With so many styles ranging from center consoles to pilot houses to convertibles to choose from, how will you make the best pick?
While you can find a wealth of information about fishing boats on BDOutdoors, we recognize that there is no such thing as the perfect boat. What’s ideal for angler A is not necessarily ideal for angler B, and may be an utterly awful choice for angler C. That’s one of the reasons why we have so many different types, styles, and sizes of boats to choose from. And it’s why the secret to being a happy fishboat owner is in finding the boat that’s ideal for you, personally, and your own needs. So while you gawk at acre after acre of fiberglass and drool over all those hot new fishing machines, remember to keep these key points about each in mind.
Center Consoles – This quintessential style of fishing boat is a good all-around pick for many hard-core anglers since it lets you fish all the way around the boat – literally. Having the ability to fish 360-degrees means you can follow those bluefin from the stern to the bow and back down the other side of the boat without having to dodge pipework or shimmy around a cabin. It means you can line numerous anglers along the gunwales when bottom fishing, or post light-tackle casters from stem to stern. And it means that even fly anglers will have the open space they need to swing their buggy whips.
Added Bonus: These days virtually every center console over 20’ (and some even smaller) have a head compartment in the console, and many larger models have entire cabins including berths and galleys.
Weakest Link: Most center consoles offer little to no protection from the elements. This can lead to misery-trips for those who aren’t prepared to get soaked with spray or blasted by a chilly breeze, especially if you take the entire family out fishing.
Convertibles – If size and comfort are priorities and you have the wherewithal to bankroll a twin diesel sportfishing machine, a convertible may just be in your future. Thanks to sheer mass – plus a salon and staterooms in the cabin – many people would consider these to be the most comfortable offshore fishing boats on the water.
Added Bonus: The elevated helm on a flybridge gives you a much better vantage point for watching the baits as you troll.
Weakest Link: Convertibles are best suited to fishing in the open waters, and are simply too big for options like light-tackle casting or fly fishing.
Dual Consoles – This design is ideal for those who want a boat that’s fishable but can also serve well for watersports like water skiing and wakeboarding. The ability to seal off the bow and sit behind a full windshield also offers some additional weather protection. Put these two factors together, and dual consoles become a natural choice for families with more wide-ranging interests than fishing alone.
Added Bonus: Having the passenger-side console (usually with a head inside) adds a significant amount of lockable stowage, in many cases allowing for secure onboard rod and gear stowage.
Weakest Link: Significant amounts of deck (read: fishing) space is lost to the pair of consoles mounted port and starboard, as well as integrated seating in the bow.
Expresses – Expresses are, like convertibles, a great big-boat option for big waters. Some people prefer them since they have a lower helm station which makes it easy for the captain to move from the wheel to the cockpit, to partake in the fishing action. Many also have a tower with an upper station, so they still enjoy the advantages of having an elevated view.
Added Bonus: Running the boat from the bridgedeck the captain can remain a part of the social scene; on convertibles they’re often a bit more isolated by being stuck up on the bridge.
Weakest Link: You lose the saloon and galley space to the bridgedeck, making for a more compact cabin belowdecks with less space available for separate staterooms.
Walkarounds and Pilot Houses – If you aren’t interested in spending cash by the millions, you still want a boat that can take on long oceanic voyages, and you’d also like to be able to enjoy the flexibility to fish with many different methods including light tackle and shallow water casting, a walkaround or pilot house boat might be the best pick for you. Having the protection of an enclosed helm goes a long way in making long offshore trips reasonably comfortable, while most versions of these boats maintain easy bow access and some level of 360-degree fishability. What’s the difference between a walkaround and a pilothouse? On some levels, it’s merely splitting hairs, but generally speaking, both have a side-deck sufficiently large for walking forward while a cabin with an enclosed aft bulkhead would be considered a pilothouse, and one that’s open (or perhaps closed off only by a drop-curtain) in the back would be a walkaround. In either case, the enhanced protection makes year-round fishing in tough conditions much more comfortable.
Added Bonus: This type of boat makes overnighting offshore with a modicum of comfort possible, thanks to sleeping accommodations in the cabin.
Weakest Link: The raised cabin increases a boat’s windage and weight, bow-deck castability may be limited, and no matter how easy bow access may be it’ll never be quite as fluid going 360-degrees around the boat on a center console.
These represent the major choices, but what about the sub-categories of all the above? After all, there are flats boats, bass boats, fish-N-skis, and a slew of others that the above groups can be broken down into. But we’d need to write a book, to list ‘em all out here. If you want to get even more specific, we’d recommend checking out the Discover Boating Boat Finder.
Warning: you’ll be forced to weed through all those yucky and un-fishy inflatables, bowriders, and PWCs, too. Just ignore ‘em, and with a little luck eventually, you’ll find the perfect fishing boat. Perfect for you, that is.