Versatile vessels that bridge the gap between micros and bay boats
July 3, 2014
Five Bantamweight Flats Skiffs
Boatbuilders constantly search for designs that might please all buyers. When anglers demand certain types of boats for certain kinds of fishing, builders respond. Even in the condensed world of flats skiffs, those needs have created niche products such as micro skiffs and technical poling skiffs. But it’s a bit of a leap from those superlight, skinniest-water vessels to beefier, bay boats and flat‑bottom skiffs. In that void resides a collection of 17- to 19-footers — what some might call tarpon/permit skiffs or backcountry skiffs. Some larger technical skiffs also toe that line, but these midrange boats generally offer an improved ride, and a little more space for people and gear. I asked five skiff manufacturers to talk about what they might consider their bantamweight boat, and to answer these questions: 1) Who does this boat appeal to and why?
2) How have you built this boat to appeal to that angler?
3) What are the strengths and weaknesses of this type of flats boat compared with smaller, lighter skiffs and larger, heavier bay boats?
4) What kind of fishing features does this type of angler demand, and what have you provided in the package? Their answers follow; the manufacturers are listed alphabetically.
Bonefish Bohemian 17
This 17-foot-9-inch skiff carries a slight 6-foot beam, so its dry weight tops out at 700 pounds, and it draws about 6½ inches of water. However, it also features a stepped hull, a V-pad aft and 8½ degrees of deadrise, which all combine to help improve fuel efficiency and ride, Bonefish says. The smallest vessel in the fleet, the Bohemian was specifically designed for anglers who run long distances to fish, and must take off in shallow water. But any lightweight boat trades a little bit of ride quality for its shallow credentials. “Larger boats ride better and ‘stick’ better when at rest. Little light boats tend to be blown around,” says Ron Cook, owner of Bonefish Boatworks, which makes a variety of skiffs and boats of all sizes, including the Shipoke, IPB, and Sabalo brands.
Bonefish Bohemian 17
The Bohemian offers standard features such as a large bow hatch, a release well aft, trim tabs and undergunwale rod storage. But Cook says each boat is built to order for the angler from a wide variety of options. Options include a choice of hull- and deck-lamination materials, additional livewells or rod holders, a jack plate, a toe rail for fly-fishing, a removable backrest, SeaDek, and more. In fact, most Bohemian buyers want more livewells, Cook says. Many opt to add more release-well space for tournament fishing. Bohemians are made with UV-resistant vinylester resin, Divinycell-foam coring, and either a Coosa or Divinycell transom board. Epoxy construction is also available as an option. The company uses vacuum-assisted resin infusion to bond fiberglass fibers during construction. SPECIFICATIONS LOA 17 ft. 9 in.
BEAM 6 ft.
DEADRISE 8½ deg.
DRAFT 6½ in.
Hell’s Bay Marquesa 18
Hell’s Bay is known for its ultralight technical skiffs, and its Marquesa 18 — at 695 pounds dry (no engine) or about 1,055 to 1,175 pounds rigged — is no behemoth. Still, the company says the Marquesa handles rough water well, a characteristic of many larger, heavier hulls. “The Marquesa was designed with a 12-degree deadrise and sharp entry to handle rough conditions,” says Todd Fuller, director of sales and marketing. “However, the lightweight design allows it to draw a mere 7 inches.” The Marquesa’s beam is also a slender 6 feet, 7 inches, which helps eliminate weight. But Fuller says the hull’s integrated spray-rail design helps the boat ride dry, and at 18 feet, 3 inches long, it still easily carries four passengers. “This skiff attracts the serious or weekend angler who wants a boat that floats shallow, handles rough water, and looks great at the sandbar with the family,” Fuller says. “This is our most popular skiff because of its versatility.”
Hell’s Bay Marquesa 18
The Marquesa also comes with eight rod tubes, a large front-hatch area for storage, and two rear compartments flanking the 32-gallon livewell. The console incorporates a built-in cooler, and the skiff comes with an anodized poling tower with a SeaDek top. ** SPECIFICATIONS ** LOA 18 ft. 3 in.
BEAM 6 ft. 7 in.
DEADRISE 12 deg.
DRAFT 7 in.
Hewes Redfisher 18
At 18 feet, 10 inches long and with a 7-foot-11-inch beam, this Hewes skiff appeals to anglers who “want a bigger, more-stable fishing platform for inshore trolling-motor-style fishing, and the ability to cover bigger bodies of water with comfort and speed,” says Charlie Johnson, marketing director for Maverick Boats, which owns the Hewes brand. But this angler doesn’t want “the size and complexity typically common on bay boats. This person fishes with one or two anglers, and splits time between throwing artificials while sight-casting on the flats and pitching baits along shorelines, seawalls, and in passes.” The Redfisher 18 weighs 1,900 pounds (with a Yamaha F115) and floats in 10 inches of water. Its sibling, the 16, weighs 1,685 pounds (with an F90) and offers the same draft. Maverick’s models — all technical poling skiffs — fill in the shallower end of the spectrum; the company’s Pathfinder bay boats — starting at 22 feet — begin to expand on the space and storage of their smaller sisters.
Hewes Redfisher 18
Johnson points out that the Hewes models can still be poled, adding a level of shallow-water versatility not found in bay boats. The Hewes angler also demands broad, open, clean decks, and “the stability required for shifting conditions both in and outside the boat. He or she wants enough horsepower to cover ground when needed, yet not so much that fuel economy and boat balance is compromised,” Johnson says. Add ample rack space for rods, dry-storage capacity, a livewell and an optional release well, and the Redfisher 18 packs a ton of fishing features into its diminutive package.
Hewes Redfisher 18
**SPECIFICATIONS ** LOA 18 ft. 10 in.
BEAM 7 ft. 11 in.
DEADRISE 13 deg.
DRAFT 10 in.
Spyder FX-19 Redfish
Longer than many flats skiffs at 19 feet, 1 inch — though still a slender 6 feet, 11 inches gunwale to gunwale — the FX-19 Redfish offers inshore anglers a lightweight hull that can handle a short chop. At the same time, this skiff floats in 6 inches of water. “The FX-19 appeals to several different types of anglers who all have a common goal of a low-profile platform, shallow draft, large unobstructed areas to fish from, stability in a platform, and an economical-to-operate boat,” says Brad Miller, Spyder’s Florida territory manager. That encompasses everyone from the experienced coastal fisherman to the novice angler. Spyder also makes a 17-footer, and its sister brands. The 17 weighs 890 pounds dry, and the 19 weighs 1,020 pounds. With a Yamaha F150 outboard (max power), the 19 fleshes out to 1,530 pounds. The FX-19 comes in three packages — Standard, Redfish (pictured) and Pro Flats. All feature two bait or release wells (one that holds 30 gallons and one at 17½ gallons), an aft insulated fish box, and storage for 10 rods. ** SPECIFICATIONS** LOA 19 ft. 1 in.
BEAM 6 ft. 11 in.
DEADRISE 10 deg.
DRAFT 6 in.
Considered a technical-poling skiff because of its light weight, quiet design and 5-inch draft, this 17-foot-4-inch skiff is the smallest vessel Yellowfin makes. The company also builds a 24 bay boat and a 21-foot hybrid. The hybrid starts to offer more storage and a broader platform, and it splits the difference between the buoyant 17 and the sturdy 24, floating in as little as 13 inches. But with the flats skiff, you get the shallow-water stealth that stalkers need, console and undergunwale rod storage, several custom-seating options, and a 35-gallon livewell. The vessel fishes three people comfortably, so it’s not quite as socially adept as the slightly larger bantamweight skiffs.
At 625 pounds dry weight (a Mercury 115 adds 399 pounds, for a total of 1,024 pounds), the 17 certainly defines nimble. “The weight is light, but not micro light,” says Yellowfin owner Wylie Nagler. “The wider beam (6 feet, 4 inches) allows us to build a little heavier and still have better displacement. This allows the boat to fish two people from the front.” Since the 17 appeals to anglers who perhaps want to be extreme-flats prowlers yet hope for a little versatility at the same time, this boat nudges the bantamweight line. “The disadvantages are rough-water handling and speed. We are better in the rough than a micro skiff, but not like a bay boat,” Nagler says. “The advantage over bigger boats is fishability in shallow water.”