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All the Different Types of Fishing Boats Used by Fishermen

There are few better ways to spend a beautiful summer’s day than on the water with a rod in your hand and the breeze on your back.

lots of different fishing boats at a dock

Considering how popular fishing is, it’s no wonder that there are so many different types of fishing boats. 

With so many styles of boats to choose from, it can be a challenge to narrow down what the most suitable types are for you and how you plan on using your boat.

Thankfully, with so many styles available, several boat designs will meet your needs. 

Today, we’re going to take a closer look at the most popular types of fishing boats to help you narrow down the field and decide on the best boat for your next fishing trip.

two anglers on a fishing boat

There’s no shortage of different available boat models, from small vessels like skiffs and bass boats to dedicated fishing machines like center consoles and cabin cruisers. Read on as we cover the vital information about each style below. 


Bay Boat

Bay boats are among the most popular options for saltwater anglers who need a small boat that’s rugged enough to handle the choppier waters of large bays.

These boats have higher sidewalls and a more pronounced hull shape, making for a more comfortable ride. 

Bay boats are typically 18-23 feet in length, and they’re suitable for up to four people, making them an excellent choice for families.

While the V-shaped hull makes bay boats ideal for navigating a choppy bay, their small size means that you’ll have to stay close to shore in a bay boat. 

Center Console

Center consoles are considered the ultimate fishing boat by many anglers. These boats offer unparalleled fishability, and they’re powerful enough for virtually any fishing scenario. 

Center console boats are most often seen in sizes from 20-37 feet, and the helm of the ship is in the center, which allows people to move about the entire deck of the boat freely. 

This feature is essential when you’re fighting a large fish since you can freely move about the boat without the risk of tangling your line. 

Center consoles are as fishing-forward a vessel as you’ll find. Unfortunately, there’s very little shade, and you’ll only find a cabin on the largest models.

So a center console might not be for you if you’re more interested in recreation than angling. 

Convertible

There might not be a more suitable boat for sport fishing than a convertible. 

Convertibles are typically large boats, measuring 30′ long or greater. These boats have large cabins with berths and a full galley and head, and they provide the comforts of home on multi-day sportfishing trips. 

Convertibles usually have inboard engines with large rear decks for fishing. These boats feature outriggers and center riggers, and many have towers, as well. 

These boats burn tons of fuel, and they’re impractical for cruising around the bay with the family, but they’re tough to beat as a fishing vessel. 

Cuddy Cabin

Cuddy cabins offer the best of both worlds because they provide the excellent fishability of a center console with some amenities you’d typically only find in a convertible or pilothouse.

The stern and midship areas are similar to a center console. But, the front is closed in, with a cabin below. The cabin usually features a sleeping area and may include a head and galley. 

Cuddy cabins are typically between 18-30 feet long, and models with an accessible bow section are called walkarounds.

Beyond the comfort features, cuddy cabins provide excellent fishability and have fishing amenities such as rod holders, outriggers, and live wells. 

Dual Console

Dual consoles are similar to a center console but with a few tweaks to the layout, making them a more suitable option for leisure and entertainment. 

Instead of a central helm, a dual console moves the helm to the starboard side, with a second console for the passenger on the port side.

Passengers can move freely between the consoles to the front or rear of the boat.

Dual consoles are typically 18-26 feet in length, and they’re a solid choice for anglers who also need to entertain family and friends on the boat. 

Express Boat

An express boat is similar to a convertible because they’re both large luxury cruisers ideal for sportfishing and entertainment.

However, what makes an express boat unique is it places the helm further back in the boat, which allows the captain to be closer to the action than with a convertible. 

These boats are 25+ feet in length, so while they aren’t ideal for cruising around the bay, they’re the perfect option for offshore sportfishing.

Jon Boat

A Jon boat is perhaps the most utilitarian of all fishing vessels, and they were instrumental to float fishermen in the Ozarks around the turn of the 20th century.

a jon boat on the water

These small boats are commonly made from aluminum, but you’ll occasionally see fiberglass or molded plastic versions. 

Regardless of the material, the design is always identical. Jon boats have a flat bottom with a squared-off bow and built-in bench seats. An outboard motor provides power. 

These boats are inexpensive, easy to navigate, and easy to transport. But, they have virtually no storage and very few amenities.

Still, a Jon boat is an ideal craft for a single angler, and they can be deployed in ponds, lakes, and even the bay when conditions are calm. 

Power Catamaran

Power catamarans are interesting-looking vessels that are well-suited to inshore and offshore fishing.

These boats feature a unique dual-hull design, which improves stability and fuel efficiency.

Catamarans can vary significantly in size, with some models eclipsing the 60-foot mark.  

These boats are useful for fishing and leisure, and their aerodynamic design helps provide stability while reducing fuel costs. 

Rigid Inflatable Boat

Rigid inflatable boats or RIBs combine the ease of use of an inflatable with a rigid hull that adds stability and handling capacity. 

The hull is usually aluminum or composite, and the boat’s sides are inflatable. These boats come in various sizes, and large models can accommodate up to 60 passengers. 

These boats are a favorite of the Coast Guard and law enforcement, and they’re capable workboats that are excellent for moving people from one area to another. Larger models may even have amenities, such as a galley or sleeping quarters. 

Unfortunately, they usually don’t offer any angler-specific features, and they’re rarely used for fishing. 

Runabout

The term runabout is a catch-all name that describes virtually any small powerboat. 

Center consoles, cabin cruisers, bay boats, catamarans, and more could accurately be described as a runabout, provided that they’re small crafts with room for 4-8 passengers. 

Since the term encompasses many different boats and styles, some are excellent choices for fishing vessels, while others are best left for cruising around the bay or lake with a few friends. 

Skiff

Skiffs are small boats with a characteristic flat bottom, making them an excellent option for fishing skinny coastal waters only a foot or two deep. 

The flat design of a skiff allows them to navigate in only a few inches of water, which will enable anglers to access fishing spots they’d never be able to get to in a larger boat. 

Skiffs are prevalent everywhere, especially in places like Florida and the Carolinas, which are known for shallow coastal waters that hold massive inshore gamefish. 

These boats are typically 15-20 feet long and powered by an outboard engine, and a small trolling motor is often used to allow the boat to enter more shallow waters.

Bass Boat

Bass boats are a favorite of freshwater anglers, especially for (you guessed it) bass fishing.

people fishing on bass boats

These boats are typically 15-22 feet long, with low sides, a V-shaped hull, and a large outboard engine. 

Bass boats are expressly designed fishing vessels ideal for 2-3 anglers. All the boat’s features and electronics are geared towards anglers, and they offer an open deck that allows for 360° fishability. 

Bass boats are exclusively used in freshwater environments, as their size and design don’t lend themselves to the choppier bay or ocean waters.

Cabin Cruiser

Cabin cruisers are the luxurious bigger brother to cuddy cabins, and they’re typically larger, with more room and luxury features than what you’d find on a cuddy.

Cabin cruisers generally are 25-40 feet long and can be powered by inboard or outboard engines. 

Cabin cruisers have a full berth with room to comfortably sleep 4-6 people. These boats also have galleys, a head with a private door, air conditioning, and other amenities that cuddy cabins aren’t large enough to warrant. 

While cabin cruisers are primarily for entertainment, they typically have fishing-specific features that make them attractive to anglers.

Deck Boat

Deck boats are exceptionally popular for family fun on the water, and there’s no better boat design for watersports. These boats have expansive decks that often provide 20-feet or more of walkable space. 

In addition, deck boats have plenty of comfortable seating, and they usually have a powerful outboard engine. 

With so much space, deck boats make a solid choice for fishing. A deck boat rarely has tons of rod holders or angler-specific features since they’re primarily for watersports and entertainment. 

But, since there’s so much room, they still make a viable option to fish from, especially for anglers who need to entertain family and friends occasionally. 

Flats Scooter

Flats scooters are famous inshore fishing vessels common in Gulf states like Texas, Florida, and Alabama. These boats are pretty similar to a skiff, except they feature an elevated deck with no sidewalls. 

a man in a carolina skiff

Flats scooters typically have a hull draft of only 3-5″, allowing anglers to effortlessly navigate the skinny coastal waters for which the southern U.S. is known. 

Flats scooters are usually 15-20 feet long with a small outboard engine. Many scooters have a hydraulic engine lift, which allows them to coast into areas that are only a foot or two deep. 

Flybridge Sportfishing Boat

The granddaddy of offshore fishing vessels, flybridge boats offer the perfect blend of power, luxury, and fishability.

These boats are similar in size and amenities to a cabin cruiser, but they feature an even larger and more open stern section which provides even greater fishability. 

Separating these two boats further is the flybridge, which sits above the cabin and provides an additional set of navigational equipment.

The flybridge provides the captain with an unrivaled line of sight, and it also makes berthing much easier since the captain has a full view of their surroundings. 

Flybridge boats usually start around 30-feet, with some models eclipsing the 60-foot mark. These boats also have powerful inboard engines that can quickly get your party out to the fishing grounds. 

Pilothouse

Pilothouses are among the most popular fishing boats on the northern coasts, as they offer excellent fishability while offering significantly more protection from the elements than most other fishing vessels. 

These boats feature a sizable enclosed cabin, which offers necessary protection from the elements when fishing in the colder months.

Some pilothouses provide sleeping quarters and a galley, while others are more utilitarian. Almost all pilothouses offer a full head. 

These boats are often 25-35 feet long and use inboard or outboard engines. Since most of the boat’s weight is towards the front, the ride is typically bumpier than other vessels. 

A variation of a pilothouse, the Downeaster, is especially popular when fishing offshore, as they feature a deeper V-shaped hull which provides a smoother and more comfortable ride.

Pontoon Boat

Pontoon boats weren’t designed with fishing in mind, yet they make excellent fishing vessels.

Pontoon boats are among the most popular vessels on the water, thanks to their wide-open deck, high rails, and comfortable ride. Pontoons provide:

  • A stable and comfortable ride.
  • Plenty of room to entertain or relax.
  • Enhanced safety features. 

With their open deck configuration, comfortable ride, and a retractable bimini top, pontoon boats make surprisingly good fishing boats. 

While pontoons don’t have any angler-specific features, and it’s impractical to outfit a pontoon like a fishing boat, there are far worse places to fish from than the deck of a pontoon boat. 

Rowboat

Rowboats are one of the oldest and most simple boat designs, and they date back to ancient Egypt. These boats are typically wood or aluminum and feature a V-shaped hull. 

angler in a boat on a wisconsin lake fishing

The angler uses oars on either side to propel the vessel. Most rowboats have a design that forces you to row while facing backward. 

Rowboats are a decent choice for a single angler fishing in a lake or pond. There’s no onboard storage, shade, an engine, or other niceties of the powerboats on our list. Still, sometimes a rowboat is all you need to enjoy a fantastic day of fishing.

Trawler

Trawlers are a far-reaching boat category that defines a few different vessels. 

First, there are commercial fishing trawlers, which trawl large nets behind the bottom of the boat that runs at the seafloor or a specified depth to catch large quantities of fish. There are also recreation trawlers, which can accommodate fishing and cruising. 

Most trawlers are between 50-90 feet in length, and a full or semi-displacement hull defines both styles.

With commercial trawlers, the vast storage area of the hull allows the crew to ice down fish as they steam back to port. 

With recreational trawlers, this large area is reserved for luxury accommodations. 

Recreational trawlers can be outfitted with outriggers, and many provide ample open deck space to accommodate rod and reel fishing. 

Walkaround Boat

Walkaround boats, also known as a walkaround cuddy, are cuddy cabin boats that allow passengers to move about the entire deck safely.

Walkarounds are primarily used for fishing, as the additional deck space that a walkaround offers comes at the cost of cabin size. 

Walkarounds usually have a small and basic cabin that features a single berth and a portable head. These boats typically range from 18-28 feet and have inboard or outboard power. 

Final Thoughts

Whether you prefer the comfort of a cabin cruiser, the fishability of a center console, or the all-season ruggedness of a pilothouse, there’s no shortage of different fishing boats for you to hit the water in. 

So now that you’re armed with some info about each type, you can choose the boat that suits you best and go fishing! Just don’t forget a good trolling motor to make fishing even easier!

Rocco Smith

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