Remember the last time you bought a car or truck? You probably had a few must haves creature comforts in mind like good towing capacity, navigation, or blue tooth.  You also probably made the common assumption that boat buying would be like purchasing a car right? Wrong. The truth be told, most of us lack experience and familiarity with boats which put us at a disadvantage.

Think about it, from our daily rides to road trips, we’ve been indoctrinated to understand the advantages of air conditioning, heated seats, and additional charging outlets. Lacking those daily interactions with boats and their features, sadly, as buyers we aren’t exactly sure what we want or need until we already made our purchase. So before you buy, be sure to consider these must-haves as well as the top requested bay features of 2014.

1) Center Console
Unlike your car, your bay boat should start in the middle with a center based control console promoting roominess and overall fishing functionality. Opting for a center console will provide much easier access to the water on all sides. To understand the benefit, close your eyes and imagine yourself walking the boat with a rod in hand. You’ll want to be able to move without obstruction which will prove difficult with a side control or dual console. Next, a center console offers greater visibility from the cockpit while contributing to even weight distribution and overall balance while cruising and at rest. A few extras here might be front and rear casting decks, a bow flare that leads to an open lounge with comfy seating. Key takeaway: Greater access to the water.

2) Ample Storage, Wells & Coolers
If you’ve ever seen a Dodge Viper, you know it demands considerable attention. Heads will turn, but what the world can’t see is that the eighty thousand dollar hot rod had no cup holders. Seriously, It’s true! Muscle and flash are cool, but most of us want practical functionality in our purchases. While on the water, you will need to store gear, keep drinks and snacks cool (see: 10 essential items for your boat), and avoid spoiling a catch. When narrowing down your short list of boats, make sure to add points on the buy-o-meter based on the vessel’s available storage, bait wells, and coolers. Write this down: The more storage, the better!

3) Versatility
There’s no secret that we humans want as many features as possible for the least amount of money. Some call it, “spoiled” while the sales and marketing types call it, “perception of value” and without it, we often feel disappointed with our purchases. So when thinking bay boats, you might consider a hybrid such as a bay skiff. All  hybrid bay boats offer the diversity to cruise offshore while still being able to run the back bays. How? The NX series of boats have a V-shape that cuts through chop, but given they also have a shallow draft, these owners can run shallow waters. The ability to multitask in different types of water is often an oversight. Before you sign, think about where you’ll want to fish and play. Knowing where you’ll roam up front will help you choose the best model for you. Lesson: Avoid the one-trick pony!

Looking for Center Console Boats?

If you’re interested in inshore and offshore fishing you may find a Sea Born Center Console Boat more suitable for your needs. Check out our LX Center Console Series as well as our recent post, “Bay Boats vs. Center Consoles – Making the Choice

4) Fuel Economy & Performance
You should ALWAYS check out performance bulletins, technical documentation, and reviews written about your bay boat candidates. Unless you’re made of money, fuel economy will at some point become part of your boating experience. Opening your wallet to large and unfriendly fuel costs will lead to disappointment, so consider a stepped hull which will help reduce wet surfaces while improving both fuel efficiency and performance. One other consideration, avoid the temptation for oversized power options. Scaling back from that mammoth engine saves on the overall cost of the boat as well as the operating costs. Result: Your bank balance and the environment will thank you.

5) Seating and Family Friendly Functionality
Reality check, only a small percentage of boat owners are lucky enough to be a full-time fisherman. Understanding that regardless of our passions for fishing, most of our bay boats will serve dual duty as a fish buster but also as a recreational family cruiser. To avoid unwanted moans and groans, you’ll want to ensure that your new bay boat has ample seating, safety features, and maybe even an in console head. End state: Creature features go a very long way to keeping everyone happy.