Walking the halls of the Broward County Convention Center at the 52nd Annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, three new flats skiffs caught my eye.
No surprise as to the first — Hell’s Bay Boatworks (hellsbayboatworks.com) has been a market leader in skinny-water skiffs for years, but its latest entry may well be the company’s most versatile boat, according to marketing director Todd Fuller.
The new Biscayne is a relatively small craft, stretching 16 feet, 4 inches in length, with a 70-inch beam. But despite its modest size, the skiff was built specifically to tackle rough waters. The hull features a sharp V entry into the water, which parts waves and chop with nary a shudder, Fuller told me.
Capt. Will Benson of the Florida Keys assisted with the Biscayne’s design, and the hull checks in at about 595 pounds. Ideally matched with a 60- to 80-hp outboard, the skiff should draft about 7 inches with a full tank of fuel. Other Hell’s Bays will go shallower — but this one, as Fuller suggested, ought to prove to be an extremely versatile boat.
Hell’s Bay was not the only company sporting a beautiful new skiff at this year’s show, however. Bohemian Boatworks (bohemianboatworks.com), a Sarasota, Florida-based outfit, was displaying its new Bohemian 17, and it looks to be a winner. The Bohemian is 17 feet, 9 inches in length with a 72-inch beam. The hull weighs 550 pounds, company president Robert Helmick told me, and it’ll draft between 7 to 9 inches depending on outboard selection (40- to 70-hp options are available). Bohemian builds their boats custom-ordered, factory-direct, and it all starts with a stepped, V-pad hull that, from the looks of it, ought to produce an incredibly smooth, dry ride. Helmick says that this hull design increases draft slightly, but that the performance benefits far outweigh it.
The boat’s finish is beautiful, and its clean lines and design are very pleasing to the eye. Ten under-gunwale rod tubes are standard, as is a baitwell with a clear lid built into the aft casting deck. I really liked this boat’s wet storage compartment in the forward cockpit sole. It can be used for items like an anchor or castnet, while a giant dry stowage bin under the forward deck can house other items that need protecting. In short, it’s a very impressive boat.
Finally, Scout Boats (scoutboats.com) has a new flats model that ought to serve many angling needs. The 177 Sport features a center console design with good-sized casting decks on the forward and rear decks. While not quite the technical flats skiff that either the Hell’s Bay or Bohemian models are, the 177 Sport is more of a family flats boat, offering a nicely upholstered console cushion seat and sport seats with a backrest for the captain and passenger.
Still, the boat’s dry weight with an engine (it can handle up to 115 hp) is about 1,000 pounds, and Scout claims the boat drafts only 8 inches. With 6 vertical rod holders on each side of the helm station, a standard console baitwell and two tackle trays, it’s perfectly capable of some hardcore fishing.
These were just three of the new flats boats I stumbled across walking the halls of the 52nd Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. And they all look to be winners — check em out!