As people curtailed vacation travel plans and came to realize that there’s just no better way to safely celebrate life on planet Earth than to go out on a boat, in many cases demand has outweighed supply and it’s become downright difficult to find the ideal fishing boat. Then we discovered the search would become even tougher, thanks to the cancellation of the United States Powerboat Show in Annapolis, MD, this fall. But don’t let that stop you. If you’ve been searching for a new boat but unable to find the ideal hull for your happiness, there’s still plenty of opportunity out there this October.

boat show
No boat shows... well, darn!

How can you replace the boat show experience? Well, the truth is that you can’t. However, many area dealerships have made contingency plans including smaller, more individualized events. Check our Calendar of Events to get the low-down on where’s and when’s, and remember that some things are sure to have been added between the time we went to print with this edition, and when you picked it up. The solution? For the very latest info visit our calendar online at FishTalk's calendar.

Now let’s say you have some specific boats you want to check out. Remember that for many of these events (and as a general rule when boat shopping these days), you’ll want to make an appointment ahead of time. No one’s trying to draw unexpected crowds. And no, you can’t compare dozens and dozens of different brands side by side like at the show, so there may be a bit of inconvenient travel time as you go from one dealership to the next. First world problems people, first world problems. You’ll live. You’ll also hopefully find the right boat for your needs, as long as you remember:

  • Bring a small flashlight or use a flashlight app on your phone to peek into the hidden corners, bilges, and compartments of the boats.
  • Use either a notepad or your phone to record highlights and down-sides of each boat as you go through it.
  • Open each and every hatch and look for items like fit and finish, gaskets and gutters where appropriate to reduce water intrusion, hinge quality, latch quality, and ease of access. On large, heavy hatches give bonus points for the presence of gas-assist struts.
  • Sit in every seat, because some aren’t as comfortable as they look.
  • When you’ve identified a boat that’s of real interest, bring up on your phone right then and there and type the boat model name into the search box to see if we’ve reviewed it. If so, take a few minutes to read up and/or watch our video — there’s a good chance you’ll learn some details, performance data, or other helpful information you might not otherwise have come across.

Fishing Boat Frenzy

Hopefully you’ve been keeping up with the latest cool models in our Hot New Fishboats section. If so, you may have noticed a few key points we often focus in on. One reason for this is that the type of fishing you most enjoy will have a big impact on how important item each may or may not be to you. So as you look at all those boats, remember to consider:

Live-Liners - Obviously, those who like live-lining will be interested in the livewells on a boat. When it comes to capacity, more is better. That’s simple enough, but remember that wells with an overflow drain as opposed to a standpipe get extra credit, since those stand pipes can get in the way when scooping out baits — and may even come loose at times and inadvertently drain the well. Also check the hatch for a gasket and a tensioning latch; if it doesn’t have these, there’s a good chance water will splash out while underway. Other nice perks include a baby blue interior (baits stay calmer and are less apt to beat themselves against the sides of the well), an oval or round shape (again, so baits don’t beat themselves up), and LED lighting for night-fishing adventures.

Trollers – For you folks, it’s all about the rodholders. The mix of gunwale flush-mounts, rocket launchers, and transom holders will dictate just how many lines you can tow at once. Also consider stowage options for those bulky planer boards. And if you plan to take the boat to the beach and troll offshore, the availability of outriggers comes into play.

Light Tackle Jiggers and Casters – If light tackle casting is your favorite method of fishing, deck layout is a critical feature. In the shallows elevated forward and aft casting decks are great to have, though remember that in the open Bay, deeper cockpit space is probably more important. If prospecting in the shallows is in your future also take draft into consideration. And in all of these cases remember that having a bow-mount trolling motor will allow you to sneak up on the fish, plus enjoy virtual anchoring abilities like Spot-Lock.

All Anglers – Fishbox capacity, onboard tackle stowage, electronics, and performance are characteristics all anglers will want to take into consideration. Beyond that, creature comforts like the presence of an enclosed head compartment, seating, and having a freshwater system also may come into play in your decision-making process.

Tips for Taking Sea Trials

  • As you take sea trials, remember that different conditions on different days in different waterways should be taken into account. A boat you test in glassy-calm conditions may feel great, while another you tested in 20 knots and a head sea may have been bumpy. But in truth that bumpy boat might handle the seas a lot better than the one that felt so smooth in calm conditions. Try to put yourself in the other boat’s shoes as you compare them.
  • On calm days, slow to pre-planing speeds where you’re making the biggest wake possible, turn some doughnuts, and then nail the throttle and blast back and forth through the washing machine conditions you just created.
  • Turn the boat so the beam is in the seas, shift into neutral, and float there for a few minutes to get an idea of how stable the boat is and how it drifts. That will help you get a feel for what drift fishing from it will be like.
  • Spend a few minutes going into, across, and down the seas at trolling speeds, especially if you’re a dedicated troller.
  • If the boat comes with pre-installed electronics, play with them for a while out on the water and make sure you’ll be happy with the size and brand. If you don’t like them and want a change, speak up and let the dealer know because they may be able to swap units or work something out to make you happy.

Be forewarned, people: choosing the ideal fishing boat for you and your family can be quite a challenge. Truth be told there are a lot of totally awesome boats out there on the market and quite often you’ll be tempted by more than one. Sooner or later, however, we’re sure you’ll be able to make the best decision. And when you do, if the dealer or manufacturer you’re buying from is a FishTalk advertiser be sure to tell them how much we anglers appreciate their support in helping us all catch more, bigger fish — and if they aren’t ask ‘em why not!