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’ 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.
Maverick 18 HPX-V
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.
Xplor Boatworks X7
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.
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.
Action Craft 1600 FlatsPro
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.
Blue Wave 1900 STL
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.