Hybrid Bay Boats For Inshore Offshore Fishing
No matter what time of year it is, it’s a great time to fish in South Florida! Even while the rest of the country sits under a freeze, Floridians hop onboard with their rods to find the next great catch. Fishing in Florida is undoubtedly one of the biggest activities for both locals and visitors alike. Tarpon is among the most popular game fish in Florida. Known for its fighting ability and acrobatics, but not as source of food, this is a catch-and-release sport fish, often referred to as the “silver king of sportfish.” But which boats are best for going after Tarpon and other popular Florida fish species, while the rest of the country is busy shoveling snow? Let’s take a look at some of the most ideal boats for fishing in South Florida during the winter months.
Andros Tarpon 26
One of the most versatile fishing boats on the market, the Andros Boatworks Tarpon 26 is a sweet ride with functional fishing features ideal for Florida’s fishing grounds and shallow waters. This vessel combines the ride and stability of a traditional offshore boat with the shallow draft and running capability of a flats boat. This makes it ideal for South Florida’s sandbars and inshore fishing grounds, but seaworthy enough to handle the waves when the seas pickup.
With a draft of a mere 10 inches and a full transom with hydraulic bracket, you can tune your motor and ride safely in the shallows.
See Andros boats for sale on Boat Trader.
The Gause 26 is the culmination of decades of the Gause family working to build the perfect fishing boat for the West Coast of Florida. The goal was to produce a seaworthy saltwater fishing boat with the inshore fishing capabilities of a flats boat. This vessel can be had with a full tower with all the views that affords, along with a smooth, quiet ride and tons of dry storage, making it a nice family-friendly fishing boat as well.
See Gause boats for sale on Boat Trader.
Grady-White 281 Coastal Explorer
The newest boat in the Grady-White lineup is also their largest bay boat to date, the 281 Coastal Explorer. It offers a lot more beef and brawn than most hybrid bay boats, with 5,650 pounds of displacement and up to 600 horsepower on the transom, so anglers who enjoy venturing offshore more often than not will find it quite tempting. Fishing features run the gamut, including dual livewells (18 and 38 gallons), eight flush-mount rodholders plus four rocket launchers, 70-quart fishboxes, and a 296-quart coffin box fishbox under the forward lounger. The 281 CE also has a number of family-friendly features in addition to that lounger, like a foredeck that converts into forward-facing seats or a sunpad, an electric dive door in the gunwale, USB ports at the helm, and a freshwater system. Learn more by seeing Grady-White 281 Coastal Explorer: One Beefy, Brawny Bay Boat.
See Grady-White 281 CE boats for sale on Boat Trader.
Pathfinder 2600 HPS
Among the Florida fleet Pathfinder boats are very popular, and the 2600 HPS is a top choice. This boat is designed to be able to run and fish shoal water for working the flats and shallows, but still have enough seakeeping abilities to run into the ocean when conditions are appropriate. With a twin-stepped hull and a single Yamaha F350 outboard it also offers exceptional performance, cruising in the mid-40s and breaking past the 60-mph barrier at top-end.
See Pathfinder 2600 HPS boats for sale on Boat Trader.
Robalo 246 Cayman
Robalo boats have a well-deserved reputation for delivering an excellent bang for the buck, and anglers searching for a capable bay boat that can fish both back country and open waterways will gravitate towards the 246 Cayman. This model sits in the middle of Robalo’s bay boat line, and offers great capabilities for the size and price. Note that the Cayman includes perks like a Kevlar-reinforced hull, two livewells with 50 gallons of total capacity, and comes standard with a trailer.
See Robalo Cayman 246 boats for sale on Boat Trader.
If you’re interested in fishing in Florida’s waters also be sure to check out Stomping Grounds episode 2, Florida Panhandle Boating; episode 4, Flats Boats Vs. Bay Boats for Backcountry Fishing; and episode 5, Key West: a Boater’s Paradise.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in January of 2020 and was last updated in July of 2023.