Bay Boats: For Serious Anglers (And Their Families)

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These days it seems like boats just keep getting bigger and bigger, without any chance of slowing down. That can be overwhelming for someone who wants the ease of trailering their boat, or doesn’t want to be tied to a marina. Those who do a lot of fishing alone, or have small families may not want or need a very large boat to just get on the water. Don’t worry, if this is you, I have the perfect suggestion: a bay boat!

Bay boats are some of the best small boats around. These vessels are normally compact enough to trailer from your home to the marina or dock but have enough deck space to host a crowd. Their size makes them easy for one or two people to manage, so that you don’t have to worry about having several deckhands work together to get it on and off the trailer. That means, the captain or first mate can handle all the work, while everyone else sits back and relaxes.

The size of the bay boat also helps limit the cost of owning a vessel. When you can store your boat in your home or garage, you save on storage or marina costs. These boats also cost less to fuel, which means cost of ownership is accessible for anyone who wants to get on the water.

Can Bay Boats Leave the Bay? Where Else Can You Use Them?

When it comes to the bay boat, the opportunities for adventure are nearly endless. These small-to-mid sized boats are compact enough to be trailered to all your favorite spots, which makes them the perfect road-trip accessory. All you have to do is hook up the trailer and go!

Many avid campers love bringing their bay boat as they travel so they can enjoy exclusive waterways and remote fishing spots. Trailering your boat can also save you some time when it comes to getting up river to teeming hatcheries or secluded coves. This accessibility means that if you’re looking for a unique boating experience, you definitely need to consider a bay boat.

The one caveat to consider is, that while bay boats are perfect for salt and sweetwater venues, they may not be the best-equipped boat for offshore excursions. Their small size means that they can get tossed around in heavy seas, which is a safety concern. This boat does its best in protected waterways with smooth seas. If you’re looking for a boat that handles the ocean better, consider a V-bottom boat that’s at least 21 feet long. Boats longer than 21 feet are able to handle larger rolling waves a bit better, and keep all occupants safe and secure during a day on the water.

Are Bay Boats Only Good for Fishing?

If a boat is good for fishing, it’s usually good for many other activities. When fishermen are looking for an ideal boat, they want one that’s open, with plenty of room for tackle, coolers, rods, and friends. Those attributes make a boat perfect for entertaining and sharing with the family. That’s why bay boats are one of our favorite boats for families, friends, and everyone in between.

When you have a lot of people on board, they usually have a lot of stuff. Bay boats have ample space on-board so that everyone can bring their must-have items. From diaper bags to beach toys and even stand-up paddleboards, you can fit everyone, and everything, on a bay boat.

Even better, these boats are easy to keep clean. No-stress, no-mess fiberglass flooring is perfect for repelling drops, spills, and all of life’s other little accidents. If you’d like a little more comfort, these boats are easy to upgrade with carpeting or foam floor covering, so you can always cruise in luxury.

Bay Boats vs. Center Consoles

At first blush, you might think that bay boats are just center consoles by another name. This is partially true. Bay boats are actually a subset of center console boats. Both of these vessels feature an open deck plan with plenty of room for gear, including rods, tackle, and people. However, there are some significant differences between these two vessels that will help you tell them apart.

The biggest difference between center consoles and bay boats is primarily the size. Bay boats tend to be smaller than center consoles. They also tend to have shorter sidewalls, and a shallower draft, which makes them ideal for inland boating where there are calmer waters. Inland waterways also tend to be shallow, which benefits the small draft of a bay boat.

The other significant feature that will help you tell these two boats apart is the casting deck. Bay boats will usually have an elevated section in the bow of the boat that helps anglers cast while fishing. This is also a great place to socialize. Center consoles tend to not have casting decks, and instead have a single level throughout the whole boat.

What About Hybrid Bay Models?

Hybrid bay boat models tend to be a mix between classic center consoles and bay boats. These boats are for people who may occasionally want to go offshore fishing safely, while also piloting a boat comfortably in shallower, calmer waters. These boats may have higher freeboards that help them fend off rogue waves, and small casting decks perfect for getting a little extra distance while fishing. They also tend to have extra engines, for extra horsepower, and a transom doorway for getting on and off the boat easily.

Best Bay Boat Brands


With a range of boats that include bass boats and deep-V center consoles, it only makes sense that Skeeter would offer bay boats, so you can get the best of both worlds. Skeeter is known as a performance fishing boat manufacturer, which means you’ll get plenty of power and capability in your vessel. With boats ranging in size from 21 to 25 feet, and models specialized for socializing and fishing, you’ll definitely find the boat that’s right for you.

Skeeter Bay Boats More

Blazer Bay

Blazer is a fishing boat company built by fishing aficionados, for fishing aficionados. With a line of bass boats and bay boats, this company specializes in inland fishing vessels that will get you into the shallows where the best fish are hiding. Blazer even offers a 27’ hybrid bay boat that’s perfect for those who want a boat that can go anywhere and do anything.


As one of the most well known boat builders for inland and offshore boating, Ranger Boats knows what its customers expect when they buy a bay boat. That’s why they offer vessels with some of the best engines on the market. The company's line of 26’ bay boats come with Mercury Verado 400 XL motors, which are known for their speed and impeccable performance.

Sea Hunt

When most people think of Sea Hunt, they don’t usually think of bay boats. This company is primarily known for its center consoles and offshore fishing vessels. However, that doesn’t mean that Sea Hunt doesn’t know how to make a fantastic bay boat. With a limited line of boats between 22 and 25 feet in length, Sea Hunt pulls out all the stops to ensure you get a luxurious vessel. In fact, Sea Hunt promises that its boats come with the most standard features of any boat in its price range, which makes them perfect for those who want to buy a boat with incredible value.

Sea Hunt Bay Boats More


If you’ve seen a Tidewater boat, you’ve probably seen a center console. This manufacturer makes some of the most well-known fishing boats around. However, they also have an impressive line of bay boats which comes with an option for almost everyone. From the affordable 19 foot Bay Max to the impressive 25 foot TPC Raptor, you can find the exact boat you need from Tidewater. Even better, since these boats have such lasting name recognition, you’ll absolutely get a return on your investment if you choose to sell it after years of use.


As the only manufacturer that builds exclusively bay boats, Pathfinder knows exactly what bay boat owners want out of a vessel. That means they pack everything you’d expect and need in their boats. The lineup opens with the 2005 TRS, a 20-foot SUV-style vessel that maximizes versatility. They also feature many hybrid vessels that give you everything you’d expect from an industry-leading boat that can go anywhere and do anything.

Cape Horn

When a company is renowned for its center consoles and offshore fishing boats, it’s no surprise that they’d create one of the best bay boats on the market. Cape Horn’s 23 foot Cape Bay fishing boat is perfect for someone who’s looking for an amazing boat to get on the water. The Cape Bay is an excellent hybrid bay boat that can handle whatever kind of fishing you love to do. The deep-v of the boat handles offshore cruising capably, but is also streamlined and stealthy for shallow water. This boat does it all.

Key West

Key West has been making some of the best fishing boats since 1986, giving the company the experience it needs to make a capable and fun series of bay boats. This company has a vessel for everyone, from an affordable 18-foot model, to a luxurious and capable 25-foot option. Key West calls their vessels “bay reef” boats, highlighting their shallow draft which makes them perfect for cruising over shallow water or near reefs, so you can always find the fish where they’re hiding.

Best Places to Get on the Water

With a boat as trailerable and easy-to-operate as a bay boat, you definitely want to make sure you make the most of all the best fishing and vacation spots. When it comes to making the most of your bay boat, consider bringing it down to these nautical retreats.

There’s nothing like cruising up and down Florida’s intracoastal waterway. This salt-water highway runs just inside the east coast of Florida, providing a unique way to see some of the best that the Sunshine State has to offer. There are several drive-up bars along the way from Miami to Fort Lauderdale that you can’t miss, and even hotels where you can park your boat and stay for an evening, providing you an idyllic vacation opportunity.

There are also plenty of must-see lakes and camping spots where you can enjoy your bay boat, including Lake Havasu in Arizona, Lake Cumberland in Kentucky, Shasta in California, and Mead in Nevada. These are some of the most well-known interior boating locations, and you don’t want to miss them!

If you’ve got premier fishing on your mind, you definitely want to make sure you take your bay boat to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Cape Cod Bay is perfect for catching striped bass, blue fish, and fluke and other fish perfect for dinner, or just a day of making memories.

Now that you’ve heard all the wonderful things about bay boats, what are you waiting for? The perfect vessel is out there, you just have to find it. Find the best bay boat for you today at