New developments in tackle and other things change boats. The advent of 300-hp outboards changed the way some boats are made. Blueprints changed for 8-foot rods. The size of new dual- and triple-purpose electronics changed the way cockpits and dash boards are designed.
Angler demands also change with the way boats are made. Survey feedback reveals that more anglers want family-oriented boats that somehow remain exceptional for fishing. More emphasis is being placed on smaller, more fuel-efficient boats, designed for smaller waters. Yet tournament anglers of all kinds—even crappie pros—keep demanding bigger decks, more storage, and more room for gadgets. Here are some of the new boats being introduced this year and some with design changes that reflect those angler demands.
Smoker Craft Pro Mag 182
The Smoker Craft Pro Mag series has five models, ranging from 16 feet to the 18-foot 2-inch Pro Mag 182, which is rated for up to 175 horses. Ed Huffstetler, a boat salesman with Bridgeport Marine in Houlton, Wisconsin, says Smoker Craft aluminum designs retain strakes on the hull. “A lot of companies have gotten away from strakes,” he says. “But it helps with turning, helps with the drift of the boat, and it performs as well as any of the top-five boats out there. If you’re a drift fisherman, you get better boat control. Strakes slow your drift. The ride in a riveted hull versus an all-welded is softer.”
The Pro Mag 182 (about $39,900 with a 150-hp Yamaha) offers plenty of room. It’s wide inside—great for working with big fish or an overabundance of tackle and gear. The large, lockable rod storage centered in the bow stows up to six rods. With family-oriented anglers in mind, it can be converted into ski storage space.
The 182 Pro Mag is 1,425 pounds of Hydra-Lift hull with extended rear fishing areas, a wrap-around windshield, and deluxe, ergonomic, wood-free fishing seats. It has a new console with room for multiple electronics. With a 91-inch beam, this multispecies hull is designed to smoke. It has three seats but can safely handle up to 8 passengers. smokercraft.com
Starcraft Fishmaster 210
Fishmaster is Starcraft’s aluminum deep-V series of boats designed to tackle big water. If you live near the Great Lakes or a big southern reservoir, this is a boat to look into. The open floor plan of the 2019 models allow more room for rod storage and a huge amount of fishing space. The aerated livewell, at 41 gallons, could keep a mermaid alive.
The Fishmaster models feature four seats with removable jump seats, giving captains the option of taking along more anglers or using all that space for extra tackle. The Fishmaster 210 features a pro-style console with lighted gauges, rocker switches, stereo with J-port, and 12-volt power point with space for additional sonar units. It has a full, wrap-around windshield and a helm chair with slider and a full vinyl cockpit.
The 210 (20 feet 10 inches long) has a 250 maximum hp rating and a 48-gallon fuel tank. It’s a stable craft with a 101-inch beam that can safely handle up to 10 passengers, and the torsion-beam constructed Power-Trac Hull offers a smooth ride and a limited lifetime warranty. With a dry weight of only 1,598 pounds, this ship flies when maxed out with horses. We’ve seen some models priced at around $79,000, fully rigged, depending on the engine and number of options installed. starcraftmarine.com
Crestliner Fish Hawk
The next generation of the Crestliner Fish Hawk (four models from 16 feet 9 inches to 19 feet 6 inches) features a new gunnel design, ample rod storage, optional jump seats, and a redesigned console. With all-welded aluminum hulls, the revamped lineup (1650, 1750, 1850, 1950) includes multiple configurations with a side- or dual-console, or walk-through, depending on the model Each model is equipped with an aerated bow and stern livewell, and the new console has more room for electronics.
Jeremy Crosby owns B&B Sports and RV in Hutchinson, Minnesota. He says the most popular boat in his area has been the Fish Hawk 1650. “It's our best-selling unit,” he says. “They added jump seats in back and increased the maximum hp rating from 90 to 115. Retail is around $32,000, so for the money you’re getting a very well equipped boat with great rod storage and a big livewell.”
The 1650 has an 86.5-inch beam—plenty of stability for a boat 16 feet 9 inches long. “For lakes in our area it’s the perfect boat,” Crosby says.
The 1650 is a side console that comes with a Mercury four-stroke engine. “With a 90 on this hull it was a 40 mph boat,” Crosby says. “But the weight hasn’t changed much. With 25 more horsepower, expect high 40s. And with the fully welded hull, resistance is slight. The J-channel cover system is exclusive to Crestliner. And the 15-gallon livewell on the 1650 is big enough for a muskie.” Check the company's website for full specifications and available options for each Fish Hawk model.” crestliner.com
Joe Carlson, District Sales Manager for the mid-North for Skeeter, knows a little bit about the new WX2200. “I designed it so I know it pretty well,” he laughs. “It’s brand new and already selling well. It’s the biggest walleye boat in the industry I know of.”
A ton of R&D went into this one. “We redesigned the running surface on Saginaw Bay,” he says. “Engineers took video of our competitors hulls to see which did better in which situations—quartering seas, going into big waves, following seas—and came up with a new running surface—literally half the running surface of older models. The design results in an extremely smooth, dry ride. Big-water guys will absolutely love this boat—tons of working space on the floor, large cockpit area for trollers, and a flat dash that can hold two big screens.” Eyes will widen when longline crappie anglers and salmon fishermen see the storage space. “Center rod storage holds 91/2-foot rods and 14-footers fit in the gunnel,” he says.
The nationally advertised price ($73,895 with Yamaha F300XA outboard) includes a Yamaha T9.9 kicker with remote control, Humminbird Helix GPS/sonar, bowmount Minn-Kota, and 4-bank charger. “A 12-inch jack plate is standard,” Carlson says. “I don’t know of any other walleye boat that offers that."
The deep-V WX2200 is 2,945 pounds of fiberglass “designed to tame waves, provide a better ride, and absorb the shock of big water.” Maximum hp is 300, delivering speeds of up to 58 mph. It has two livewells, including a 25-gallon insulated stern unit and a 9-gallon insulated bow unit. “This boat won the Innovation Award for fiberglass boats in Minneapolis,” he says. “Fishermen are going to love the ride and big-water performance. Biggest, widest, longest walleye boat there is.” skeeterboats.com
Some of us need aluminum hulls because we fish big rivers or wilderness lakes with rocky shorelines. When we need to beach the craft for any reason—from shorelunch to an emergency—rocks won’t punch holes in the hull.
Ranger Boats, known for creating some of the most popular fiberglass hulls of all time, began marketing aluminum hulls about 5 years ago and their newest series will make those anglers sit up and take notice. “We added a new aluminum V-hull series for 2019,” says Matt Raynor, Marketing Director for Ranger. “The VX1888 ($42,695) and VX 1788—those two models in particular make up the VX Series. These two walk-through, dual-console configurations added quality options to our aluminum V-hull lineup.”
Ranger wanted to create an aluminum hull that, while primarily a fishing boat, could serve a family in other ways. “The VX boats mirror a lot of the features we had in our popular hybrid called the 1850 Reatta, which is a family-oriented boat,” he says. “That’s a growing part of the market. When we launched the series, the feedback indicated people wanted the 1850 in aluminum form for the family, so we created these boats to target the same end users. So this is for the guy that doesn’t want to sacrifice a fully capable fishing rig but needs a boat that doubles as a great family boat. Our true fish-and-play boats are fishing boats at heart.”
Ranger boats are famous for being unsinkable, and the aluminum versions are no different. “We have quite a bit of fiberglass workmanship in these boats,” Raynor says. “They feature the same console as the popular fiberglass Rangers. We spray in a lot of closed-cell foam, which is cleaner and safer than block foam. Closed-cell foam expands to fill every crevice of unused space. We cut the boats out, open them up to the waves, and float them in the water and they stay on top.”
Rated for up to 225 hp, the VX1888 can hit the mid-50 mph range—swift for an aluminum V-hull. “The Ranger brand is known for construction and ride,” he says. “When it comes to noise, this boat is much quieter and has a performance feel. It can cruise.” The VX1888 is 18 feet 2 inches long, has a beam of 102 inches, weighs 2,100 pounds, and has a fuel capacity of 47 gallons. rangerboats.com
Tracker 2019 Targa V-19 Combo
“The Tracker Targa V19 Combo ($34,495 with a Mercury 150 XL 4S) offers the best of both worlds to angling families,” says J.D. Pate, copywriter for Tracker Boats. “It’s a beast with a rugged, .125-inch marine-grade, all-welded hull, and an interior designed for northern angling. It’s comfortable, safe, and dry-riding, with cushioned bow seat and back rests, two jump seats, and a stowable ski-tow pylon.”
Six pedestal seat base locations, a swim platform, and a boarding ladder speak to the family aspect of this boat design, but a center bow lockable rod box for 6- to 8-foot rods and two top-loading rod boxes in the wide gunnels—also for rods up to 8 feet—speaks to the heart of the craft. The aft livewell holds 48 gallons; the bow unit holds 19, and both are aerated and lighted. This is a big-water fishing boat.
This 19-foot model comes standard with a Minn Kota PowerDrive trolling motor and Lowrance HOOK-5 sonar with GPS. The boat weighs 2,000 pounds, has an 8-person capacity, and in-floor center gear stowage. The Targa V-19 is both tournament and family ready when it rolls out of the factory. trackerboats.com
Triton 206 Fishunter
Standing on the deck of my old Triton 206 while riding out 12-foot waves on Lake Superior, Atlantic Coast fishing guide Tim Barefoot slapped me on the shoulder and said, “This is an awesome boat. It’s the Lamborghini of fishing hulls.”
All white knuckles and pale around the gills, I wanted to kill him just so he’d sit down. But he was right. One of the best boats I ever owned. The Triton 206 Fishunter is a performance beast. At 20 feet 6 inches with a 100-inch beam, up to 250 hp and an all-composite hull, it glides across the waves—even at 2,675 pounds. (Fully loaded, my boat could exceed 60 mph with a 225.)
This one is somewhere north of $62,000 with a 250-hp Mercury engine—though it performs well even down to 175 hp. It carries 57 gallons of fuel and 30 gallons of water in the aerated aft livewell. A Minn Kota Terrova I-Pilot comes standard. It has oversized rod lockers and oversized storage boxes—all locking. The cockpit features extended leg room and all the space you need for electronics.
The ride is smooth and comfortable. Fishing space is maximized. Let’s put it this way—you’ll never be sorry you bought this boat. Even if you find yourself fighting 12-footers on the Great Lakes. tritonboats.com
2019 NITRO ZV19
“The new multispecies NITRO ZV19 is a 225 hp-class beast that combines comfort and safety with a hardcore, aggressive hull design,” says J. D. Pate of Nitro. “It’s more than ready for walleye tournaments on the Great Lakes, striper outings on the big lakes of the Midwest, or chasing bass on giant reservoirs down south."
Nitro compiled insights from the world’s top walleye anglers on this one. The result is an “overbuilt big-water fishing machine.” The 8-foot 6-inch beam offers plenty of room for anglers and equipment when trolling with boards or longlines. Gunnels are designed to maximize interior space and fishing room.
At 18 feet 11 inches, this is a lot of boat for the money ($37,995). Storage is impressive, so muskie anglers will like this one, too. Two lift-out, molded aft storage boxes carry seven 3700 component trays each. Port and starboard rod lockers and a massive three-level center locker hold rods up to 8 feet long.
The ZV19 has two livewells, and the aft unit is a 26-gallon, roto-molded, insulated, anti-slosh Guardian. It carries 45 gallons of gas and over 1,000 pounds of passengers, and weighs 2,300 pounds on the trailer. nitro.com