Looking for a fishing boats? Let’s get one thing straight. It is perfectly possible to dangle a line from any kind of boat, however inappropriate it might seem. Drop the right bait in the right place at the right time and (assuming you’re not trying to land an angry tuna in a Force 10) it doesn’t matter whether you’re sitting in a burnished walnut Riva or a tatty homemade canoe. The point is that if you already own a bow rider (see A guide to bow riders) or some other form of non-specialist boat and you fancy a bit of modest recreational fishing, there is no reason to sell up and buy a sports fisher. But if you’re a genuinely keen angler who wants a boat that can make the whole process easier, safer, more varied and more effective, there are plenty of dedicated fishing boats around and plenty of features worth seeking out.
Fishing boat types
The range of fishing craft now on offer to the UK boater is huge. They go from fishing kayaks and small open boats with silent electric outboards to 15-foot dayboats and vast, game fishing monsters with huge reserves of power and professional "fighting" chairs. But most buyers of a modern sports fisher are faced with a choice of two major types - the open configuration (usually known as the "Centre Console") and the cuddy cabin arrangement (usually know as the "Walkaround"). In both cases, a well-organised example ought to provide access to the water from just about every part of the boat, enabling the occupants to move and fish with ease. And for that reason, even though accommodation on a modern fisher can be quite luxurious, the priority is still generally given to open deck space over cabin volume.
Useful hull attributes
The ideal fishing boat hull has to achieve a lot of things. For a start, it needs to be robustly built to cope with prolonged open water passages. It also has to be able to cruise comfortably at a decent pace for long periods without causing you pain, soaking you with spray or bankrupting you with the fuel bill. And when it gets to its destination, it needs to be capable of remaining at anchor or at very low displacement speeds (often in quite large swells) without becoming unstable. Naturally then, a good sports fisher hull has to be specifically built for purpose.
This is achieved by means of a finely angled forefoot, which flares out into a broad, buoyant forward shape. This helps both with control while on the plane and with stability when at a standstill. Further aft, you should look for a relatively mild deadrise to help improve planing efficiency. This is important not just for extending your range on a single tank but also for helping the boat get on the plane (and stay there) when weighed down with people and angling gear.
There are plenty of very capable monohulls on the market but if you can afford the initial outlay, it would be well worth considering a twin-hulled boat. They tend to enjoy a huge amount of deck space, great running efficiency, superb stability at rest and unparalleled softness of ride. With a pair of independently operable engines running off separate systems, they can also enjoy an extra degree of safety. In short, a good catamaran enjoys every natural asset an effective fisher needs, so to see what kinds of thing are possible, take a look at the Cheetah Marine website.
Additional considerations when buying a fishing boat
In terms of the features list for your fishing boat, consider a large fuel tank, with perhaps double or even triple the capacity of a similar-sized dayboat. It would certainly not be excessive to expect a 300-litre tank on a decent six or seven-metre fishing boat.
Gunwale-mounted rod holders are always useful but are they adequately angled to keep several lines apart? Do you need additional T-Top or rocket launcher holders to supplement the boat’s basic complement, because extra holders can certainly come in useful for keeping differently rigged rods at the ready.
Consider how many storage boxes you will need, both for fish and for equipment. Think about an aerated bait tank and don’t neglect a proper anchor set-up. On smaller boats, look for a Porta Potti inside the console, and make sure there is enough console space to fit the kind of electronics you require.
Once you have made a shortlist of boats, it is vital that you take them out for a proper test drive - not just for a casual 30-minute jaunt on a perfect day, but for a concerted trial on a regular, windswept, British afternoon. Carry all the gear you would normally take and have a go at all the things you would normally do. Only by this means will you discover if a boat is capable of keeping you comfortable and content.
10 useful fishing boat features
1. A flared bow for a dry ride and bow buoyancy at rest.
2. A moderate deadrise for greater planing efficiency.
3. A deep freeboard for internal security.
4. A broad, beamy, open aft deck for easy movement.
5. Undercover shelter to take refuge from the wind, sun and rain.
6. A well-appointed helm station for comfort during long spells at sea.
7. Lots of dash space for additional electronics.
8. An auxiliary outboard for additional security.
9. Self-draining lockers and decks for wash-down simplicity.
10. A sizeable (or even secondary) fuel tank for extended cruising range.
The peculiar irony is that, in your pursuit of the perfect sports fishing boat, you will discover that there is a very thick overlap between what makes a good fishing boat and what makes a good family boat. You want it to be dry, safe and reliable, with a good cruising range, somewhere to take shelter from the elements, somewhere to store your gear and an easy-to-live-with fit-out that enables you to simply wash it down at the end of a day. You also want a comfy helm, plenty of deck space and a good sea hull that can take the knocks and put in a decent turn of speed. Now if that isn’t the very definition of a perfect do-it-all leisure boat, I don’t know what is.
Read our feature Fishing boats: a buyer’s guide.
Considering alternatives? See our features on buying other types of powerboats, check out our guide to Buying a sports cruiser as well as A guide to bow riders.
If you want to get your kids into fishing, try reading How to take your kids fishing: 5 top tips, while Fishing luck: 3 unusual ways to improve your catch will help improve your catch.
Alex Smith is an ex-Naval officer, with extensive experience as a marine journalist, boat tester and magazine editor. Having raced as a Pilot in the National Thundercat Series and as a Navigator in the inaugural Red Sea RIB Rally, he has now settled in the West Country, where he lives and works as a specialist marine writer and photographer from his narrowboat in Bath.