What the Hull Do I Need? A Guide to the Different Types of Fishing Boats
Small or Grande: A Field Guide to Different Types of Fishing Boats
So you want to buy a boat – congratulations! There are a lot of fish guts and freezers full of hand-caught fish in your future.
But you can’t catch those fish until you have a vessel to do it in. The type of vessel depends on what kind of fish you want to catch, and where you can reasonably get to, so you can get on the water.
Want a quick guide on the types of fishing boats that you have to consider? Read on below.
Choosing Your Type of Boat
If you’re buying a fishing boat, you probably already have a better idea of what you want than you think. How? You know the type of fishing you do; therefore, that tells you what kind of boat you need.
But let’s say you just retired and you want to learn to fish or get back to it, but you haven’t cast off seriously in 20 years. Here’s what you want to consider.
1. The Size of the Boat
Boats come in a range of sizes, everything from the canoe you used to row at summer camp to yachts (which generally aren’t used for fishing).
Most boats are measured by length, which you’ll see as a number usually between ten and thirty or forty.
The length of each boat has an impact on how many people can fit on the deck at one time. So if you want to take your buddies out often, we don’t recommend a canoe.
The Depth of the Boat
Another part of the size is the depth of the boat. You know-how, in movies, pirate ships always have to anchor out at sea and take smaller boats into shore? That’s because they have a very deep hull, which doesn’t allow them to go into shallow waters.
If you’re fishing shallow waters, like rivers or flats, you’re going to need a boat with a low or flat hull. We usually call these flats boats, Jon boats, or a flats skiff.
If you’re going out in the ocean, however, you don’t want a flat bottom boat. If you have one, you’re going to bounce on top of every wave and get very seasick.
Ocean boats and those that go in deep water need a more traditional V-shaped hull. That’s where the hull matches the width of the boat at the top, then thins down and into a point in the center.
If you’ve ever seen a boat up out of the water being painted, chances are it had a V-shaped hull.
The sharp edge of the V-shaped hull allows the boat to cut through waves and keeps you much stabler and safer on board.
2. Level of Protection
Most of the time if you’re out fishing, you’re going to get wet if it rains or you run into a storm. But there are some boats that have cabins or at least canopies that you can take shelter under.
It’s much more expensive to get a boat with a cabin, and it reduces the fishing-friendly features of the boat. In most cases, the bow of the boat is an open deck, where you can sit or fish.
But in a cabin boat, the bow is taken up by the cabin underneath. You still may be able to fish from the bow in calm waters, but you won’t have access to that part of the boat while it’s moving.
Yet, if you’re going to be out for a few days fishing, you need a cabin.
A lot of recreational boats with fishing capabilities have cabins, to make them more family-friendly. You can sleep in the cabin at port or out on the water. Just make sure the boat has enough fuel capacity to stay out as long as you’re planning.
3. Fuel Capacity/Boat Range
If you’re going deep-sea fishing, you’re going to need more fuel capacity than if you’re just going out past the breakwater. Just like cars, boats have gas tanks, and they can only hold so much fuel.
The fuel efficiency of a boat motor isn’t as good as the one on your car, so the same amount of gas won’t get you as far.
The higher horsepower your engine, the quicker you’ll burn through gas quicker. You can always have a gas can onboard, but that should only be in case of emergencies.
Classically bigger boats have higher fuel capacities, but they also have dual or even triple motors. Just make sure that when you but the boat you’re buying one that can get you where you want to go, and back.
The boats that consumers buy have what we call outboard engines, almost exclusively. You buy these separate from the boat technically, though most dealerships include the motors in the price.
The common outboard brands are Mercury, Yamaha, Evinrude, and Honda, but there are smaller brands that are just as good.
You can tell the quality of the outboard by its size and horsepower rating.
Smaller boats will have smaller outboards, as the weight and size have to be proportionate to the size of the boat.
Like we said above, bigger boats sometimes have more than out outboard, which gives you more power and speeds out on the water.
Finally, let’s talk about the range of accessories a true fishing boat has. We’ll start with the basics and get more complex from there.
If you’re getting a lined boat, you’ll look for fish boxes, which are closed containers that hold ice and the fish you catch out on the water.
Some boats have them built-in under the seats or on the floor all around the boat.
The more expensive fishing boats have coolers built in too, so that you can keep your fish on ice or your beer cold – whichever you choose.
It’s popular for these boats to have the cooler under the driver console or seat. Sometimes you open the seat to access the cooler, other times it slides out.
A livewell is a container on a boat that is built to hold the type of water you’re fishing on. The idea is that you can keep your bait swimming and alive up until the moment you put them on your hook.
It’s also possible to put small catches in your livewell to keep them fresher, and you fish for the rest of the day.
If you’re fishing the flats, you can’t have your outboard on all the time. The water is shallow, and you’ll scare away the fish. So, there’s a motor called a trawling motor, and it moves your boat around subtly so that your bait looks more natural on the water’s floor.
Trolling motors come at an additional price and don’t replace your traditional outboard. But if you need to fish the flats, you don’t want to be without one.
Types of Fishing Boats
Now that you have some context into the kind of boat you’ll need (based on your fishing preferences), let’s look at types and shapes.
We’ll do our best to mention what use each boat excels at.
Center Console Boats
While these boats tend to be pricer, they’re very versatile. As the name says, the driving “console” is in the center of the boat. This gives the fisherman a lot more room to move around the boat as they’re chasing a fish.
They classically have a hardtop or a soft-top over the console, to give some shade. If the boat you’re looking at doesn’t come with one, it’s likely you can choose to add it on with an accessories package.
This boat will have lots of room for fishing accessories and usually 5 or more fish boxes. Livewells are common in bigger models too.
This boat is anywhere between 15 and thirty feet in length, though there are few that go up to forty.
Uses: If you want to fish different waters (excluding flats), then this is a good, versatile boat for you.
Dual Console Boats
Instead of having one console in the middle, dual console boats have, you guessed it, two consoles! One has the drivers controls, and the other is usually a seat for family or a guest.
Most dual console boats have a walkable bow, at least to some extent.
They come in 16-30 feet and can hold probably up to 8 people on the bigger models.
The dual console boat likely has a head (the ship word for toilet) and maybe storage down below.
Smaller dual consoles can get by with one outboard, while bigger ones absolutely need two.
Uses: You can fish a dual console boat about anywhere, again, other than flats.
We wouldn’t take it out in any dangerously choppy waters, but your everyday waves will be fine.
Dual console boats are great for fishing, but they double as recreational boats, so if you’re looking for something you can take the whole family out on sometimes, this is the boat for you.
A Bay Boat Center Console
You could argue that a bay boat is a subtype of a center console, but we’re not going to be that picky.
The classic center console (non-bay) boat has a V-shaped hull, all the way around.
Bay boats differ in mostly just the hull shape. They can go in shallower waters than a classic center console, due to their hull shape.
The majority of a bay boat has a very shallow hull; it looks almost flat from the side. Then at the bow of the boat, the hull looks more V-shaped, to help cut through any waves in open water.
You’re still not going to fish five-foot flats in this boat, but you can certainly hang out in 15-foot deep water.
Uses: As the name says, this boat was designed for you to fish bays, but you can occasionally take it deeper if the waters are calm.
If you’re planning on staying close to shore, this is the type for you. But if you want to go out deeper, we recommend a classic center console instead.
We’ve been alluding to this type of boat if you want to fish the flats or really shallow waters. A Flats skiff is a long but skinny boat, with a shallow and flat hull.
It may have a slight v-shape to the front of it for speed, but mostly it’s made to sit right on top of the water, not cut through it.
These boats are made for inshore fishing, where there aren’t many waves, other than the wake of passing boats. They’re usually pretty low on accessories, other than things like fish boxes.
You can have a skiff with an upper or raised console, which stands up on a ladder about five to six feet above the deck of the boat.
Those are useful for people fishing in waters where they need to see where the fish are that they want to catch.
Flats will generally have a small outboard, and you can install a trolling motor if you want.
A Jon Boat
Even smaller and flatter than a skiff, you have a Jon boat. Jon boats are like the beginner’s boat; they’re very cheap and very scarce when it comes to accessories.
But if you want a budget boat for some casual fishing, a Jon boat is for you.
They’re only good for inshore fishing, as they have a flat, shallow bottom.
Some Jon boats will have outboards, while others will have oars that you have to row. Make sure you buy one with power capabilities if you don’t want to feel like your shoulders are going to fall off by the end of the day.
Choosing Your Fishing Boat
When it comes to knowing what and where you want to fish, some of it is a location. Do you have rivers or lakes near you or an ocean?
If you don’t know which of these types of fishing boats you want, that’s okay. The people at your local dealership are experts at figuring out the right vessel for you.
Want to see what we have available before you come in? Browse our inventory here.