Create More Seating Aboard Your Boat

Here are six boat seating ideas for any sport-fishing vessel.

Anglers sitting in bean bag chairs on a center console fishing boat
You can quickly add seating to a center console fishing boat with marine beanbag chairs.Doug Olander

Stand all day on the heaving deck of a fishing boat, and it feels like you spent eight hours on an exercise machine. Muscles fatigue as they work continuously just to maintain your balance. It’s nice to take a load off when not fishing. In rough seas, it may also prove safer for your guests to remain seated while underway.

With a priority placed on fishing, some center‑consoles — especially older ones — feel Spartan when it comes to boat seating. Many even forgo helm chairs in favor of leaning posts. Newer center-consoles, however, tend to include more seating with features such as folding bench seats at the transom. Yet if your boat lacks such amenities, don't despair. Here are six ways to add seating.

Portable Deck Chairs for Boats

These can take different forms, ranging from traditional heavy-duty boat deck seating to fold down seats for boats. West Marine's patio-style Crew Deck Chair, for example, features a lightweight aluminum frame that folds to stow in the cabin or console when you don't need it. It has mildew resistant fabric on the seat and back, varnished-wood armrests, and nonskid leg tips to protect the deck from scratches.

Wise's Quad-Base Fighting Chair
Wise's Quad-Base Fighting Chair offers comfort and portability.Courtesy Manufacturer

If you want a more sturdy and secure seat, take a look at a non-folding deck chair, such as the Wise Quad-Base Fighting Chair. It rests on a stainless-steel four-leg base (with rubber tips to prevent scratching the deck) and has a swiveling pedestal, with super-thick, padded UV-resistant vinyl on the seat, back and armrests. It also has a rod gimbal, allowing you to use this as a light-duty fighting chair.

Cooler Cushions on Boats

Most saltwater fishing boats have one or more large coolers on board. With tired crew likely to sit on them anyway while trolling or otherwise underway, why not make your coolers more comfortable with snap-on cushions?

Yeti cooler cushion snapped on
Snap-on cushions turn coolers into seats.Courtesy Manufacturer

Most major cooler brands offer these as accessories. Yeti, for example, offers snap-on cushions for all of its Tundra coolers, with cushion prices ranging from $129 to $219.99. Cushions feature UV-resistant marine vinyl and stainless-steel snap assemblies.

Beanbag Chairs for Boats

Employing a trend born on the kingfish‑tournament circuit, anglers aboard go-fast fishing machines often turn to beanbags for extra seating, which they place in the aft portion of the cockpit to cushion the ride when running to and from the fishing grounds. These are great center console boat seats. You can employ the same idea on virtually any boat, and then stash the bag in the cabin or console, or just throw it on the hardtop for temporary storage in smooth seas.

Angler laying on a beanbag in a center console fishing boat
Beanbags are simple and comfortable.Jim Hendricks

Just about any large beanbag chair will do. Yet models from companies such as E-SeaRider and Ocean-Tamer designed expressly for marine applications will last longer and offer additional features. For example, E-SeaRider's Medium Teardrop Marine Longneck model elaborates on the basic design by including armrests and a high back. The marine-vinyl material is water-repellent, and the seams prevent moisture from getting inside. Marine beanbag seats come in a wide range of shades and color combinations to match the upholstery of your boat.

Portable Center Console Boat Seats

These represent a variation on the beanbag concept. One of the few examples is West Marine’s High-Back Go-Anywhere Seat 2. Unlike a beanbag, it has a powder-coated, five‑position, ratcheting internal steel frame for greater support, and it folds up to become a backpack for transport and storage. The navy-blue polyester fabric is UV stabilized, breathable and water-repellent. The seat features armrests, a drink holder, a side pocket for a cellphone, a mesh pocket in the back, and a nonskid bottom.

Flip-Up Boat Seats

These aftermarket designs let you install seating that locks into place when you need it, but can also fold away or be removed when it comes to clearing the deck. One of the oldest of these designs is the Garelick Utility Seat, a single removable seat that will mount to the inwales or transom bulkhead with Shur-Loc catches. A Hypalon-cushioned fold-out leg provides support. A padded, white marine-grade vinyl seat offers comfort, while an anodized-aluminum frame helps prevent corrosion. You can also add a rod gimbal, though I would hesitate to use this as a fighting chair. When removed, the Garelick Utility Seat folds up for storage in a dry locker, console or cabin.

Garelick's Utility Seat stowed away to make more fishing room
Garelick's Utility Seat folded away.Courtesy Manufacturer
Garelick's Utility Seat expanded for additional sitting on a fishing boat
Garelick's Utility Seat sets up in seconds.Courtesy Manufacturer

You can add a larger seat on any vertical surface with Birdsall Marine's Folding Rear Bench Seat. Pivoting on a pair of angle brackets and stainless-steel ball‑lock pins, the seat can be removed or folded flat against a bulkhead. When folded out, the anodized-aluminum frame and padded vinyl seat cushion are supported by two rubber-tipped legs.

Birdsall's stern bench seat folded away to make more fishing room
Birdsall's stern bench seat folds away when it's time to fish.Courtesy Manufacturer
Birdsall's stern bench seat down for a fisherman to sit
Birdsall's stern bench seat provides comfort for a long run or a sandwich.Courtesy Manufacturer

You can also add the Birdsall Padded Backrest for additional comfort. The seat is available in five bench widths, ranging from 44 to 60 inches. Color choices are white and ­off-white, in smooth or pleated vinyl.

Leaning Post Conversion on Center Console Boats

OK, let’s say you have a center-console with just a leaning post — no real helm seats. Short of replacement with a seating assembly, you can convert your leaning post to a quasi-helm seat with the addition of a backrest that fits into the rocket launcher.

Fishing boat seat converted to a leaning post
You can convert a leaning post to a seat with a removable backrest.Jim Hendricks

There are a number of these on the market, including Taco's Leaning Post Backrest, which has a pair of anodized-aluminum inserts that slip into the two outer rod holders. The thickly padded marine vinyl backrest allows you to perch atop the leaning post and brace yourself more ­comfortably while piloting your boat.

With these ideas for resting your feet, legs and back, there’s no reason why you and your crew can’t take a seat.