Boating and sub-zero temperatures usually do not go hand-in-hand.  That is, unless you are in Minnesota and it is boat show season.  I recently spent three days at the Minneapolis Boat Show talking to shoppers as part of a research assignment.  The following are some of the new, innovative or just-plain interesting items I happened upon while walking the show.

Pontoons

Harris Crowne 250

High Tech Cockpit – 2024 Harris Crowne 250

Following in the footsteps of the auto industry, boats are getting much more high-tech.  There has been a big push for “connected vessels” where boat systems, including the engine, are connected to one another and can be operated or monitored via a common interface such as a multifunctional display, smartphone or tablet.

A great example of this is the 2024 Harris Crowne 250.  With its dual 12” Simrad displays, you can easily stay on top of major boat and engine functions in one place while keeping your eye on the horizon.  Plus, with the My Harris mobile app, you can even do so remotely and view important maintenance information and reminders (through a connection with the Mercury VesselView system).

Harris Crowne Cockpit

The steering wheel is “smart” too, enabling you to operate the stereo and other boat accessories from the illuminated center display.

Of course, all this new technology and other refinements come at a cost.  The 2024 Harris Crowne 250 with a Mercury 400 Verado had a retail price of $269K and was a recipient of National Marine Manufacturers Association (N.M.M.A.) Innovation Award at the show.

The Lego Boat – Sea Doo Switch

The Sea Doo Switch was introduced a couple of years ago and I have written about it previously but is still worth mentioning given the continued “buzz”.  A couple of the unique features are that it is jet powered and the seating arrangement is totally configurable.  The decking is made of a series of tiles that can be removed to snap-in a seat in a wide variety of configurations.  And, because of its modular design, you can attach a number of optional accessories such as a table, cooler, fenders and a bimini.

Sea Doo Switch

However, my biggest complaint with Switch is that it doesn’t come with any fishing accessories at present.  This seems like a big “miss” since a high percentage of pontoon owners do fish from their boat on occasion.  I suspect that Sea Doo will address this fairly soon.

Switch is available in three different packages – Switch (base model), Switch Cruise (for cruising and general use) and Switch Sport (for watersports). The smallest version starts at 13’ with a starting retail price of around $24K.  If you have property on one of the thousands of tiny “vacation” lakes in Northern Minnesota, Wisconsin or Michigan, this may be all that you need.  16’-21’ models are also available.

If you are looking for a traditional, plush pontoon boat for general cruising, then the Sea Doo Switch is probably not your boat.  But if you want something a bit more sporty and fun to drive or live on a small body of water, then this may be worth a look.

Whether you love them or hate them, there is no question that it is one of the more innovative products in boating which is why it made my list.

The “Fishable” Pontoon – Tahoe GEOfish

The vast majority of pontoons are designed for pleasure boating/cruising.  However, most manufacturers at least offer some basic fishing options.  Tahoe is taking things to the next level with their Geofish.  This brand new center console boat is equipped with an abundance of rod and tackle storage locations, “rocket launcher” rod holders and a large baitwell to boot.  Plus, the center console design makes it easier to fight larger fish and provides adequate room to accommodate multiple anglers.

If you are interested in a boat to fish from with multiple guests, then the Tahoe GEOfish is one to consider.  Here is a short product walk-thru by the company president at the Minneapolis Boat Show.  The show price for the 23’ model with a Honda 150 was listed at $73k.  You can also find a comparable model under the Avalon (sister) brand for about the same price.

And if you are shopping for a pontoon boat to fish from, you might want to also check out Qwest.  They offer a whole line of pontoons under the AnglerQwest series that are designed with serious anglers in mind.

Creative Solution to an Old Problem  – Premier Troll & Stowtm System

Many people who own pontoon boats like to fish on occasion.   The problem is mounting a trolling motor on the front deck creates an obstacle and tripping hazard when the boat is used for other purposes.  The Premier Troll & Stowtm  addresses this issue by creating a pivoting mounting system that can be stored completely below deck when not in use.  In addition to the trolling motor, a fish finder can be added to the mounting system as well.

Premier Troll & Stow - Stowed
Premier Troll & Stow - Deployed

And deploying the system appears to be a breeze.  The unit is lift-assisted and requires only a gentle lift on the handle to raise or lower below deck.

The only major drawback I can see is that it does take up a lot of storage space on the boat (although there should still be plenty under the seats).  However, if you do like to fish periodically, then this might be a good tradeoff for you.

Available as an option on the Premier Sunsation models, the Troll & Stowtm system received an innovation award at the Minneapolis Boat Show.

Size Matters – Bennington 28 RSBA x1 with 600 HP Mercury Verado

The idea of a “performance pontoon” was once an oxy-moron but is no longer.  Now, seeing pontoons with dual engines is not that uncommon.  And the size of the motors used keeps on growing as well.

Despite knowing this trend, I must admit that I was shocked when I first saw this massive 600 HP Mercury Verado rigged on the back of a Bennington 28 RSBA x1 (part of their R Series).  This 7.6L V12 engine has a two-speed transmission with dual counter-rotating props.  At 1,260 lbs, this monster of an engine is able to push this 30’ boat (with a 10’ beam) between 50 and 60 mph.

Bennington 28 RSBAx1 with 600 HP Verado

One of the unique characteristics of this motor is that the powerhead does not turn from side-to-side like a conventional outboard.  Instead, only the gear case pivots.  This makes it ideal for multiple engine installations since the motors can be mounted only 2” apart.

However, at approximately $85K for the engine alone, I think a better power option is to go with a pair of 300 HP Verados.  At 600 lbs and ~ $35K each, the total weight is about the same and the cost is substantially less.  Plus, you have the ability to add joystick docking when you have dual engines.

The Bennington 28RSBA x1 with the Mercury 600 Verado retailed for $240K at the show.  You can see a walkthrough of a 2022 model here.

Bennington 28 RSBAx1 Interior

Electric Boats

There has been a huge push towards electric-powered boats within the boating industry in recent years.  Several manufacturers have put forth various “concept boats” or electric propulsion systems but few practical options exist – either because the run time/range is too short or the price tag is too high or both.  Nonetheless, companies continue to move forward with developing “green” alternatives for fear of being left behind.

The following are some of the more recent entrants that were on display at the Minneapolis Boat Show.

Nomadic S16

Nomadic S16

This unique, all-aluminum, little boat has a 1 kW electric motor (comparable to 3 HP) and solar panel on top.  It also features four seats plus an over-sized swim platform for sunbathing or swimming.

Top speed is 6 mph and the run time is around 5 hours to 10 hours, depending on the battery option purchased.  And according to the company representative I spoke with, the boat can essentially run indefinitely at 5 mph provided that sunlight is available.

Though I like the fact that the ongoing costs and maintenance for this little vessel will be minimal, at only 6 mph it comes up short on thrills and you certainly cannot get anywhere in a hurry.  If you live on a small lake and enjoy quiet sunset cruises or are afraid of getting a PWC because the kids might get into trouble with it, then this might be an option for you.

The retail price for the S16 starts at around $28K with trailer.

Veer V13

Veer V13

A very different take on an electric boat comes from the people at Brunswick.  The Veer V13 is a 13’ boat made of rotomolded polyethylene – much like a kayak.   It holds 1-2 people and can be powered by either a conventional gas engine (up to 9.9 HP) or one of the new electric Avator engines from Mercury.

Because of its small, lightweight, design, the boat can fit in most standard garages and doesn’t need a special tow vehicle.  Plus, the polyethylene material is easy to maintain.  The starting price is around $11K with a standard 9.9 HP engine.

The interior is a bit more refined that a standard aluminum jon boat and I like the manual shallow water anchor option to hold you in place while fishing.  However, you are not able to mount an electric trolling motor on this boat which would be a huge negative in my opinion.

While this is a cute boat and would be nice to own if you enjoyed boating on a smaller body of water, it is not the most affordable option out there.  That is because you could get a slightly larger 16’ aluminum fishing boat from companies like Tracker or Lowe and package it with a beefier 20 HP motor and trailer for around $10K.

Additional details for the V13 can be found on the Veer website.

Gadgets & Accessories

Some of the most interesting or unusual items at the show came from smaller or start-up businesses that designed products to help make boating easier or better.

Hydrofin

With the push towards electric boats, a lot of manufacturers have started experimenting with foils that lift the hull and make it more efficient to propel.   Here is an excellent example with the F1 Racebird.

A company called Hydrofin took that same concept and made it available for pontoon boats via a foil that can be attached to your boat.

According to the company founder, their foils can increase top speed by 5 to 10 mph and deliver a more comfortable and economical ride (up to 50% fuel savings) by reducing the amount of the pontoons hitting the water (although the boat does not rise completely out of the water).

Hydrofin

Further, because of the fact that the foils are angled inwards, it does not increase the draft of your boat.  It can also be used with most trailers although you may need to make a minor modification to the wooden bunks.

There are no holes, drilling or welding required to install the foils.  Instead, a special structural adhesive and struts are used to attach the foils to the pontoons and bottom deck.

The cost for the hydrofins is around $2,500 for pontoons and $3,000 for tri-toons.  See the Hydrofin website for additional details.

Waterbug

While most of us have lawns to mow, some actually need to “mow” their lake property at times because of the heavy growth of lily pads or other aquatic vegetation.  And as someone who has done this before (with a large, special rake on a rope), I can tell you that it is a sloppy and time consuming chore.

Enter the Waterbug.  This remote controlled, battery operated, aquatic weed harvester features a large set of sheers (similar to a giant electric razor), a conveyor belt and a pair of paddle wheels to make the job easier and actually enjoyable.  With the attached night-vision camera and remote-control system, you can operate the Waterbug indoors up to 1,000’ away – even in low light conditions.

The cost for the unit is just under $16K and, according to the company founder, it is not uncommon for neighbors to pitch in to buy a unit to help clear their properties.  You can learn more about the Waterbug on the company website.

Waterbug

Swell Wake Shaper

Are you into wake surfing but don’t want to drop $200K to get the perfect wake?  The Swell Wake Shaper just might be your answer.  Simply attach it to the hull of your inboard boat beneath the waterline via suction cups to improve the quality of your ride.

Swell Wake Shaper

They have a variety of models available to work with varying boat sizes and hull types.  And some enable you to adjust the height and attack angle of the wake shaper for even greater control.

The shaper does float so that if it does happen to detach, you  should be able to easily locate it.  Prices range from $229 to $359.  You can learn more at the company website or check out this video to see the product in action.

Gorilla Jack’D

You pull up to a sandbar to hang out for a while but are afraid that your boat might drift into other people or boats nearby?  Check out the Gorilla Jack’D sand anchoring system.  This lightweight, aluminum auger allows you to effortlessly tether your boat nearby without the need for a heavy, messy anchor and lengthy line.  Plus it is portable too which is especially handy for small watercraft such as PWCs.

Available in a variety of sizes that are suitable for various boat lengths.  Prices range from $150 to $250 each.  Visit the company website to learn more or to purchase one.

Gorilla Jack'D

Custom Lake Signs

What to get that water lover who seemingly has everything?  Why not a custom metal sign of their favorite lake?

These custom lake signs are cut from 14 gauge steel and are raised over a wooden background (either Barnwood or Alder) for a 3D effect.  The size is approximately 18” x 24” and can be designed for any lake.

Prices range from around $250 to $375, depending on the wood choice and other options.  Visit the Ricki and Sons website to see this, and other, custom metal projects available.

Of course, there were dozens of other cool and interesting products at the show but these are the ones that grabbed my attention.  Let me know which was your favorite in the comments section 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 BoaterInput.com website.

3 Comments
  1. Martin Walter January 27, 2024 at 9:38 am - Reply

    Please show me where i can buy this. “That is because you could get a slightly larger 16’ aluminum fishing boat from companies like Tracker or Lowe and package it with a beefier 20 HP motor and trailer for around $10K.”

  2. Jerry Mona January 27, 2024 at 11:21 am - Reply

    Hey Martin, thank you for your comment. Yes, you would need to package the items yourself. A larger Tracker 1648 Jon is listed on the company website for $4,995. The trailer is listed at $1,995. You can get a Mercury 20 HP motor for around $3,500. That puts the package price at around $10,500 before tax, etc. Granted, this is a bare-bones boat and doesn’t have any seats (other than the bench) but is pretty comparable to that of the Veer and considerably larger. The key point is if you are on a tight budget or have space limitations, there are other more economical choices.

  3. Martin Walter January 27, 2024 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    I used to fish from a boat like that in the 60’s. Used the throwables to sit on. Now I have a Nitro ZV19 walleye boat and a pond prowler.

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