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Buyer's Guide: 6 Great Fishing Boats for 2021

Spring brings new boats, motors and accessories that make getting to the fish almost as much fun as catching them.

Buyer's Guide: 6 Great Fishing Boats for 2021

Falcon Bass Boats F185 is one of six new fishing boats reviewed.

One constant that has held us all together and given us hope for a brighter future through unprecedented times is our collective love of the water. As ice begins to fade across the northland and waters warm throughout the South, our attention turns once again to boats—especially new boats rolling into marinas—as well as the powerplants and accessories that make fishing from a new boat a true joy.

While the fundamental acts of fishing—presenting a lure and coaxing a strike—remain unchanged, the specific features and functions that we look for in a new boat may vary widely depending on where we fish and what we're fishing for. Indeed, the boating needs of a halibut angler plying the waters of coastal Alaska will not match those of a crappie enthusiast in the low country of Louisiana.


Begin your boat selection process by considering how and where you plan to spend most of your time on the water. Expansive waters, like large Southern reservoirs or the Great Lakes, frequently call for longer boats to provide a smoother ride in rough conditions. If your adventures take you to skinny rivers or pothole lakes, then a shorter boat with a shallow draft is more appropriate.

How much gear are you willing to load (and unload) for every trip? Be sure that your boat has enough dry storage available to accommodate not only tackle, but also foul-weather gear, safety equipment, ropes and buoys, lunch and more. Do you spend most of your time fishing at anchor, or is trolling more your cup of tea? Thinking carefully about how you will use your boat—before you buy—will help you find the perfect new rig for the ways and waters you fish.

Contemporary boats are built to last, and to deliver you, your partners and all of your equipment to and from your favorite spots in comfort, style and safety. Game & Fish was treated to a behind-the-scenes look at some of 2021's boats, motors and accessories, and the following hot new fishing rigs will help you make the most of your time on the water.

Caymas CX 19

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Caymas CX 19

Tennessee-based Caymas Boats offers a dazzling array of high-performance fiberglass platforms for both freshwater and saltwater anglers. The most recent Caymas boat to take flight is the CX 19, a roomy, 19-foot-9-inch boat with a 96-inch beam, and a 50-gallon fuel capacity that will get you to the fish and back again.

When paired with its top-rated 225-horsepower outboard, the CX 19 delivers an astonishing 70-plus-mph top speed without a hint of chine walk. Caymas notes that the rough-water handling capabilities of the CX 19 will surpass the expectations of even the most seasoned tournament angler.

Integrated into the boat’s deck mold is a unique wedge for the trolling motor bracket. It ensures the trolling motor is positioned at the precise angle needed to project the sonar beam directly beneath the boat—perfect for fishing drop-shots and Ned rigs. Open the CX 19’s expansive, thoughtfully-designed compartments to find room to store more than 30 rods and more than 25 standard-dimension tackle trays.




An available option on the CX 19 is the industry's first high-speed livewell pickup, which continues to add fresh water into the livewells while running down the lake. Anglers no longer have to worry about making a long trip back to weigh-in, only to find they have lost a lot of water—and fish—in the livewell.

Specifications

  • Construction: Composite
  • Length: 19'9"
  • Beam: 96"
  • Max Horsepower: 225 hp
  • Fuel Capacity: 50 gal.

Fishing Features


  • 38-gal. livewell
  • 8' rod storage

Starting Price: $49,699

More Info: caymasboats.com


Crestliner MX-21

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Crestliner MX-21

Competitive bass fishing has been the nearly exclusive domain of fiberglass boats for a number of years, but that trend has begun to change with the introduction of high-performance aluminum hulls designed with the needs of tournament anglers at the forefront. Crestliner expands its all-aluminum bass boat offerings in 2021 with the new MX-21, a 21-foot-5-inch powerhouse with a roomy 96-inch beam, sporting a 40-gallon fuel capacity and a 250-horsepower rating.

The MX-21 is designed around Crestliner’s Pad Hull, which provides enhanced lift and handling capabilities. An enormous bow deck with 60 square feet of fishing space pairs perfectly with a spacious stern deck, home to a 45-gallon livewell and room for four batteries. Abundant rod and tackle storage beneath the bow deck ensures that all of your tools are at your fingertips, no matter the conditions.

A premium fiberglass console protects the driver during long runs down the lake, with space for a flush-mounted 12-inch fishfinder. Watch for Crestliner pro anglers to be in command of the MX-21 on the FLW and Bassmaster Elite circuits this year.

Specifications

  • Construction: Aluminum
  • Length: 21'5"
  • Beam: 97"
  • Max Horsepower: 250 hp
  • Fuel Capacity: 40 gal.

Fishing Features

  • 45-gal. livewell
  • 8' rod storage

Starting Price: $39,576

More Info: crestliner.com

Falcon Bass Boats F185

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Falcon Bass Boats F185

Falcon introduces a new 18-foot fiberglass bass boat to its lineup for 2021. Hitting the tape at 18 feet, 9 inches, the F185 presents anglers an economical, mid-horsepower vessel that shares all of the characteristics of larger Falcon boats, but in a package that fits the bill for those searching for a compact rig that is easy to tow and store in the garage.

Despite its shorter length, the F185 boasts a beam of 93 1/2 inches for a comfortable, stable ride and features a 31-gallon fuel tank for those long days on the water. While the F185's standard powerplant is a 150-horsepower outboard mounted on a manual jackplate, this Falcon can also be propelled by a 175-horsepower motor when more speed is desired.

Like all other Falcon models, the F185 features a deck layout that includes the innovative and familiar Falcon Wing front-hinged rod-locker design, high-quality components and storage compartments. The deck is engineered to provide more fishing room, and the F185 provides the smooth ride that anglers have come to expect from the company’s bass boats. Even though the F185 is a shorter package, Tim De Priest, Falcon Bass Boats co-founder, says consumers should expect a lot from this new boat.

"This is a Falcon boat, without a doubt," said De Priest. "We took great care to make sure it fit our lineup, had all the same quality components and had one of the best fishing platforms in the category. The F185 lives up to our performance demands and our 'Big Decks' motto; fish it and see, we think you'll agree."

Specifications

  • Construction: Composite
  • Length: 18'9"
  • Beam: 93"
  • Max Horsepower: 175 hp
  • Fuel Capacity: 31 gal.

Fishing Features

  • 34-gal. livewell
  • Rod storage

Starting Price: $35,000

More Info: falconbassboats.com

Smoker Craft 176 Excursion DC Pro

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Smoker Craft 176 Excursion DC Pro

For five generations and counting, Smoker Craft has focused on delivering value without sacrificing performance. The company’s attention to innovative hull designs produces boats that offer smooth rides, excellent handling and much-appreciated fuel economy. After all, anglers would much rather spend their hard-earned money on tackle than gas. On the water, they will enjoy Smoker Craft’s uncrowded interior layouts that provide comfort to fish all day.

The new Excursion Series furthers Smoker Craft’s reputation for high-performance aluminum fishing boat design, providing some of the best acceleration, handling and ride quality in the industry. It features the Vertex Performance Strake Hull, C-Zone digital switching, center rod storage, open-port running rod storage and stern deck storage. Excursion Series boats come in 16- and 17-foot lengths with floorplan options that include dual-console, side-console and tiller layouts.

The company's 176 Excursion DC Pro is a 17-foot-8-inch boat with an 88-inch beam, a dual-console layout with a walk-through windshield, and a 115-horsepower rating. With abundant storage and a variety of standard creature comforts, the 176 Excursion DC Pro is ready to carry you to a limit of crappies and maybe a 30-inch walleye, even when conditions get rough.

Specifications

  • Construction: Aluminum
  • Length: 17'8"
  • Beam: 88"
  • Max Horsepower: 115 hp
  • Fuel Capacity: 24 gal.

Fishing Features

  • 20-gal. livewell
  • Center and open-port running
  • Rod storage

Starting Price: $31,060

More Info: smokercraft.com

Starcraft 166 Storm SC

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Starcraft 166 Storm SC

Starcraft Marine has been building aluminum fishing boats since 1903, and the brand is well known among North American boat manufacturers for its breakthrough designs and industry firsts. Today, Starcraft continues to produce innovative interior layouts that maximize space and high-performance hulls that deliver exceptional strength and fuel economy.

New for 2021, Starcraft introduces the Storm Series with the first-time boat buyer in mind. The Storm comes standard with the proven Vertex Performance Strake (VPS) hull, which incorporates specifically designed integrated performance strakes that provide undisturbed water to prop, faster hole shot, quicker time to plane, better stability and a higher, drier ride. Best of all, VPS achieves this level of performance with smaller, lighter, more fuel-efficient engines that help reduce ownership costs.

The 166 Storm SC is a 16-foot-4-inch boat with an 88-inch beam, a spacious single-console layout and a 90-horsepower rating. You’ll find a port-side rod locker, a stern aerated livewell and plentiful storage room in the front deck. The Storm Series includes a variety of 16- and 17-foot models with side-console, dual-console and tiller floor plans. A wide range of upgrades are also available.

Specifications

  • Construction: Aluminum
  • Length: 16'4"
  • Beam: 88"
  • Max Horsepower: 90 hp
  • Fuel Capacity: 24 gal.

Fishing Features

  • 20-gal. livewell
  • 
Rod storage

Starting Price: $24,504

More Info: starcraftmarine.com

Vexus ADX190

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Vexus ADX190

Vexus boats are built to be different, from the keel to the deck and everywhere in between. Engineered using the company's innovative Glass-Infused Aluminum Hybrid design technology, Vexus boats marry the custom curves and creature comforts of a fiberglass boat with the raw durability and fishability of aluminum hulls. In many respects, Vexus boats represent the best of both worlds for today's angler.

The latest addition to the Vexus lineup is the ADX190, a boat with a deep-V hull and a 175-horsepower capacity. The ADX190 is engineered for hard-core fishing all year long as well as family fun on the water during the warmer months. With an 18-foot-11-inch length, an expansive 98-inch beam and a 38-gallon fuel capacity, the ADX190 is designed to tackle long weekends on the lake without batting an eye.

The boat's expansive port and center rod-storage lockers hold rods up to 8 feet, 8 inches in length. Integrated jump seats on the back deck make it easy to bring the whole crew on the water without filling the floor space with pedestal seating. And when you're not fishing, add the available ski-tow pylon assembly for skiing and tubing fun with family and friends.

Specifications

  • Construction: Aluminum hybrid
  • Length: 18'11"
  • Beam: 98"
  • Max Horsepower: 175 hp
  • Fuel Capacity: 37 gal.

Fishing Features

  • Livewell
  • 8'8" rod storage

Starting Price: $43,495

More Info: vexusboats.com

MOTORS & MORE

Motors and marine electronics do the heavy lifting, propelling you over the water, easing you along the weedlines and helping you locate the fish. Just like boats, this year's outboards, trolling motors and electronics feature noteworthy enhancements you'll want to consider including in your strategy. Here are some new gear items to consider:

Suzuki DF115BG and DF140BG Outboards

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Suzuki DF115BG and DF140BG Outboards

Suzuki Marine (suzukimarine.com) is recognized worldwide for making advanced technology and features available to boaters of all types, not just those who run the largest, highest-horsepower outboards. This tradition continues with the introduction of Suzuki's DF115BG and DF140BG four-stroke outboards, the first in their class to offer all the advantages of drive-by-wire technology. With this advanced motor-control interface, you'll enjoy simplified rigging in a wide range of boats, along with silky smooth shifting, instant throttle response, enhanced performance and superior fuel efficiency. These motors also include 40-amp alternators that deliver improved output and battery-charging performance at low idle speeds—ideal for today’s power-hungry boats that spend a lot of time trolling.

Lowrance Ghost 52 and 60 Trolling Motors

2021-Boats
Lowrance Ghost 52 and 60 Trolling Motors

Lowrance (lowrance.com) expands its lineup of Ghost brushless trolling motors to include new models with longer 52- and 60-inch shafts. The brushless advantage delivers 25 percent greater thrust and 45 percent longer run times than comparable motors on the same charge, while eliminating noise and electrical interference with on-board sonar systems. The new Ghost 52 and 60 models bring all the benefits and features of the original Ghost trolling motor to boats with higher bows.

MotorGuide Xi3 Kayak Trolling Motor

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MotorGuide Xi3 Kayak Trolling Motor

Kayak fishing continues its international surge in popularity, and MotorGuide (motorguide.com) is ready to propel kayak anglers to memorable catches with the new Xi3 trolling motor. Sporting a 36-inch shaft, the Xi3 features a lightweight design and SecureStep system that makes it simple to stow and deploy the motor, even in a seated position. Along with its nearly silent operation and wireless remote, it's the perfect addition to any kayak. MotorGuide's Xi3 is also available with the Pinpoint GPS system, which allows anglers to focus on fishing while taking advantage of GPS functions like anchor, heading lock, route record and more.

Minn Kota Raptor Shallow-Water Anchor

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Minn Kota Raptor Shallow-Water Anchor

Anglers who spend their time in the shallows appreciate the precision boat control provided by durable shallow-water anchor systems. New for 2021, Minn Kota (minnkotamotors.com) reveals the new Raptor, which keeps working to hold you reliably even in rough conditions. With help from new Active Anchoring technology, the hydraulic Raptor reads the bottom, senses the anchoring force and reacts automatically to keep you locked down until the moment you're ready to change spots. Enjoy multiple control options, user-selectable anchoring modes and a rugged composite anchor spike in both 8- and 10-foot models.

Garmin STRIKER Vivid Fishfinder

2021-Boats
Garmin STRIKER Vivid Fishfinder

To help anglers find fish faster, Garmin (garmin.com/marine) introduces the new STRIKER Vivid lineup of sonar/GPS combos for 2021. Featuring Garmin CHIRP traditional sonar along with CHIRP ClearVü and SideVü scanning sonar technology, STRIKER Vivid ensures that anglers see crystal-clear fish arches and remarkable target separation. With seven new color options, Garmin offers a choice of 16 palettes, making it easier to distinguish fish from structure based on user preferences and fishing conditions. Available with a 4-, 5-, 7- or 9-inch color display, the STRIKER Vivid has a rugged design and keyed interface that’s built to withstand the harsh marine environment.

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