There is a huge industry built around the fishing enthusiast, and at the heart of it is the boat manufacturer. Timber, fiberglass, aluminum--the choices can be overwhelming. For those who choose an aluminum model, there are guidelines to finding the boat that is right for you. No new boat can be considered cheap, but aluminum fishing boats are less expensive than their fiberglass, or timber counterparts. Their light weight allows for smaller engines and less fuel consumption. Aluminum boats have very few maintenance issues, and often little dings and dents can be remedied at home with a rubber mallet. Although puncturing the hull is a rare occurrence, an aluminum boat can be welded and placed back into service fairly inexpensively.
When choosing an aluminum boat consider what type of water you are going to be using it on. Shallow waters will call for a different type of hull configuration than deep or turbulent waters will. Whether you boat in freshwater or saltwater will also affect your choice. Saltwater is corrosive, so an aluminum boat used in saltwater must be hosed down after each use. In freshwater, algae becomes a problem if you don't take your boat completely out of the water after each outing.
Hull configuration must be addressed once water type has been decided. In lakes and rivers that are shallow and filled with obstructions such as tree stumps, a flat-bottomed boat (commonly referred to as jon) will be the best choice. They have short sides (gunwales) and the hull is flat. These boats can get into very shallow water without damage. A disadvantage to the flat-bottomed boat is its instability in rough waters. The boat to use on rough waters is a V-hull. It is so named because the hull looks like the letter "V." The sides (gunwales) of the boat are steeply pitched, and the interior of the boat will be somewhat narrower than a flat-bottomed boat. The advantage to a V-hull is that in turbulent waters--common in deeper lakes and rivers--the boat will be more stable and give a smoother ride. For a combination of shallow and deep bodies of water consider a modified V-hull boat. Just as the name implies, these boats have a less distinctive V shape to their hull than traditional V-hulled boats. The modified V-hull will allow the fisherman to go after his prey in shallow waters, and still give a relatively smooth ride when the going gets rough.
Once you have decided which hull type is right for you it is time to decide how large your boat should be. Consider how many people you expect to carry at any given time and where you will be taking them. The U.S. Coast Guard has specific guidelines for boat capacity. You will find that information stamped on a plate inside each boat for sale. When deciding which boat to choose, remember to take into account gear, persons, and any additional equipment and seating. Boater experience is another factor to take into account. Smaller boats are more maneuverable than large ones and novice boaters will be more comfortable with a small boat as they gain confidence in their seamanship.
You have the size, type, and style of aluminum boat you want to buy figured out. Now comes the most daunting of tasks, finding a reputable dealer from which to buy it. Just as with any major purchase, it is important to do your homework. Talk to friends, co-workers, and family members who have purchased boats about their experiences. Get recommendations from them. If you do not know anyone who has purchased a boat, get information on the dealers in your area from the local chamber of commerce or Better Business Bureau. Visit different dealerships and get a feel for the salesmanship. If buying a boat from an individual, insist on a clear title and registration. Inspect the boat thoroughly and don't buy any boat that you are not allowed to test-drive first.
- hydrofoil boat image by Wimbledon from Fotolia.com