If you’re anything like me you like to fish everything from sweetwater to bluewater, but can’t afford an entire fleet of fishing boats. Truth be told, if money was no object we’d each own three, four, or maybe even five different boats, each with its own specific fishing purpose. Reality unfortunately dictates otherwise. But through the years I’ve run across a number of small boats that can handle a huge range of fishing situations. Here are three stand-outs which will allow you to fish for crappie one day, and cobia the next.
Twin Vee 19 Bay Cat
I’ve spent a huge number of hours aboard the Twin Vee 19, ran one up to 32 miles offshore, fished this model inshore and in bays for countless hours, and can say without hesitation that for its size, this is one of the most seaworthy boats on the face of the planet. Yes, it’s a powercat and some folks simply won’t consider a boat with two hulls. But the ride is shockingly smooth and this boat has no problem handling seas of three feet. The hull and deck are solid, but you will find some relatively poor construction in accessories. The console is secured to the deck with screws, not through-bolts, and the T-top wiggles if you give it a firm yank. Still, all things considered this is a shockingly competent boat.
Mako Pro Skiff 17
Here’s another boat with an unusual hull, in this case what Mako calls an “Inverted V”. In reality, its something of a hybrid between V-hull, tri-hull, and powercat. (Read Mako Pro Skiff 17 Center Console: A Hull New Innovation, to learn more about the boat’s unique design). But the net result is an amazingly smooth ride through a chop. While it’s not large enough for long runs into the ocean, it is capable of short hops outside of the inlet on calm days, and it can handle just about anything a lake or river can dish out. This boat is also surprisingly stable for its size, has a svelte draft (eight inches with the engine up), and comes with a strong five year stem-to-stern warranty. The real shocker, however, is how affordable this boat is. The boat-motor-trailer package (with a 60 horse Mercury) lists at under $18,000. Down sides? You’ll find some cost-cutting in the console, which is roto-molded polyethylene instead of fiberglass.
Ranger RP 190
This is a boat I don’t have a ton of sea-time on, but ran just this spring for a review (see Ranger RP 190: Bold New Aluminum Bay Boat). And in the space of one day on the water, it really impressed me. While its designed to serve as a bay boat, it brings with it a lot of bass boat features that give it a fishability boost no matter what the quarry. Pedestal-mount fishing seats, for example, and a monster-sized aerated livewell in the aft deck. (Though you do have to pull a pin and swing up the leaning post to access it; it’s something of a pain, but the only way to get the expanded capacity in such a small boat). The RP 190 handles waves just as you’d expect for a 19′ aluminum boat with a semi-V hull, so big water will be fine on calm days, and inshore or freshwater will be do-able on just about any day. Added bonus: this is another cost-conscious model, starting at $17,000 and change with a 25 horse outboard (you’ll probably want to upgrade that) and a trailer.
Late Bonus Boat Addition: Check out the Bayliner Element F16, which starts at $15,299 with a 60 HP outboard and a trailer.