishing boat. Fortunately, there are many different types of fishing boats on the market today in a wide variety of styles. Each has unique features that make it more or less suitable for fishing in specific situations. Below, we list some of the best types of fishing boats for different types of fishing and the brands that specialize in building that type of boat.
Photo credit: Viking Yachts
Types of Small Fishing Boats
The jon boat is one of the more useful and popular types of small fishing boats. While they come in a wide array of sizes, most are flat-bottomed vessels between 12 and 21 feet long. Most are aluminum though a few Jon boats are made of fiberglass or polyethylene, and most also have a squared-off bow, an outboard engine, and one to three bench seats for sitting. Many anglers choose them because they are very inexpensive compared to most other boats, they’re easy to launch, require little maintenance, and are ideal for shallow and calm waters. Some of the top manufacturers of Jon boats include Lowe, Tracker, Crestliner, Lund, and G3.
Skiffs are also regularly used as small fishing boats. The term “skiff” is used to describe a broad swath of boats of many different shapes and styles but in general skiffs have a simple design, require minimal maintenance, and are powered by an outboard motor. They may have squared or pointed bows, tri-hull designs, flat bottoms, or semi-V hulls, and while most are fiberglass there are plenty of boats you could accurately call skiffs that are aluminum. Like Jon boats, they’re also one of the most affordable types of small fishing boats. The small size of the skiff makes it easy to transport and makes it a great boat for traversing extremely shallow waters. Some of the best skiffs for fishing are made by Carolina Skiff, Mako, KenCraft, and Sundance.
It’s important to note that there’s a subcategory of boat called flats boats, built and designed for flats fishing mostly in Florida and some similar areas. These are sometimes called “flats skiffs,” but are commonly quite complex and high-end despite their small size and shouldn’t be confused with skiffs in general. Top flats skiff builders include Hewes and Maverick.
Photo credit: Carolina Skiff
Types of Sport Fishing Boats
The most popular type of sport fishing boat for plying offshore waters in search of pelagic big game is the convertible, which has a flying bridge (often, though not always, with a convertible enclosure) sitting atop the cabin. The cockpit is left open for the anglers to fish from. These are very large, expensive fishing boats, most of which are over 40 feet and some of which reach 90 feet in length. Many are custom built, but there are a handful of top production builders including Viking Yachts, Hatteras Yachts, and Bertram Yachts.
Large sport fishers with an open cockpit and a cabin forward but no flying bridge on top are called expresses. Also used for offshore sport fishing, they tend to be quite large and while there are some models under 40 feet long, most are in the 40- to 50-foot range and are built by the likes of Viking Yachts, Hatteras Yachts, and Bertram Yachts. Some smaller models that blur the lines between expresses and walkaround boats are built by top companies including Pursuit and Boston Whaler.
Photo credit: Hatteras Yachts
Types of Commercial Fishing Boats
Commercial fishing boats are usually custom-built for specific purposes. Still, even in this day and age there are a couple types of boats that are used commercially and do play a role in the wider boat market.
Aluminum fishing boats
Aluminum boats are one of the most common types of commercial fishing boats used for inshore fisheries in protected waters, because of their sturdiness and relatively low expense. Most of the top builders are custom-oriented, but you may see any brand of aluminum boat being used for commercial purposes. Skiffs often play a similar role.
Today’s trawlers have been gentrified, and while their roots lie in commercial fishing, most modern trawlers are more likely to have TV sets and comfortable settees than fishing gear. That having been said, there are still commercial fishing trawlers being built on a custom basis for some commercial fisheries.
Types of Saltwater Fishing Boats
The most popular type of saltwater fishing boat today is, bar none, the center console. Center consoles allow anglers to access widely varied fisheries in both open and protected waters, and fight fish 360-degrees around the boat. They also maximize deck space so multiple people can fish from stem to stern. The size range you’ll see for center consoles is huge, all the way from 16 to 60 feet. Large models of 35 feet and up may have full cabins enclosed inside of the console, and smaller ones usually have at least a head compartment. The list of center console manufacturers is very, very long, but a few of the premier builders include Grady-White, Boston Whaler, Everglades, Contender, Regulator, Robalo, and Sportsman.
Dual console boats have a helm console on one side of the boat and a passenger’s console on the other side, spanned by a single full-beam windshield with a swing-open center pane that allows access to the bow. On most, the cockpit is kept open to maximize fishing space, the bow has seating but also an open deck area used for fishing, and the passenger’s side console houses a head compartment or small cabin area. Though this design has a bit less overall deck space than a center console and doesn’t allow true 360-degree fishability, it’s very popular among family anglers since the two consoles and full windshield provide the crew with more protection from wind and weather. Some top builders include Scout, Boston Whaler, Grady-White, Edgewater, and Pursuit.
Walkaround boats have an enclosed bow cabin with side decks allowing bow access, and an open cockpit aft for fishing. They’ve declined in popularity through the years as busy lifestyles have led boaters to focus more on day-boating and less on weekending and overnighting aboard, but remain popular particularly in areas with chilly climates where spring and fall fishing can be difficult without the full protection of a cabin. Most are in the 24- to 35-foot range. Many are produced by local or custom builders, but a few top manufacturers include Pursuit, Grady-White, Boston Whaler, and Jeanneau.
Photo credit: Jeanneau
Types of Freshwater Fishing Boats for Lakes and Rivers
Fish-and-ski boats are often named as the best fishing boats for families who enjoy a mix of angling and watersports activities. These boats are typically a dual-console-style design but are smaller in size, commonly between 16 and 22 feet, and may be either aluminum or fiberglass. Fishing features like live wells, rod holders, and trolling motors can be side-by-side with tow-sports equipment like ski-tow pylons and ski lockers. These boats are available at Rightboat in a wide range of sizes with various amenities. Top fish-and-ski boat makers include Crestliner, Nitro, Ranger, Lund, and Triton.
For recreational fishing on freshwater lakes and rivers, pontoon boats are a popular choice. They come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, including fishing pontoons and performance pontoon boats also suitable for cruising and watersports. These boats range from 15 feet to 30 feet long and are also exceptionally stable thanks to their rectangular shape and widely spaced pontoon hulls. The top pontoon boats are manufactured by Princecraft, Manitou, SunChaser, Bennington, Harris, and Sylvan.
More information: The Most Popular Types of Lake Boats
Bass boats are highly specialized fishing machines designed for the single-minded pursuit of bass fishing. They range from around 16 to 22 feet and have large fore and aft casting decks, electric trolling motors on the bow for stealthily creeping up on the fish, and high-powered outboards that can push high-end models up to and even beyond the 70mph mark. There are lots of aluminum bass boats on the market but most top-tier models are fiberglass. Some of the top bass boat builders include Ranger, Triton, Skeeter, and Nitro.
There are a number of multi-species boats used for freshwater fishing, including panfish boats, walleye boats, and catfish boats. Most are designed for general freshwater fishing but have some design elements (such as deeper V-hulls for walleye boats used in large, open lakes) specific to one fishery or another. Aluminum is the most common construction material but there are a few fiberglass models, too, ranging from 15 to 22 feet in length. Top multi-species boat builders include Tracker, Lund, Ranger, Triton, Lowe, and Starcraft.
Photo credit: SunChaser Boats
A Complete Guide to Family Fishing Boats
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