The Right Boat and Motor for Your Kind of Fishing

There are so many models of fishing boats and motors, there's bound to be one that's perfect for you. But how do you find it?

You can't take a flats skiff in a 6-foot sea; and you can't get a 26-foot deep V through the shallows of Florida's Ten Thousand Islands. Every type of fishing demands the right boat and motor. Sure you can troll from a sailboat or drop a line from a houseboat, but if you're a serious fisherman, you'll want the vessel and the power that gives you the best chance to land a trophy, or at least a meal.

Let's Start with Size

Keep in mind that the bigger the boat, the bigger the motor you'll need. Marine engines, inboard or outboard, burn a lot of fuel. So unless you're Bill Gates, keep the boat to the smallest that will do the job. For ponds and saltwater flats, as little as 10 feet is enough; saltwater bays and large lakes might require 14 or 16 feet at least; and if you're going to brave the open ocean, 20 feet should be the absolute minimum.

Hull Design

The bottom of the boat is the part you can't see, but in many ways it's the most important. Hulls are categorized by the deadrise angle. This is a fancy term for the angle that the bottom of the boat makes as it rises to the side.

If you are going to fish in very shallow water, you need a flat bottom (shallow deadrise hull) that slides over the barely covered sand bars and mussel beds. These boats are great in shallow water, but they will pound you to death in a chop; you don't want to take them where it's rough.

Deep V (deep deadrise hull) boats are designed to take heavy seas, but they are slower and more expensive to run. And there are models in between flat bottom and deep V, for which the manufacturers make various claims. It's best to try them out and see what works for you.

A recent option in fishing boats is the catamaran hull. I prefer this design as it gives a very comfortable ride in rough water (caveat: some models do not perform well; always go for a test drive). The drawback is that you need a special trailer when you pull a catamaran out of the water.

Deck Design

Overwhelmingly, the most popular design of the topside of a fishing boat is open. Whether you cast, jig, or just fight fish, you'll be moving the rod around a lot, and you want room to maneuver. By far the favorite of open water fishermen is the center console design.

This puts the steering and controls in the center of the boat, so that an angler can walk all the way around, a great advantage when a fish decides to swim to the other side of the boat, or you have four anglers trying to cast in every direction.


The only real criterion for a motor is that it match the boat. Too much or too little power will cause your boat to perform badly and can be dangerous. As far as inboard vs outboard, nearly all anglers choose outboard motors.

They are easily serviced and have become much more reliable in recent years. Only if you are going to get a great deal of use out of a motor should you consider an inboard, which can be difficult to service.

Naturally there are things you need on the boat to begin fishing: rods, reels, hooks, sinkers, lures and lots more. Your boat also must be equipped with required safety items: life jackets, flares, lights, horns, and so forth.

Finally, you'll want some sophisticated equipment to help you locate and catch fish: depth recorder, gps, and maybe radar. You know the old saying: a boat is a hole in the water into which you pour money; once you get a boat you'll find there's no end to what you need.

Donald S. Cochran

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