A Guide For Selecting Your Next Crappie Boat

Both SOTs and SIKs can cover great distances with ease. They are propelled by a double-ended paddle and move quickly with the slightest effort. They float in bare inches of water and can easily be carried by one person. They fit on a car top, in a van or pick-up truck. They can be launched from anywhere there is water. They can run right through dense cover with no danger. Bad weather no problem, just watch for lightning. On the water.Yaks rule!!!! The down side is that there is a slight learning curve in order to be a skilled kayaker, but that’s really part of the fun. Getting in and out takes a bit of practice. And the sitting position, while very efficient for paddling, may take some getting used to, much like riding a bicycle. The main safety concern is to always wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket or vest, and learn how to handle your Yak proficiently.

Canoes are the next step up. They are great boats in their own right within their limitations. They can carry lots of people and gear, they are light and can cover reasonable distances easily. They are fast enough for most purposes. On the down side, they capsize easily, and while they will not sink with floatation bags, they will take on water that will need to be pumped or bailed out. They are difficult to re-enter from the water and you can lose all of your gear in a spill. There are two basic materials they are made of: Aluminium and plastic or resins. I recommend the resins because the aluminium ones can leak, they are cold, noisy and slow.

There are several styles, but the main differences between them are just length vs. beam. If you want to go fast and far, get a long slim one. If you want to be stable or shoot fast water, get a short wide one. Both make great fishing boats. Most canoes draw little water and can paddle through dense cover adequately. They can be carried on a car-top, van or truck and can be launched from just about anywhere.

Safety concerns are, first LEARN TO SWIM, you will be doing that from time-to-time with a canoe. In bad weather, come in. Canoes don’t handle storms well. Always wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket or vest. Learn how to handle your canoe well. Make sure your gear is fastened to the canoe.

Now we come to the subject of powered boats. I will concentrate on two main types here. The Jon, or flat-bottomed type, and the skiff, or V-bottomed boat.

Jon boats are great in calm to moderate waters.  They do not handle whitecaps well at all and will pound you to pieces in heavy swells. They are also not good at high speeds for the same reason. The flat bottom and square bow let you have the full effect of waves with no cushioning effect at all. What you see is what you get. Soft seat cushions are a good addition to any Jon boat. On the good side, they are ultra stable and difficult to capsize. They are reasonably fast with a small to medium engine, and can float in inches of water. Except for the engine, they can glide through dense weeds, and are popular sculling, or poling boats in swamp areas. They can be paddled for moderate distances with relative ease, although very slowly. They can be car-topped, but they are usually carried on trailers and launched at boat ramps for safety and convenience. They are a bit heavy for carrying any distance, especially when outfitted with an engine and associated equipment. This is the stereotypical crappie boat.

V-bottom boats cut through the waves and are capable of greater speed and comfort with the same horsepower engine. They draw more water, making them difficult to get through shallow water and weeds. These are the stereotypical big-water fishing boats. They can be used for crappie, and any other fish you might want to chase. They are usually carried on a trailer and launched from boat ramps.

Powered boats allow you to cover great distances with lots of gear quickly.
They are stable and comfortable. The down side is that most states require the boat and trailer to be registered, many boat ramps charge fees for launching, engines cost money to operate and maintain and they contribute to both air and water pollution. Motor boats can be dangerous to the unskilled and unwary.

Safety concerns are too numerous to list here. My recommendation is to contact your local Coast Guard safety office for information on boat safety and operation in your area. DO NOT under any circumstances operate a motor boat until you have acquired the necessary skill and satisfied the legal requirements to do so. There are several thousand boating accidents and hundreds of fatalities yearly that could’ve easily been prevented. Please learn how to operate your watercraft safely.

There are specialty boats available that cost a minor king’s ransom and require an MIT degree to be able to operate everything on them. They are the in the realm of Tournament anglers and are much too wide a subject to cover here.

They are massive overkill for crappie. I would say the minimum requirements for a good crappie boat would be a Tri-Hull for good handling in open water, but still have a shallow draft for maneuvering in cover, a 10-20 hp motor for crossing large reservoirs in a reasonable amount of time, a live well, and a good sonar unit.  A trolling motor is nice to have, and a flat area to stand in the bow is also nice, but not required. Suitable used boats can often be found for $500.00 and up. New boats start at around $1500.00, and go way up from there.

As you can see, there are many choices in watercraft, and there is no one right or wrong choice. It is up to the individual to decide what kind of fishing they want to do, how much time, and money they wish to invest in equipment and a myriad of other concerns. My suggestion is to keep it simple as possible. You can always expand later.

Happy Fishing!

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Dan Eggertsen is a fellow crappie fishing enthusiast to the point of obsession. :) He's been providing solid advice on crappie fishing since 2004.

One Response to “A Guide For Selecting Your Next Crappie Boat”

  1. Beth says:

    It’s nice to find a quality article. I really enjoy lots of the blog posts on your site.

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