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From the SIERRA Experts

10 Design Features on Serious Saltwater Fishing Boats

A white center console fishing boat with a Suzuki motor

Many people purchase a boat to enjoy the sport of fishing. You can fish from almost any kind of boat. But a dedicated saltwater fishing boat is usually packed with features to help you land a trophy and manage your gear. These are ten design features and amenities that are hallmarks of serious saltwater fishing rigs.

1: Fishing Boats Provide Room to Move

Fishing boats place a premium on open cockpit space with plenty of elbow room for anglers to cast, move around the cockpit and fight fish. For this reason, sportfishing boats often feature center console, dual-console, or walkaround layouts that permit fishermen to move up to the bow to cast or follow fish, with minimal cockpit space allotted to seating, lounging, or other non-fishing activities.

2: Fishing Rod Holders Galore

There’s one thing a great fishing boat can’t have too much of — rod holders. Look for under-gunwale horizontal rod racks that will fit rods of the length you prefer to use. A well-appointed fishing boat should also have plenty of rocket launcher-type rod holders built into the gunwales, for use while trolling, drift fishing, or kite fishing. There should also be vertical rod storage behind the helm seat or leaning post, across the T-Top, and perhaps even on the T-Top support posts.

3: Live Bait Tanks 

Boat builders are getting better at including decently sized and properly shaped and plumbed live bait systems as standard equipment. The best live bait tanks are taller than they are wide, to minimize sloshing, and have rounded corners to keep bait from banging into the walls. Proper plumbing is also important. Regardless of the size of the tank, it should be plumbed fill up from empty and replace the entire water volume in about seven minutes.

4: Fishing Boats Have Easy-to-Clean Cockpits

Fishing is messy work. Slime, blood, and fish scales are going to get under your feet, on the deck, and throughout the cockpit. A simple fiberglass deck that can be easily hosed off during the day and washed with soap and bleach at the end of the trip will help you keep your rig clean. The deck should have a simple non-skid surface to provide adequate footing when the trip gets messy.

5: Raw Water Washdown

A raw-water washdown hose on your boat makes it easy to keep things rinsed off throughout the day. Maintaining a clean cockpit throughout the day can prevent anglers from slipping and falling on a moving deck. Removing dirt and grime before it has a chance to dry on surfaces or get ground into the cockpit sole will make clean up much easier at the end of the day. Most fishing boats have large scuppers that allow even large amounts of water and dirt to quickly flow overboard.

6: Cockpit Coaming Pads

Cockpit coaming pads are common on saltwater fishing boats. You’re likely to be fishing on your feet most of the day, getting tossed around by waves and banging into the sides of the boat. Having padding around the entire perimeter of the cockpit can help prevent body injuries. Big gamefish like tuna, billfish, and sharks will put up a fight. Having some extra padding between your body and the boat will go a long way to preventing bruised knees and thighs.



7: Transom or Gunwale Gate

Many modern fishing boats are designed with an entry gate built into the transom or right into the actual side of the hull. This not only makes it easy for passengers to enter and exit the boat when at the dock, but it also provides a way to get extra-large gamefish onto the deck without having to physically lift them over the rail.   

8: Insulated Fish Storage

Whether you pull those big gamefish through the gate or lift them over the rail, you’ll need a way to keep them cold and fresh throughout the day to preserve the meat. Portable ice chests take up a lot of room and can slide around the deck in rough weather. Built-in, insulated fish boxes that drain overboard are an important feature for any serious fishing machine. These can be built into the transom, under the cockpit sole, or in some cases, take the shape of large boxes found in the bow of popular offshore center consoles like SeaVeeContenders, and Yellowfin.

9: Built-In Tackle Storage

A good fishing boat design should include plenty of built-in storage to keep your terminal tackle and accessories organized and out of the way. The best designs include pull-out drawers with built-in compartments so you can keep hooks, sinkers, lures, pliers, line, leader spools, knives, and other important equipment clean and dry. 

10: Pop Up Cleats

Cleats that push down flush with the gunwale but pop up when needed are small features that can make big differences. Regular cleats can snag fishing lines and cause errant casts or broken-off fish. This is particularly important for anglers who are into fly fishing and must manage their loose line when making false casts and presenting a fly to feeding fish from a boat.

Think about these features when shopping around for a saltwater fishing boat that fits your needs and budget. A boat that has many or all these design features will likely keep you satisfied over a lifetime of angling pursuits.


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