Helpful and unbiased advice from current boat owners.

Multispecies and Fish ‘N Ski boats are great for avid anglers who also want a boat that is more family friendly. For this reason, I have personally owned three.

To help find the boat that is right for you, we asked owners to tell us what they would look for if shopping for a new boat. From our survey of 55 multispecies and fish ‘n ski owners, quality of construction was deemed most important followed by the ride, layout and propulsion. The following is a more detailed description of each.

Fish 'N Ski/Multispecies Buyer's Guide

Fish ‘N Ski/Multispecies Buyer’s Guide

1). Quality of Workmanship

To help judge the quality of a boat, look for one with minimal wood in the construction and check the thickness of the fiberglass. Compartment lids/hatches should fit tightly and be sure to take a look at the grade of materials used for things like the carpeting and upholstery. While it can be difficult to judge the quality of a boat, especially if you are a first time boat owner, one individual suggested using the manufacturer’s warranty as a “proxy” for quality. After all, manufacturers would be hesitant to offer a quality warranty if they didn’t have confidence in the product.

Quality Checklist:

  • Minimal wood
  • Hull thickness
  • Hatches fit properly and securely
  • Materials used
  • Warranty coverage

  • “No wood” (Kevin V., Crosby, Minnesota)
  • “How much is fiberglass versus plastic. How many plies of glass fiber are included? What is thickness of aluminum if not a fiberglass boat? How are lockers integrated into the boat, i.e. built in or ‘drop in’.” (Joe N., Sugar Land, TX)
  • “Fiberglass thickness. Transom.” (Wesley E., Menoken, ND)
  • “The little things, quality of the latches, how well the carpet is installed, hull integrity.” (Bryan B., West Fargo, ND)
  • “Doors and openings will fit tight, screws/bolts will take the vibration and pounding on the water.” (Tim M., Alton, IA)
  • ” I would start by checking under the cockpits for poor fiberglass work, carpet seams need to be rolled over, floor needs to be quiet, and looking in the hull for it to be clean and free of any manufacturing components left behind such as fiberglass chips, shavings, carpet, screws etc.” (Justin K., Wilton, ND)
  • “Basically, look at the manufacturer’s warranty. For example, Lund and a lifetime warranty on the hull of the boat. No questions asked. For a fiberglass boat, look for the same thing. How long will the manufacturer stand behind the hull of that boat excluding, of course, damage caused by impacts, etc.” (Joseph M., Overland Park, KS)
  • “The hull design and how well everything fits together” (Robin S., Fargo, ND)
  • “Quality of the hull and how well built by looking at the construction (layers of fiberglass, etc.) especially at the keel and transom, type of bilge pumps (automatic vs. manual), instrumentation, wiring, cables.” (Joe S., Brighton, MI)

2). Delivers a safe and comfortable ride

Multispecies boats are often used on large, northern, waterways. The water can get rough and is often cold. Therefore, getting a boat that cuts the waves well and delivers a dry ride is both a safety and comfort factor. For fish ‘n skis, the need is slightly different. Since they are often built on shallower bass boat hulls, they may bounce or slap the waves in rough conditions making for an uncomfortable ride for family remembers.

It is important to keep in mind that there is a trade-off in hull styles. A deeper hull like that in a multispecies boat will typically provide a smoother ride but will often be slower and have a deeper draft. Shallower hulls like that on bass boats or fish ‘n ski models are faster and can better navigate shallow areas but will have a more jarring ride in rough water.

If you don’t fish in shallow areas, then a multispecies may be your best bet. However, if you are a bass angler or often find yourself in “skinny” water, then a fish ‘n ski model may be a better choice.

“Able to take large waves and terrible conditions without being pounded.”

  • “I fish big water and need something safe and can handle big waves and overall riding and how smooth it rides in calm and rough water.” (Jack B., Green Bay, WI)
  • “Deep V design. Heavy built fiberglass. Ability to stay dry.” (Jay H., Devils Lake, ND)
  • “Smooth and dry ride” (Claude W., Mandan, ND)
  • “Able to take large waves and terrible conditions without being pounded.” (anonymous)
  • “Handles rough water and keeps occupants dry.” (Tim M., Alton, IA)
  • “A safe feeling, not a choppy ride. Handle the big waves and the little chop.” (Jaimee T., Escanaba, MI)
  • “How the boat handles really rough water. Do I feel safe in this boat?” (anonymous)
  • “it needs to cut well and also track while it’s in a cut, I don’t want to feel the impact of waves in my feet, front also needs to stay above waves, a keel that offers great tracking, stern needs to keep water out when waves are hitting or when stopping.” (Justin K., Wilton, ND)
  • “Planes quickly and does not get my wife wet.” (Michael W., Cottonwood Shores, TX)

Of course, the best way to judge the ride quality of a boat is to take a test drive – preferably in less than ideal conditions. However, this isn’t always easy to do – especially if you are looking to buy a new boat from a marine dealer that is not located on the water. Ask if they give demo rides or if they have a prior customer that would be willing to meet you at the lake sometime.

3). Space for passengers, gear and room to fish

One of the advantages of fish ‘n skis and multispecies boats is that they have about twice the seating of a typical bass boat. Look for a layout with ample seating for you and your guests plus plenty of storage for rods or other gear so that you are not tripping over things. Though the decks on a fish ‘n ski or multispecies boat will be smaller than that of a bass boat, be sure that there is enough room to comfortably move about.

Layout Considerations:

  • Abundant seating
  • Storage for gear
  • Sizeable casting decks

  • “Seating and storage for poles and fishing tackle, storage for lift vests, skis and other items – never have enough storage” (Bob F., Pottsboro, TX)
  • “Lots of dry storage area for equipment. Comfort and easy accessibility to different areas of the boat. (Age friendly).” (John E., Mannford, OK)
  • “Livewells and location. Seating, storage lockers.” (Wesley E., Menoken, ND)
  • “Good fishing platforms, roomy rod lockers and plenty of storage.” (Tom N., Portland, OR)
  • “How much room there is where I fish. Most of the time sit in the back and the model I bought has plenty of room back there where I want it.” (Jack B., Green Bay, WI)
  • “Good to fish out of.” (Ronal H., Arvada, CO)
  • “Accommodate multiple passengers and seating configurations.” (anonymous)
  • “Rear folding bench or jump seats.” (Mike B., Palmyra, NY)
  • “Location of seats boxes and fishing room” (Ed C., Blacksburg, VA)
  • “Leg room when you sit facing the water that knees are not up against side of the boat. Handle 4 people comfortably.” (Tim M., Alton, IA)

4). Don’t spare the “ponies”

A common caution from boaters is to be sure to get an engine that is at, or close to, the maximum horsepower the boat is rated for. This is particularly important if you intend to use the boat for watersports. While some have brand favorites, about an equal number advocate Mercury and Yamaha engines.

“A good marine motor with proper horse power to fit that boat.”

Bob F., Pottsboro, TX
  • “Reputable brand. Is motor correctly sized for boat? Ease of maintenance of the engine.” (Joe N., Sugar Land, TX)
  • “A good marine motor with proper horse power to fit that boat.” (Bob F., Pottsboro, TX)
  • “Adequate horsepower, stainless steel prop, warranty.” (Bryan B., West Fargo, ND)
  • “Close to maximum rated.” (Charles P., Bismarck, ND)
  • “Most horsepower and quietest.” (Claude W., Mandan, ND)
  • “Quietness, proper sizing for the boat.” (Wesley E., Menoken, ND)
  • “I like Mercury motors, I’ve had good luck with them.” (Ed T., Rush City, MN)
  • “Yamaha. Space for kicker motor without a special bracket.” (Steve L., Waterford, WI)

5). Good warranty coverage and dealer support

Warranty is about in the middle of the pack in terms of importance. Most boaters don’t really consider it until they are pretty far along in the shopping process. The length of the warranty is obviously important but be sure to check the coverage for various components. Unlike cars, which often have a bumper-to-bumper coverage, boats typically have different terms for the hull, engine, electronics, trailer, etc.

Warranty Considerations:

  • Length
  • Comprehensiveness
  • Where serviced

  • “Length and inclusions.” (Paul M., Palm coast, Florida)
  • “Length in years of the warranty, what is covered regarding replacement of parts or equipment. Where does equipment have to be taken or sent for warranty repairs/replacement?” (Joe N., Sugar Land, TX)
  • “The hull needs to have a long, preferably a lifetime warranty…like SKEETER.” (Diane W., Coon Rapids, MN)
  • “Time and what it covers but this really for the engine.” (Ed C., Blacksburg, VA)
  • “Biggest concern is with the engine.” (Bryan B., West Fargo, ND)
  • “Anything more than 24 months. And much more length of warranty on more expensive equipment.” (John E., Mannford, OK)
  • “Longevity of it, coverage, getting the work done fast locally even if bought out of state.” (Justin K., Wilton, ND)
  • “First year everything on boat is covered 100%. Hull is life time of defects. Electronics has a two year warranty. Power plant – five years” (Bob F., Pottsboro, TX)

Also, as one savvy boater mentioned, it is important to find a dealer or marine mechanic nearby who can work on your boat in a timely matter. After all, even if the repair is covered under warranty, you probably will not be very happy if your boat is out of commission for a month or so – especially if you are living in North Dakota!

These are some of the more common or important priorities if shopping for a multispecies or fish ‘n ski boat. Please share your thoughts or needs by leaving a comment below.

Jerry Mona - BoaterInput

About the author

Jerry Mona is an avid boater and angler and long-time boating industry insider. With over three decades of experience, he is often considered to be the leading research expert with boaters and has helped numerous manufacturers and trade associations to understand the needs, wants, attitudes and behaviors of boaters. He now shares many of his insights about boats and boaters for free on his website.

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