You need to find a boat that can handle and maneuver smoothly in shallow water conditions. The chances are that you are an avid outdoorsman (or woman) and serious angler chasing the flats for some game fish.
If that sounds like you, then you’ve made it to the right place. This article will help match the most appropriate Jon boat, Skiffs, Flats boat, or Bay boat to your intended shallow water use.
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Shallow Water Boat Features
So we know that you need a responsive boat that can navigate narrow channels, winding backcountry waterways, but most important, of all-shallow water.
What unique design traits or features should such a boat have?
Shallow Draft: The draft of a boat is a measurement from the lowest point of its hull to the waterline- in other words, how far below the waterline your boat sits. For shallow waters, the smaller the draft, the better.
Flat-bottom or V-shaped hull: The traditional Jon boat is versatile and can handle most situations. But if you can stretch your budget, the mod-V or V-shaped hull will give you the ability to go a bit deeper into the deep blue. Either way you go, considering the location is critical.
Deck Space: The more, the merrier- giving you the possibility to personalize your work or leisure space per your needs. Consider space limitations when deciding between a tiller-operated outboard engine, a center console, or a side console.
Response and Maneuverability: Shallow-draft boats are versatile and maintain above standard maneuverability ratings. You will notice slight differences between a tiller-controlled motor and a retrofitted drive system. Remember, these boats offer excellent performance in calm waters, but you should become more critical in your choice if you intend to pursue an offshore activity.
Are you ready to discover the best boats for shallow water?
Let’s dive in!
If you have ever wondered what that flat-bottom boat with the squared-off bow is- it’s a Jon boat. More specifically, Jon boats are low-profile boats with a shallow draft.
So just what you needed, right? These boats are excellent for navigating hard-to-reach areas and shallower waters. In addition, Jon boats perform excellently in lakes, rivers, and other backcountry intercoastal waterways.
As Jon boat enthusiasts later began requesting a performance modification that could allow them to venture out into more challenging waters, manufacturers birthed the mod V-hull.
The mod V-hull has a sharper bow and a more angular hull bottom, allowing it to take on choppier water more gracefully than a flat bottomed boat.
1. SeaArk 2672 MV
In possession of the performance mod-V hull, Go big or go home must be part of the SeaArk Boats mantra- this company boasts the largest Jon boat on the market, measuring in at an impressive twenty-six feet.
SeaArk believes in durability, so their aluminum Jon boat build with plenty of structural ribs and doublers has been carefully fabricated by the industry’s best to stand up to the most challenging conditions for years to come.
- Length: 26′
- Beam: 95″
- Bottom Width: 72″
- HP Rating: 150/250*
- Weight Cap: 3500
- Person Cap: 17/2365
- Approx Weight: 1000
- Transom Height: 20″
Visit the SeaArk website to browse more than 100 available accessories to personalize your boat to your intended use and comfort standards. Select your outboard motor, choose from a variety of fantastic paint schemes, and tech up your boat with the latest gadgets.
2. Lowe L1648
Lowe Boats strive for excellence as a trusted Jon boat manufacturer, inviting boat enthusiasts of all styles to join its family. The company’s line-up of flat-bottom boats is an excellent choice for all coastal activities.
The traditional squared-off bow Jon boat from Lowe Boats is everything you need for fishing, hunting, exploring, or work. Superior aluminum fabricators and welders work as a team to produce a boat that will outlast the test of time.
- Length: 16′
- Beam: 70″
- Bottom Width: 48″
- HP Rating: 35
- Weight Cap: 1014
- Person Cap: 4/555
- Approx Weight: 275
- Transom Height: 15″
Though you will only see a few options (paint, taller transom, and rear side console) that you can add on through the website, don’t hesitate to talk to your local authorized dealer for a list of suitable accessories to retrofit your new 16-foot Jon boat.
For all you shallow water navigators, it would be helpful to understand the difference between Jon boats and skiffs. These often get confused; however, skiffs always have a pointer bow and are larger.
Because skiffs are significantly larger, these boats have additional stability and are easier to control through choppy water and other-than-favorable conditions.
Many anglers prefer the more expansive deck space of boats because it enables additional room for gear, equipment, and live wells in addition to an expanded range of movement.
Skiff boats also tend to be powered by larger motors, and their v-shaped hulls are apt to cut through waves and turbulent waters.
3. Hewes Redfisher 18
Perhaps no better boat to fish the flats than the notorious Hewes Redfisher. With three different sizes to choose from, the eighteen-footers charm is threefold: speed, range, and a rocking ride- no matter if fishing, hunting, skiing, or cruising.
- Length: 18′ 10″
- Beam: 95″
- Draft: 10″
- Weight (approx. with w/ F115engine): 1900
- Deadrise: 13 degrees
- HP Rating: 150
- Person Cap: 4/550
Starting MSRP is slightly over the $50,000 mark for the mid-sized center console skiff. You may have to increase your budget expectations based on the engine size and accessories you decide to add on.
If you see yourself stalking game fish through shallow and even skinny waters, then you should add a flats boat to your list of considerations.
Because of its shallow draft, a flats boat can handle hard-to-navigate waters that larger vessels cannot. However, as with most shallow water boats, you should not be bringing a flats boat or any other boat mentioned in this article for offshore ventures.
A flats boat has excellent maneuverability and range, powered by a suitable outboard engine. In addition, it offers exceptional inshore versatility whether you enjoy watersports, fishing, leisurely cruising, hunting, or some summer-time lakeside entertainment.
4. East Cape EVO
Raise your hand if custom builds excite you. At East Cape Boats, the crew works hard on every boat that, by the way, is made to order.
- Length: 226″
- Beam: 79″
- Draft: 7″-9′ (static vs. on plane)
- Deadrise: 12 degrees
- HP Rating: 40-115 HP
- Person Cap: 4
The Evo has tons of storage capacity, has a comfortable ride, and exudes performance at every inch of its design. And about design, choose between a center console, side console, or elevated helm based on your comfort.
These are the best-in-class multi-purpose vessels that can handle some offshore exploring just as well as it does those tight backwater s-curves that spread across marshlands, flats, and other shallow water.
With a deeper draft than the other boats listed in this article, the birth of bay boats came about as people wanted to venture out into bays, lagoons, and even deeper waters.
Bay boats have that distinct v-shaped hull most people are familiar with seeing, which is one of the features necessary to get through choppy water comfortably and efficiently.
5. Scout 251 XSS
Talk about comfort and class, and Scout Boats know how to deliver. With plenty of standard features for the angler in mind, don’t think your choices stop there.
When you visit the Scout Boats website, be sure to look through all the available options listed under the particular model of interest. With a center console t-top, your hair will be blowing in the wind as all your boat neighbors sneak a peek as you fly across the water.
- Length: 24′ 10″
- Beam: 102″
- Draft: 13″
- Weight (w/oengine): 2300
- Deadrise: 18 degrees
- HP Rating: 400
- Person Cap: 10/1695
The stylish design of any of Scout’s bay boats is both practical and user-friendly. If you like that blacked-out look, then inquire about the Midnight Edition and consider adding on some special tech devices.
Quick Tips: How To Narrow Down The Search
I have provided you with five of the best boats for shallow water, including four different types of boats. However, as you are sure about moving forward with your boat purchase, then I recommend you stop and ask yourself these questions:
- What is the intended use for your boat? (i.e., fishing, exploration, wildlife observation, leisure, watersports, or racing)
- Do you plan on carrying passengers?
- How vital are maneuverability and relative ease of operation? (Are you a newbie, or do you have some boating experience?)
- Does your boat need to be capable of carrying lots of gear and equipment (scuba, fishing, etc.)?
- Do you want cabin space for overnighters and camping trips?
- What are the associated storage, towing, and operation costs of a bigger vs. smaller boat (and engine)?
- What can you afford?
Maneuverability and access are critical to navigating shallow waters. With any of the five best boats mentioned in this article, I guarantee your satisfaction- please make sure you consider the questions posed in the Quick Tips to help you find the most suitable boat.
If you have any lingering questions or concerns, please feel free to leave them in the comment section below.
Joseph Fabiano is a writer, nature enthusiast, and stay-at-home father of two wild and free boys. He enjoys starting his day with a good run, hot mug of coffee, and a jump in the Ionian Sea, no matter the weather. Currently based in the Apuglia region of southern Italy, he enjoys discovering the world with his best traveling buddies (his little monkey’s and beautiful wife) at every given opportunity. Every trip, long or far, should be made an adventure according to Joseph as he believes inspiration and creation is right in front of you.