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What is the Best Boat for Florida Fishing?

In 40 years of fishing Florida waters I have owned just about every type and size of fishing boat imaginable.  My first boat was an 8-foot home made boat I made from wood purchased at the local lumberyard.  It looked a lot like a cement mixing trough, but it would float most of the time.  Later, I moved up to an aluminum johnboat with a ten-horse kicker.  When bass boats where created in the sixties, I had one of the first.   Then came a long string of high performance bass boats, flats boats and even a 30-foot sport fish.  I was always searching for the “perfect boat”, but there is no way I could find it because no one boat can do everything. 

But, what if you could only have one boat to fish in Florida.  What would it be?   In my opinion, it would have to be a 17-19 foot open fisherman.  You need enough power to push the boat to a minimum of 30 miles per hour loaded and fully fueled.  Most tournament bass boats will approach 70 miles per hour, but you really don’t need that much power unless you fish tournaments or you just want to look cool at the ramp. 

Modern aluminum boats are excellent freshwater platforms but if you intend to sneak over to the coast once in a while, stay with fiberglass.  What you want is a boat that is maneuverable, will float in less than 2 feet of water and still has a comfortable ride if the wind kicks up.  The semi-v hull is the perfect combination.  If you have a choice, buy a boat without wood of any kind.  In recent years, many manufacturers have started to use resin core instead of wood, which theoretically should last forever. 

As far as accessories, you need a reliable 12/24-volt long electric trolling motor, a good anchor and enough rope to handle 6 times the water depth you plan to fish.   Of course you should have all the required Coast Guard safety equipment and it helps to have a cooler for the beverages of your choice.  No good bass fisherman would think of killing a bass anymore, so unless you plan to fish tournaments or use live bait, you won’t need a live well. 

Here are a few tips about trailers that I don’t think you will read anywhere else.   Some people think a dual axle trailer is better than a single axle.  They do tow better but there are negatives to having dual axles.  First, if you have a flat on most dual axle trailers, you won’t be able to continue just because you have three good tires.  Second, tires will cost you twice as much and third your tolls will be twice as high.  If you have a choice, get a good quality single axle trailer with a minimum of 13” wheels and good tires.  Make sure your trailer has sealed lights and bearings and keep the wheel grease fresh and topped off. 

One more thing, a boat that is used at least once a week will have significantly less problems that one that sits all year and goes out on a holiday weekend.  Of course there’s always Murphy’s Law to deal with! 




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Phil Kelley
Lake County Florida Bass Fishing
P.O. Box 325
Tavares, FL 32778
352 223-4483

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