25 Types of Fishing Boats
Technically speaking, if you can cast your rod from any boat, that boat is now a fishing boat. Because of that there are many different kinds of boats that qualify and are often used as fishing boats. Some boats definitely lend themselves to fishing more than others, including ones designed with fishing in mind that include things like live wells and fishing specific storage spaces you can make use of. With that in mind, let’s take a look at 25 of the most common types of fishing vessels on the water and what they offer anglers.
Aluminum Fishing Boats
Aluminum fishing boats can obviously come in a variety of styles since aluminum is merely the material from which the boat is made rather than how it’s designed. Aluminum fishing boats can include canoes, bass boats, jon boats and more. The upside to a specifically aluminum boat is that these are often cheaper and lighter than identical boats made of wood or fiberglass which makes them easier to transport and in some cases easier to manage as well. A good aluminum fishing boat can get you in and out of the water with very little effort and hassle and offer you a reliable and fun experience at a great price.
A bass boat is a simple but highly efficient boat style. They tend to maximize deck space in a small area while having a powerful motor. A good bass boat will feature large live-release wells, storage for all conceivable fishing gear, and all kinds of electronics like fish finders and other relevant gear.
Because of their speed and versatility, bass boats are often used not just recreationally but in tournaments as well. They usually have room for two to four anglers and are the best choice you’ll find for anything from largemouth to smallmouth to rock bass and all other species, hence the name.
Bay boats get their name from the fact they were designed for use in bays but of course they are also well adapted to any coastal waters as well. Featuring a V-hull and usually made from fiberglass or composite materials, these center console boats let you sit high enough to give you a good view of the area. They feature a good amount of deck space so four anglers should be able to fish comfortable from one without getting in each others’ way.
Bay boats typically have a lot of fishing amenities like room for your gear and electronics, as well as live wells and fish boxes and more. Larger bay boats don’t just have to be restricted to those near-shore areas and can be used offshore as well.
A good bay boat can work well in the deep water, won’t get roughed up too badly in poor weather and can offer some protection from the sun during peak hours as well.
Bowriders make good fishing boats thanks to the space they offer more than anything else. The bow area, closed on many styles of boats, is open in a bowrider which is where the name comes from. A bowrider can have room for well over 6 people though that tends to be too crowded if you’re all fishing. The extra deck space in the bow portion of the vessel offers room for more gear and maneuvering around.
We tend to see more bowriders in coastal fishing but they’re well suited for inland fishing in lakes as well.
Fishing from a canoe is nearly as old as fishing itself and these simple boats offer you a really bare bones fishing experience in which it’s just you, your gear, and the water. After all, a canoe does not typically lend itself to a great amount of space for any of the bells and whistles you’ll find on a large fishing boat.
That being said, fishing canoes are a thing and do have some modifications which improve their usefulness as fishing vessels over a standard canoe. Fishing canoes feature gear racks, extra storage, elevated seating and more.
You’ll likely want to invest in a flat hull for added stability when it comes to a fishing canoe. Likewise, a lightweight material is best for easy transport to and from the water.
There are several types of catamarans and trimarans that you can look into which make for really good fishing boats. Power catamarans with their dual hulls can get around quickly while also offering good stability and space for multiple anglers on deck.
The dual hulls can make the experience a lot smoother and easier than a more traditional hull and you can get a lot of out of power cat on both inland waters and in coastal waters. A good size cat can easily be used for offshore fishing as well if you’re looking for larger fish.
Center Console Boats
Center console boats can come in a few styles, and we’ve already seen a couple that can qualify as center console like power catamarans and bay boats. The strength off a center console boat is the layout lends itself to fishing. Because the console is centrally located, you and other anglers are easily able to maneuver around it which is ideal for fishing. No need to worry about running into things.
Layout aside, center consoles can be smaller fishing boats on the one hand and very large boats on the other. Typically we’re looking at anything from 18 feet to over 40 feet. Of course, if you had a 40 foot console you’d probably be chartering it or heading out with a couple dozen friends. They’re great for coastal and offshore fishing, as well as bays, lakes and even rivers. It really depends on the rest of the features beyond the center console part.
The large deck space of a center console means they’re ideal for fishing because of the storage and maneuvering room they provide. That said, they don’t necessarily have any cabin space so they’re more ideal for day fishing trips than extended stays.
Convertible boats are a little more advanced than some of the boats we’ve covered so far. These have cabins and at the higher end of the spectrum can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and even millions. Some convertible boats may be referred to as sport fishing boats as well, and they’re very much meant for saltwater fishing, either coastal or offshore. A convertible boat is not intended for inland waters due to the size and buoyancy of such a large fishing vessel.
Convertible boats are designed for serious fishing, including hauling in trophy fish like marlin and sharks. They have plenty of room for all the fishing amenities you’ll need, as well as accommodations for many anglers. Some convertibles can reach lengths of over 60 feet.
Cuddy cabins can often be designed with fishing in mind and that means they will feature more than just ample deck space for moving around and casting a line. A cuddy cabin has a covered or enclosed space at the front and you can fish off the rear portion of the vessel.
A cuddy cabin can be used as a day fishing vessel but you could potentially spend the night out on the water for an extended trip, though not for longer than a day or two, if you have a larger vessel. Smaller cuddy cabins are better suited to lake and bay fishing.
Deck boats are some of the best choices for those who really enjoy leisure fishing, especially with the family. These boats are spacious and feature a lot of amenities for both fishing and other purposes. The engines of a deck boat are usually designed for some reasonable power so you can go tubing and water skiing and that means they’re well suited for handling travel from your favorite spot to other spots.
Because a deck boat is a wide boat from bow to stern you’ll enjoy a lot of room for some freshwater fishing while the rest of the family can relax and sunbathe or do whatever else they want if they’re not interested in joining you.
You can get deck boats kitted out for fishing that will also include live wells, rod holders and extra storage if you’re looking to maximize your fishing experience while still enjoying the features of a deck boat that go beyond angling.
These are commercial fishing vessels that engage in dredge fishing. This isn’t the sort of thing you’re going to do in your everyday recreational fishing boat as dredge fishing requires the boat to drag, or dredge, a large net across the bottom. It’s a method for fishing up scallops, oysters, crab and other bottom dwelling types of seafood.
An express boat is like a convertible boat, it just has less in the way. No bridge ladders will be taking up room so you have more maneuverability. You can easily do some deep sea fishing with just one or two other anglers on board thanks to the closeness between helm and cockpit making sure that everything is within reach and easy to manage.
An express boat will likely have live wells, rod holders and more to make deep sea fishing an easy option.
Flats boats are so named because of their remarkably shallow draft and ability to navigate in incredibly shallow areas. You can get a flats boat into water just two feet deep in some places, which makes for good fishing in certain rivers, inlets, lagoons and coastal areas that you can’t gain access to in most traditional style boats.
In some cases a flats boat will be nothing more than the simplest, plainest boat that has no features beyond a motor and maybe some seating for a couple of people. The flat deck space is useful for storing some gear and that’s about it.
Though they sound boring and plain, they also prove why you don’t always need a lot of expensive bells and whistles to fish because these are incredibly effective as well.
Like a canoe, a kayak is a very traditional and very old style of boat that can easily be used for fishing. Because this is a single person boat there’s not going to be a ton of space for extras in this vessel, but fishing kayaks, like fishing canoes, do include some fun extras. Large fishing kayaks include raised seating and the ability for anglers to stand or sit. They can also feature rod holders for multiple rods, live bait storage, gear racks and a lot more.
There are a number of inflatable boat types including things like inflatable pontoons that can be really ideal fishing boats. The upside to an inflatable is that it’s lightweight, usually pretty affordable, and storing them after the fact is often quite a bit easier than a traditional vessel.
Depending on the type of inflatable you have, these can be useful for both inland fishing as well as coastal and there may be room for several anglers on the same boat as well. You obviously need to be careful how and where you use them, of course.
Jon boats are traditionally very simple, flat bottom fishing boats that you might compare to bass boats and flats boats. Usually made from aluminum, a jon boat should include bench seating for 2 or 3 anglers and then room on the flat bottom to store some gear like tackle and boat. There are no frills with these boats at all, but they’re lightweight, cheap and very easy to use and transport. That makes them popular and reliable for most anglers who are just interested in simple fishing trips.
A simple trolling motor can be all you need to navigate these through rivers, marshes and even swamps. Some of these don’t even require a trailer for transport and you can get them to and from the water just in the bed of a truck. Obviously that depends on the size of your boat and your truck, but it can be a big selling point if you don’t need a trailer.
A pilothouse can make for a solid fishing boat with an opportunity to help you avoid bad weather in the enclosed area. There isn’t a living quarters, mind you, so you won’t stay out long term but for a day fishing trip in weather that can get sketchy is a good choice.
They’re not idea for a large number of anglers, but you and a couple of friends could do well in this style of boat. Storage space is usually ample enough but watch out for poor visibility and maneuvering thanks to that enclosed space.
You can get pontoons with traditional hulls and also inflatable pontoons if you’re interested. Because buoyancy comes from the air-filled tubes, a pontoon rests on top of the water and has an extremely shallow draft as a result, making these great boats for shallow waters. Pontoons have a lot of deck space so one outfitted specifically for fishing can offer a lot of features you’ll want.
You don’t want to use pontoon boats on rough waters or the open sea, but for bay fishing and on lakes, these are great choices because a pontoon boat actually offers a really smooth and calm ride.
Rigid Inflatable Boats
A rigid inflatable will have a deck and partial hall that’s solid fiberglass or aluminum but the rest of the structure is buoyed by inflatable sections that help give it shape and keep it afloat. Despite how it sounds, these can be pretty rugged boats and some are also fairly large. They can stand in as decent fishing boats and be about as useful as some simple bass boats and jon boats as a result.
Because they’re partially inflatable, they don’t sit as heavy in the water as some similar boats, and of course transporting them can be easier as well. Maybe the biggest selling point is that they have modular designs so, of you’re interested, you can really kit these out to be solid fishing boats.
When you’re just looking for something simple and functional then what most people would describe as a rowboat is maybe all you need. These are small fishing boats that work if all you want is to catch fish but you’re not worried about anything else. You might consider this a dinghy as well, but basically we’re talking about any boat that can handle one or two passengers and requires paddles rather than an outboard to get around, that’s a rowboat.
These are good choices for small lakes and ponds, especially private ones, and for kids as well. Because there are no frills at all here you can expect a bench to sit on and then room in the bottom for rods, bait and tackle.
Runabouts are versatile boats that can be used for much more than fishing. A lot of them feature extra seating and things like swim platforms so people not into fishing can definitely have fun with them as well. A runabout will often, but not always, have an open bow though it may not have the room of a bowrider.
The amount of seating on a runabout can make it a bad choice for exclusive fishing use. That said, if the runabout has an inboard, then maybe that swim platform at the back is now a great place for fishing.
Runabouts do best in lakes and maybe bays and inland waters. They’re not ideal for offshore or rough seas.
These are commercial vessels you may run across in coastal areas that are notable for the long lines hanging from wings with seine nets attached that are weighted on one end and buoyed on the other.
Sport Fishing Boat
Sport fishing boats often stand as the pinnacle of the modern recreational fishing vessel. These are the boats you’ll see anglers using when they haul in those world record sailfish and other trophy fish that people spend a lifetime trying to land.
The price definitely reflects the extras on a sport fishing boat but you can expect not just some high class amenities like a galley and living quarters but a lot of gear and fixtures to up your fishing game like live wells, depth finders, fish boxes, top of the line fishing chairs, rod lockers, flood lights, chart plotters and more. In addition, the engines in a sport fisher should be able to pull some serious horsepower.
Trawlers are probably the most common commercial fishing boat in the world and I’ve seen a few smaller ones that have been picked up by private anglers to use as recreational fishing boats. A smaller, used commercial trawler can actually be pretty affordable relative to some other high end fishing boats, so they can be attractive to serious anglers. Plus, if you’re really into fishing, nothing looks the part more than a nice, worn in trawler. Deep sea fisheries make use of these in those abundant fishing grounds to draw in tons of fish during ocean fishing.
Traditionally a trawler engages in trawling with a large net being pulled through the water behind it. The boat should have adequate living quarters for a small crew, powerful motors that can keep it going through any conditions, and are very adept at deep sea fishing. When a commercial crew heads out to sea they could be out for weeks, so there’s a lot of storage here. They have large live wells for an abundant amount of fish and plenty of room.
The major drawback to a trawler if you’re looking at one for recreational purposes is that they’re not designed for shallow water.
Walkaround boats are center console designs and, as the name implies, they have room to allow anglers or other passengers to circle the entire boat. You often see these in bays, coastal waters, and they even work for deep sea fishing. But you can also find them handy in freshwater.
Walkabouts have some more room than many simpler boats as well as amenities like extra storage and seating and even sleeping quarters and plumbing on board in the cabin area. That means you can head out with the family a little more easily because it will allow your family more room and options for things to do if they don’t share your passion for fishing.
Recreational Fishing Boats vs Commercial Fishing Boats
There’s an impression that recreational boats are the more economical choice and commercial boats are impractical but that’s not always the case. Trawlers especially can be very reasonably priced and offer up all the features you need if you want a dedicated fishing boat.
That said, most commercial vessels aren’t designed for family boating or water sports in mind, so they aren’t as versatile as some other designs, nor are they as easy to transport. But a good used trawler could actually make a decent family boat if you’re all into fishing thanks to the crew area and other features.
The Bottom Line
There are many styles of fishing vessels available including commercial fishing boats and recreational fishing boats. They come in a variety of sizes from the simplest one-man kayak to cabin cruisers that can handle as many as twenty anglers or more. If you’re in the market for a new fishing vessel, make sure you do your research to determine which kind of fishing boats will best meet your needs. As always, stay safe and have fun.