We review hundreds of new pleasure boats and dozens of new fishing boats every year, we send our editors to the major boat shows in both America and Europe, we attend dealer meetings and marine press events, and then most of us at boats.com spend our off-days on boats. The bottom line: we see a LOT of boats. Which one will be best for you is a matter of personal preference, but every year there are some true stand-outs that grab our attention, and hold it. Chances are, fishing boats like the 10 on this list are going to be of interest to you, too. So here they are (ordered by size), 10 top fishing boats of 2013.
1. Princecraft Nanook DLX WS – Inland anglers, take note: the Princecraft Nanook DLX WS was created to fish, period. Of course, plenty of boats are. But this one’s a stand-out because it comes with major-league goodies like a fishfinder, trolling motor, onboard battery charger, a trailer, and even maximum power (a 115-hp four-stroke outboard) at the exceedingly reasonable price of under $25,000. You won’t find many all-inclusive deals this good, and Princecraft doesn’t skimp where it counts; this boat has a full windshield, double-plating from amidships forward, and a 34-gallon livewell. Sure, the boat is small at 16’6”, the console is rotomolded and the glovebox lid is plastic. But these are hardly fatal flaws, and considering the cost, you get an amazing bang for your buck with the Nanook.
2. Maverick HPXV II – You want to carve out hair-pin turns at close to 50-mph, weave your way through the mangroves, and blast across shallow bays that are barely ankle-deep? Then the Maverick HPXV II is your flats boat fantasy. Actually, this is a “technical poling skiff,” designed to be poled through the shallows as you search for bonefish, reds, and tarpon. It’s constructed with vacuum-infused carbon and Kevlar, which gives it a shockingly low dry weight of 750 pounds. We describe driving it as thrilling—and bet that you will, too.
3. Pioneer 220 Bay Sport –
It’s a classic conundrum for bay boat owners who also like fishing outside of the inlet when the weather allows: just how much shallow-water ability are you willing to trade-off, to get more offshore aptitude? The Pioneer 220 Bay Sport doesn’t force you to give up much—draft is 1’1” and though the raised casting decks are smaller than they might be they’re still present and accounted for. Meanwhile, Pioneer adds to this boat’s bluewater appeal with construction that’s exceedingly rugged. The foam used to fill the stringers and belowdeck voids is extra-dense 2.3-lb closed-cell, the reverse-cap deck is bonded to the hull while it’s still in the mold, and Pioneer backs it up with a limited lifetime structural hull warranty.
4. Regulator 25 –
When it comes to all-out competence and rough-weather abilities in a 25-foot hull, the Regulator is going to be tough to beat. Really, really tough. This model replaces the epic Regulator 26, and offers some significant improvements: a flush deck, a 408-quart locker that can be fitted with rodracks, and a newly-designed Lou Codega hull that maintains the 26’s 24-degrees of transom deadrise but attains 2.0 MPG while cruising at over 30 MPH with a pair of twin F200 Yamahas. It’s built exactly like the 26 was – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – and although this boat is on the (very) expensive side, past history shows that Regulators maintain their resale value better than most competitors.
5. Pathfinder 2600 HPS Bay Crusher –
When it comes to bay boats, the Pathfinder 2600 is the king. When we tested this boat it was blowing a stiff 15 knots and the ocean was churned up with three and four footers, which would make it off-limits to 99-percent of the bay boats on the water. Yet the ride was both comfortable and dry. Yes, this boat is a bit large to maneuver through back-country cuts and channels. Sure, it costs a lot more than the average bay boat. But this thing just plain kicks butt—if you want the biggest, baddest bay boat being built, look no farther.
6. Belzona 325 Center Console –
It’s rare to see a new boatbuilder bust onto the scene with as many original features as the Belzona 325. The most unusual? The entire aft gunwale is on tracks, and it slides aft to open up a gaping three-foot section for easy access to the water. They call it a “dive door,” we call it big enough to drag in your world-record-sized giant bluefin tuna. Another unique item is the house’s reverse-raked design. Sure, you’ve seen a reverse-rake before, but have you ever seen one with curves like this? Gigantic fishboxes, an air-conditioned helm, and a refrigerator in the leaning post are a few of the other items that make the Belzona one of a kind.
7. Everglades 355 T – Can you argue with 1,050 horses, propelling a 9,500-pound fiberglass hunk-a-love through the open ocean at 63.1-mph? We don’t think so. Will you find fault with Everglade’s RAMCAP construction method, in which fiberglass is laid around pre-formed foam cores so they bond together to create a true single-piece monocoque structure? Uh-uh, especially not after experiencing the rock-solid feeling underfoot when charging through rough seas. Is there anyone who would care to criticize the monster tackle station in this boat, which has 10 drawers, bulk stowage, leader spool racks, a sink, a cutting board, and an integrated fold-out fighting chair? Forgeddaboudit. Warning: When you see the Everglades 355T up close and personal, slack-jawed drooling may occur.
8. Boston Whaler 350 Outrage - The newest Outrage in legendary builder Boston Whaler’s line-up, the 350 will fill your needs when you’re in search of a mega-sized center console fishboat that can do double duty as a cocktail cruiser. For the dedicated fish-heads, Whaler has included all the angling goodies including a 40-gallon livewell that’s engineered as good as it gets, with a baby-blue interior, rounded corners, and red LED lighting inside. For their spouse and family it has a gigantic forward console seat that’s more accurately called a lounge, an optional “summer kitchen” with a built-in electric grill, bow seating with folding arm-rests, and a gigantic air-conditioned console cabin. Best of all, despite its size this boat is still built with Whaler’s trademark unsinkable construction method.
9. Ocean Yachts 37 Express – Even though this is one of the smallest new models we’ve seen from Ocean Yachts in years, it’s also one of the best. Maybe that’s because of the fact that it rides as well as some of their much larger models; on test-day we cruised for over 50 miles in three foot seas, and it felt more like we were on a 40-something than a 30-something. Or, maybe some of the credit should go to the fact that the bridgedeck is so roomy that seven of us managed to stay dry when a storm suddenly broke out. Of course, we also need to consider the wide-open cockpit with a monster in-deck fishbox swallowed up our 40-pound Yellowfin tuna like it was a baitfish. Nah—it’s no one of these things, all of them put together that make the Ocean Yachts 37 a real winner.
10. Jim Smith 105 – You’ll love this fishboat whether you’re a one-percenter or a dreamer—either way, the Jim Smith 105 is certainly a boat made for fantasies. In fact, we’re still fantasizing about testing it. This yacht—let’s call it what it is—has seven staterooms and seven heads, gyroscopic stabilizers, a fuel capacity of 3,300 gallons, and outriggers that are longer than any other boat mentioned in this article. While we shudder at the thought of tracking fish blood into the cabin of this glass-over-wood work of art, we sure would like to crank up a wahoo or two from this cockpit. Are you listening, Mr. One Percent?
Here are last year’s choices: Top 10 Fishing boats of 2012.