Good. Cheap. Fast. The old saying goes: ‘pick two’, Right? Normally I would say that’s the case when purchasing a new skiff. You either get one cheap and fast, but it might fall apart. You can get one cheap and good, but it won’t come anytime soon. These days it’s hard to find a quality boat builder that can provide all three. A well produced skiff that doesn’t break the bank and can be in your hands and on the water in a reasonable amount of time. Into the ring comes Ankona Boats. There are quite a few articles on this website already regarding Ankona skiffs and that’s for good reason. Ankona has built up such a positive reputation so fast, that the skiff community has noticed. A few months back I posted an article about how I wanted an Ankona ShadowCast really bad. I eventually caved in and sold my Gheenoe to buy one (hull number one to be exact). Do I regret it? Not one bit.
Before we dive into the review, lets talk about two things: the emergence of the technical poling skiff and Ankona Boats themselves. The technical poling skiff came from what I believe to be the need for a skinny water boat that could handle two anglers, traverse a foot or less of water, and be pushed by someone with a push pole effortlessly across shallow water flats. This new class of skiff was to be stealthy, light weight, and nimble. The ability to sneak up on a tailing redfish, permit, or bonefish in the protected waters of the backcountry was, and still is paramount. Ankona Boats started their popularity with the first generation copperhead micro skiff a few years ago, the first skiff advertised to be rigged under $10,000. They then emerged with the ShadowCast shortly after that.
Ankona Boats touts themselves as a no-frills skiff building outfit that will put together a quality craft at a fraction of the price that you might find at other skiff builders in the same class. Ankona does away with the endorsed guides, the fancy marketing, and the ‘corporate’ machine. They let their products and service speak for themselves. This has proven to be a great strategy so far. If you browse the forum networks of fishing websites across the Southeast United States, you will find mention of Ankona Boats somewhere down the line.
Here’s an excerpt from the Ankona website about the ShadowCast 16:
The ShadowCast 16 is a true micro shallow water skiff, ready to fish and pole the shallows next to any high dollar skiff. Small in stature perhaps, but big on performance. Ultra shallow poling draft, it will run skinny too with the shallow tunnel. Designed to use the 9.9 to 20 hp class engines, it is very efficient.
I awoke Sunday morning bright and early to demo the Ankona ShadowCast with Captain Jon Bull of ShadowCast charters in Tampa Bay, Fl. We put the ShadowCast 16 through it’s paces in the channel, the flats, and the backcountry all with ease. The day started off by poling the skiff in 6″ of water on the bank of a small cove in Tampa Bay searching for fish laid up on a mangrove shoreline. The ShadowCast was a dream to pole down the shallow shoreline and never once hung up on the bottom. Ankona has incorporated two rails onto the bottom of the ShadowCast to aid in the movement of the skiff while poling. Let me be the first to say, this feature is genius. When pushing the skiff, you barely need to use the full force of one arm to pole the skiff alone quietly through the water. This was also with two anglers on board. When I say quietly, I mean it. We experienced virtually no hull slap the entire morning.
Everyone wants to push the limits of their skiff, but do you know the difference between a backcountry technical poling skiff and a flats boat? The terms ‘flats boat’, ‘flats skiff’, ‘micro skiff’, and ‘poling skiff’ get thrown around the skiff building community like the word ‘tactical’ in the firearms community. In my opinion the Ankona ShadowCast 16 is a technical poling skiff in the sense that it can scoot across a river or bay in moderate conditions, as well as tackle the backcountry shallows. It’s not simply a ‘protected water’ skiff like a Gheenoe NMZ is, but it’s also not a bay boat by any means. While running the ShadowCast out in the channel of Tampa Bay we were able to traverse large wakes from bigger vessels as well as some chop from the incoming tide. The wat the hull handles oncoming waves is great, but the way the hull handles waves which are moving in the same direction is another story. I did experience some sudden bow sliding when riding in the same direction as some larger waves, but this issue is not limited to the ShadowCast or Ankona by any means.
How dry is the ride? The ‘cap’ or ‘overmold’ of the ShadowCast is quite hefty for a skiff this size and does a great job of directing spray and waves back down. You will experience some spray coming over the hull around just forward of the stern. I think it’s a great ride for not having any sort of actually marketed spray rails installed on the hull.
The hull that I demoed had standard front and rear molded decks. The front deck is has dry storage underneath, and the rear deck housed the fuel tank for the outboard as well as some other items. The great thing about the ShadowCast is that it can be configured any way you would like. A forward built-in fuel tank option is available which will allow you to distribute weight around the hull as you see fit. There is also a really great ‘rear YETI cooler’ cutout deck that is available as well.
The ShadowCast is available with many options for any configuration you have in mind: tiller, tiller with grab bar, side console, center console, and offset center console. The options include but are not limited to rod racks, bilge pump, trim tabs, push pole holders, front and rear platforms, center guide box, or any other necessity for catching fish out on the flats.
Ankona Boats has really hit a home run with this skiff. It’s light, it’s nimble, and it can get you to and from your favorite spots with ease. The phrase ‘Quietly Better’ displayed on the Ankona Boats website homepage is spot on, and has more than one important meaning for this great company.
Specifications from Ankona:
Bare Hull Weight: 240lbs
Max HP: 20HP Rated
MSRP: $3950 (Hull only)