BlogApril 2023

5 Best Types of Saltwater Boats for Beginners

5 Best Types of Saltwater Boats for Beginners

By Debbie Hanson

Apr 18, 2023

Summary of saltwater boats for beginners, best beginner boat sizes, best entry level boats for fishing or cruising inshore waterways, what to know before buying.

The best saltwater boats for beginners are manageable, simple, and easy to drive. Entry level boats provide the opportunity to learn docking, marine navigation, and basic maintenance within a relatively short amount of time. Learn about a few of the best boats for beginners that are made for navigating through calm backwaters, shallow flats, intercoastal waterways, and inlets.

1. Saltwater Pontoon Boat

Saltwater pontoon boats are often cited as the best starter boat for family fishing in calm saltwater bays, inlets, intercoastal canals, or mangrove lined backwaters. Pontoons are easy to drive, easy to dock, offer plenty of storage space, and comfortable seating. The shape and dynamics of a pontoon, plus the slower overall speed capacity, make them a safer beginner boat option.


2. Flats Boat

Flats boats have a minimal draft in comparison to bay boats and offshore fishing boats because they are designed for use in shallow inshore waters. In fact, most flats boats will float in 12 inches or less of water. Flats boats are good beginner boats that range in length from 15 feet to about 22 feet. While they are intended to be used on the shallow saltwater flats in a stealthy manner using a push pole to avoid spooking fish, the outboard engine and trolling motor will get you from the launch ramp or marina out to your fishing spots quickly.

3. Micro-Skiff

This type of beginner boat is a smaller, narrower, and lighter subcategory of flats boat designed to be easily poled through super shallow waters (some models can pole through just 4 to 5 inches of water) to find unpressured fishing spots. Saltwater micro-skiffs are designed to get into waters that are usually accessible only to non-motorized canoes and kayaks. Since micro-skiffs are generally less than 18 feet in length, they are typically limited to two anglers and offer few creature comforts; however, they are an easy boat to trailer to different launch locations.

4. Center Console Bay Boat

Center console bay boats are good first boats for use in bays and nearshore areas. These boats are roughly 20 to 25 feet, have a shallower draft than offshore boat models, and offer versatility for fishing shallow bay and inshore spots or the deeper fishing holes. Center console bay boats are extremely popular fishing boats because they offer a considerable amount of open deck space for anglers.


5. Bowrider

A bowrider is a good saltwater beginner boat for families who enjoy watersports, day cruising, and fishing. The open bow area in front of the helm is used for seating and lounging. These boats typically have seating for six to nine passengers. Due to the way a bowrider is designed with an open bow and lower gunwales, they are ideal for calm inland waterways, but not for use out in the open ocean.


Once you narrow down which saltwater boats for beginners might be the best fit for you, be sure to check into your state’s boat registration and licensing requirements.

Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.