In Boat Buying

Bay Boats vs Center Console Boats: Making the Choice

Okay, so you’ve narrowed down your short list of models but now you’re still feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place. Do you go for the flexibility of a Bay Boat or satisfy your blue water fever and opt for a hardcore Center Console fishing machine?

The answer, “It all depends on you.” *Smiles

Knowing the Difference

First off, there are many similarities between Bay Boats and Center Console Boats. To the novice, they look a lot alike so it can be hard to spot what makes one boat or the other fall into a particular category. For clarity, both types will have centrally based controls, an outboard engine, and a V-shaped stepped hull which is the case with the Sea Born LX22 Center Console and the FX24 Tournament Bay Boat. Inside, you’ll find very similar style rod holders, under console storage, maybe a small head, bait wells, and the list of commonalities continues.

As for the differences, perhaps the most noticeable between a Center Console Boat and a Bay Boat is its higher sides or freeboard. The increase in freeboard grants the the ability to cruise offshore and withstand continuous knocks from choppy seas without taking on serious amounts of water. In addition, a Center Console may have a larger outboard or even multiple motors with an open bow.

On the Bay Boat side, one very visible difference will be a casting deck requiring an upward step to reach the water. Keep in mind that the Best Bay Boats will include many must have features such as, rear folding jump seats with fish boxes and storage below the forward casting deck.

Center Console Boats

– Large Control Console for Storage or Head
– Single Flat Deck No Steps
– Below Deck Storage / Fish Boxes
– Larger Outboard Engine
– Higher Freeboard (Sidewalls)
– Small to No Casting Decks
– Transom Door

Bay Boats

– Visible Casting Deck With Storage Below
– Step up to Casting Deck
– Lower Freeboard (Sidewalls)
– Rear Folding Jump Seats
– Usually No Transom Door

So which is best for you? The answer is truly personal. What’s important is to define what exactly you are hoping to do with your boat and then make a decision based on purpose. If you are relatively inexperienced, check out our post “The Best Boat for Your Needs (Part 1)”.  If you are a hardcore angler hell bent on running offshore well the choice is simple, get a Center Console. If you are looking for bays, inlets, and coastal cruises, then a Bay Boat might be your best choice.

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