2018’s Top 5 Best Bay Boats for the Money
There are more than 30 million fishers in the USA (and much more worldwide). And each of these fishers may have their own distinct idea of what comprises the supreme fishing experience. The fishing bay boats shown in this post will reflect such diversity.
Inshore fishing competitions spread like wild fire before the 2008 economic recession. Smiling professional fishers posed for the television cameras, sporting vibrant polyester jerseys like all those other ESPN heroes.
Bay boats targeted at inshore fisheries and designed with low freeboard, multiple fishing accoutrements, and moderate deadrise, grew popular over a decade ago. They were one of the strongest markets through the Great Recession, and these days, you can hardly cruise through a Gulf Coast inlet or a Florida coastal bay without seeing one or two or ten.
Read the article Bay Boat Battles for more information about the rise of bay boats.
I. Why You Should Get Yourself a Bay Boat
So what is it about bay boats that we should be excited about? We may not trust all the brands immediately but we can always count on the best models. Bay boats are no doubt some of the most beautiful machines we’ve seen out there.
If you happen to be an inshore angler wondering whether you should get a bay boat for your next fishing activity, then know that there are several reasons why you should get one.
1. Bay boats provide flexibility and convenience in various situations. They are sufficiently small and their draft is shallow enough for casting shorelines and flats. And yet they have just the built for outside and inlet forays.
Hunting for these boats could prove plausible whether you are trolling on the channel edges or casting on five-foot flats. There are some of these boats though that is not meant for big seas although they are great for reducing windage. Thus you can enhance drift fishing.
It will be easier for you to touch the water at your side and wash them with it. It also makes it easier for you to land into fish.
2. These are portable boats. There’s no item that’s too big to load on the trailer and the majority of them can be towed by an average-sized towing vehicle. These boats are also easy to deploy and recover. There are even small or shallow boat ramps that can be carried by a group of men – no need to tow them.
3. They boats are very affordable. You can find a number of dominant models such as the Pathfinder 2600 Bay Crusher and Grady-White 251 Coastal Explorer – the bigger, bodacious models. These models can cost much – some even as much as your house.
But bay boats will always maintain one engine and are therefore economical to use. The engines are also generally just 26’in size (or smaller), and usually don’t require a complex electrical system or costly features like electric grills, blender-equipped bars, and flat-screen tVs.
As a matter of fact, you will be surprised to find a lot of mid-sized, efficiently powered models that cost much less that many average brands. That’s a good deal for someone who likes to roll on the beach.
II. Everything You Need to Know About a Bay Boat
Bay boats became popular when everybody realized there was a very significant gap between flats fishing boats (intended for anglers fishing in the shallows) and center consoles (had the build and the reach to bear the seas moderately) and get owners out to areas in open water, also known as “center consoles” or “open fishermen.”
The flats boats could not (should not) go offshore; the open fishers were way too deep with the wave cutting V bottoms to risk venturing into the shallows. Among other limits each one had were that neither was excellent at the realm of the other. Although numerous manufacturers attempted to carry it out, there never really was a good all-round answer without describing an entire new boat category.
Therefore, with a bit of bit innovation and the features from both industries, the bay boats began to take form to fill the market’s void.
III. Factors to Consider
The bay boat’s length is extremely important. And the use of this boat style is directed to angling the flats, tight channels among and in the shoreline and mangrove channels. It can swing the boat effectively while maneuvering in tight areas as well as float in the shallows.
The best boats should have lengths that are less than 24 feet in and features a stable and effective fishing platform that results from generating casting deck areas. That’s plenty of room for 4 anglers to fish.
There are bay boats currently in production that are much longer than 24 feet, boasting extra room within the cockpit and promising a better ride. The longer boats didn’t increase the beam by much when they included the extra features.
Also, new models boast of the rise of the bottom which boosts the draft, making it more durable in tight spots, effective even offshore (open water).
Storage is another consideration for length. With marina storage and our yard areas and garages getting smaller, the boat size matters. It appears that 24 feet is the cut mark for numerous reasons for it being the maximum size for the bay boat.
Let’s discuss draft. Draft, by definition, is the way a boat will float as well as still be running for fishing while being driven by a trolling motor. And when selecting an excellent bay boat draft must be a main consideration and could be one of the most determining factors.
The idea here is to replace a technical poling flats fishing skiff and to provide the accommodations of a bigger boat that eventually gets to shallow waters and be run and angled by the same individual.
How shallow must it go?
Trolling motors require at least 10-inch of water to run effectively without creating lots of noise and operating their way through the shallows. Thus, we’ve learned that 15 inches or less is the ideal possible draft for what we deem as an actual bay boat.
That is the most that can be done with three individuals on board prepared to fish.
This video provides extra tips on how to choose the best bay boat:
III. The Best Bay Boat Available On The Market
1. Pathfinder 2200 TE
At 22 feet and 2 inches long featuring an 8-foot and 6-inch beam, this boat is sufficiently light that it can be extremely fast with a light, economical engine such as a Yamaha VF250, and sufficiently narrow that it dashes through the waves.
- This size is extremely fuel-efficient, enabling you to operate long distances fast without wasting time just to fuel.
- The boat floats extremely shallow, enabling you to acquire to fish in water that the rest other bigger boats cannot reach.
- Some customers complain that they can’t go faster than they want to but the speed here is more a matter of personal preference.
2. Scout 231 XS
It can fish up to three anglers comfortably well; and it isn’t too heavy and big to get into the thinner waters; it is the ideal size for bay boats that can deal with the chopping waves but also get shallow. Also, it screams with a 300-horsepower engine. We needed something to equal the 300 to avoid the additional weight of the 350HP.
- Release well, live wells, storage for gear and tackle, enough rod storage making it easy to gain access to any rod without requiring to remove others.
- It features comfort, reliability, safety and a sturdy helm seating for super high speeds, and stylish lifestyle.
- We have added a head choice as well for those emergencies. And this is something you do not usually see on such bay boats.
- Some customers complain that the boat is heavier than they expected.
3. Sportsman Tournament 234
Twenty-three feet and 4 inches is a decent size for a serious tournament fisher and pro guide. The length, together with an 8-foot and 5-inch beam, offers enough space for fishers and loads of storage for gear and tackle.
- The Tournament 234 includes all of the abovementioned characteristics with oversized live wells (one at 12 gallons and two at 20 gallons) and loads of storage.
- The tournament boat has easy access to systems as well, and the Sportsman 234 includes the most excellent access in the business.
- Another vital aspect of a tournament boat is its rough-water capability. And the 234 sparkles in this field as well because of its deep forward design.
- The tournament boat contains large-capacity live wells together with enough storage for the gear and tackle.
- Some customers think the item is too expensive for them, although many anglers find it a worthy investment.
4. Yellowfin 24
The Yellowfin 24 has three live wells that are 50 gallons each and the majority of people only have two of them plumbed in. I prefer to have all three plumbed in case I want or require it. This model is considered as an offshore bait load in a tiny boat.
The Yellowfin is simply the premium rigged boat available on the market. Check out the console of other boats and compare each one of them. The Yellowfin 24 is rigged, similar to Yellowfin 42. Anybody who has a saltwater boat knows that certain items can cause certain problems.
- As a decent boat manufacturer makes it extremely easy to diagnose and repair things that could fail because of long exposure to saltwater. Numerous companies keep the batteries and rigging in the transom where they get all-out salt exposure.
- The Yellowfin places the rigging within the console while the motor batteries are set inside a distinct compartment under the bow compartment.
- The compartment of the trolling motor battery is one of the best things about the Yellowfin 24.
- Once you expose the front hatch, you do not need to put your things over batteries, they’re thoroughly concealed.
- Some customers are not satisfied with the bildge area although some say it’s tight enough for them.
5. Sea Chaser 26 LX by Carolina Skiff
The motto for Carolina Skiff’s Sea Chaser line is to bring fun, fishing and family together. With the 26 LX, the manufacturer did just that, creating a centre console boat that can deal with hard-core fishing duty but keep the loved ones comfortable on a laidback cruise.
- The 26 LX has a stepped hull that aids to break the water resistance, thus boosting efficiency.
- While it is regarded to have 350HP, the test model we had did fine with a Suzuki DF250.
- It also reached 30mph in a mere 6.3 seconds on the way to an almost 50mph top-end speed.
- At optimal speed (28.1mph at 3,500 rpm), it got a 3.85 mpg burn rate.
- Some customers think the bay boat is expensive for them. But it is worth the investment once you consider the fact that it’s a family boat.
While we featured the top 5 best bay boats for the money, there is no single design that would appeal most to you unless it meets your needs. So depending on your needs and budget, you can choose one to several.
The concept behind these hybrid bay boats is that they are built to deal with shallow protected waters, the reef, and offshore fishing. Bay boats have provided angler with more options to fish and enjoy their activities.
From reefs to bays, these are, without a doubt, some of the most dynamic fishing boats on the water. Comfortable, safe, compact and affordable, these items have so much potential in satisfying an angler’s needs.
To me, the bay boat is incomparable as far as fishing is concerned.
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