Spring is in the air, the waters are warming, and the glorious dawn of a new season of Chesapeake Bay fishing is upon us. WOOHOO! If you’ve been thinking that a new fishing boat is how you want to start this season out, the timing is perfect thanks to the Bay Bridge Boat Show. This is your best opportunity of the spring to look at row after row of gleaming fiberglass hulls, shining stainless-steel rodholders, and cavernous fishboxes.

bay bridge boat show
The 2023 Bay Bridge Boat Show is coming up soon! Photo courtesy of the Bay Bridge Boat Show.

This year’s show, one of the largest in-water shows north of Florida, takes place at the Bay Bridge Marina on Kent Island in Stevensville, MD, from Friday, April 14 through Sunday, April 16. Show hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with the show closing one hour earlier on Sunday. Along with all the boats there will be BoatU.S. on-water training available (including courses on basic boating, docking, and open water boat handling, plus courses specifically for women), the PropTalk Demo Dock, and for you anglers FishTalk’s Fishing Spot with fishing seminars, fishing gear, and kids activities. Be sure to bring the kids by, because we’ll have some FishTalk fishing freebies on hand for ‘em!

This is one of the Mid-Atlantic region’s biggest, bestest boat shows of the year, and we hope to see you all there. If you’re buying a boat, we also hope you’ll come prepared for some serious shopping. But boat shopping is a bit different than shopping for other major items. As you peruse the fields of fiberglass, remember:

TAKE PICTURES Lot and lots of pictures, and make sure you snap one off of the spec and pricing sheets. You may or may not decide to buy on the spot, and looking at so many boats at once it’s easy to mix them up. Making a photo bank as you go lets you sort through the wheat from the chaff after you’ve walked through all the displays, and decide if any are worth going back for a second look.

ADD ON THE OPTIONS Some boats have a long list of standard features, and others come with a steering wheel and a motor, period. When you add up the cost of all the optional features you want on Boat A, you might discover it’s actually more expensive than Boat B even though the advertised base price was lower. Be sure to use the calculator on your cell phone and add everything up before drawing any conclusions.

GET TO KNOW THE DEALER All boat dealers are not equal, and buying from one that’s reputable as opposed to a fly-by-night operation is a very big deal. You’ll probably be taking your boat to them for service and warranty work, and you want to know they’ll treat you right. Proximity to their location should be weighed as a consideration, but many buyers consider it well worth the effort to travel a bit if they’re confident the dealer will treat them fairly and promptly. Take note of details like how long they’ve been in business, if it’s a family run business, and whether or not they’re willing to share some references with you.

BRING THE FAM Everyone in the family is going to spend time aboard, and you should hear their input now — not after it’s too late to discover that a freshwater shower, or a head compartment, or a ski tow-bit, or whatever was a must-have to someone in the clan. Added bonus: if getting a fishing boat is a tough sell with your spouse, having them there will likely get them just as excited as you are about the prospect. (And if not, it gives you ladies the chance to pump him full of libations and then ask again).

buying a boat for the family
The entire family will be enjoying that boat, so bring them to the show and involve them in the boat buying process.

SIT IN THE SEATS Some builders design uber-comfortable ergonomic seating, while others mold a box then cap it with a cushion and call it a seat. At the end of the day, there’s a world of difference in comfort levels between the two. And many builders are very adept at making things look a lot better than they really are. There’s only one way to really get a feel for how comfortable the seating on a boat is, and that’s to actually sit in it for a while.

DON’T SETTLE ON ELECTRONICS Some manufacturers offer only Brand X, others offer Brand Y, and some give you a choice. Whatever the case may be, settling for Brand Z because it “comes with the boat” is a bad idea, especially if there’s a particular feature or function you’re accustomed to fishing with. Most of the time you can get a credit or price reduction by leaving the electronics off and there are plenty of reputable shops (BOE Marine, for example, just down the street from the show)  that can put in exactly what you want.

Okay: are you ready to set off on new angling adventures to make this new fishing season one of the best ever? A new fishing boat is the perfect way to make it happen — we’ll see you at the Bay Bridge Boat Show!

Tips for Buying a Boat

You’ve found the perfect boat for you and yours, and it’s time to stroke on the dotted line? Here are a few important buying tips to keep in mind.

  • Order all the covers you can, and if possible get a full boat cover. This will radically extend the lifespan of your electronics, gauges, seat cushions, and anything else that would otherwise be exposed to the sun and salt air.
  • Don’t skimp on power choice. As a general rule of thumb getting the max power on a boat will make it easier to resell down the line and boost its resale value. Besides, if you feel like the engine is too potent you can always pull the throttle back. But if you opt for a smaller powerplant and yearn for more oomph down the line, there isn’t much you can do about it.
  • Don’t skimp on MFD size. As a general rule of thumb anglers will always be happiest getting the largest possible LCD screen(s), especially if you plan to use goodies like side-scan.
  • If the boat’s missing an option you’d like, ask the dealer if they can add it on prior to delivery. Some items can’t be easily retrofitted, but many others are easy to install and the dealer may be able to order the part from the manufacturer.