Harkening back to last month’s Notes from the Cockpit column about how much fun small, inexpensive boats can be, we figured it would be a great time to make some picks among the easy-to-afford starter boats out there. Just what constitutes easy affordability? Obviously that varies from person to person, but it’s hard for most people to argue that they can’t find a way to buy a boat costing less than $10,000, $7500, or $5000. So we’ve picked out three options at or below these eminently affordable price-points.

cheap lowe fishing boat
You can get the Lowe L 1648 Jon with a trailer and outboard for well under the $10,000 mark.

The $10,000 Fishing Boat

You can get a new aluminum Lowe L1648 Jon with a trailer and a 25-hp outboard for well under the $10K mark and have enough cash left over to buy all the required safety gear, a few extra rods and reels, and a full tank of gas. The boat has two built-in bench seats, and the center seat has a stowage compartment that can double as a gravity-fed livewell when you pull the plug. The hull weight is a mere 275 pounds, so you can tow it behind ang street-legal vehicle that has a hitch. With 25 horses you’ll be able to cruise for the hotspots at 20 or so mph and this boat’s just big enough to take on relatively open waters when the wind is down, though we’ll caution that like most 16-foot aluminum rigs, it will likely be a bit bumpy in a chop. Still, when the speckled trout are biting in the Annemessex, rockfish are hitting at the mouth of the Magothy, or puppy drum are chomping in Lynnhaven, you can be there for the bite — in a brand-new boat.

cheap fishing boat from sun dolphin
The Sun Dolphin can be had on a minor league fishing boat budget.

The $7500 Fishing Boat

Well within this budgetary restraint the Sun Dolphin Pro 120 will cruise in the mid-teens with a 9.9-horse outboard, or you can save a couple thousand dollars more by opting for an electric motor that will have you making your way across lakes, ponds, and protected waterways at jogging speeds. This 11’3” long, 5’2” wide two-seater weighs in at 238 pounds and has a weight capacity of 532 pounds. Two swivel seats, stowage compartments built into the fore and aft ply decks, integrated rodholders, an aerated livewell, bow-mount electric motor pre-wiring, and nav lights round out the accessories list. We’ve spent some time on this model and note that thanks to a tri-hull design it’s surprisingly stable for its size, much more so than most similar rigs made of aluminum. Plus, the rotomolded high-density polyethylene construction is nearly indestructible. Editor's note: post-publication the manufacturer's website states that this model has been discontinued. However, a quick search turns up plenty of used boats out there on the market and one retailer with new boats still in stock - grab 'em fast!!

fishing kayak for under 5000
A Native Slayer Max Propel is a great way to get into the inexpensive fishing boat market without breaking the bank.

The $5000 Fishing Boat

At an MSRP of $3000 you can pick up a Native Slayer Max Propel 12.5 and you’ll have plenty of room left in the budget to fully outfit the rig with items like gear mounts, a fishfinder, a pick-up truck bed extender, and a cart. And this is a relatively high-end option in the world of fishing kayaks, with a saltwater-capable pedal drive, bow hatch, transducer mounting plate, accessory tracks, integrated rod and tackle holders, and critically, a comfortable and adjustable seat. Fully rigged it tips the scales at 125 pounds, so this isn’t a kayak you’ll want to portage without wheels, but it’s a nearshore bay-worthy angling machine that puts just about any species swimming the Chesapeake or Mid-Atlantic coastal bays within reach.

No, these boats won’t haul a huge crew, cross the open Bay on a blustery day, or impress the friends and neighbors. But for an angler who’s been limited to tromping the shoreline, any one of them will open up a new galaxy of fishing opportunities. Take one home this spring and yes, you will soon be catching more, bigger fish.