Tips for Choosing the Best Fishing Boats

Even the best fishing boats are like potato chips; you can't just have one. Why? It's because the boat that offers a dry, stable ride on a choppy day probably draws a lot of water and has a deep-vee hull. That's shorthand for the fact it can't get into skinny water where the fish moved. And the best boats for skinny water ride like a barn door in big waves. Boats are like potato chips, check our Boat Comparison Tool to narrow down the field.

Honesty is the best policy. Realistically identify the fishing situations and conditions where you'll use your boat for the majority of your time. Sure that bass boat looks sleek, but it'll be a tough fit for your six fishing buddies. Evaluating how many people will regularly be on board will help determine length, beam, horsepower, and trailer type. 

Identify water types that represent the bulk of your fishing. If you're fishing local water regularly then you'll have an easier time picking a hull design. But if you're changing spots that range from small ponds to big lakes, and then you add in several ocean trips you will find that the jon boat that is perfect in a small pond can be a liability in the ocean. Migratory fish can move from protected salt ponds to open ocean; that flats fishing boat that worked well in the salt pond is a liability in 3-foot swells. Your first boat should accommodate the majority of your fishing conditions with a second boat filling in your secondary needs.

Money is an object. It always makes sense to have the best and most reliable boat for the majority of your fishing conditions. You'll spend less time on repairs and maintenance and more time fishing. So if you're going to buy a new boat be sure it's covering your prime fishing situation. A good way to fund a second or third boat is to buy them used, particularly at the end of the season. You won't have to spend a lot of money on a boat you'll use only in specific situations.

Changing fishing techniques. Fly fishing boats should be open, bass boats should be fast, and boats used for trolling in deep water should be comfortable. Match your boat to your style of fishing and you'll have more fun.

It's not a far stretch to own a few boats, and going in with a well-thought out plan that matches your fishing and financial plan is the best way to make it happen. Use our boat explorer tool to learn more about all of the different types of fishing boats that are on the market.

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Tom Keer

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at