Bay boats vs flats boats

30th September 2021 Jack O'Rourke

Bay boats vs flats boats

For a lot of anglers exploring through the waterways of bays, lakes and rivers, the most popular choice is either a bay boat or a flats boat. Both offer many advantages depending on what fishing and boating you are looking to do. 

We take a look at the key features of each to help you decide which is best suited for you.

What is a bay boat?

A bay boat fills the gap between a small run-about and offshore fishing vessel, becoming a hybrid option that can access different bodies of water. most bay boats are 6 to 7.5 metres in length. 

While they can navigate shallower waters, they are suited to larger bays, lakes and coastal areas. They are perfect for exploring all different kinds of waterways without having to be too cautious of their draft.

They are built to be heavier and more sturdy, but have a deeper draft than skiffs. They are more maneuverable in the water and usually have a centre console to provide enough room to accommodate multiple anglers.

Advantages of a day boat 

  • Thanks to its combination of design characteristics, bay boats can provide operators with a smooth ride without compromising on performance. 

  • Bay boats can traverse both shallow and deep water, allowing anglers to reach more areas to fish.

  • Their length caters for more storage areas and live wells, freeing up space in the cockpit and deck. 

  • Bay boats with a centre allow anglers almost 360-degree movement around the deck to cast from while balancing the weight in the centre.

  • They are usually trailerable, so they can go from waterway to waterway very easily.

  • Above all, versatility is a bay boat's biggest strength.

What is a flats boat?

Flats boats are designed primarily for fishing in protected, shallow waters as they have a shallow draft that allows them to cruise over waters. They can have a casting deck at the front and sometimes a deck towards the rear. These boats are usually about 4.5 to 7.5 metres in length and have an outboard motor.

While some boats such as skiffs are designed with a flat-bottom design, in general flats boats include a variety of v-hull designs.

Advantages of a flats boat

  • The deadrise of flats boats is generally a small angle, allowing a controlled ride with easy handling.

  • They are ideal for ponds, lakes, rivers and shallow areas of larger lakes and oceans.

  • Flats boats offer incredible stability on calm water thanks to their design. 

  • These boats can navigate waters that are inaccessible using any other boat. 

  • Flats boats are relatively cheap to run and can be transported easily.

  • They are a perfect way for families to start fishing together, as they are very reliable and are suited to calmer waters.

Which one should you buy?

For all-round versatility and adaptability, a bay boat will provide anglers with most of the features needed for a great day out on the water. Stable, rugged performers that can navigate different kinds of waterways, bay boats are as fun as they are practical. While it’s possible to take bay boats offshore, it’s probably worth investing in an offshore fishing boat if you’re interested in chasing the real big fish. 

For those anglers looking for a quiet, low-cost and easy to maintain fishing option to explore shallow waterways, a flats boat is a great option. Flats boats are lightweight and provide a smooth dry ride on calm waterways, but we don’t recommend venturing offshore.