Updated April 2018
Bay boats versus flats boats is a real discussion these days. In the 90's if you would have told me that I would own a bay
boat for my fishing charter services here in Key West, I
may have looked at you funny and snickered as I
walked away surely knowing you were not well
informed or even knew a damn thing about the
fishing charter business.
As a Key West fishing guide I have now owned well over 20 bay boats since 2005, currently own 8 of them and just now getting ready to order one more new ones to replace one that I have had in service. They have not replaced my flats fishing boat but definitely added to the fleet.
Are bay Boats better? Were flats boats a flash
in the pan, a fad? Am I saying every one should
trade in the push pole and get a bay boat with electric trolling motors and
live the dream in a waterman's version of a
Pickup truck? Well, yes, and no. Let me explain
Flats Fishing Boats are
Fantastic fishing tools. For the angler and his
buddy who likes to pole a boat. The flats fishing boat is a great way to fish the flats. Shallow,
pole-able, stealthy, agile, swift and technical
are some of the words you will hear describing a
flats boat. What do they mean? The Flats are
typically shallow so the boat needs to float in
less than 12 inches of water (an industry
standard)some even go as shallow as 5 inches.
The boat should be quiet as it moves along in
shallow waters otherwise you may spook the fish
that are being stalked. Agile is describing the
ability the boat has to maneuver into position
quickly as the guide poles for that awesome shot
at a tailing fish. Technical is the nature of
fishing from a Flats Boat..
Coming in all
shapes and sizes flats boats have many faces
from many manufacturers. which one is the best
is not the point of this article and certainly
not a place I would like to go, as it is
reminiscent of speaking about Religion and
Politics. Easily stated flats boats by and large
are a give and take in qualities, probably more
than any other type of boat on the market today.
So, I think it is a matter of taste. Me, I like
comfort, pole-ability, Speed, less than 10 inch
draft and because I am a large person and so are
many of my clients stability. In the height of my career I chose the Lake
and Bay 20 Ft Boca Grand. In my opinion it is
the fastest, driest shallowest, pole-able 2
client "guiding" boat I have ever been in. Oh,
and yes, I have been in them all. There are
shallower and more pole-able boats out there,
however, there are trade offs.
These days with the advent and technology advancement of my bay boats. My choice of flats fishing skiff is current a 17' long, super light technical skiff Beavertail Elite. What we in the industry call a technical poling skiff. I went to a smaller skiff because it can do what my bay boats cannot and visa versa. My Lake and Bays were fine boats but frankly I can fish better in a bay boat all the way around. So, I got a smaller flats skiff for contrast.
Bay Boats -
These to come in all shapes but generally range
in size from 19-24 ft. all the same players you
see in the flats arena are also making bay
boats. Good thing too otherwise their market is
very limited. As with flats boats there are
descriptions used for a good one. We trade in
all those terms we used for a good flats boat
for things like; Roomy, Plenty of Storage,
Powerful, rides well in the chop, Stereo sounds
great, console has lots of Rod holders, Cooler
is big, Shallow as heck, these seats are
Comfortable. as you can see, it is less about
what the boat can do in the environment that it
is in than what it can do for the angler with in
the boat. As you can see, another world or
dimension of fishing boat.
Yes we have
all heard of the stories of using a flats Fishing boat
off shore or in extreme locations but not
practically speaking with out a flat calm day
and a couple guys who just want to try it. In
all actuality it's not the safest thing to take
a traditional flats boat to your local reef.
Although it is fun to see shots like I did last
year with Greg Poland of Islamorada holding up a
sailfish he caught in 120 ft of water off the
reef proudly standing in his Mercury powered
Hells Bay Marquesas. Should I put a disclaimer
here. (don't try that at home). But seriously.
flats boats are made for the flats and light bay
fishing with a guy poling and a guy fishing.
OK, you saw
the part where I said Bay Boats can go flats fishing. Yes, they can
and very well I might add also with more people
and I will even go on further to say better, if
catching fish is more important that fishing the
flats traditionally. If poling down a permit
that is tailing, then flats boats are your
thing. but if you would like to slide up on him
effortlessly with trolling motors and fish with
your partner to throw a crab or a fly his way,
then you may like to consider a bay boat. Yes,
the holy grail of Key West Flats fishing, the
tailing permit, you can chase them too with a
bay boat in fact, I bet you can even bring more
friends to enjoy the experience with you.
now enjoy the best of both worlds in my charter
company. If they wish to fish the flats and fish traditionally then I
have my Beavertail Elite flats fishing skiff. If They
care to fish the flats with a possibility of
going out to a wreck or the reef OR they wish to
carry more than 2 persons OR they want a bathroom
for the wife.. Then they Select one of our bay boats built by Yellowfin Yachts or Action Craft Coastal Bay. Either way, we
have them covered for backcountry fishing here in Key West.
choice.. Depends on my use and the people I have to fish that day. The flats boats is limited to the flats, the Bay Boats can go just about everywhere..
We still offer flats fishing boats here at Dream Catcher Charters We will continue to have them on line as long as we haver skilled poling captains to fish them. Seems to be a trend... We are trying to get more out of our boat buying dollar..
Capt. Steven Lamp (DrCatcher)
Veteran Key West Fishing Guide, Boating enthusiast and Entrepreneur
Pro Staff - Mercury Marine - Yellowfin Yachts - Garmin Marine
My Personal Web Site - Key West Fishing Guide
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