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February 11, 2014

Buying a Bay Boat

The Miami Boat Show is right around the corner, check out what to know for buying a bay boat.

It’s always nice to have options. Especially when the barometer is steady and the water is as slick as glass as far as you can see. And you know there are some big mutton snapper on a certain patch reef a few miles offshore. 

Scenarios like this are when inshore anglers really appreciate the range, ­versatility and comfort of a bay boat. Those same traits are also why many professional guides prefer the bay-boat style when fishing with clients. One such pro is Capt. Scott ­Owens, who operates his charter service in Brunswick, Georgia, where huge tidal swings and runs across deep open bays is the norm.

Economy Counts

“I own two Hell’s Bay skiffs and a 27-foot Hell’s Bay offshore center console. But during the summer months when I’m running bigger groups, the boat I mainly use is my 25 Shearwater TE with a Yamaha 250 four-stroke,” he says. “The species we’re targeting dictates the boat more than anything. With the Shearwater bay, I can fish four anglers inshore throwing artificials or live bait with popping corks. I run the trolling motor and use the Power-Pole to get into position. I can also go offshore an average of seven miles to fish behind the shrimp boats or on the shoals for sharks, tarpon and tripletail while keeping my clients comfortable.”

The cost of operation is another reason why Owens appreciates his bay boat. With four anglers and a full tank, he’s averaging between 3 and 3.5 miles per gallon. And with 89 octane, nonethanol gas selling at $4.85 a gallon at his local marina at press time, the Shearwater is much more cost-efficient to operate than his offshore center console.

Capt. Glyn Austin is another guide who likes the flexibility his bay boat provides. Austin fishes the Sebastian and Cape Canaveral areas of Florida, and has been running Shoalwater catamaran bay boats for the past four years. Built in Port O’Connor, Texas, his latest is the 23 Cat with a half-tower and 150 hp Evinrude E-TEC outboard. 

“I use a bay boat for the ­versatility,” Austin says. “It allows me to get into shallow water to fish the flats and ­mangrove shorelines for snook, reds, trout, and pompano. On nice days, I can fish the inlet or nearshore spots.”