Bay Boats vs Flats Boats: What’s the Difference

There are a lot of different terms that are thrown around in the marine and boating industry. Many of these terms are used to describe products that have subtle differences, yet can be very similar. Take, for instance, the terms “bay boat” and “flats boat.” These two types of crafts are easily confused, but have unique features and purposes. Here, we’ll help you determine the exact difference between the two.

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What is a Flats Boat?

The term “flats boat” derives from the fact that these boats are used for fishing in shallow water flats, not because they are flat in shape.

Also known as “skiffs,” these boats have a shallow draft (how deep the boat goes into the water) that allows them to cruise over waters sometimes as shallow as 12 inches, providing access to locations other boats can’t reach.

Flats boats don’t have an official size, but they are usually about 15 to 25 feet in length and have an outboard motor. They are light enough to be pushed forward easily with a pole, and generally sit two to three people. They are designed for fishing, so there is often a casting deck at the front and a poling deck towards the rear, with the idea being that one person pushes the boat forward while the other casts a line.

What is a Bay Boat?

Before bay boats came along, there were basically only flats boats and offshore fishing vessels. Filling the gap between small and large boats, bay boats became popular as a hybrid option. They can travel in relatively shallow water, yet still deliver smooth performance in bays, large lakes, and offshore areas.

Bay boats generally have the same length as flats boats, but they are heavier and have deeper drafts. The hulls tend to use features and characteristics from both larger and smaller boats to achieve a balance of performance, ride quality, and mid-level drafts. They also often have a deeper “V” shape to the hulls, allowing them to smoothly cut through water.

The Main Differences

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The main difference between bay boats and flats boats is where they can travel. A flats boat can reach extremely shallow locations, giving you access to untouched waters where many trophy fish are hiding. Bonefish, for example, is a popular sportfish that’s often pursued from a flats boat.

Bay boats, however, give a balance between shallow-water potential and offshore access. They often have a shallow draft, giving far more access to shallow water than offshore boats, but they also have the ability to cruise across open water with greater comfort and a smoother ride compared to flats boat.

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Whether you want a flats boat or a bay boat, you’ll find the perfect craft from Scout Boats. Plus, you can customize your craft exactly to your liking with our Build Your Scout tool. Try it out today!

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