Best Boats For Shallow Water | LakeWizard

You are probably looking for a boat for shallow water because you want to go out fishing, spend some time around nature, or just want to go for river running.

You are going to be out in the shallow waters for a couple of hours so you need to find a boat with a flat-bottomed hull and shallow draft. You would also want a boat that is easy to maneuver, versatile, and obviously affordable.

In this guide, we provide you with our top picks for boats for shallow waters. The best three boats are Ranger VX1788 WT, Lifetime Kodiak Canoe, and Intex Challenger Kayak. All these boats are particularly designed for shallow-water activities that are going to make a day out on the lake worth it.

The best boat for shallow water will matter for you depending on what activity you are going out for on the lake. A shallow draft of a boat is what makes it suitable for shallow water. It means that the keel of the boat is not too below the waterline. This allows your boat to remain calm and steady to cut through shallow water.

We have gathered a list of the 5 best boats for shallow water that you can make choice from. All these boats are credited by their users for their efficiency, functionality, and style which makes them perfect for use on a day out in nature.

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5 Best Boats For Shallow Water

The amount of water a boat needs to be able to float is called a draft. For shallow waters, the draft of boats ranges between 6 to 9 inches. In some boats, the draft will have an option of ‘engine up’ or ‘engine down’ to allow the lower units of the board to slightly move up and down.

Most of the time, the draft figures on the boat are measured when they are not moving which is also called a static draft. This measurement will help you understand that your boat will easily float on about a foot of water with an engine-down draft of two feet.

There are a couple of factors to consider when choosing a boat for shallow water. Your boat must have a flat bottom if you are planning to cruise through narrow channels. It is best to look for a boat that has enough deck space to carry your essentials or your fish back to the shore.

1. Ranger VX1788 WT

Picture of the Ranger VX1788 WT

We highly recommend an aluminum boat for cruising across the narrow inland waters. Ranger Boats’ VX series has just the boat for you. The VX1788 WT has all the essential features that will make it perfect for you. Its body is made from aluminum which makes it an ideal choice for shallow-water activities.

It is a lightweight boat, weighing about 1950 pounds that can be easily transported on a trailer. It is extremely versatile for your day out on the river. Its rugged body is able to find its way on rocky and stump-strewn waters. So, if you are planning for a nice river run then you should take this boat with you.

The length of this boat is 18 feet and 2 inches as the hull length is also the same size. Its fuel capacity is 40 gallons while the horsepower is a maximum of 175. A total of 6 people can comfortably come on this boat.

The boat has a flat bottom along with a shallow draft and low freeboard which allows it to easily cut through the shallow water.  The classic and unique hull design of the boat makes it an ideal choice for a fishing day as well as for a relaxing day amongst nature.

It sails smoothly along the shallow water, cutting calmly through the narrow channels, making your outdoor adventure a memorable experience.

Many beginners at boating or fishing also prefer deep-v boats like this one for their versatility, cheap maintenance, and lower cost compared to other boats. Its tough exterior makes it a favorite choice amongst those who like to traverse through rocky water.

2. Lifetime Kodiak Canoe

Picture of the Lifetime Kodiak Canoe

A canoe is one of the oldest models used in shallow water. It has been around for thousands of years as it serves its purpose faithfully for shallow-water activities. For this reason, we recommend the Lifetime Kodiak Canoe that you can easily get from Amazon.

Its shape is fairly narrow and the structure is small enough to fit about three people at a time. It is perfect for a solo trip or a couple’s retreat out on the lake for some fishing or for just leisure around nature.

The boat is pointed at both the ends and has maneuvered manually with a single-bladed paddle. The person who is propelling and steering the boat has to sit facing the direction of where the boat has to travel. However, you can also fit an outboard engine or also use oars to steer the boat.

With its shallow draft, you can sail peacefully around the rocky and rock-strewn river areas without the fear of damaging the boat’s bottom. Its versatile design makes it perfect to use for any occasion and environment.

The canoe boat can stand tough through turbulent rivers and whitewater rapids which makes it a safe choice on your adventurous travels.

The seats on this boat have a Quick-Release seatback to make your experience a safe one. There are also luggage-style handles to easily transport the boat on and off the plane. The boat has a high stability hull design. There are centralized holders for your fishing rods.

3. Intex Challenger Kayak

Picture of the Intex Challenger Kayak

A kayak is a boat that is a size smaller than a canoe which makes it perfect for a solo day out on the lake. Intex Challenger Kayak will be the best for you if you just want to be on your own out for fishing. Regardless of their small structure, they are extremely versatile as it is a sit-in Kayak.

If you are out on the water for a day of cruising, exploring, or any water activity like fishing, then you should definitely get an Intex Challenger Kayak. There are thousands of reviews of this boat on Amazon, so rest assured, that you will not be disappointed with its use.

It has storage space which is small but ideal for your purposes on the water. It also comes with a closed cockpit which means there is no deck space. But there is a cargo net to give you more space for storage. It has a very comfortable cockpit design and an inflatable seat with a backrest.

This boat is extremely durable as it is made out of a welded material. The design has attractive graphics to give it an aesthetic appeal and also to ensure safety out on choppy waters so that it can be easily spotted.

You can get this boat with an 84-inch oar made from aluminum. It is a very lightweight boat that weighs about 27.2 pounds only. This allows for very easy transportation of the boat.

If you decide to be a little more curious once you step into the river and you want to steer your boat into more tough regions where there is water turbulence, then a sit-in kayak will suit you. It will give you more control and stability.

4. Hewes Redfisher 18

Picture of the Hewes Redfisher 18

A skiff boat may be confused with a Jon boat for shallow water. But there is a particular difference between the two to help you decide which one you have to choose for your adventure. Hewes Redfisher 18 is the skiff boat you should consider for a day out on shallow water.

The shape and structure of the boat make it extremely stable to sail on rivers and lakes. Its stability also allows it to sail through rough environments like water turbulence and bad weather.

This boat is essentially lightweight and flat-bottomed which makes them a preferred choice for anglers. They are designed specifically for shallow waters that is why they have a shallow draft.

There is ample space on a skiff for 4 people to sit together and have a nice fishing time. You can plan a perfect outdoor activity with your friends and family with a skiff boat to accompany you.

The length of this boat is 18 feet and 10 inches while the beam size is 7 feet and 11 inches. The fuel capacity of Redfisher 18 is 31 gallons and the horsepower of this boat is a maximum of 150.

They are more spacious so there is enough storage space for your gear and equipment and for any fish that you catch if it's your lucky day. The best part about this boat is that it has a v-shaped hull which makes it easy to maneuver around the water. It is operated with a motor to easily cut through the water surface with less effort.

5. Scout 251 XSS

Picture of the Scout 251 XSS

Bay boats are a preferred choice for boaters to ride through hard-to-reach fishing spots. Scout’s 251 XSS does that job perfectly. The boat can hold up to a maximum of 10 passengers so you can take your family or friends out for fishing or other water activities.

The boat’s design is built on a hybrid model that makes it perfect to be used on inshore and offshore waters. The draft size of the boat is about 13 inches which makes it ideal for backwater fishing.

The length of the boat is 24 feet and 10 inches while the weight of the boat is approximately 2300 pounds. It has a fuel capacity of 68 gallons and a horsepower of 400.

With their v-shaped hull design, they are able to serve their purpose just fine in shallow water. In addition, the boat’s proud bow, depth, and freeboard enable it cut through the shallow water easily.

You can also use this boat for activities other than fishing like pulling your kids around the water toys with the help of a tow pylon. The versatile design and function are what have led this boat to reach our list of best 5 boats for shallow water.

This multi-purpose boat can also be taken out on more open water for offshore adventure. The boat also has space for holding your fishing rods, the fish you catch, and raw-water washdown.

Factors To Consider For Choosing The Right Boat For Shallow Water

Choosing the best boat for shallow water can be a task that requires you to have some useful information on your hands. For example, you need to first decide what are you exactly going to be doing out on the lake or a river for which you need a boat.

Once you decide on the activity you choose to do then all that there is left to do is to choose the right boat for your adventure. There are many factors that can play in helping you decide which boat you need to choose from this list.

But before you go on your boating adventure, make sure you have a safety kit with you. A basic first-aid kit should be your partner for any unforeseen injuries like cuts. You also need to plan your trip in the daytime and make sure to come back to the shore before sunset. In the dark, you may not be able to prepare for any unexpected guests from the lake.

Even if you are an experienced swimmer or a boater do not forget to take your safety gear with you. You must wear a life-jacket at all times as boats for shallow waters are lightweight and during strong water turbulence, they may flip around if you lose control of the boat.

Once you are ready with your safety equipment, you can now consider these factors as well to have a splendid afternoon out on the lake.

Marine Environment

It is important to consider the marine environment before you step onto your boat in the shallow water. If your plan is to ride through calm water only then any shallow water boat with a shallow draft will serve you right.

If you are planning to go to an area where the water environment is going to give you a tough time with water turbulence, then you need to go for a boat larger in size with a flat bottom. It will help you maintain stability and balance as you navigate your way through the choppy water.

Studying the weather of the day you plan your adventure can also help you understand the marine environment. It will further help you in deciding which boat to go for.

Water Activities

The activities that you are planning for your day also play an important factor in determining what boat you need to pick. Not all shallow water boats are multi-purpose due to their differing size and shallow drafts.

You can also take some people with you as well to make your experience all the merrier.

Boat Size

The boat size matters for two reasons:

  1. The number of people you plan on taking with you
  2. The activity you are going to be doing out on the water.

You need a bigger boat for accommodating more people and also have more storage space for equipment and fish. You may want a smaller boat because either you are on a solo trip or on a couple’s retreat and you do not plan on doing too much of any water activity.


Brian Samson

Brian Samson

I have a deep love of houseboating and the life-changing experiences houseboating has brought into my life. I’ve been going to Lake Powell on our family’s houseboat for over 30 years and have made many great memories, first as a child and now as a parent. My family has a passion for helping others have similar fun, safe experiences on their houseboat.

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