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Best Skiffs for Flats Fishing

Designed for skinny-water, these specialized fishing machines can take you where the action is.

June 3, 2021
Anglers fishing from a skiff at sunset
Stealth, shallow draft and versatility make flats skiffs ideal for skinny water angling. Courtesy Maverick Boats

If you want to fish the flats efficiently, no boat can make it happen better than a flats skiff. Minimal draft, maximum fishability, and a stealthy attitude make these craft ideal whether you plan on sight fishing for reds or fly casting for bones. Check out these top five contenders.

Hewes Redfisher 16

Hewes Redfisher running across the flats
Length: 16’6”; Beam: 7’3”; Draft: 11”; Weight: 1,700 lbs. (w/motor); Fuel: 32 gal.; Max HP: 115; Price: $42,765 w/ Yamaha VF90; hewes.com Courtesy Hewes

Hewes’ VARIS construction takes boatbuilding to the next level and sets this skiff apart from the ­competition. By delivering the ideal ­resin-to-composite ratio, it reduces weight while maximizing strength, resulting in a lighter boat that’s easy to pole and tough as nails. Add the wide beam and 15-degree transom deadrise, and you get a flats skiff that’s also surprisingly stable, runs smoothly, and rides high in a chop—precisely the kind of versatile boat that feels right at home fishing in inlets and passes, as well as in ­back­country bays or on oceanside flats. To cap it all off, the Redfisher 16 is a breeze to trailer and fits readily in a garage.

Hewes Redfisher 16 running on glassy water
The Redfisher 16 offers a comfortable ride to and from the flats. Courtesy Hewes
Hewes Redfisher navigating between islands
Open water crossings, even on a light chop, are a breeze on this Hewes. Courtesy Hewes
Casting deck on the Hewes Redfisher
The forward casting deck has ample fishing room and storage. Courtesy Hewes
Rod storage on the Hewes Redfisher
Rod storage includes console racks to keep rigged rods at arm’s length. Courtesy Hewes

Maverick 18 HPX-V

Maverick 18 HPX-V rocketing across the water
Length: 18’4”; Beam: 6’8”; Draft: 9”; Weight: 1,460 lbs. (with F150 motor); Fuel: 29 gal.; Max HP: 150; Price: $58,148 w/ Yamaha VF115; maverickboats.com Courtesy Maverick

The Maverick 18 HPX-V, popular with hardcore flats anglers and guides, poles well in extremely shallow water and affords the comfort and space of a backcountry boat. The extra elbow room lets three anglers fish comfortably in different types of waters, from flats and passes to inlets and bridges. The length helps the skiff track well, even in a breeze, and allows for considerable livewell capacity: a whopping 30 gallons for hauling large, live baits. The boat is designed to get on top of a chop instead of plowing through it, thanks to the builder’s weight-saving techniques that use Vacuum-Assisted Resin Infusion System (VARIS) construction, and Kevlar and carbon fiber. Added bonus: An incredibly rigid and solid hull.

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Maverick 18 HPX-V poling the flats
When it’s time to pole, the HPX-V glides quietly and turns easily to intercept fish. Courtesy Maverick
Maverick 18 HPX-V at anchor
The clean, snag-free layout is perfect for fly fishing, and lets anglers focus on the fishing. Courtesy Maverick
Maverick 18 HPX-V console
The HPX-V features under-gunwale rod racks and a console with extended dash for flush-mounting electronics. Courtesy Maverick
Maverick 18 HPX-V removable cooler
A removable, matching fiberglass cooler doubles as a forward console seat. Courtesy Maverick

Xplor Boatworks X7

Xplor Boatworks X7 running inshore
Length: 18’9”; Beam: 7’4””; Draft: 6” to 8.5”; Weight: 650 lbs.; Fuel: 28 gal.; Max HP: 115; Price: $48,529 w/ Mercury 115 ProXS; xplorboatworks.com Courtesy Xplor

Hull design on the Xplor X7 gives this boat unique running characteristics and also boosts fishability. The integrated rails take the upward force of the water and use it to soften the ride while ­channeling that water away from the boat to knock down spray. This allows for the rails to be placed higher on the hull sides than normal, minimizing rail or chine splashing that can create fish-­spooking noises while poling. Additionally, the hull has a padded running surface, longer than most, that provides more lift and stability. Topside design boosts the skiff’s fishing prowess as the cap extends beyond the hull confines, providing the most fishing area possible atop the minimal amount of wetted surface, leaving room for three livewells totaling a monstrous 86-gallon capacity.

Xplor Boatworks X7 poling at sunrise
Propelled by pushpole, the X7 tracks well and turns with minimal effort. Courtesy Xplor
Xplor Boatworks X7 aft storage
Generous dry storage is readily accessible under the helm-seating split bench. Courtesy Xplor
Xplor Boatworks X7 livewells
Three aft livewells allow you to carry different types of bait or a larger supply. Courtesy Xplor
Xplor Boatworks X7 rod storage
Staggered under-gunwale racks provide added space for rods and minimize tangles. Courtesy Xplor

Yellowfin 17CE

Yellowfin 17CE cruising inshore
Length: 17’4”; Beam: 6’8”; Draft: 7”; Weight: 600 lbs.; Fuel: 22 gal.; Max HP: 115; Price: $57,884 w/ Mercury 60 FourStroke; yellowfin.com Courtesy Yellowfin

A vacuum-bagged and injected molding process, and the use of composites, including proprietary fabrics unique to Yellowfin, made with Kevlar, E-glass and carbon in a quad-axis weave, plus 1005 pure vinylester resin, give the Yellowfin 17 CE (Carbon Elite) a major dose of high-tech construction that sets it apart from the flats skiff crowd. With a stepped hull that’s 20 percent lighter and 17 percent stronger than its predecessor, the 17-footer has an average fuel burn of 7 mpg with a Mercury 60 FourStroke, and a range of over 150 miles—unheard of for a flats skiff. On top of that, Yellowfin’s high resale value means the 17 CE is bound to deliver exceptional value, despite a higher initial cost than some other skiffs.

Yellowfin 17CE with multiple anglers
The 17 CE floats skinny even loaded with gear and with three anglers onboard. Courtesy Yellowfin
Yellowfin 17CE fishing mangroves
The Yellowfin’s design eliminates hull slap to sneak up on wary gamefish. Courtesy Yellowfin
Yellowfin 17CE running fast
The skiff’s design and construction were thoroughly tested during endurance racing around the state of Florida. Courtesy Yellowfin
Yellowfin 17CE on the flats
The 17 CE’s hull incorporates splash rails to minimize spray when running. Courtesy Yellowfin

Action Craft 1600 FlatsPro

Action Craft 1600 FlatsPro idling
Length: 16’2”; Beam: 7’0”; Draft: 7” to 9”; Weight: 860 lbs.; Fuel: 23 gal.; Max HP: 115; Price: $36,000 w/ 90-hp outboard; actioncraft.com Courtesy Action Craft

If you love flats skiffs but not their limited capacity, you’ll want to check out Action Craft’s 1600 FlatsPro, a 16-footer US Coast Guard-rated to hold up to five people—more than many other flats skiffs, even significantly larger models. Stability is a big contributing factor here because the FlatsPro, with its 14-degree transom deadrise and 7-foot beam, is uber-stable. Action Craft also offers multiple seating options to increase the comfort level of those aboard, including a bench seat with flip-up backrest, and a raised console with leaning-post seating. Angling acuity gets a boost as well, thanks to the spacious fore and aft casting decks, each with its own livewell topping 20 gallons.

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Action Craft 1600 on trailer
Action Craft’s Qui-Dry hull easily cuts through a chop and keeps spray to a minimum. Courtesy Action Craft
Action Craft 1600 casting platform
Large fore and aft decks and wide, walkaround gunwales afford more fishing room than some larger skiffs. Courtesy Action Craft
Action Craft 1600 console
The console has space for all essentials, and gunwale and console racks provide plenty of rod storage. Courtesy Action Craft
Action Craft 1600 helm seating
The backrest on the helm-seating bench folds down flush with the aft deck for fishing. Courtesy Action Craft

Blue Wave 1900 STL

Blue Wave 1900 STL running fast inshore
Length: 19’; Beam: 8’; Draft: 7”; Weight: 1,395 lbs.; Fuel: 30 gal.; Price: Upon request; bluewaveboats.com Courtesy Blue Wave

One of two models in Blue Wave’s Ultra-Shallow series, the 1900 STL combines skinny-water capabilities, generous storage and ­excellent fishability without sacrificing comfort, making it a great choice for spending the day on the flats with the family. The hull boasts a large, rounded tunnel and a slot transom—exclusive Blue Wave designs—for taking off and cruising in shallow water with confidence. Stability, both on the run and at rest, is one of the 1900 STL’s hallmarks, and the layout includes large fish boxes and livewells, elevated casting areas fore and aft, and plenty of walk-around space, plus forward-console seating, a leaning post that accommodates two at the helm, and twin jump seats astern.

Blue Wave 1900 STL heading out to fish
The helm leaning post includes a 4-rod rocket launcher and holds a cooler underneath. Courtesy Blue Wave
Blue Wave 1900 STL on the river
The massive, raised fore deck provides plenty of casting room and storage. Courtesy Blue Wave
Blue Wave 1900 STL aft deck
Twin jump seats bookend the outboard and fold down flat when fishing. Courtesy Blue Wave
Blue Wave 1900 STL carving turns
A deeper cockpit provides added safety and a dry ride in open water. Courtesy Blue Wave
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