The price of fishing boats has gone through the roof, and today, it’s easy to spend more on a boat than you spend on your home – without even looking at those gigantic convertible sportfishers or quad-engine powerhouses. In fact, few builders have been able to keep their pricing down and searching for boats with a reasonable MSRP is a long and often fruitless journey. Here are three that I’ve found impressive, simply because they don’t force you to spend so much you feel insane (in alphabetical order).
1. Ameracat 31 – This is a brawny powercat that has the beef for offshore runs and open-water fishing. Some boats of this magnitude cost a quarter mil or more, but this one just breaks $100,000 with a pair of 300-hp ETECs on the transom. It rides amazingly well, goes over 50-mph, is built with bi- and tri-axial fabrics, and is cored in many areas with Airex foam panals. The down-side? It’s also very simplistic in design, with few of the cushy accouterments many modern powerboats feature. There’s not even a flat-screen TV in the console cabin – whatever shall we do!?
2. Crestliner 1860 Retriever – This aluminum rig comes dressed in full camo with tracks along the gunwale for mounting shell holders, dog ladders, rodholders, and more. It also comes with a beefy console, casting decks, and pedestal seats. If you want a fishboat that can also hunt, this one does the trick for around $15,000. I’d spend another couple grand to upgrade the stock 25-hp engine to a 50-hp powerplant if this were going to be my rig, but otherwise, it’s ready to roll right out of the box.
3. Mako Pro Skiff 17 – The Pro Skiff series (with 16′ and 17′ models) is one of the newest lines for Mako, and they designed these boats specifically to provide a low-price fishboat that would give bay anglers the abilities usually found in a bigger, more expensive boat. With an inverted V hull, cruising speeds in the mid-20′s, built-in rodholders, a small livewell, and fore and aft casting decks, this boat has everything you need to attack reds and specks. Meanwhile, the hull design works well in a chop and the ride is surprisingly smooth for a boat of its size. Yet it can be bought for about $15,000 including a trailer. Nice.