Freshwater fishing boats take many forms ranging from teched-out bass boats to simple Jon boats, but with all those options it can be tough to figure out which are the best to choose from. Truth be told, what constitutes “best” is quite subjective, since different anglers have different needs and priorities. Still, no matter who you are nor how you do your fishing, there’s an excellent chance that one of these top 10 picks will fit the bill for your angling needs.
Crestliner 1660 Retriever
Anglers looking for a simple, straightforward Jon boat that offers either tiller steering or (in the SC version) a forward console with controls, will want to check out the Crestliner 1660 Retriever. This boat can also straddle the line between fishing and hunting boats, and can be had in plain green or multiple camo patterns. The hull is all welded 0.10” gauge aluminum, the extruded keel runs the boat’s full 16’ length, maximum horsepower is 40, and there’s bench seating for four plus a pedestal base in the elevated bowdeck. A relatively low price point, low operational expenses, and easy maintenance mean this boat will prove attractive to a huge number of freshwater anglers.
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Lowe SF 212
Hardcore anglers probably won’t choose a pontoon boat as their fishing machine, but for many family fishermen who ply lakes and inland waterways and want the flexibility to fish one day and pull tow tubes the next, a pontoon boat can be the ideal choice. The Lowe SF 212 is perfect for this sort of multitasking with features like plenty of comfy seating on three couches plus two swiveling seats and an optional fishing station that houses rodholders and a livewell. Factory-installed bow-mounted trolling motors and fishfinders are also among the offerings. Plus, the SF 212 still enjoys all the goodies usually found on family-oriented pontoon boats, like tons of stowage under the seats, a nine-foot Bimini top, and a four-step boarding ladder.
For more information on pontoon boats, including fishing pontoons, see Pontoon Boats: A Comprehensive Guide.
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Lund 189 Pro-V GL
The Lund 189 Pro-V GL is designed to handle the big waters that many walleye anglers prowl, with a deep-V entry, a tall protective windshield, and a 2’3” cockpit depth. The fiberglass hull has the Lund IPS design (version 3) with integrated strakes, reverse chines, and large footprint, producing excellent stability and speeds up into the 50-mph range when powered with a 200-hp outboard. And while this isn’t an inexpensive boat, it is a fishing machine that’s rigged to the teeth with goodies like Pro Ride seats on Air Ride pedestals, a four-bank battery charger, integrated tackle rod stowage, a lighted livewell, and a Rockford Fosgate stereo system. Walleye anglers looking for a top-shelf fiberglass offering in a compact, easy to tow package will want to check this one out.
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Ranger Comanche Z521L
Competitive bass anglers looking for the best performance around will be checking out the Ranger Comanche Z521L. It’s an absolute top-shelf model (and is priced accordingly) with luxury touches including handmade bucket seats on Soft Ride bases, a padded front deck, tilt hydraulic steering, and flush-mount remote throttle control. Every detail has been addressed on this boat, right down to power-venting the rodboxes so your rigs don’t sit in moist compartments. The package comes with a custom-matched trailer and a 250-hp outboard standard, which puts speeds in the upper-60s. If you want to go 70-plus, you can opt up to a 300-hp powerplant.
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Smoker Craft 2072 Sportsman
For some anglers having the maximum amount of elbow room is the top priority, and in that case, the Smoker Craft 2072 Sportsman is just what you’re looking for. The 2072 features a wide-open layout, is available in tiller or console steering versions, and has a wave-eating deep-V entry with a 10-degree transom deadrise hull. Fishing features include rodholders and tackle tray stowage. Otherwise this is a very simple, straightforward, utilitarian model, which means maintenance and clean-up will always be a breeze.
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Thunder Jet 210 Luxor and Luxor Limited
While it’s a specialized boat with less versatility than many freshwater fishing rigs, the Thunder Jet 210 Luxor (and the Luxor Limited edition) will be a top pick for anglers charging through areas where striking rocks or logs is a distinct possibility. Along with the jet drive, the boat features an unusually thick 0.190” 5086 aluminum hull bottom and 0.125” thick hullsides, plus a 0.250” thick transom. Additional strength comes from fully-welded box stringers and a continuously welded heavy duty keel guard. If you fish in waterways that common boats simply can’t handle, the uber-rugged Thunder Jet will be a top pick.
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Tracker Pro Team 190 TX
Finding a reasonably-priced bass boat that offers good performance and a long list of standard features is not easy in this day and age, but the Tracker Pro Team 190 TX proves it is still possible. The boat-motor-trailer package costs less than most moderately priced new cars, but includes a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard that gets you speeds in the mid-40s, a 21-gallon livewell, a 55-pound-thrust electric trolling motor, a Lowrance Hook5 fishfinder, a two-bank battery charger, a pair of folding fishing seats, an integrated tackle organizer, and rod stowage boxes for up to 16 rigs. In other words, it has everything you need to get serious about bass fishing at a very reasonable cost.
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Triton 206 Allure
For many anglers pleasing the entire family will be just as important as catching fish, and for them, there are “fish-n-ski” models like the Triton Allure 206. It’s rated for a whopping 250 horses so pulling a water skier out of the hole is no problem, and the Family Package gets you a ski-tow bar plus bow cushions, snap-in cockpit carpet, and a Bimini top. Additional kid-pleasers include a Clarion stereo system, 12-V accessory plugs, and lighted cupholders. Don’t think for a moment that the boat isn’t armed for fishing, though. Stock equipment includes a pair of livewells, rod lockers, a Lowrance Hook 5 fishfinder, a Minn Kota Terrova 80 electric trolling motor with iPilot, and an onboard three-bank battery charger.
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The Vexus DVX20 might look like a sport boat at first glance, but under that slick exterior lies the heart of a multi-species freshwater fishing machine. Inside a package built with infused composite construction you’ll find a layout designed for applications ranging from bass fishing to big-water trolling, with an elevated forward casting deck, integrated tackle stowage, an aerated livewell, room for a pair of 12” MFDs at the helm, and a keel-mounted, baffled, epoxy-coated fuel tank system that helps lower the boat’s center of gravity to improve seakeeping and performance. If you can’t choose between species and you want to put some sport in your sport fishing, this one’s a top pick.
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Xpress H20 Bay
Though it’s expressly built to withstand the marine environment the Xpress 20 Bay belongs in this round-up, because countless anglers buy a freshwater fishing boat but they also want to be able to fish in the salty stuff now and again — without worrying that exposure to saltwater will destroy their treasured fishing boat. The center console design plus raised fore and aft casting decks with pedestal mounts for raised seats means you can cast for bass one day and hunt barracuda the next, and standard features include two livewells, rod boxes, rodholders, a Humminbird PiranhaMax 4 fishfinder, and a saltwater-capable Minn Kota Riptide electric trolling motor. Construction features include all-welded aluminum plus injected foam, and the console and leaning post are aluminum as well.
Find out more about how aluminum boats can play multiple roles, in Aluminum Boats: Everything You Need to Know.
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What sort of freshwater fishing boat lies in your future? Only you can answer that question. But there are plenty of options out there ranging from large to small, expensive to inexpensive, and versatile to mission-specific. Yes, choosing just one may be difficult. But it’s difficulties like this that make life worth living.
See Fishing boats: The Ultimate Guide for a broader look at fishing boats of all types, shapes, and sizes.
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