How the fish-boat world has evolved in the past 10 years! As individuals, we’ve weathered one of the most horrific storms in the world: a pandemic. We lost friends, spent time in hospitals, and suddenly got a new perspective on the value of life and leisure. Fishing, boats and boating became the refuge of millions of new boaters, and the demand for boats is still beyond the supply. And, for the past two years, boat sales have skyrocketed beyond the capacities of transportation, accessory, parts, materials, and boat-brand builders to meet the demand.
At this reading, boatbuilders are scrambling to design and deliver exciting new models to meet the still-pent-up demand. How remarkable is that? And, what a challenge you face finding the boat of your dreams at a price you want to pay.
Well, we’re here to help.
There are 21 boats in this guide from 15 boatbuilders, and they represent the best in their class. Not all are Ferraris, but all are bull’s-eyes that meet the expectations of the buyer they target: you. All are designed to fish the way you want to fish.
You’ll find that the boats are divided in categories, and each category is preceded by a brief, crisply worded tutorial on what features and points of quality comprise a well-made boat. We aren’t just Ivory Tower pontificating, either. In each profile, and throughout the magazine, you’ll find -insights from manufacturers, fishing pros and other experts.
We’ve covered the gear you need to fish effectively, safely, and in comfort. Navigation and sonar equipment can be a mystery too, and Jim Hendricks unravels that for you, pointing you in the direction you need for the boat you choose.
If you’re even thinking of buying a boat, by the time you finish this, our 10th saltwater Boat Buyers Guide, you’ll be inspired to buy and equipped with the information you need to buy the right boat.
Editors’ Guide to Buying Fish Boats
Our team of editors and contributors fishes and boats uncounted hours. Some are tasked with testing boats and critiquing them for fit-and-finish, and to make judgments on expectations for durability, ride and fishability. We believe that every boat in this guide is designed and built to meet those expectations. We don’t test used or older boats (though many of our editors own some older ones), so how these boats fare some years down the road can be gauged only by the brand’s track record for enduring quality. These brands consistently hit their targets.
About the Editors
Boating and Fishing Group
Randy Vance’s credits include a decade as a professional fisherman, marine sales, and public relations for Bass Pro Shops and Outboard Marine Corp. Author of Power Boating for Dummies, Vance is a popular video boat-review host with millions of combined views, and is a 40-year veteran of outdoor and boating journalism.
Ron Ballanti, president of Strike Zone Communications, has worked in the recreational boating and fishing industries since the early 1990s. Ballanti is an avid fresh- and saltwater angler who has won nine Boating Writers International annual writing contest awards and contributes regularly to Boating and Salt Water Sportsman.
Growing up in Virginia Beach, Ric Burnley spent his formative years sunburnt, windblown, and waist-deep in the brine. From poking around the marsh in his skiff to charging the Gulf Stream in million-dollar megayachts, Burnley has fished for darn near everything that swims the salt.
Salt Water Sportsman
Joe Albanese grew up on the water along Long Island’s South Shore, fishing and clamming in the marsh complex and open beach. Through the course of his previous career in fisheries and wildlife, he operated boats of various sizes in small ponds, estuaries, ice fields, and everything in between. These days, he can usually be found at the helm of his Maritime Skiff, though he remains as comfortable working a tiller as he was when he was a kid.
With over three decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to dozens of boating and fishing publications and websites. He is currently the Angler in Chief at Rudow’s FishTalk. He is a past president of Boating Writers International, a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and has won numerous BWI and Outdoor Writers Association of America writing awards.
A full-time outdoors writer for several decades, Steve Griffin has written extensively about boats large and small—the latter including his grandfather’s 1959 12-foot car-topper, in which Griffin now boats with his grandson. Griffin’s many writing awards from state, regional and national writing organizations include several in boating-specific categories. His work appears in newspapers, magazines and several books. He currently resides in Michigan.
Boating and Fishing Group
Jim Hendricks has spent 45 years as a boat captain, saltwater angler and marine/fishing journalist, and has served for 10 years as the West Coast and electronics editor for the Bonnier Fishing Group. Over his career, he has tested and reported on hundreds of fishing boats, marine engines and equipment, including his vast knowledge of marine electronics.
Salt Water Sportsman
Throughout a nearly 40-year professional career, Karl Anderson has fished the world over in search of trophy gamefish as a captain or deckhand. A globally known figure in big-game fishing, he has guided his clients to incredible catches, has been everywhere from Canada to Key West and beyond, and has explored many remote locations.