A new fishing boat represents a big investment, so you want to make sure that the one you end up with best suits your needs and expectations. Here are a few things to think about as you narrow down your choices:
1. Meet Your Needs
Before you even start shopping for your fishing boat, decide what you want it to do for you. Will be strictly a fishing rig? Do you need a boat that will also serve as a craft for family fun? Where will you use the boat most often—small- to medium size lakes, large or small rivers, large, expansive lakes and reservoirs? What is your preferred method of fishing—casting, trolling, drifting, stillfishing? What is the minimum number of passengers and approximate weight of gear you’ll typically carry? Remember to include the weight of the engine, fuel, batteries and other equipment in your estimate. The answers to these questions will start you on the path to deciding the type and size boat you should be considering.
2. Make A List
Put down on paper all the gear you want to have in your new boat, such as a trolling motor, gasoline-powered kicker, sonar and GPS, VHS radio, rodholders and downrigging equipment. Your list might be longer or shorter than this one, but the point is to make sure any boat you consider can accommodate all the equipment you want on your new rig.
This is also the time to look at the type of equipment that will make the most sense for you. Like outboards offered in package deals, the electronics included in the price tend to be from the lower end of the product line. If you have any doubts whether that sonar or GPS unit will perform to your standards, now’s the time to upgrade.
By opting for a bigger better sonar unit, or a trolling motor that’s more powerful, or has a longer shaft, when you order your boat, you will receive some “exchange” value for the packaged equipment.
If you wait, you will probably wind up buying the larger sonar unit or trolling motor at retail price and swapping it out yourself.
3. Take A Test Drive
Boat dealers sometimes have demo models on hand and that will allow you the opportunity to drive the model you’re considering. Other times, a manufacturer, in conjunction with a local dealer, might offer a “demonstration day” where it brings in several models in its line for on-the-water test drives. If you have such an opportunity, take it. It’s the best way to see and feel for yourself how the boat handles on the water. At the very least, board the boat in the showroom and visualize yourself in a typical fishing situation. Think about the boat’s layout, and whether it would complement or crimp your style. Are the livewells and storage compartments easily accessed? Is the rod locker in the right place for you, and will it hold the number and size rods you typically use? Are the power controls and bilge, aerator and navigation light switches easily reached? Can you see the gauges clearly from the driver’s seat?
4. Power And Performance
Sometimes manufacturers and dealers keep the price of boat, motor, trailer package at a more attractive level by pairing the boat with an outboard at the mid- to low-end of the boat’s recommended power range. Such a pairing seldom results in a combination that’s severely underpowered, but it may not offer the performance you are expecting. Nothing disappoints a new boat owner more quickly than a rig that refuses to plane out and get you where you want to go quickly enough.
Safety is yet another concern. An underpowered boat won’t have the speed to outrun a sudden storm, or reserve power to buck a big wave.
Prop selection, weight distribution and other factors are involved here, too. But even they can’t be addressed if the boat is so underpowered it doesn’t meet your performance expectations. A general rule of thumb is to select an outboard that’s at least 75-80 percent of the hull’s maximum horsepower rating.
Performance needs are, of course, subjective. So, if you know you will be just as happy with a rig that doesn’t run at its optimum speed, choose a smaller outboard.
5. Operating Costs
Think ahead, too. Factor in the cost of fuel, maintenance, insurance and off-season storage before writing that check. It will help you avoid surprises down the road. It’s fairly easy to figure it out. A quick call to your insurance agent will provide that cost, while the dealer’s service department can give you an estimate of annual maintenance costs. Many outboard manufacturers provide data on their websites regarding fuel efficiency. Remember that a larger outboard may burn more fuel than a smaller one, but it may also use it more efficiently. In other words, it gives you more “miles” per gallon burned than a smaller engine that strains to push the hull.
6. Other Factors
Other factors, such as the size of your storage facility or tow vehicle, may influence the size of the boat you purchase. Don’t forget to consider these things when shopping as they could cause headaches later.
Shopping for a new fishing boat is fun and exciting, but don’t let the thrill of closing the deal overshadow good sense. Take the time to make sure you end up with the rig you really want.