Skip to main content
Home Boating

Which Inshore boat to buy? 17-19' Skiff, Bay boat, any recommendations for SW Florida etc?

CaptjamesCaptjames Posts: 244 Deckhand
Just got back into fishing, one of the boats I owned years ago was a 24' Carolina Skiff.  Looking for a boat that's easy to trailer, good staibility, 45mph, storage, comfortable, decent ride.  I rented a 17' Mako pro skiff and it is truly set up nicely for inshore fishing, but got into a 1.5' chop right on the nose and got beat to death in it.  So considering a Mako 18' LTS as I do like the layout of it.  How's the quality on mako and the ride on the 18' LTS?  There doesn't seem to be many options in this size range.....Key West, Sea Pro, Frontier, Hewes/Maverick (although they're a bit more than I want to spend......) want to keep it under $40k new and pretty well optioned with the largest motor and hydraulic jackplate.  What do you guys recommend?  Am I missing anything as far as brands go?  Any recommendations? 


  • Terry RavenscraftTerry Ravenscraft Posts: 282 Deckhand
    I have a 19 ft key west sportsman with a 150 2 stroke Yamaha . its an older boat ...but an excellent boat inshore or out on the reef on good days ...i love it !
  • cortrcortr Posts: 538 Officer
    Going from a 17 to 18 foot length is not going to result in a much better ride in rough water
  • gogittumgogittum Posts: 4,159 Captain
    The entry will make all the difference.  Carolina Skiff / Boston Whaler is going to pound.  Key West style hull with V entry will ride much better.  Then you can start splitting hairs about angle of V, etc.
  • Soda PopinskiSoda Popinski Posts: 16,808 AG
    Good luck in your search.  I haven't seen a brand new boat for under 40k in a long time.   
    You can't pet a dead dog back to life 
  • MelbourneMarkMelbourneMark Posts: 3,843 Captain
    Many many brands are excellent now.  Consumers have many choices and cant really go wrong with any of them.  Keep in mind that a heavier boat will typically ride better, but suffer in draft and vice versa.  So, you gotta choose where your actually going to spend the majority of the time boating. 

    Pathfinder, Sea Pro, Key west, Skeeter all are great bay boats with different models. 

    My opinion: keep riding and looking and saving money.  I think some economic stings will occur in the next few years.  Everyone and their brother bought a boat in the past 18months.  I bet many will sell in the next 3 years. 

    And, as always the best boat is your buddies that you dont pay for!
  • CaptjamesCaptjames Posts: 244 Deckhand
    Problem is, where I need to park the boat/trailer, I'm limited by width.  18' in from my fence, it's 9' wide from my a/c to the fence.  So I need the total trailer width to be under that and something I can wheel around/maneuver with a tongue dolly on the front and isn't so big and heavy I need 3 guys to move it into position.  Also many manufacturers no longer produce anything under 20/22', Pathfinder, skeeter, ranger, etc etc,  I'm a Yacht Captain out of Fort Lauderdale.  Renting makes a lot of sense for me right now, as the closest inshore fishing is 2 hour drive each way, and easier to just drive over and jump on a boat.  However, availability and how they're equipped is a problem.  

    I like the mako 17' proskiff because it's square and has a lot of room due to the square bow and it's set up nicely for it's size.....but did get beat, in a 1.5' chop right on the bow in the one I rented. 

    I like the way the Mako 18' LTS is setup as far as front/rear deck, storage, livewell location, etc. etc.....not sure on quality......key west 1720 is a consideration also.  Just not sure what else I should be looking at.  

    I'm renting a Nauticstar 195 this weekend and can get a good price on a new one, but hear their quality isn't great. 

    The used ones I see 2016-2020 are selling for so close to new now it almost doesn't make any sense to buy used.  I want a boat tricked out if I buy one, largest motor, jackplate, etc. and most of the used 18' Mako LTS (for example) have a 90hp merc.  and I'd rather have the 115hp pro max. 
  • jt904jt904 Posts: 152 Deckhand
    I have on 2003 17'6 key west stealth with a 03 115 Yamaha. 8ft beam, Super dry and stable lots of walking room too. can get as skinny as a foot and a half, and handles very well in a rougher open water, plus they're guaranteed to never sink. Ive had it for about 6 years now and absolutely love it. Fished it in the marshes up in st. aug, the lagoon, have taken it on the beach a few times for kings when its calm enough. Although when on the trailer its pretty close to 23 ft long, but I can fold the tongue to take off a few feet. 
    176 Key West Stealth 

  • MissedMissed Posts: 736 Officer
    I was in your exact shoes 20 years ago.  On my 3rd or 4th boat since then.  Coulda got a Hells Bay 16 ft hull for $5,000 at that time.  LOL!

    Get the boat that will do what you want.  Better to store it somewhere as opposed to not having what you want.  It will keep you from "needing" another boat. 

    Glad you are testing diff boats - sounds like you are doing it right. 

    Folding trailer tongue will get you some extra room.

    Maybe you can fit some boats if you put the trailer bunks high and run the trailer wheels under the boat as opposed to hanging them out along the sides, might fit in the yard better?

    The place where I get stuck is moving the boats.  A FG boat is heavy.  The one I bought 20 yrs ago was an Actioncraft Newport 17.  It was 800#, pretty flat bottom, did 32 mph with a 50 hp.  Was a pain to shuffle around and then had motor issues on a borrowed motor.  PITA.  Couldn't sell it, had to give it away.  That guy got a good deal.

    Ended up with an aluminum Lund SSV-18 with 60 hp tiller - 460# hull weight.  It is light enough I can move the trailer around and such.  That's my retirement boat, prolly put a 40 or 50 on it when I retire and run with it from there.  Inshore anywhere, offshore on calm days.   

    Not saying you need a tin boat, just that you need to get what makes you happy.

  • MelbourneMarkMelbourneMark Posts: 3,843 Captain
    I wonder if a smaller cat hull would work for you?  I have seen them in the 18-20 foot range.  I have never ridden on a smaller one to compare the ride/draft. 
  • 10kman10kman Posts: 996 Officer
      If you are always in shallow water and do not go into
    Gulf or Atlantic look at a Gheenoe.You can get new
    one with elec. motor&25hp for around 17k.A Gheenoe
    will go more shallow than boats.
  • jt904jt904 Posts: 152 Deckhand
    jt904 said:
    I have on 2003 17'6 key west stealth with a 03 115 Yamaha. 8ft beam, Super dry and stable lots of walking room too. can get as skinny as a foot and a half, and handles very well in a rougher open water, plus they're guaranteed to never sink. Ive had it for about 6 years now and absolutely love it. Fished it in the marshes up in st. aug, the lagoon, have taken it on the beach a few times for kings when its calm enough. Although when on the trailer its pretty close to 23 ft long, but I can fold the tongue to take off a few feet. 
    Here's a few pics for reference 

    176 Key West Stealth 

  • CaptjamesCaptjames Posts: 244 Deckhand
    Your key west is nice, and along the lines of what I'm looking for with a front and rear casting deck as well as the layout.  Unfortunately they don't make them like that now.  They show the 1720 cc and a 188 BR which might work but are more along the lines of a center console versus a flats boat/bay boat with a rear casting deck........
  • jt904jt904 Posts: 152 Deckhand
    Yeah they discontinued them a while back unfortunately. Apparently they only had like 3 or 4 made in the past 2 years they were available so they pulled the plug. But if casting platform space is what your looking for, although somewhat unorthodox, these are pretty cool. 
    176 Key West Stealth 

  • polliwogpolliwog Posts: 355 Deckhand
    If you are going to fish in the back country or in very shallow water?  If you are not then look at a 18 ft Hewes redfisher, They are relatively shallow draft,but will be good a few miles offshore and handle light chop fine. You might want to go to the,it's a web sight for Hewes and Maverick owners and check out what is being sold used.Tough time to be buying a boat because of the buying due to the pandemic.
  • CaptjamesCaptjames Posts: 244 Deckhand
    I actually like the Pathfinder 18, due to the stand up center console, but finding one is like hen's teeth in this market.  I think I am going to just casually look and when the right thing pops up.  Also leaning towards a makp 18' LTS new, because it's built the way I want it, front/rear casting decks, can order a new one setup the way I want it with full warranties etc at a reasonable price......just not sure on the ride or build quality of them......decisions decisions........
  • CaptjamesCaptjames Posts: 244 Deckhand
    What do you guys think of an Action Craft flats boat in the 18' range?  How are they?  Which 18' model is preferable?  I also see 18' Flats and Bay, how are those?  
  • ssscottyssscotty Posts: 40 Deckhand
    with your price range and wants, you may want to check out Skeeter. You can probably even be in the 20' or 21'  range.
  • FlecFlec Posts: 735 Officer
    If an aluminum bay/flats boat would be considered then hit the Xpress boats website. I have been happy with mine for 6 years now. They have many sizes and all rigged with Yamahas and custom trailers. Many well under $40K and and as little as 18K for complete rig.
  • seapoochseapooch Posts: 5 Deckhand
    Hi Captjames, I've owned a 2012 16' Mako pro skiff with a Mercury 40hp engine for about 6 years.  It tops out at about 25mph. 
    I've enjoyed the boat and can get into really shallow water with it.  I try to stay out of choppy water, but if I point the bow up with my engine tilt, it handles it pretty well. 
  • Jstubby2Jstubby2 Posts: 923 Officer
    I also had an older Key West 19.5 Sportsman W a 115 Yamaha 2 stroke, draft 1.5 ', 48 MPH top end. Excelent boat been 30 + miles out in the gulf more than once handles 3-4 pretty easy if it's afollowing sea. Have an 18.5 CC tin boat now wit a 60 HP Merc 4 stroke (Yamaha). All depends on what you do the most. There is no one boat that does it all well but that KW was close.  
  • CaptjamesCaptjames Posts: 244 Deckhand
    Just an update.  Well, I started looking at Mako Pro Skiffs, then ended up buying a 20' Lake and Bay backwater with a 250 vmax.........
  • Tony RomaTony Roma Posts: 4,596 Captain
    That’s a lot of motor, congrats , did you stay within budget?
  • Terry RavenscraftTerry Ravenscraft Posts: 282 Deckhand
    We have an older ken west 01 …19 ft sportsman my opinion the best of both worlds …good for the rivers …intercoastel as well as off shore east coast on good days we’ve been out 20 +miles plenty of rm for 3 adults 
  • CaptjamesCaptjames Posts: 244 Deckhand
    Tony Roma said:
    That’s a lot of motor, congrats , did you stay within budget?
    I really didn't have a budget......but first started thinking about a new 17' Mako pro-skiff, then thought about a new 18' LTS.  My problem really is size, I have a 10' side gate but have to come in at a 35 degree angle, then once on the concrete inside of the gate, 18' from the gate is my central A/C and only have 9' between that and fence. So wanted to stay around 18' with something I could man handle on the trailer and move around easily.  The 20' Lake and Bay is going to be tough once I get a tongue dolly.  I got really lucky and one of my customers hanger is empty until October, 10 minutes from my house, and he's letting me keep the boat there. Which is REALLY nice to both be able to work on it out of the sun AND not have to worry about it for hurricane season.  But I am going to dread the day when I have to back it and then push it into there.
Sign In or Register to comment.
Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

Preview This Month's Issue

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Florida Sportsman App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Florida Sportsman stories delivered right to your inbox.


Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Florida Sportsman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now