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The Best Fishing Boats For Any Excursion (And How to Choose One)

Buying a new boat is a big decision. You need to research all the different makes and models on the market and see which one suits you best. If fishing excursions are the main way you spend your time on the water, then your research will center around a list of specific questions that will help you sort through the best fishing boats on the market.

Here are the top five questions to ask yourself and consider as you sort through the best fishing boats.

What sized fishing boat do I need?

Will you be fishing solo, or do you need the room for larger groups? Is built-in storage necessary for the amount or type of fishing you plan to do?

An offshore fishing boat will boast a larger size with more seating capacity and storage. On the other hand, a skiff is designed to be nimble and maneuver in tight spaces or shallow waters, but you will give up some space.

Boat Highlight: Bass Cat Boats make some of the best fishing boats on the market, including the Bass Cat Boats Jaguar STS. With a front deck capable of fitting four people, plenty of built-in storage, and a superiorly designed hull for a smooth ride, even with a high horsepower engine, this boat is a great option.

best fishing boats

Boat size is closely linked with the next item to consider: fishing style

What’s your fishing style?

Your perfect boat size is greatly determined by the style of fishing you enjoy the most. If you plan to fish in freshwater lakes, shallow estuaries, or right off of the shore, you will want a very different boat than if you plan to fish in the ocean.

Center console boats are a very popular option (both inshore and offshore). Their centered console means plenty of room around the entire boat for company and storage.

In contrast, flat boats are designed for shallow-water fishing, like in estuaries or coastal areas. While their smaller size means fewer people and less storage, these boats often allow you to reach areas larger vessels cannot. Despite their nimble size, they still have plenty of room for poling platforms, casting decks, and other unique amenities for your fishing excursions.

Boat Highlight: If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line flat boat specially designed for shallow water fishing, check out the Hewes Redfisher 18. Hewes makes some of the best fishing boats on the market. One of the prime benefits of this option is that it is both shallow enough to pole if needed and allows you to roam your local waterways.

Hewes Boats best fishing boats
Hewes Boats

Aiming for amenities?

Are you looking for a simple hull and engine to get you to your favorite fishing spot, or do you want all the bells and whistles? Your desired amenities help you narrow down your choices when sorting through the best fishing boats.

You might be searching for a boat with plenty of built-in live wells, coolers, or tackle storage. Perhaps you want a canopy so you can take a break from the sun. You may want plenty of space for rod holders.

Depending on the area you plan to fish in, you might want navigation and communication equipment, like GPS or radios, so you stay safe and connected. You might want a more powerful engine if you plan to chart through choppier waters. In contrast, maybe you’re looking for a quieter engine to make your presence less known to the fish.

While shopping online or in person, check all the amenities on the boats you’re comparing. Excess or lack of amenities will affect the price, but maybe that slightly higher price is worth it to make your fishing experience the best it can be.

Boat Highlight: If you want plenty of on-boat storage, check out the Barker Boatworks 26 Open. Barker makes some of the best fishing boats on the market. This model features three baitwells of different sizes, a 15-gallon transom cooler, a 50- and 140-gallon macerated/insulated fish box, and other amenities like an entertainment system and Garmin electronics.

best fishing boats Barker Boatworks 26
Barker Boatworks

What’s your budget?

As you search for the best fishing boats, you likely have a budget in mind. This will dictate the make and model, how old it is, the number of amenities, and whether you’re buying a used or new one.

But there are other things to consider than the cost of the boat. They say the two happiest days of a boat owner’s life are the day they buy and sell the boat. That’s because having a boat can be a pricy endeavor. Don’t let that stop you! You just need to know what to prepare for.

Owning a boat means ongoing expenses like maintenance, storage, fuel, and insurance. While comparing the prices of the best fishing boats on the market, keep these expenses in mind so you don’t get caught off guard after your boat arrives and those first month’s invoices start to roll in.

Boat Highlight: If you’re looking for a no-frills fishing boat that won’t break the bank, check out the Tracker Boats Grizzly 1648 SC. Tracker Boats make some of the best fishing boats on the market. This boat is a 16-foot, all-aluminum, versatile model with a large front deck, two seats, a 9-gallon livewell, and a lockable storage compartment.

two men on Tracker Boat - best fishing boats
Tracker Boats

Do I Really Need An Inspection?

Yes, you do! An important yet overlooked thing to consider when sorting through the best fishing boats is the rules and regulations about buying and transferring a vessel from one body of water to another. This step has two-fold importance.

First, you want to make sure you’re getting the boat you think you are. With boat sales from a dealer or a private seller, a marine survey is typically conducted for safety, damage, and market value. You can find accredited surveys through NAMSGlobal or the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors.

Second, many states have laws to protect their lakes and other bodies of water from aquatic invasive species, such as zebra mussels, which can cause extensive damage to an ecosystem.

When selling or buying a boat, it is important (and often required) to clean and inspect the vessel for any zebra mussels or other invasive species. Some states require a “dry time” period so any possible larvae of the various species die out of the water. Additionally, some areas will even require certification to verify you have taken the proper steps and met all these requirements in the sale of the boat.

Issues related to zebra mussels have halted boat sales mid-transport as one or both parties were unaware of the rules and did not complete the proper process.

Each state and region is different, so be sure to research the rules of your area (and the area that your new boat is arriving from) to ensure you stay compliant with local regulations.

Choosing between the best fishing boats for your next excursion can initially seem overwhelming. There are many types of boats out there with various amenities. Equipped with this list of considerations, you should be able to narrow down your selection and get a boat that checks off everything on your list.

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