Small Fishing Boats: What Are Your Options?
There are more small fishing boats on the water than there are large ones, because they’re easier to operate, cost less, and require less maintenance. So, what sorts of choices do you have?
September 26, 2018
Whether you’re looking at freshwater fishing boats or saltwater fishing boats, one thing is for sure: the bulk of them are going to be small fishing boats, of less than 20 feet or so in length. Smaller boats cost less to purchase, operate, store, and maintain. Since they’re less complex they break down less often. Maintenance chores are minimized. And it’s easier to trailer, launch, and dock a small fishing boat as opposed to larger craft.
Fortunately, no matter what type of fishing you enjoy there are plenty of small fishing boats to choose from:
- Aluminum fishing boats
- Bass boats
- Bay boats
- Center consoles
- Flats boats
- Jon boats
- PWCs (Personal Watercrafts)
Aluminum Fishing Boats
Aluminum fishing boats hold a number of advantages over fiberglass boats, particularly when it comes to diminutive models. They are lighter than fiberglass, so trailering with a much smaller tow vehicle becomes possible. They require virtually no maintenance beyond a rinse at the end of the day. And they’re also good for beginner boaters since the metal hull dents rather than shattering, if you hit something hard. There are some down-sides to aluminum fishing boats, too: they get blown around easily in a breeze, and often don’t ride as smoothly as fiberglass models with more heft and more complex hull designs. But for many people an aluminum rig will make for the ideal small fishing boat.
See aluminum fishing boat listings.
Bass boats are an unusual genre in that they’re designed for a single-minded purpose: the pursuit of largemouth bass. Still, despite their narrow focus bass boats remain incredibly popular. And due to the fact that they’re intended for use on inland lakes and rivers, the majority of them qualify as small. Unlike other small fishing boat, however, you can’t expect bass boats to be inexpensive. Many are rather complex in nature and carry extremely large powerplants for their size. On a positive note, this also makes them thrilling to ride in.
See bass boat listings.
Bay boats range in size and not all count as “small,” but those that fit into this size range do present an ideal fishing boat for inland saltwater fisheries. Designed to pursue species like speckled trout, redfish, and striped bass, they have features like integrated livewells, fishboxes, and rodholders. Pricing for bay boats can vary radically, since some are rather simple and come equipped with minimal powerplants, while others can be quite developed and sport rather huge outboard engines.
See bay boat listings.
Center consoles are a huge category of boats, one that encompasses many of the other categories here. Bay boats, skiffs, or flats boats, for example, may (or may not) be center consoles, too. Essentially, any small fishing boat that has a centered helm station mounted on a console can be considered a center console. The design is perfect for fishing since it allows 360-degree casting all around the boat, and the center console is one of the most popular styles of fishing boats on the water today.
See center console listings.
Dinghies aren’t specifically designed for fishing, but they certainly are small. And in many cases they can serve well as an angling platform for one or possibly two anglers. As you might expect, the defining characteristic of these boats is simply that they’re not very large and often they’re no more complex than a hull with a bench seat or two. But for someone hoping to catch panfish in a pond, river, or small bay, that may be all that’s really needed.
See dinghy listings.
Flats boats are another genre that’s very specifically suited to a single purpose: fishing in and around shallow saltwater flats. By necessity most qualify as small, because larger boats with more draft can’t scoot around in the shallows. Many have the livewells and rodholders found on other small fishing boats, but flats boats also have a unique “poling platform” mounted on the back deck. From this elevated position, a fishing guide can push the boat along with a pole while looking for bonefish, tarpon, and other predators that put up a good fight.
See flats boats listings.
Jon boats are a standard among small boat fishermen, with countless models to choose from. They’re simple – often consisting of little more than a flat-bottom hull and bench seats – and very inexpensive. Some are small and light enough to shove into the back of a pick-up truck, negating the need for a trailer. And generally speaking, they require small powerplants and in some cases no more than an electric motor. Most commonly jon boats are made from aluminum, although occasionally you’ll find fiberglass or even rotomolded plastic versions.
See jon boat listings.
For an angler who likes to remain stealthy and sneak up on their prey, nothing can compare to fishing from a kayak. These (very) small fishing boats are not only great to fish from, they’re also good exercise since they’re self-propelled. There are plenty of relatively inexpensive models on the market (though there are some fishing kayaks that will give you sticker-shock, too) and they can be transported with just about any vehicle. As a result kayaks are incredibly popular for use as small fishing boats.
See kayak listings.
Skiffs are, like the center consoles we talked about earlier, a rather broad category of boat that encompasses many different types. In fact, most of the boats included in this article could be considered skiffs because by definition any relatively small, open, simple boat can be termed a skiff. That means skiffs are, as a rule, relatively inexpensive and easier to deal with than many other types of boats.
See skiff listings.
Most people probably wouldn’t think of PWCs (personal watercraft) as fishing boats. And fishing certainly isn’t what they were originally designed for. But there are a number of enthusiasts all across the country who have customized PWCs to act as small but effective fishing boats. In fact, enough people do it that there’s a cottage industry for PWC fishing accessories, like bolt-on rodholders, cooler racks, and even livewells. Check out our listings, and you’ll be able to find more than a few examples of PWCs which make excellent small fishing boats. And if you're searching for the ultimate PWC fishing machine already rigged for angling, you can find it in Sea-Doo's Fish Pro model.
See PWC listings.
Have you run across the type of small fishing boat that best suits you thus far? We certainly hope so. But for some additional ideas and options, also be sure to check out:
- Top 10 New Fishing Boats Under $20,000
- Best Bass Boats
- Freshwater Fishing Boats 101
- Five Affordable Aluminum Fishing Boats For Sale
- Five New Boats for Under $1,000