For those of you who are boat-shopping and want to find the boat that’s as close to perfect as possible for you and your family, reading boat reviews should just be the very beginning of the journey — it’s impossible to examine all the complex facets of a boat and its many systems in 900 to 1200 words. So, I’d never want anyone to “decide” to buy a boat based on one of my reviews, or any other for that matter. But hopefully the review will capture the character of the boat, giving you an idea if it’s in the right ballpark for your wants and needs. If so, you can check out some other reviews and maybe a video or two. If it still feels right, it’s time to take a look at the boat in person.

bay bridge boat show in spring on chesapeake bay
The Bay Bridge Boat Show is the largest in-water spring boat show in the region. Photo courtesy of Bay Bridge Boat Show.

This is the time to head for a boat show — and don’t forget, we have the Bay Bridge Boat Show this month, April 12 to 14 in Stevensville, MD. Hopefully you caught our Hot New Fishing Boats for 2024 feature last month. If not check it out, because this year’s crop of cool new fishing machines is bigger and better than we’ve seen in years. In fact, dozens of cool new models that are making headlines, many of which we mentioned in that article, will be at the Bay Bridge Boat Show this month. Whether you’re looking for a relatively small, inexpensive skiff or a multi-engine rocket ship of a fishing boat, you’ll be able to see it here.

Boat show shopping beats any other way of looking at a boat you’re thinking about buying, because it’s where you can see a model of interest up close and personal with no pressure or time constraints. And on the very same day you can take a look at its closest competitors. Or, if you’re a very undecided soon-to-be boater you can just wander around a bit. I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts you see something that grabs your eye.

Added bonus: The Bay Bridge Boat Show isn’t just a shopping venue, it’s an educational one, too. There’s a long list of seminar speakers touching on topics from finding the best dock-and-dines (10:15 Friday) to fishing for snakeheads with Team FishTalk II (2:15 Saturday). Yours truly will be giving a talk on light tackle jigging for rockfish as well, on Friday at 2:15; check out the schedule on the website for the full listing of events.

After shopping at the show if you think you’ve found a match, it’s time to schedule a sea trial with the dealer. Then if you buy the boat you’ll spend the next five or so years getting used to it, learning its idiosyncrasies, and discovering the attributes that are more than skin deep. And love it or hate it we can guarantee you one thing: every time April hits and you yank off that winter cover, you’ll fall in love with your boat all over again.