Those looking for a small, simple boat for fishing or just puttering around on the water could buy any number of boats that are technically classified as skiff boats. However, there is something specific that makes a boat an actual skiff, as opposed to a Jon boat or another flat-bottomed model. Understanding what these boats do and what activities they are designed for will help you make a better buying decision.
When you’re buying a boat, there are a number of emotions involved in the purchase. This is a big investment, after all, and you want to make sure that you get it right. By taking some time to learn about boat types and what you can do with them, you’ll be better informed and prepared to make the right buying decision. A skiff is a great boat for a lot of people and activities, but that doesn’t make it the right boat for everyone. Check out this guide to learn everything you need to know about skiff boats and what they have to offer.
What Are Skiff Boats?
Designed for simplicity, skiff boats are characterized by a flat bottom, a pointed bow, and a square stern (back). Most skiffs will not have much more than a center console and a couple of seats, although they can be outfitted with fishing and crabbing accessories for the serious angler. Skiffs are also commonly called flat boats, flat-bottom boats, or center console boats, because these are their primary (and sometimes only) features.
Skiff boats can be used in freshwater and saltwater. They are ideal for shallower waters, but are commonly found in rivers, streams, and lakes along with larger bodies of water. Some anglers will take larger skiffs out on the ocean, but that depends on the size and type of boat in question.
Skiff Boats: The Highlights
- Average Length: 17-25 feet
- Activity/Intended Use: Fresh and saltwater fishing, day cruising, crabbing and clamming
- Average Price: $20,000
- Propulsion Method: Outboard motor
Types of Skiff Boats
Unlike some boat styles, there aren’t that many different types of skiff boats. The whole point of this model is simplicity, after all, and there are really only a few major designs or use variations to consider. For example, some skiffs come pre-outfitted with fishing accessories and features like rod racks or live wells, or even extra-high gunwales on offshore fishing models.
Skiffs are basically only separated a couple of different ways: fishing and non-fishing models and open, soft top, or hard top canopy design.
You can find skiffs without built-in fishing gadgets for cruising, or models that are designed specifically for fishing to save putting in all the accessories and extras later. You’ll also have the option of purchasing an open boat, or a model that has a soft canopy or hard top over the console seating area. You may also find boats designated for inshore or offshore fishing, but that’s generally more a matter of size than style.
Benefits of Skiff Boats
There are certainly many advantages to the simplicity that comes with owning a skiff boat. If you’re considering one, here are just a few perks to keep in mind:
Skiff boats have a flat, solid bottom that makes walking around the boat much easier. There is no deadrise on a skiff, which eliminates the rocking that is common of boats with sharper angles, like some sail boats, for example. You should be able to move about freely and even stand on the gunwales with little to no worry of falling or capsizing.
Skiffs are lightweight boats, which means they don’t need a huge, powerful motor that drinks a lot of gas. They might not be the fastest boats on the water, but they’ll save a fortune on fuel compared to a lot of other cruising and fishing models.
Shallow Water Access
A flat-bottom boat literally floats on the water. This may result in some slapping and occasional issues with spray, but that also means that your boat can navigate through almost no water at all. Even a few inches will be enough, and other boaters will be jealous when you’re fishing a great catch in areas they can’t even reach.
Most skiffs have a flat hull that is filled with foam to assist with floatation. This foam also has the added benefit of making these boats almost unsinkable. In more than one case, people have literally cut a skiff in half and it still floats, even with people in it, despite not having all four sides to keep the water out.
Add-Ons and Accessories
Skiffs can be purchased with or modified to have a number of add-ons and accessories. You can even find models designed for things like premium sound systems, high-tech fishing gear, and other cool additions. You can purchase boats with more bells and whistles for a premium price or you can buy a more basic model now and build it up as you go with aftermarket accessories and upgrades.
The biggest reason that these boats are so popular is because they offer a lot of utility for a lot of different boaters. Their simple designs and optional upgrades make it easy to create an affordable fishing skiff or a new cruiser for occasional crabbing. There are so many uses for a quality skiff boat that people are buying them for plenty of reasons and boating needs.
Skiff Boat Brands
Like all boat styles, there are a number of brands that have a skiff model available. It’s going to be up to you to see what’s out there and find what you like best. There are some obvious brand leaders in this market, but then there are also some great boats that are a good buy, regardless of their brand. If you want to make sure that you’re shopping for the best skiffs, stick to the brands below.
According to BoatTrader.com, a leading portal for buying and selling boats of all types, these are the top manufacturers of center console or skiff-style boats:
Carolina Skiff, as the name would imply, specializes in center console skiff boats, offering a full selection of everything from economical models to high-end offshore sea fishing designs. They focus on functional designs with added fishing features like rod racks and fish finders available on select models.
This brand is a division of the Brunswick Group, offering a variety of skiff boats available in sizes from 15 feet all the way up to 37 feet. These boats are notable for their unique design and rightfully called the “Unsinkable Legend” because these boats will still float even if they are cut, quite literally, in half.
Century offers a line of standard center consoles and a selection of hard tops for boaters who want a little more than a basic skiff model. Their standard boats range from 17 feet to 32 feet, with hard top models available in the 26-32-foot range. The larger the model, the more built-in conveniences and accessories you’ll find included standard.
A preferred brand of tournament fishermen everywhere, Hydra-Sports boats are designed with a commitment to quality and detail. They produce a variety of skiffs up to 34 feet in length, with sizes starting at 18 feet. They were recently acquired by MasterCraft Boat Company, adding even more credibility to the already reputable brand.
The National Marine Manufacturer’s Association has awarded this company with the Top Customer Satisfaction award in the fiberglass outboard boat category for the past nine years in a row. The brand offers an impressive line of skiff-style center console boats in various sizes with an array of upgrade packages available.
Regulator offers attention to detail and quality in every boat that they design. They are known as the “legendary ride” and have boats ranging from 23 to 34 feet in length with a full line of center consoles available in various trim levels. Regulators are known for their smooth ride and are popular for offshore fishing and rough water cruising as a result.
How to Buy a Skiff Boat
When you’re in the market for a skiff boat, you have a lot of options. Now that you know the best brands and styles on the market, it should be easier to get what you want out of your investment in a skiff boat. Take the time to explore all of the options that are out there and choose a boat that suits your needs and interests. Skiffs are economical and reliable, and they offer a variety of uses for fishing and other shallow-water cruising.
To begin your search, narrow down a few important elements:
Cost: Skiffs are some of the most affordable boats on the market, but you still need to factor your budget into the equation. If you aren’t sure what you should expect to spend, do a little window shopping and see what these boats are going for before you set a budget in your mind.
Size: Another big factor in your decision is the size of boat that you want. This will affect the cost and other factors. As mentioned earlier, skiffs range in size from about 17 feet all the way up to 32-34 feet, so there are plenty of options available. Some people are even investing in new micro skiffs, which measure between 8-15 feet in length and offer the versatility of larger skiffs.
Style and Features: Here’s where you get to pick and choose what you like and what you don’t like. Take the time to explore all of the different included specs and features on the boat. Remember that skiffs are usually pretty simple designs that don’t have a lot of extra bells and whistles. However, they do have a lot of great additions for fishing and other excursions.
Brand matters a little when it comes to buying the right skiff boat, but as long as you choose one of the leading brands, you should be able to find a quality skiff boat for a reasonable price.
Skiff Boats FAQs
What’s the difference between a skiff boat and a Jon boat?
A Jon boat is characterized by a flat bottom and a flat, square-cut stern. Skiffs are more broadly defined as boats that can be flat-bottomed, but that have a pointed or curved bow and a flat stern. Both names are often used interchangeably as a name for small boats, normally used for fishing, and that are capable of traversing extremely shallow waters.
What’s the Difference Between a Center Console and a Skiff?
Remember, the skiff is all about the hull design. There is something for just about everyone in this selection, and a center console is one of the models that happens to have a skiff hull. A lot of people get confused because there are so many styles of boats, but this is something to keep in mind. For the most part, center console boats are skiff boats, but there are some models that have a slightly different hull design. Be sure that you compare these elements when choosing your perfect skiff model.
What Kind of Accessories Can I Find for a Skiff Boat?
Skiff boats have all kinds of accessories for various hobbies and excursions. There are fishing accessories, crabbing and clamming accessories, and even items that are just for having a good time on the water, such as a premium speaker system or built-in cooler. A simple Internet search will return plenty of accessories and equipment that you can add to your boat, including everything from tow lines and essential equipment to fun accessories and more.
What Is a Micro Skiff Boat?
Some people are creating even smaller models of the skiff than what people typically see. These boats are known as micro skiffs, and offer a smaller footprint for single anglers or boaters. Plus, they still have all the versatile perks of a traditional skiff. There are many people who are converting other boats or buying DIY plans for micro skiffs instead of buying a larger model. For those who need a more affordable boat or who just want something smaller and more affordable, this is a popular trend.
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