Shallow waters can be optimal feeding locations for many species of fish, and having the right fishing boat to navigate and ply them effectively is key. This roundup article contains the best fishing skiffs for 2022, taking into account a number of factors. Let’s take a look at the top contenders.
First we’ll cover what specific characteristics make a boat a great fishing skiff. These are relatively small (12-23 feet in length) open boats that are designed from the outset for fishing and navigating bays, marshes and coastal flats known for shallow waters and shifting sands, especially during low tides. Skiff boat design can vary significantly from larger skiffs (from builders like Carolina Skiff and Mako) to smaller technical flats skiff fishing boats designed for poling extremely shallow flats. The bottom of some skiffs can be almost completely flat, leading to minimum draft and maximum stealth in shallow waters, while others have a modified-V hull with a pronounced V shape in front and a wide, flatter bottom toward the transom – a hull design that is intended to give the shallowest draft while still providing a nice ride in moderate chop. Whether you plan on sight fishing or fly casting on the flats or in the bay, the best skiffs can put you right in the middle of the action.
Hewes Redfisher 16
Above: A 2022 Hewes Redfisher flats skiff for sale on Boat Trader by Bob Hewes Boats in Miami, FL. Photo by Bob Hewes Boats.
The Hewes Boats brand and name are synonymous with backcountry fishing and the uniquely Florida tradition of plying the flats. Robert Hewes, the founder of the Hewes Boats (or Bob Hewes Boats), pioneered the flats skiff genre and practically single-handedly invented the technical poling skiff by famously adding a platform on the stern of his flats boats. The company’s early wooden flats skiffs, known initially as the Bob Hewes Bonefishers, are still present in the DNA of any new Hewes vessel, and the company continues to be run by his family. On any given day there’s a good chance you’ll see more Hewes Boats fishing the flats and backcountry than all other flats boats brands combined, and for good reason.
The Hewes Redfisher 16 is designed with the VARIS construction model, which takes boatbuilding to another level and sets their skiffs apart from much of the competition. These boats have the “perfect resin-to-composite ratio”, which helps reduce their weight but increases their hull strength. These characteristics make Hewes boats incredibly easy to pole while still being extremely durable.
Because of the relatively wide-beam and a 15-degree transom deadrise, this model is extremely stable and rides high in choppy waters, so it won’t beat you up. The Hewes Redfisher 16 is thus a perfect platform for fishing inlets, passes, wide bays and oceanside flats, all-in-one. You’ll have a smooth ride to and from the flats, regardless of the water conditions.
A forward casting deck gives users plenty of room to work with, and there’s a ton of storage space. There are also convenient console racks to keep rigged poles within arm’s distance. The boat is also extremely easy to trailer and is small enough to make it accommodating to most spaces. You’ll definitely find it easy to fit this boat inside your garage.
Weight: 1,700 lbs.
Fuel: 32 gallons
Max HP: 115
View all Hewes Redfisher 16 boats for sale today on Boat Trader.
Maverick 18 HPX-V
Above: A 2022 Maverick 18 HPX-V flats skiff boat for sale on Boat Trader by Bob Hewes Boats in Miami, FL. Photo by Bob Hewes Boats.
Another flats skiff, the Maverick 18 HPX-V is extremely popular with flats anglers as well as backcountry guides, and sets the bar for the technical poling skiff category. This boat poles very well in shallow water while still having plenty of space and comfort for two anglers to spend the day aboard fishing. The additional room on the Maverick 18 HPX-V does allow for up to three anglers to cast comfortably in flats, passes, inlets, and beneath bridges (although, as with most dedicated technical poling skiffs, it’s still best suited for two – a guiding captain and an angler).
That said, the additional length of a foot longer over the company’s also very popular 17 HPX-V does allow this boat to track very well and gives her an even larger live-well capacity, providing for a fair size of onboard fish storage. There is 30-gallons available for large, live bait onboard this vessel.
This boat’s design allows it to climb over chop instead of plowing through it, making for a much smoother ride over choppy open bays to get to the far flung corners of the backcountry. The VARIS construction, Kevlar, and carbon fiber make this an extremely lightweight boat with a rigid and solid hull.
Weight: 1,460 lbs.
Fuel: 29 gallons
Max HP: 150
View all Maverick 18 HPX-V boats for sale right now on Boat Trader.
Above: A 2021 Yellowfin 17 skiff boat for sale on Boat Trader by Atlantic Yacht & Ship, Inc. in Dania Beach, FL. Photo via Atlantic Yacht & Ship.
The Yellowfin 17CE has a vacuum bag, and the injection molding process gives this boat a level of high-tech construction unmatched by others in its class. It’s also made with Kevlar, e-glass, and carbon fiber, all wrapped in a 1005 vinyl ester resin.
The hull is 20 percent lighter and much stronger than the model before this, giving it an average fuel burn of 7 mpg. Incredibly, the range on this skiff is over 150-miles, which is almost unheard of with other boats in its category. This boat delivers great value with a high level of durability
You’ll find this boat perfect for navigating shallow water, even fully loaded with three members on board. The design of this boat was tested thoroughly during endurance racing all around Florida.
Weight: 600 lbs.
Fuel: 22 gallons
Max HP: 115
View all Yellowfin 17CE boats for sale on Boat Trader now.
Mako Pro Skiff 17 CC
A tried-and-true classic, the Mako Pro Skiff 17 CC continues to be a very popular model all across the U.S. thanks in part to the fact that she packs in a ton of fishing features and fishability into a small, nimble package that also comes with a galvanized trailer and one of the best prices on the market. She’s a perfect starter boat, and an all-around versatile vessel that a small family can hop onboard for a cruise to the sandbar, while also providing an excellent platform for 2-3 anglers to spend an entire day aboard plying fairly shallow waters around the flats, marshes and bays.
The Pro Skiff 17 CC’s hull is filled with foam and bonded to the deck to create one unitized, solid structure with excellent flotation, making her a safe, sturdy vessel that can take a beating and provide years of reliable operation. Ideal for all types of inshore fishing, this is still considered one of the hardest working boats on the water in 2022.
Length: 17′ 2.5”
Beam: 6′ 11”
Bottom Width: 5′ 3”
Max. Recommended HP: 75 HP
Fuel Capacity: 6.6 gal.
Max. Person Capacity: 6 persons
Max. Person Weight: 1000 lbs.
Max. Person, Motor & Gear Weight: 1650 lbs.
Carolina Skiff 21 SWS
Above: A Carolina Skiff 21 SWS for sale on Boat Trader by Boaters World in Lake Placid, FL. Photo via Boaters World.
If you’re looking for a larger skiff while still retaining the skinny water capability, another battle-tested champion in the shallow water fishing world is the 2022 Carolina Skiff 21 SWS. She is the latest evolution in shallow water fishing machines from renowned builder Carolina Skiff who has been building skiff boats like these since the early 1980s. The 21 SWS is a boat specifically designed to reach the best shallow fishing areas in rivers, lakes, marshes, tidal flats and ponds and has an astoundingly minuscule draft of only 4 inches. That’s quite remarkable for a boat that is over 21 feet long! Plus she is packed with fishing features and amenities, including flush-mounted rod holders, a 25-gallon stern bait well, a removable 70-quart cooler and a wide-open deck for easy movement while fighting a fish.
The sturdy, self-bailing hull design utilizes gravity to pull any water toward strategically placed drainage points, making for a safe boat in various weather conditions including rainy days out on the water fishing. The 21 SWS can safely accommodate up to 12 people onboard, as well as providing for ample capacity when hauling traps or gear, all of which makes for a great platform for day-after-day of fishing and boating adventures.
Length (LOA): 21’ft 2″
Draft (approx): 4″
Gunnel Height: 19″
Boat Weight: 2,351 Lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 25 Gal.
Transom Size: 25″
Maximum Weight: 2,656 Lbs.
Maximum Person: 10
Maximum HP: 150HP
Cape Craft 19 V Skiff
Above: A 2022 Cape Craft 19 V for sale on Boat Trader by Champion Marine and Motors in Clearwater, FL. Photo via Champion Marine/Cape Craft Boats.
The Cape Craft 19 V may be the perfect size skiff boat out there. She’s the little sister of the Cape Craft 21 V skiff (also another great choice for the larger skiff lovers) and has a modified V-hull that allows for sharp turns, a smooth ride and access to almost anywhere where there is water. The boat features large rod storage boxes, foldable rear seating and casting platform, foredeck fish box, a full foam core composite hull, aerated livewell with high-speed pickup, horizontal rod holders and a trolling motor plug.
The 19 V features a space-saving cooler seat with backrest that combines comfort and convenient stowage. All upholstery is done in-house by Cape Craft’s highly skilled crew with some of the best materials available on-hand. All cushions are made using a stain-resistant vinyl and anti-microbial foam for long-term maintenance free use and bimini tops are created using a water-repellent fabric that water rolls off. The boat comes with a 10-year hull warranty from Cape Craft.
Beam: 7′ 10″
Weight: 1,760 lbs
Draft: 10 – 12″
Fuel Capacity: 38 gallons
Max HP: 115 HP
Transom Height: 25″
Hull Dead Rise: 9 deg
Max Persons: 8
XPLOR Boatworks X7
Above: A 2022 Xplor Boatworks X7 flats skiff for sale on Boat Trader in Islamorada, FL. Photo via Chief Marine Group.
The unique running design on this boat offers some standout characteristics and great fishability. This boat has integrated rails that take the force of the water, offering a smooth ride wherever your destination may be. This also channels away the water to knock down spray that can create noise to scare away fish.
There’s also a padded running surface on the longer hull, which provides additional lift and stability. The hull also extends far past the cap, allowing maximum room for a fishing area. This leaves room for three live-wells totaling a huge 86-gallon capacity.
The XPLOR Boatworks X7 is powered by a push pole, which makes turning easier than ever. There is also additional dry storage underneath the bench seating. You’ll also find additional rod storage on the under-gunwale racks that are very convenient.
Draft: 6” to 8.5”
Weight: 650 lbs.
Fuel: 28 gallons
Max HP: 115
Choosing The Right Size Fishing Skiff
First and foremost, when you’re deciding what fishing skiff to buy, consider how many people you’d like to be able to have aboard casting. If you want to be able to accommodate 3-4 anglers, you’ll want to look on the bigger side of the skiff realm – for boats over 18-19 feet, and preferably between 19-22 feet (such as the Carolina Skiff mentioned above). If you’re looking to do more technical poling with 1-2 anglers, you’ll want to go for the smallest size possible, while still making for a seaworthy vessel that can handle the open bays. Depending on how many people you plan on bringing aboard, there are plenty of fantastic options for fishing skiffs heading into the new year. With ranges from three-to-five seaters, you’ll be able to accommodate a wide range of parties and their cargo.
Larger Fishing Skiffs And Hybrid Bay Boats
The type of areas you’ll be able to fish can be broadened by larger skiff boat models and hybrid bay boats/skiffs, as many of them are efficient in flats, backcountry, and inlets. Additionally, nearly all of them are able to be propelled by push poles in some capacity, which is important when you’re idling over flats and don’t want to beat up or scare away the fish.
One thing is certain about fishing skiffs headed into 2022; the technological advances have made these boats far more versatile. The days of plain, flat-bottomed skiffs made simply for flats are far behind us, and the future and terrain are wide open!
See Flats Boats Overview: Shallow Saltwater Fishing Machines to learn more about flats skiffs and other boats designed for fishing the flats. Or, check out Best Shallow Water Fishing Boats to see some other hot new angling machines that can ply the shallows, but aren’t necessarily classified as flats skiffs.
This article was updated on 2/1/2022.
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