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If you are going to spend any time on the water, you need a good fishing boat. A fishing boat will get you to deep water and coves that you would be unable to access any other way, and some of these spots can produce the best fishing results.
Buying a fishing boat for the first time can be overwhelming. There are different sizes, materials, hull shapes, and horsepowers to choose from. Some boats have a motor that you can take off and upgrade with a new one, while other boats have the motor build directly into the hull of the boat. With so many options, it’s hard to know where to begin!
That’s why we’re here. We understand boats and know the importance of having the best fishing boat. That’s why we have produced this list of the best fishing boats along with a buying guide. We want to help take all of the guesswork out of buying the best fishing boat and replace it with information that you can use to easily make your decision.
Understanding the Different Types of Fishing Boats
Fishing boats aren’t one-size-fits-all. There are conditions in which you would need to choose one type of fishing boat over another. When you hear the term “fishing boat,” you may think of a bass boat. On the other hand, when you hear “fishing boat,” a center console boat may come to mind. This is why it is so important to know the different types of fishing boats so that you can decide which one is the best fishing boat for you.
All-Purpose Fishing Boats
These fishing boats can be used in both freshwater and saltwater, and their design has more uses than just fishing. While all-purpose fishing boats are intended for fishing, you will typically be able to perform any activity on the water with this type of boat.
Bass boats are the boats you see on freshwater lakes and during fishing tournaments. Their sole purpose is to provide the best bass fishing experience possible, as there are many storage compartments and fishing accessories that are included on the boat to make bass fishing easy.
Center Console Boats
Center console boats are incredibly safe and stable, which is what makes them one of the best options for fishing boats. Center console boats can be used for both freshwater and saltwater.
Fish and Ski Boats
These fishing boats are the best for families. They combine both fishing and recreation in the features of this boat, making it a favorite for families that want to split their time between these activities while on the water.
Jon boats are typically made of aluminum and can have a small gas motor, or an electric trolling motor attached. Jon boats are small and light, making them easy to transport in the back of a truck. Jon boats are typically only recommended for two people at a time and are one of the smallest options to choose from.
Another versatile option for fishing is the pontoon boat. Like fish and ski boats, pontoon boats give a large group the option to fish or cruise. Pontoon boats often have lots of storage and features that make both fishing and cruising possible.
The Best Fishing Boats
Best Premium Choice
1. Nitro Z19 Sport
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The Nitro Z19 Sport is the perfect boat for both anglers and passengers. Anglers can enjoy all of the access and features they need on the Z19 while passengers can enjoy cruising the water comfortably.
The Nitro Z19 Sport comes with a 150hp Mercury 4-stroke engine, but you can upgrade to a 200hp model if you prefer. Because it’s an outboard boat, the motor can be taken off and upgraded with any outboard motor you choose. It also includes a Minn-Kota 12V trolling motor with a foot pedal so that you can troll those coves easily.
If you are tournament fishing, the Nitro Z19 Sport is the way to go. Tournament fishing means taking off and getting to that honey hole quicker than the rest of the competition, and you’ll need a fast boat to do it. The Nitro Z19 Sport is quick and aerodynamic to get you where you need to go in a hurry.
It’s a 19’5” boat that gives everyone plenty of room while riding and fishing. The transom is fiberglass, so it glides easily across the water and resists scratches while doing so.
The features that come standard on the boat include the following:
- Flush-mounted fishfinder
- Port console with storage tray and insulated cooler
- AM/FM Bluetooth-capable stereo with both USB & MP3 ports
- Water-resistant switch panels
- Forward in-floor rod locker with an organizer
- Midship in-floor wakeboard and ski storage
- 44-quart insulated cooler below aft seat
- Full-width, lockable rod or ski storage in the aft deck
- 16-gallon live well that is aerated with a timer and pump-out system
- 10 stainless steel drink holders
- 4 stainless steel pull-up cleats
- Cockpit grab handles
- Fire extinguisher
The Nitro Z19 Sport is one of the best fishing boats on the market today because of how well it appeals to both anglers and passengers.
Best Overall Choice
2. Carolina Skiff 19 LS
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The Carolina Skiff 19 LS is a center console fishing boat that comes with a 90hp motor. You can choose between a Honda, Suzuki, Mercury, or Yamaha motor, with the total cost of the boat changing slightly depending on the motor you choose.
The boat is 19 feet long, which makes it sturdy, roomy, and easy to transport. The hull and transom are made of fiberglass so it can withstand the elements while being on the water.
In the console of the boat, there are starboard and port side velcro rod savers to conveniently store your rods and keep them protected and out of the way. There are two stainless steel drink holders, six flush mount rod holders, and a 70-quart removable cooler. There are also many storage bags and storage compartments throughout the boat.
The 19 LS has a large stainless steel steering wheel for easy control while you drive. At the stern of the boat are two more drink holders with two flush mount jump seats and two passenger grab handles. There is an 18-gallon live well with a lid to keep your bait or catches safe. Finally, there is a swim platform with a telescopic 3-step ladder for you to easily get on and off the boat to swim.
Best Budget Choice
3. Bass Buggy 16XL Select
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Pontoon boats are great for fishing, especially if you want to enjoy spending time with friends and family while getting your fish on, and the Bass Buggy 16XL Select is the right pontoon for the job.
The Bass Buggy 16XL Select is 16’ long and 8’ wide, giving you and your passengers plenty of room to hang out and fish. There are dual bow fishing chairs at the front of the boat for easy and roomy fishing. There is also a forward-console live well and seat for you to store your fish as you catch them. The live well doubles as a seat to provide additional seating for any guest.
You can add the fishing package to the Bass Buggy 16XL Select. The fishing package includes a fishfinder and a Minn-Kota trolling motor with foot controls.
The standard features that are included with the Bass Buggy 16XL Select are a bimini top, AM/FM Bluetooth audio system with speakers, a 12-volt outlet, and many drink holders.
The Bass Buggy 16XL Select is a great option for recreational fishing for those who enjoy spending time with family and friends while casually cruising the water.
4. LOWE Fish & Ski FS 1800
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The LOWE FS 1800 is a great all-purpose fishing boat because of its design and functionality.
The FS 1800 is nearly 18’ long, measuring at 17’10”. This gives it a maximum seating capacity of 6 people with all six people seated comfortably on the boat. There are six total chairs; two pedestal chairs (one at the bow and one at the stern), two rear flush seats on the deck, and two captain chairs at the console.
The FS 1800 includes a 90hp Mercury motor, but it can be upgraded to a maximum of 150hp.
The features that come standard on the FS 1800 include the following:
- 6 drink holders
- Jensen JMS3 stereo with AM/FM tuner and Bluetooth compatibility
- 2 50-watt speakers
- 24-gallon aerated live well
- 4 fishing rod lockers
- Many storage compartments
- 1 horn
- 12-volt receptacle
Because it is a fish and ski model, it can be used for both fishing and fun. You can store wakeboards, skis, and tow ropes in the many storage areas alongside your fishing gear.
The LOWE FS 1800 is a great option to comfortably seat six people who want to fish, play, or do both.
5. Boston Whaler 180 Dauntless
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Another center console fishing boat is the 180 Dauntless by Boston Whaler.
The 180 Dauntless has everything that an angler would need for a day on the water.
It can be used in both freshwater and saltwater, as the center console design makes it a sturdy and reliable option for large, open waters.
First, it is 18’ long and can seat eight total passengers. There is a forward-console seat, a reversible pilot seat, and a stern seat, all of which can seat eight total people.
It includes a Mercury XL EFI 4-stroke 150hp motor that will easily power the boat through the water.
At the stern of the boat are four stainless steel deck-mounted rod holders and two drink holders. In the console are six more rod holders that are console-mounted.
There are multiple storage areas throughout the entire boat. This makes storing gear, tackle, and supplies on the boat easy.
The 180 Dauntless does not include a live well as a standard feature. If you want a front console live well, you will have to add it as an option.
6. Ranger RT178
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For the money and the features you get with the RT178, this fishing boat is hard to beat.
The Ranger RT178 is an aluminum fishing boat with a 17’8” frame that seats four total people. If you want a boat that will take you and your friends out on the lake for a comfortable day of fishing, the RT178 will do just that.
The RT178 includes a 60hp Mercury motor that can be upgraded to a maximum recommended horsepower of 90. In addition to the 60hp gas motor, it also includes a Minn-Kota electric trolling motor for you to troll through coves the open water slowly.
There are many rod holders, rod storage areas, and lockable storage areas to keep all of your gear and equipment safe and out of the way. There is also a divided live well with a timer and a tackle organizer with many storage boxes.
There are three seats in the console of the boat with one pedestal seat at the stern of the boat. The bow is an enclosed deck so you can walk to the front of the boat and cast from one side while someone else casts on the other side behind you.
How to Choose the Best Fishing Boat
As we have shown you, there are many different types of boat you can choose from when it comes to finding the best fishing boat, so you will need to answer a few questions before you narrow down your list.
Where Will You be Fishing?
This is the first question you need to ask yourself, as your answer will determine if you need to buy a saltwater or a freshwater fishing boat.
If you will be fishing freshwater, you won’t need a boat with reinforced stability, like a center console boat. Center console boats are best for saltwater fishing because they are designed to withstand the wake of the sea and how quickly the conditions can change. You will be able to use a bass boat, pontoon boat, or a Jon boat.
If you will be fishing saltwater, you will want a center console boat that has been designed with the most stability.
Who Will You be Fishing With?
This is another question you should ask yourself, as this will help you decide which is the best fishing boat for you.
If you will be fishing with one or two buddies and fishing is the only reason you will be on the water, you can get by with a standard bass boat or a fish and ski boat. You won’t need a whole lot of room, and the boat will have all of the features you need to fish.
If you will be fishing with your family and your family will enjoy cruising on the water, you would be best to choose a pontoon fishing boat. The fishing models of pontoon boats give you the best of both worlds. There is plenty of storage and fishing features that come with the boat, and it also gives your friends and family a place to sit and relax while on the water.
You can also choose a fish and ski option if you will be doing some fishing in between the times that someone will be pulled for tubing, wakeboarding, or skiing.
If you will be fishing with more than four people, you will need a boat to accommodate this. A bass boat would not be the best because it will only seat four people safely. You should choose a fish and ski model or a pontoon model for this case.
What Size Motor will I Need?
Motor size is important for tournament fishing. Tournament fishing means that all anglers will start the tournament with their boats in the water and then allowed to take off to a spot of their choice. In this application, slow and steady does not win the race. You need to be fast and direct, and a fishing boat with a maximum recommended horsepower will be how to do that.
Make sure that you don’t put a motor on a boat that is not equipped to handle it. The manufacturer of the boat will tell you the recommended maximum horsepower amount, so make sure you follow this. Boats are designed using different materials and aerodynamics that make them light, buoyant, and fast.
Pairing a light boat with a motor that is too strong can easily cause a disaster on the water, so make sure you always stay at the maximum recommended horsepower amount or less.
Your fishing boat should give you years of enjoyment. With a little routine care and maintenance, you should be able to enjoy your fishing boat for many years. The best fishing boat should meet all of your requirements. Whether it is rod holders, lots of storage areas, or a fast outboard motor, you should be able to find the exact fishing boat that meets all of your needs, and we hope this list of the best fishing boats with a buying guide has helped do just that.