Buyers Guide to Aluminum or Fiberglass Fishing Boats…Which One to Choose Part 2

Thinking about purchasing an aluminum or fiberglass constructed fishing boat for the family?  Welcome to Boater’s Chat and the continuing series on purchasing aluminum or fiberglass built fishing boats at The Toronto Boat Show or during the boating season!  In the first article we covered the Utility series with its strengths and weaknesses….now we move on to the side console, dual console and walk through windshield models….the meat of the fishing boat wish list!

Side, Dual Consoles or Walk Through Windshield Fishing Boats

The largest genre in  terms of available models by all boat builders in boat aluminum and fiberglass construction.  As we get started consider these concerns and traits first:

  • Does your family want environmental protection from cool temperatures, spay and rain…if so then go directly to a Walk Through Windshield model.  The small low rise bubble windshields on side and dual consoles are not going to offer much in the way of protection in the Canadian climate plus it is essentially impossible to add a full top with sides/aft curtain.  Walk through models in fiberglass are available from Skeeter or Ranger and aluminum models such as the very well respected Fish Hawk series by Crestliner.
  • If maximum cockpit space is the prime decision concern,  then consider either side console or dual console the one for you.  Builders such as Crestliner, G 3, Lund and Princecraft all provide these models in different lengths.

If big water fishing is where its at for you, then size and weight matter.  Big water fishing machines will provide superior ride and comfort with the increased weight of a fiberglass lamination over tradional aluminum fishing boats.  Fiberglass fishing boat over 19 feet centerline length available from boat builders such as Skeeter, Ranger or Boston Whaler.   Out west, heavy gauge ( 1.25 to 2.00 Ml thickness) with its increased weight and inherent strength over light gauge (normally considered 1.00 ML thickness or less) fishing machines are gaining in popularity.  Kingfisher Boats, Duckworth, Custom Build are industry respected heavy gauge aluminum builders.  Kingfisher has a growing following in Ontario as a heavy gauge full featured rough water capable fishing machine.

Then there is the conversation welded versus riveted.  Staying out of which is stronger the fact remains that welded boats offer a superior rough water rider due to the ability to weld together a more complex running surface.  It can also be said that welded aluminum boats with their normally wider outer negative chines will offer the family a drier ride in rough water conditions.  Generally a similar sized fiberglass fishing boat will be 10 to 15% heavier that an comparable aluminum fishing boat.  I have not seen a true double rivet boat in years…too expensive….now you get opposed rivet or in other words zigzag stitched rivets.   In the rivet wars G3 for example can have twice the size and rivets of Lund Boats a very well known brand.  Also very important to remember it is not what the boat builder utilized as construction 5, 10 or 20 years ago…it is what are they utilizing now!  Another important point is who is actually building the hull….it appears that Legend may in fact not build their hulls but have SmokerCraft or Starcraft or whoever they contract to build the hull to their requirements.  Brands such as Lund, Crestliner, G3 and Princecraft build their own hulls and interiors.

Side, dual or walk through windshield fishing boats start at 14′ centerline and can reach  25′ when we add center consoles to this division.  Center consoles are very popular in the southern United States particularly in the intercostal waterways of Florida.  Center Consoles with the command station amidships dead center provide a dead center weight balance situation in combination with unobstructed ability to walk 360 degrees around the command station not possible in other designs.  Center console are popular fishing boats in the southern United States with some limited usage here in Ontario.  Cold weather exposure is a problem.

Side or Dual Consoles

Crestliner Boats, Lund, Princecraft, Kingfisher, StarCraft, Legend and G3 to name a few of the more consumer recognized brands all offer models as dual or side console.  Most open aluminum boats under 19′ start as a side console with the dual or port console being an available option.  The side and dual console checks all the boxes for the majority of  first time fishing boat buyers….why….price!  The 16′ and 17′ aluminum side and dual console can be very fishing feature packed and can provide memorable fishing adventures in protected waters on weather friendly days.  Features that are standard for can be optioned on the side and dual console can include:

  • Secure rod storage…an enclosed rod holder compartment is best…check the length of rods it will handle and just how many.
  • Live wells and/or bait wells….a must for keeping the trophy fish and bait healthy.   Sizes and capacities vary….note requirements for tournaments
  • 2 main formats….Bass and Walleye style. The boat can be species tailored.
  • Ability to have bow mount trolling motors by MinnKota or Motorguide as well one or multiple fishfinder by Garmin or Hummingbird or Lowrance.

Bass Boat or Walleye Boat….Which is Right for You

One of the major differences to consider when choosing a species specific model is where you are going to fish.  Bass both small and largemouth tends to be weed bed oriented in protected waters.  Walleye tends to be in rougher water areas and frequently non protected big water situations.

Bass boat models have little to no appreciable freeboard or a very limited distance of the top of the hull above the water surface.  By design Bass boats have a large bow and rear casting platforms as flip casting or bait casting into wed beds is a proven Bass tactic. The drivers cockpit area is minimal in size.  Console protection is minimal and live wells are maximum sizing to provide safe refuse for that catch back to the weigh station.  Bass boats are not considered family friendly or water sports oriented at all.  If kids are going to be on board a safety harness should be considered and the family will generally find the Bass boat cold….very cold!  Bass boats typically have big outboard power and can reach speeds in excess of 80MPH.

The Walleye Boat is featured differently.  Front and rear casting platforms are not as large as a Bass style and the cockpit is larger in length providing more of a protected area behind a windshield.  One of the major difference is the freeboard or hull side height above the water.  From a few inches to a foot above the water surface for a Bass model to 2 feet or more in a Walleye style.  Walleye fishing is frequently in rougher seas with waves being more of a concern with regards to safety and comfort.  Live wells may be larger with no on deck rod storage unlike Bass Boat models with their expansive bow deck which can secure multiple rods to the deck.  The Walleye boat has more secure under deck rod storage  only usually between the windshields at floor level.

Fiberglass or Aluminum….Which One?

An interesting question!  For the last decade aluminum boats have ruled the seas primarily due to cost…as in less expensive.  In 2018 fiberglass fishing machines from Skeeter can in more than a few cases be less expensive that aluminum when considering a fishing boat over 17 feet in length.  At the time of writing of this article in January 2018 a very dark storm cloud hangs over the horizon for sheet aluminum built boats.  As most boats are built in the USA…right now the United States is considering adding a duty in the area of 25% on imported Chinese aluminum sheets.  This is a similar spat to the softwood duties placed against Canadian softwood exports entering the United States in 2017 which continue in place.  The 25% duty could amount to a plus $2,000 to most recreational aluminum fishing boats.  More to follow in the next article…see you soon!

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