Finding the best fishing boat is of course highly subjective. In reality you can fish off anything from a kayak to a jet ski or even a megayacht
However, to make the job simpler, moving to a vessel that is specifically designed for the task can give the more sporting angler a significantly better experience and even a competitive advantage.
The first thing to consider is whether you want to fish inshore or offshore as this will dictate the kind of boat you need. A $7 million Viking sport yacht would be as useless trolling under a bridge in freshwater as a bass boat would be hunting big game 200 miles offshore.
These are some of the features you are likely to need and should make a point of looking for on your boat: dedicated rod storage for when they are not being used and rod holders for when they are; live bait wells with water pumps to keep your bait fish in prime condition; tackle boxes for keeping all your hooks, lines, lures etc neat and tidy; fish finders for locating the best fishing spots. So, here’s our selection of the best fishing boats in five different areas of the market.
Best kayaks for fishing
Fishing kayaks have become a hugely popular genre over the past decade, especially now that many of them can be fitted with small electric motors to increase their range and stability. One of the big advantages of a kayak is that that can be carried on a roof rack and driven to a chosen location with ease. Motorised kayaks have developed into highly usable fishing platforms, suitable for both saltwater and freshwater applications that can safely access narrow creaks and inlets out of bounds to larger craft.
A good starter boat is the Jonny Boat Bass 100 (under $1,000 ex motor), while premium examples of this breed include the Oldtown Sportsman Autopilot 120 (around $4,000),and the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 360 (roughly $5,500).
High-end features to look for include silent electric trolling motors with GPS anchoring that can hold you on the spot. These motorised kayaks are steered by foot pedals linked to a rudder, leaving your hands free to fish, and have a range of up to 20 miles.
These specialised fishing craft have rod storage for up to four rods, lockers for bait and tackle, and can sneak into shallow spots to drop a line in places land-based fisherman can only dream of.
Best jet skis for fishing
To increase the range and scope of your fishing as well as the speed you can get there a specialised fishing jet ski is the next step on the ladder. Sea Doo, Kawasaki, Yamaha and Honda all make dedicated fishing PWCs.
Expect a starting price of just over $14,000, rising to more than $20,000. Typical features on these craft include GPS navigation systems, digital anchoring, up to five rod holders and gunwale footrests for an aft facing fishing position. And with up to 170hp on tap, you can expect speeds of up to 60mph!
Fishing jet skis are significantly more stable than performance or leisure oriented variants allowing some of them to be fitted with an aft-mounted swivel seat and powered live wells of up to 51-litres.
You can also expect options like side-scanning Chirp sonars, integrated 7” flat screen displays, and a 100w stereo system. Top-end jet skis like the Sea Doo Fish Pro Trophy also have dual battery systems for extended use of the electrical systems.
Intended for use in relatively calm waters, fishing jet skis are a great solution for solo fishing expeditions as even the larger three-seaters are only really suitable for one person to be fishing at a time.
Best bass boats for fishing
Bass boats are highly-focused inshore fishing boats designed to get you to the best spots as quickly and efficiently as possible. With incredible flat water performance and a very shallow draft, they are ideally suited to inshore fishing but even the best bass boats are not suited to offshore sea angling.
Over 100mph is available straight out of the factory from performance bass boat builders like Alison and Besscat, while even a mainstream $55,000 Nitro 10 with relatively modest 225hp outboard power can run at over 70mph.
The bass boat, with its very low freeboard, is designed to to have very little windage so it can sit for hours over a fishing hole with the help of a small electric trolling motor. Packed with rod storage, bait wells and tackle boxes, the flat-deck bass boat is a formidable tool, with long range and serious speed.
Best pontoon boats for fishing
For a more leisurely inshore experience, pontoon boats make a fine alternative to the bass boat. Offering more space, better stability and plenty of home comforts, they tend to make a more family friendly fishing platform than a high speed bass boat.
With shallow draft, acres of deck space and more leisurely seating arrangements, the fishing pontoon boat is an excellent choice. Although not as fast as the bass boat, the sheer versatility of the pontoon boat is hard to beat.
The Sun Tracker Fishing Barge is a perfect example of this style of craft. Starting at just over $30,000, it offers comfortable sofa seating for up to 8 people with options such as an electric trolling motor, fish finder, dedicated rod storage and aerated live wells making it a compelling boat for a day’s fishing.
Best center consoles for fishing
The humble workhorse of boating has evolved into a highly specialised and effective fishing tool in recent years. For instance, a 35ft Contender (Pelagic Hunter) won the 2020 Big Rock billfish tournament, scooping over $200,000 in prize money in the process, despite competing against boats costing more than 10 times as much.
Center consoles for fishing are getting bigger, offering higher speeds, better seakeeping and longer range, and they can now rattle the cages of the finest sportfishing yachts in the world.
The new Valhalla V55, for example, can top 90mph courtesy of five 600hp Mercury V12 outboard engines. Their large deck spaces and capable deep vee hulls make center consoles ideally suited to the saltwater fishing environment.
Even a smaller 22ft center console could make an excellent coastal fishing boat, while craft over 28ft are more than capable of operating out of sight of land in challenging seas.
Best sportfish yachts
Tried and tested is the best way to describe the formula at this level. Tournament sportfish boats follow a layout and profile shape that can be traced back well over 50 years – a long flat foredeck, a huge, flared bow, a cavernous flat deck aft cockpit and massive power.
These fishing boats are required to tackle extremely challenging conditions, over long distances and at high speeds in order to be truly competitive. A typical sportfish yacht can plough through seas that would leave most luxury yachts badly damaged.
Layouts are also more suited to running in rough conditions rather than dockside comfort, with outer helms only (on the flybridge and tuna tower) and cabins that can be converted into tackle workshops.
Sportfish yacht cockpits tend to have large tuna doors aft with no bathing platform, so you can back down on a big fish and haul it aboard more easily. And the on-board technology is truly cutting-edge – the new Viking 64 is equipped with a 360-degree drop-through-hull side-scanning sonar system for searching out big game.
These boats can cost millions of dollars to buy and almost as much to run. But when the prizes reach seven figures, the serious players bring the best boats to compete.
Manufacturers like Bertram, Hatteras, Viking and Bayliss dominate this category, offering impressive specifications, top-of-line build quality and bombproof engineering.
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