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The Next Wave: Best New Fishing Boats for 2018

The Next Wave: Best New Fishing Boats for 2018
Skeeter redesigned the storage layout in the new ZX250.

Skeeter redesigned the storage layout in the new ZX250.

Anglers have plenty of choices when it comes to buying a new boat. We took a deep dive into latest bass boats, V-hulls and other fishing crafts in our series on the best new fishing boats for 2018.

Our writers and editors looked at features, specifications, handling and fishability on eight different models.

We also found many things we liked and a few we'd change.


We featured the Ranger Z520L ComancheSkeeter ZX250G3 Sportsman 200AlumaCraft Voyageur 175 SportStarcraft Titan 186 DCSmoker Craft 182 Pro MagRanger 2080MS AnglerCrestliner 1750 Bass Hawk


Check out our reviews in the gallery below (click on the headlines for full reviews).

If you enjoy fishing for a variety of species that live in vastly different habitats, then you already know the challenge of finding a capable boat — one that can glide silently through weedy shallows yet with the ability to troll deep, open waters and absorb a good walleye chop. You want the protection of high freeboard and a full windshield to keep the spray out on windy days, yet you also need an open layout that won't interfere with casting. The boat should carry plenty of guests and the whole package has to be compact enough that you can tow it with something less than a semi and launch it from rough, unmaintained ramps. Built to fish hard, the Titan is constructed from hefty .125-inch aluminum plates on the bottom and solid .80-inch plates on the sides, double-riveted along the chine and transom seams. 'Titan ' is an apt name for this rig, with its battleship-like build. That's further augmented by its internal torsion beam construction, which gives the Titan a stiff, solid frame that won't flex or twist when running in chop with heavy loads. The result of this over-engineering is a tremendously smooth ride, crisp handling and the ability to gobble up chop. The Titan's raised front deck, big walk-through windshield and an open main cockpit with raised stern deck give this boat maximum versatility. Click on the headline for more info.
When stepping aboard the 182 Pro Mag you'll be surprised by how much space there is on this 18-foot boat. There's comfortable seating for up to eight people, with ample space to store all of their gear. The huge raised bow deck conceals vast amounts of in-floor storage, an 18-gallon aerated livewell, and a large, lockable rod storage compartment. The rod storage compartment holds up to six rods rigged and ready to go, yet safely protected from harm. Thanks to some thoughtful engineering, the front deck is high enough that the tall windshield protects occupants exceptionally well but doesn't gets in the way when casting. A 28-gallon aerated livewell in the stern accommodates a tournament-load of fish with ease. Additional rod storage in the gunnels is a welcome feature. Make certain you spring for the optional ventilation system that dries gear and rods that are put away wet, greatly reducing mildew and protecting expensive tackle from rust damage. Underfoot, the 182 Pro Mag comes with Smoker Craft's Sea Weave flooring as standard equipment, offering the durability of vinyl, but in an attractive non-slip finish that looks great even after years of hard use. The gunnels have an integrated rack system that allows rod holders, downriggers and other equipment to be easily mounted wherever they are needed. Click on the headline for more info.
The 1750 Bass Hawk is a lightweight aluminum bass boat/multi-species rig that will turn heads. The 17.9-footer has a massive front deck, with two large and two small storage compartments to accommodate the most afflicted tackle hoarder. An illuminated center rod locker holds 15 rods measuring up to 8 feet with room for another four rods in the cockpit's port rod storage area. The cockpit includes helm and passenger bucket seats with the option for a third center seat. All of the seats have storage underneath. On the bow, flush-mount electronics (up to 9-inch screen), cup and tool holder and LED light strip at the command center proved very practical. I found the 1750 offered ample angling space for two, with the rear deck having gobs of storage compartments (the Crestliner engineers made use of every cubic inch of usable space). Equipped with a 150-hp Mercury OptiMax, our 1750 popped out of the hole and planed effortlessly with a top speed of 52 mph. Under full power, the boat rides smoothly, due in part to the variable degree deadrise hull design and welded, one-piece keel. I found the Crestliner Bass Hawk has a nice mix of features offering fishermen a very solid, all-around fishing machine. Click on the headline for more info.
I'm not going overboard when I say the Ranger 2080MS Angler is a game changer. I can fish for salmon in heavy swells, troll creek channels for walleyes or beat the bank for spawning bass. It's a boat that can do it all on any body of water. New angler-friendly features can't be overlooked: a large windshield with optional tops for protection from the elements, bow recirculating aerated livewell and baitwell with automatic timer. Options like USB ports, bow-mount keypad, 12V DC power receptacles on the driver and passenger consoles demonstrate Ranger's affinity for additional creature comforts. The uniquely designed hull kept me on track and eliminated side-to-side drifting while trolling with the outboard engine. The boat's gunnels are flat and easily accommodate track- or rod-mounting systems. The port gunnel accepts 9-foot fishing rods while the center bow rod box can hold up to 8-foot fishing rods. It's a sharp-looking boat, with a newly designed driver console featuring membrane-style switches. A color matching interior, with its snap-in carpet in the cockpit area, makes keeping the boat clean a cinch. The ability to store tackle boxes in the passenger's side console (within easy reach) keeps the boat uncluttered. Click on the headline for more info.
AlumaCraft's Voyageur 175 Sport is perfectly suited for serious multi-species anglers searching for a craft that won't bottom out their boating budget. At nearly 18 feet in length, this V-hull is confident navigating skinny water or friendly big water. The 175 is very stable, with a generous beam on a relatively short boat. The boat is intelligently laid out, with plenty of room to roam for anglers on the prowl. One of the first things you notice when boarding is the ample storage; every square inch of available under-deck space is used. This large storage includes a new rod storage system in the bow, in addition to standard lockers that hold eight rods. I loved the large front casting deck — one that's stable even while making aggressive, long, two-handed casts. It is big enough to accommodate two bass fishermen pitching or flipping, or an angler who likes to stretch his legs while seated. As aluminum boats go, this one is dry at top speed and when carving the turns. Attention to fishing detail can be seen throughout the Voyageur. The lighted, aerated livewell is great when digging around for live bait on a moonless night. Heavy-gauge aluminum locker and compartment lids provide solid walking surfaces, and they're lockable. Click on the headline for more info.
Having spent considerable time aboard the G3 Sportsman 200, we can tell you, at nearly 21 feet, the G3 fishes big. The Sportsman 200 is well-suited for anglers pursing oversized species, like trophy catfish or giant stripers. While this is a big boat, the 200 will complement the avid pan-fisherman's game plan, too. The spacious front deck has a pedestal base for mounting one of the boat's moveable seats. There is also a large storage area for stowing anchors, drift socks and other essential fish gear. A spray-in floor lining keeps the boat tidy with just a quick rinse of a garden hose. The back deck is big. The four fold down seats are moveable from bow to stern, and the rear seats slide back and forth, offering room to stretch your legs out. A rod rack on the port side holds up to four 8-foot rods. Rod holders can be mounted in tracks or on the rails of the aft-deck gunnels. A 5-foot-plus livewell holds 65 gallons of water. Two controllable-flow aerators keep bait and catches frisky. Click on the headline for more info.

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All-inclusive, ready-to-fish packages gained popularity several decades ago. These boats have every gadget and option for the weekend angler and tournament professional alike. Skeeter's revamped ZX250 model offers a new fishermen-friendly storage layout, eight new color options and power supplied by the formidable Yamaha V Max SHO VF250. he ZX250 sits on a gorgeous double-axle trailer, with aluminum mag rims, dual brakes and trailer tongue step. The ZX250 comes bundled with popular aftermarket accessories, such as an 8-foot Pro 2 Series Power-Pole, Minn Kota Fortrex 112 trolling motor, Lowrance HDS-12 and HDS-9 Gen3 electronics on the console and bow. Bundled boats save buyers thousands on these angling essentials (as compared to rigging them yourself) making it hard to justify 'building ' your own boat optioned out the same. This particular package comes with a limited lifetime structural warranty and a three-year component warranty. Click on the headline for more info.

Ranger Z520L Comanche
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One of the first things we noticed sitting behind the steering wheel was the redesigned console with custom 50th anniversary gauges, grill LED lighting, 9-inch Lowrance HDS Carbon (with space to mount a 16-inch Lowrance HDS unit), 12V DC power receptacle and USB port. The dash is very functional, with the new digital switching keypad design making it simple to control every electronic device including the oxygenator, power ventilation rod storage fan, navigation lights and multiple LED lights throughout the boat. The ride is classic Ranger smooth, with new adjustable bucket driver and passenger seats. The seats are separated by a self-latching center seat storage area, and twin passenger grab handles on the passenger console. Ranger didn't overlook the back deck. Its re-circulating aerated livewell with tournament divider, pump out and Venturi Air system manages catches. A Minn Kota 36-volt trolling motor is standard, as is an on-board, four-bank, 15 amp Dual-Pro charger. Click on the headline for more info.
 

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