Are you looking for the perfect fishing boat to take out on the lake? Fishing is a great pastime, and with the right small fishing boat, you’ll be sure to have an enjoyable experience. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced angler, having reliable equipment can make all the difference. We’ve rounded up some of the top small fishing boats that are popular among anglers so you can find one that suits your needs! Read on to discover our picks for ideal boats that will help you head out into open waters in style.
Choosing the best fishing boat for you depends on the following
Your budget: Obvious budget plays a huge role. $10,000 vs. $500K budget makes big a difference as to your options. See my boat costs article.
- Where you’ll use it: River, lake or ocean. Protected waters or open ocean?
- Where you’ll store it: Will you be towing and launching it for each outing or store it at a marina? If towing and launching, you’re restricted to a certain size.
- How long you’ll use it per outing: If you’re planning multi-day outings, you’ll need a fishing boat with sleeping quarters.
Fishing can be a costly endeavor, and if you’re serious about fishing, it’s important to consider all the options when buying your first boat. While any vessel that floats will do for some basic angling fun, boats designed specifically with fishing in mind offer extra features helpful for novice fishermen searching lakes to experienced seafarers exploring oceans. With many factors like hull type and material type also playing into the decision-making process regarding size should generally remain top priority since most buyers have at least an idea of how they want their craft to measure up on the water.
We classify by boat size as follows:
- Small fishing boats: Up to 20′. Most are 12′ to 16′. No cabin or pilothouse. Some skiffs and Jon boats exceed 16′ yet those would be small fishing boats.
- Mid-sized fishing boats: 16′ to 28′ in length.
- Large fishing boats: Longer than 28′
What qualifies as a small fishing boat? Small fishing boats are lightweight and easily towable by pretty much any car, don’t have a cabin or pilothouse, and are very small. Let’s say small boats go up to 20′ (some Jon boats can also get longer but I consider them still a small fishing boats).
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Rowboats are the simplest and most affordable option when it comes to small fishing boats. They’re light, easy to maneuver, and can be rowed or motorized depending on your preference. Perfect for lakes, ponds, rivers, and other smaller bodies of water, rowboats come in a variety of sizes ranging from 8 feet to 14 feet long, and can often carry up to four people.
2. Jon Boat
Jon boats are flat-bottomed vessels designed for shallow water, making them ideal for rivers, lakes, and small ponds. They’re lightweight and easy to maneuver, but also sturdy enough for larger bodies of water as well. These popular boats come in a variety of sizes, with the most common size ranging between 10 and 16 feet.
Skiffs are lightweight and highly maneuverable, making them ideal for rivers, lakes, and small ponds. They come in sizes from 8 to 20 feet long with some skiffs even coming equipped with an outboard motor as well as seating for up to four people.
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4. Pontoon Boat
Pontoon boats are the perfect choice for larger lakes, rivers, and even some oceans. These versatile vessels come in a variety of sizes ranging from 8 feet to 16 feet and can accommodate up to 10 passengers if you want to take your friends out along with you! They’re also perfect for freshwater fishing, as they have plenty of room to store bait and tackle.
5. Bass Boat
Bass boats are designed with the serious angler in mind, offering extra features like larger storage compartments and livewells specifically designed for storing bait or keeping fish alive until you make it back to shore. They also come in a variety of sizes ranging from 12 feet to 24 feet long, so there’s sure to be one that suits your needs!
Kayaks and canoes provide an economical alternative to standard fishing boats. These smaller vessels offer more maneuverability than traditional boats, allowing you to easily explore shallow waters and tight corners where bigger boats might not fit. Kayaks and canoes come in a variety of sizes, ranging from 8 feet to 16 feet long.
7. Inflatable Boat
Inflatable boats are perfect for anglers who like to keep their fishing small and intimate. These lightweight vessels offer more maneuverability than larger boats, but also the convenience of being able to store them easily when not in use. They come in sizes ranging from 8 feet to 12 feet long, making them perfect for fishing in rivers, lakes, or even shallow oceans!
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8. Drift Boat/Dory Boat
Drift boats and dories offer anglers a stable platform while still allowing access to tight spaces that might be inaccessible with traditional fishing boats. These vessels come in sizes from 18 feet to 28 feet long, so you’ll have plenty of room for all your gear. They’re also great for fishing in the ocean or larger rivers!
9. Center Console Boat
Center console boats are ideal for anglers who prefer to fish in larger bodies of water like oceans or large lakes. These vessels come in sizes ranging from 16 feet to 32 feet long and offer a variety of features that make them perfect for serious fishing trips, such as live wells, seating areas, and plenty of storage compartments.
10. Rigid Inflatable Boat (i.e. Zodiac)
Rigid inflatable boats, or RIBs, offer anglers the best of both worlds. They’re lightweight and easy to maneuver in tight spaces, but also stable enough for larger bodies of water. These versatile vessels come in sizes ranging from 8 feet to 16 feet long, making them perfect for fishing trips on all types of waters!
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With so many options available, finding the perfect small boat for your next angling adventure doesn’t have to be difficult. From rowboats to drift boats and everything in between, there’s sure to be a boat that fits your needs and budget. So there you have it, the top 10 most popular small fishing boats for anglers. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, there’s a boat on this list that’s perfect for you. And if you’re looking for something bigger, be sure to check out our other blog post on the top 10 biggest fishing boats in the world. Happy boating!