The anatomy of a fishing boat: Making a smart choice.
Ask 10 serious fishermen what makes the perfect fishing boat and you’re likely to get 10 different answers. Depending on style, individual taste, where they fish and what they fish for, it becomes a very personal choice—especially the more experienced and serious the angler.
But what about those of us who are either not overly serious or just getting started? What should you look for in a fishing boat, nuance and accessories aside? We’ll attempt to break that down here.
This largely depends on where you fish, but generally speaking a fiberglass boat is best for any and all water types—fresh or salt, inland or offshore. Aluminum boats are fine for freshwater but in a saltwater environment, they will require protective bottom paint which ultimately means upkeep/maintenance.
Style of boat
The second question is where will you be fishing. Bigger, potentially rougher water requires a deeper V design, to help handle chop and give you a safe, dry run to and from the fish. For more inland pursuits, a shallower bottom design is preferred. Our Element F-Series is a good example of this. Its M-Hull™ design can be run in as little as 12 inches of water and provides a very fishable, stable platform—especially since you will have multiple anglers often casting from near the edge of the boat. The M-Hull also handles moderate chop well so in less than optimum conditions, you will get there and back safely.
Below is an overhead diagram of our Element F18, an 18-foot inshore/bay style center console. Center consoles are highly popular for their 360-degree fishability and open deck plans. We’ve called out some of the basic ‘must have’ features we designed into it, which should give you a good, basic blueprint of what to look for.
A. Casting decks — Generally found fore and aft, these areas are usually elevated and include space for fishing seats, should you opt for them. These are unobstructed areas ideal for casting and fighting fish.
B. Livewell(s) — In many parts of the country, live bait is a staple in the fishing equation, so, having a place to keep it lively is crucial. A good livewell is fed with a continuous flow of fresh water in order to provide freshly oxygenated water to the baitfish. Interior corners are ideally as rounded as possible to keep the fish on the move and prevent them from congregating in the corners and not moving. This shortens their ‘baitwell life” and, let’s face it, live bait is only useful when alive.
C. Rod storage — Side/horizontal and console/vertical in this case. Rod storage on either side of the center console is good for keeping the rods you have rigged for what you plan on pursuing that day. They are readily accessible and easy to use. Side rod storage generally used for extra rods or those you will not need quick or ready access to. These might be for your ‘plan b’ fish should you not have success netting your primary targets.
D. Dry storage — Gear onboard a boat gets wet, so having a safe, place to keep them dry and out of the way is essential. These forward compartments do this nicely.
E. Trolling motor — Having an electric trolling motor is a nice addition. It allows you to change your location quietly or pursue a hooked fish in depths your primary engine might not be as well suited to do.
F. Cooler(s) — Coolers serve two purposes on a fishing boat: To ice your catch and to keep food and beverages cold. Since these two things should probably not co-mingle, we provide a large cooler under the helm seat to store fish, and a second, smaller compartment under the forward helm seat for your refreshments.
G. Toerail — Particularly on inland/bay boats, you will be casting bait or working fish from the outside edge of the boat. A raised deck edge that lets you feel the edge of the deck with your foot is essential to doing this safely.
H. Room for Electronics — Most fishermen will add a fish finder or GPS to the helm of their boat. Make sure your boat has adequate space to mount the electronics that work for you.
While some fishing boats are sterndrive or inboard powered, the outboard is (in our opinion) the best choice. It gives the best horsepower-to-weight ratio, can be fully trimmed/tilted up for shallow operation and makes your transom cleaner and more accessible.
So as you go out to choose your first (or next) fishing boat, these are some good essentials to look for. The right design and gear makes all the difference when it comes to maximizing your enjoyment.