Which is the Best Fishing Boat for You?

Choosing an angling vessel

If you are looking to buy a sea angling boat, or want to know what is the best small sea fishing boat? Read our guide to sea anglers.

Whether your dream is to own a small sea fishing boat that can carry you outside the harbour entrance for a spot of bass fishing or for a larger vessel that can take you and a party well offshore to the fishing grounds, the same principles of decision making apply there are a few questions to ask yourself to understand which is the best fishing boat for you.

Questions to ask yourself when choosing your fishing boat…

  • Experience- You might have plenty of fishing expertise, but have you owned a boat before? If not, be realistic about the size and type of boat you can manage.
  • Size - How far offshore do you want to go and how many passengers do you want to be able to carry?
  • Type - Do you want slow, heavy, light, fast, rugged, stable?
  • Skills - How are your boat handling and navigation skills? Do you have a VHF certificate?
  • Budget - Do you have a budget in mind? Have you listed all the costs involved?
  • Time - Owning a boat consumes plenty, how much spare time do you have available?
  • New or used - What are the pros and cons?
  • Engine - Are you thinking of an inboard or outboard engine?
  • Storage - Will you keep the boat ashore, on a mooring or in a marina?
  • Road transport - Will you need a road trailer? If so, check the maximum towing weight of your vehicle?
  • Maintenance - Are you planning to maintain the boat yourself?

Size of boat

Some may argue that you can fish from any size of vessel, but in order to have an enjoyable experience any boat under 4 metres in length is going to be a challenge.

5 metres

A 5 metre is suitable for a first time boat buyer, being easily manageable. A 5 metre boat can normally be launched from a trailer fairly easily.

6 metres

Boats of 6 metres in length will require a strong vehicle with a high towing capacity, especially those with cuddies which will add to the weight. The extra metre in length will provide much more room than a 5 metre. 

6+ metres

Boats over 6 metres in length will be better suited for offshore fishing and give you more freedom to explore fishing grounds further from your home port. Expect to pay much higher prices for boats this size and bigger.

Note: Fishing boats with cuddies offer more protection than an open boat but they also limit the all-round fishing experience.

Transporting your boat by road

If you plan to transport your boat by road it is important that you check your vehicle has adequate towing capacity and that the combined boat and trailer gross weight does not exceed this. For example an average family car should be able to manage a combined boat and trailer weight up to 750kg, while the largest 4x4s can tow a combined boat and braked trailer weight up to 3500kg.

Note that braked and un-braked trailers have different limits. Rules and regulations for towing in the UK and Europe are quite complex.

Hull type

There are all kinds of boats out there suitable for sea fishing, varying in shape, size and purpose. Choosing the hull type is a good way to start narrowing down your choice. 

displacement hull=


Displacement hull

Displacement hulls are used for slow, heavy vessels like trawlers and tugs. A displacement hull moves through the water by pushing the water aside and cutting through it at a slow, steady speed. Fishing boats with displacement hulls are economic on fuel and move through the water easily and efficiently. They don’t tend to rock around and are able to cope well with rough seas.

Planing hull

planing hull=


Planing hulls are designed to rise up and skim or ‘plane’ over the water once they have reached a high enough speed (usually 15 knots or more). They require large powerful engines to build up sufficient speed to plane. Most boats designed to plane are made of light materials to keep their weight down.

Planing hulls are V shaped in section at the bow, to help the hull cut through the water, extending to a flatter bottomed, wider shape towards the stern, allowing the boat to skim over the water at speed. 

Semi-displacement hull


A semi-displacement hull is normally narrower than a planing hull, with a fine bow but a more rounded hull shape than a pure planing hull and a flat part at the stern to help create lift. The more rounded shape of the hull makes it more comfortable than a planing hull in a rough sea.

Semi-displacement hulls are well suited for rugged, sea going boats such as pilot vessels, which are able to move quickly through heavy seas.

Cathedral hull

cathedral hull=


A cathedral hull is a variation of a planing hull and a popular shape for fishing boats. Cathedral hulls have a deep V shape along the centre with two smaller V shaped sections on either side, similar in design to the roofs of old cathedrals. This design gives a stable platform that is suited for fishing and copes well with rough conditions.

The hull shape also enables greater speed than a heavy displacement equivalent, which gets you to the fishing ground quicker and back home quicker if the weather turns nasty.

Budget for your fishing boat

It is a good idea to list of all the likely costs. Here are two basic checklists covering the initial purchase costs and annual expenses:

1. Boat and equipment purchase

  • Purchase price - Check what equipment is included
  • Trailer - If a road trailer is not included, this can be a major item
  • Survey - Essential if you buy a used boat
  • Spare engine - If your main engine fails, a spare outboard will get you home
  • Navigation equipment - GPS, compass, VHF radio, nav lights, foghorn
  • Fishing equipment - Fish finder, rod holders, tackle, rigs, buckets, storage boxes
  • Safety equipment - Lifejackets, fire extinguishers, flares, lifebuoy, first aid kit
  • Deck gear - Anchors, chain, warp, mooring lines, fenders
  • Spares - Engine spares, fuses, light bulbs, tools

2. Annual running expenses

  • Engine servicing - Get quotes from service engineers before you buy
  • Trailer servicing - Brakes, bearings, corrosion protection
  • Maintenance - Hull, props, antifouling, paint, varnish, safety gear
  • Storage fees - Get quotes from marinas, boat yards, harbour and river moorings
  • Harbour dues - If you are based in a harbour, expect to pay annual fees
  • Fuel - Make an allowance for fuel, based on expected annual usage
  • Repairs - Wise to factor this in, even if an unknown
  • Tackle - The sky’s the limit
  • Insurance - Find out more about boat insurance

Searching for the best small sea fishing boat?

A good place to start searching is by browsing a few of the many websites and forums that are dedicated to sea fishing and boat buying. Most online marketplaces enable you to refine your search to suit your requirements and some have advanced search features which will notify you if a boat matching your search criteria comes on the market. Here are some good examples:

By signing into online forums, you can easily get advice from people with experience. If you browse online you will find several for sea angling enthusiasts.

Boat shows

Visit the boat shows if you can, not only to look at the boats, but talk to the people working in the boating industry - designers, manufacturers, finance people, the training schools and more. Most will happily offer their advice at these shows and are used to doing so. There are many boat shows held around the UK during the year, the largest being London (every January) and Southampton (every September).

It is advisable to talk to a few brokers in your area as they will be able to help guide you through the boat buying process. Most are happy to offer advice and can show you round fishing boats in your price range.

Buying a used sea angler

It is advisable to decide early on whether you are going to buy new or used, as the buying process differs a little.

If you buy new, then there is much more scope to have the boat customised to suit your needs. While a new boat will cost more, it may prove easier to arrange good finance terms as repayments can be spread over longer periods.

If you buy a pre-owned boat, say a few years old, it should be a lot less than the cost when it was new and the depreciation will be less as it gets older, provided you maintain it in good condition. You will need to have the boat inspected by a surveyor but you can land yourself an excellent boat at a very good price.

New versus used boats - pros and cons

New boat - Pros New boat - Cons Used boat - Pros Used boat - Cons
Good financing options Rapid depreciation early on Purchase cost is less than new Financing options not as good as for new
Warranty protection Purchase cost Usually better equipped than new Warranty may not be included
Choose the specification to suit your needs Equipment and gear will be extra Less depreciation Specification as seen

Engines - inboard or outboard?

Most small to medium sized fishing boats on the market have outboard engines, many being modern 4 stroke engines, which are quieter than the older 2 stroke engines.

Opinions vary whether inboard is preferable to outboard, but it is generally accepted that outboards are best suited for small to medium sized fishing boats and inboard diesels are the engine of choice for larger boats, say over 8 metres. Inboards tend to be heavier, more expensive and more difficult to work on, but on the other hand they last far longer.

There are pros and cons for both but for the purposes of this article, let’s go with the outboard. If you find a boat with an outboard, then there are a number of things you should check:

  • Contact the manufacturer and check the engine is the correct weight and horsepower rating for the boat. An overpowered engine will affect handling and balance and may also damage the transom; an underpowered engine will have to work very hard and might overheat easily.
  • Check the shaft length of the outboard will be suitable for your boat’s transom.
  • You need to see the engine running. Make sure that the cooling system is working properly.
  • Note: If a water cooled engine is run out of the water it can do major damage, by overheating the engine and destroying the impeller. Make sure the engine has a proper water supply for the cooling system if the test is done ashore.
  • If the engine is a 2 stroke check that marine grade two stroke oil has been used in the mix. It needs to be TC-W3 approved oil, which is expensive but essential for the health of a marine 2 stroke.
  • Ask to see compression figures for the engine. If the readings are 10% below or more than the manufacturer’s recommended level in any of the cylinders then this indicates wear and the engine will need a rebore and new pistons, which will be expensive.
  • Check the fuel consumption for the engine, measured in gallons per hour.
  • Avoid buying a non-runner unless you are an experienced mechanic.
  • Check the engine serial number (S/N) - this will enable you to check online the age of the engine by going to the manufacturer’s website and entering the make, horsepower and S/N.

Maintenance of your angling vessel

Salt water is a punishing environment for engines, electrics, instruments, paintwork, varnish and just about anything that is manmade. If a boat isn’t regularly maintained and looked after then the risk of engine failure or equipment failure will increase and sooner or later something is going to break and ruin your day.

When you look over a used boat, it is important to thoroughly check the vessel’s maintenance records. If records are not available, then proceed with utmost caution as replacing gear can get very expensive and time consuming.


All recreational boats placed on the market after 1998 between 2.5m and 24m in length are required by European Law to comply with minimum standards set by the Recreational Craft Directive (RCD). When looking for a boat, the RCD category will be marked on the identification plate, along with the maximum recommended load, number of persons recommended, manufacturer’s name etc.

The RCD states that manufacturers have to categorise their boats into one of four categories that are rated according to the seaworthiness capabilities as follows:

Choosing a fishing boat - our summary

  • The more background boating knowledge and practical skills you can build up the better.
  • Choose the right type of boat to suit your needs and experience.
  • Work out your budget, including running costs.
  • Check out the sea angling forums - a great place for advice.
  • Decide whether you want to buy new or used.
  • Get a survey for a used boat. Pay particular attention to engine condition.
  • Visit the boat shows.
  • Talk to brokers; most will offer advice and help guide you through the process.
  • Sign up for some training unless you are already a skilled boater.

Boat insurance from Towergate

Boat insurance from Towergate is available for different vessels and levels of cover depending on what you use your boat for, from third party cover to weather events and personal accident. For more information visit our boat insurance page or call us on 0344 892 1987.

About the author

Adam Summersby is a respected leader with 11 years’ varied experience in niche personal and commercial lines insurance, including caravan, site operators and excess reimbursement, with proficiency in leadership, sales and account management.