Buyers Guide to Aluminum or Fiberglass Fishing Boats…Which One to Choose

Fishing Boats Aluminum and Fiberglass…Lets Sort Them Out

Outboard powered fishing boats constructed in aluminum and fiberglass are white hot in the marketplace!  Fishing offers the family, or the dedicated angler fun, adventure and the challenge or the excitement of the hunt!  To find an activity that all members of the family value and enjoy can really make those family times and moments special.  Thinking about getting into fishing or perhaps now that you are hooked on fishing…want to up your game?  What species are you dreaming about getting hooked up with? Walleye…Bass…Pike…Salmon…Crappie or an apex predator like a Muskie?  Will you be fishing in protected waters or maybe thinking about the excitement of a 30 plus pound Salmon on the Great Lakes?

I started my fishing adventures on land fishing from shore….then my family bought a 12′ aluminum boat powered by a 6 HP outboard.  I felt like I was absolutely on top of the world and that boat and I went places that…now that I think about it….places I should not have ventured.  How many people do you know have gone under the Blue Water Bridge in Sarnia Ontario against an 8 knot current in between large freighters?  How about going over an 8′ plus waterfall on purpose….when your young….seemed like a good idea at the time….over was great…the bottom I have still not forgotten and it left a mark!  Anyway numerous boats later….I ended up in the marine business spending more time marketing and discussing fishing boats as well as working with our fishing team than actually fishing….I am going to fix that soon!

Lets get to it!  How many fresh water fishing boat types are there and how do I pick the right one for me and my family?  All this hype by the fishing shows and magazines about particular brands……make you  believe you really need a Bass Boat….I think…because they look so awesome.  Rooster tail going out perhaps a 100′ behind and 70 mph down the lake with the wind in my face….yikes that can be really cold and really scary.  My wife would hate that!  Do you think you need to spend perhaps 100K on a bass boat or something less deep into the bank account?

The 6 Main Types of Fishing Boats

Fishing boats come in many shapes, sizes and price ranges.  There are two distinct construction methods to build fishing boats.  Aluminum sheet construction either riveted or welded into shape or fiberglass construction technology.  Later we will spend a little time on the construction process of these methods and what you should consider in the purchase.  Right now the 6 main types of fishing machines are ( these are not necessarily in order for cost):

  • the utility boat
  • the side or dual console
  • the Bass boat
  • the Walleye boat
  • the big water or Salmon boat
  • the pontoon fishing boat

What are the features, advantages and disadvantages of each type?  Can any or all types be used for multiple species and water conditions?  Good questions….lets fill in the gaps.

The Utility Boat….Simple down and Dirty Fishing

For years every cottage had one of these boats and for many families this was the family boat.  Times have changed and the simple utility boat is not as popular as years gone by.  Utility boats are normally made of aluminum sheeting riveted together into  a hull shape.  Fiberglass or steel are also around but the weight really becomes an issue as these materials may make the boat 2 or 3 times heavier and it you are lift loading this….watch out and book the Chiropractor.  Utility boats range in size form the very small 10′ model to the car topper 12 or 14′, deeper and heavier 14′ and 16′ models to the whopper 18′.  Normally the utility boat has been designed with bench seats across from the port to starboard sides connecting the sides for added rigidity.  The flat floor would be an option that adds weight but makes walking in one of these less of an adventure due to the raised ribs on the inside of the hull added to strengthen up the bottom.

Advantages of the Utility Boat

  • Cost…cheapest fishing boat you can purchase
  • Shallow draft means you can chase the fish into the shallows
  • Rugged will take a beating…will show the wear and tear but keep on going
  • Lightweight for lifting or trailering concerns
  • perhaps the lowest maintenance boat you can own
  • great for kids or a working boat

Disadvantages of the Utility Boat

  • Comfort is not built into the package especially as we get older
  • Stability on the water and at the dock…tend to be tippy
  • no weather protection and not suitable in rough waters due to flat bottoms…not where you want to be in over 12′ waves
  • suitable for light loads and normally max 3 full size adults…you do not want to overload this type of boat…check the weight rating before you buy
  • not meant for distance or speed
  • will be wet in waves…spray can be annoying
  • difficult to set up with electronics as well as some of the must have fishing add of such as trolling motors
  • no storage…everything is on the floor ready to be stepped on
  • no sun protection….a boat top is not in the cards here

What Species Do We Hunt With a Utility 

Bearing in mind that a utility is a protected water boat or in other words calm waters…small inland lakes or rivers… this in itself restricts the utility to the pursuit of :

  • Walleye
  • Bass
  • Pike
  • Perch, Crappie or Sunfish

 What to Look For When Buying a Utility Boat

Historically the most popular size has been a 14′ model…bare bones with no flat floor or lights.  Over the last few years the aspect of having the additional security and comfort of a flat floor has entered into the buying decision.  When the flooring is added normally that means that a trailer is going to be purchased as well as for most of us the additional weight added with the floor means we will not be manhandling the utility on and off a vehicle or the back of a truck.

Due to the thinness of the aluminum sheeting utilized during construction, most utility boats are riveted at the seems.  It is difficult to get nice welds on thin sheets of aluminum without distortion and wavy seams.  The battle rages on which riveting or welding is best for aluminum boats….at this level that conversation is really of no bearing.  The conversation does concern the quality and number of rivets at the seams as well the number of keels or added aluminum chines added to the bottom of the utility boat.  Look for the following traits when deciding which utility to purchase:

  • Are you looking for a shallow very light weight car topper or a more substantial deeper sides with added sturdy keels
  • paint on the interior as an unpainted interior can be like sitting on a mirror in the sun
  • seats or benches at a comfortable height for sitting
  • a split rear bench at the stern makes operation of a tiller outboards much more enjoyable
  • take note of the beam or width…narrow is tippy and essentially impossible to stand up in
  • a thick sturdy keel
  • best aluminum grades for construction are 5XXX either H34 or H36…my opinion H34 is the right choice

For more information on aluminum construction and types take at moment to review the following link:  Aluminum Fishing Boats For Sale , H36 or H34 Aluminum Which is Best?

Next we move up the scale and we get deeper into your pocket boat with side or dual consoles.

Looking for some great fishing tips and information check out Justfishaddicts.com