You say it’s time for a sweet new fishing machine, and you know that the Annapolis Powerboat Show in Annapolis, MD, is a great time and place to make it happen? Well, you’re right on both counts. But choosing which one to buy is no easy task. Ready to do some serious shopping?

annapolis powerboat show
The Annapolis Powerboat Show is right around the corner! Photo courtesy of Annapolis Boat Shows.

Critical Features to Look For in a Fishing Boat

Here, Hold My…

You know that any good fishing boat should be riddled with fishing rod holders, but how many is enough? Some people suggest three per angler capacity and that’s a pretty good rule of thumb, but die-hards say there should really be at least one rod holder per foot of boat. Note that jiggers and drifters will want a few in the bow as well as the stern, while trollers will be more interested in aft gunwale holders, transom holders, and rocket launchers. Also note that stainless-steel holders trump the plastic variety, and under-gunwale rodracks really don’t count — they’re best used for things like scrub brushes and gaffs, unless you don’t mind people kicking your rods and reels on a regular basis.

It's Alive!

Your bait will be, anyway, if the boat has a decent livewell or three. Bigger is generally better and there should be a half-gallon of water per live bait you intend to haul. The interior of the livewell should be rounded to prevent the baitfish from beating themselves up and a baby-blue interior (which keeps baitfish calm) helps as well. Look out for standpipes that sit in the center of the well if they aren’t threaded at the base, because the pop-in variety can pop out in rough conditions. The hatch should be gasketed and dog down tightly to avoid spillage while running. Even then some will leak, so when you go for a sea trial be sure to fill the well up and run the boat across a few waves to see if water sloshes out.

Chill Out

If you ever plan on taking home dinner you’ll want good fishboxes. What makes ‘em good: large enough to hold the biggest fish you think you’ll catch (be realistic here, Captain Ahab); gravity drains or diaphragm Gulper pumps (macerators work, but tend to die off sooner); and thick insulation to hold your ice on a hot summer day.

Labor Saver

If you enjoy hauling a big, heavy tacklebox back and forth from the boat every time you go fishing, don’t pay any attention to onboard tackle stowage. But if you think life would be a bit easier with all your lures, hooks, gear, and tackle living in integrated compartments on the boat, make sure the tackle station is large enough for your needs.

Electrifying Experience

Unless you’re a diehard troller, look for a boat with a (modern, high-end) bow-mounted electric trolling motor. These things let you sneak up on the fish in stealth-mode, hover in place via GPS Spot-Lock virtual anchoring, and slowly work your way from Point A to Point B while casting all the while. For light-tackle jiggers in particular, they’ve gone from being a luxury to a must-have. Bonus Tip: Opting for a LiFePO4 battery will cost more, but it will halve the weight and double your running time.

new boat shopping
Go boat shopping at the Annapolis Powerboat Show and you'll see all the hottest, newest fishing machines on the water. Photo courtesy of Annapolis Boat Shows.

Boat Buying Tips

Buying a boat isn’t at all like buying a car or a house — it’s far more important. Use these tips to make the right moves as you walk the docks at the boat show.

  • If you plan on financing the boat, getting prequalified is a good move. Many of the dealers will finance as well, but knowing your limits before you start looking at sticker prices will help serve as a reality check.
  • Keep your phone handy and take lots of pictures of the boats that interest you. After walking the entire show and checking out all your options, sit down and take a break while flipping through the gallery. Try to ID your top two or three choices, and then go back and look at them again in person before making a final call.
  • Spend some time talking with the dealer and make sure you feel comfortable with them. You’ll be interacting with them for everything from warranty work to service and maintenance. A good reputation in this regard earns a dealer serious bonus points — and if they’re a FishTalk supporter we hope you’ll give ‘em even more bonus points!
  • If a boat isn’t outfitted exactly as you’d like, ask the dealer if they can order one the way you want it. This may or may not work out to your advantage financially, because some manufacturers credit dealers when they order a boat that’s already paid for. Other times, however, the dealer will be most interested in moving a boat rather than storing it all winter. One caveat: in recent years the build/wait times have become extended for some makes and models, so if you’re going to order to spec be sure they can deliver the boat in a timeframe that you find reasonable. And remember that to some degree the exact timing of delivery may be outside of a dealer’s control.
  • When you’ve identified a boat that’s of real interest, bring up FishTalkMag on your phone right then and there and type the boat model name into the search box to see if we’ve reviewed it. We’ve covered over 100 different models at this point, so there’s a fair chance you’ll be able to find it and gain some additional intel on the spot.

Boat Show Details

The Annapolis Powerboat Show takes place downtown in Ego Alley and on the docks surrounding it October 5 through October 8. Thursday through Saturday hours are 10 a.m. through 6:30 p.m., and Sunday the show wraps up at 5 p.m. You can prepurchase your tickets online. Parking and shuttles into downtown are available at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (550 Taylor Ave.); remember that the local garages tend to fill up fast.

Hit the Spot

Swing by the FishTalk Fishing Spot, located on land in the northwest corner of the show grounds just beyond the Annapolis Waterfront Hotel. We’ll have on-site reef-ball building with Cthe Coastal Conservation Organization of Maryland, conservation seminars Friday and how-to fishing seminars running Saturday through Sunday, 4pm happy hours where you can come meet the Angler in Chief, and free fishing goodies for the kids!