Choosing a Skiff: A Short Checklist

Intended Usage, Layout, and Length

Think of everything you want your skiff to do. Now, think of everything you actually do when you’re out fishing. These can be two completely different lists when you compare them. Sure, we all (maybe) want a plexiglass livewell, aluminum platforms, and high horsepower outboards with a center console. Truth is, not everyone needs those. Most anglers who frequent the flats, even guides, can get away with a tiller style skiff with an open layout and minimal storage.

Hells Bay Tour Visit 8Do you use your skiff for anything else? Leisure cruises and sandbar gatherings may be on your list of things to do on your skiff besides strictly flats fishing. Thinking of these events ahead of time can save you some headache from band-aid add-ons down the road. Having real dry storage for phones, snacks, and radios may come in handy during a trip to the sandbar for the day while everyone is jumping in and out of the skiff.

Using live bait and artificial can also dictate the layout of your skiff due to the two fishing styles. Sure, there are balances layouts which accomodate both, but if you do mainly one or the other I would highly recommend getting a skiff tailored to that style of fishing. If you buy a skiff setup for live bait fishing with lots of rod holders and extra weight from livewells, you may not be able to reach super skinny water with a fly rod. On the flip side, if you setup a skiff very open and basic for fly fishing, you may find that bringing on a 5 gallong bucket or livewell cooler for live bait can be a pain!

Length and layout of a skiff can be an important part of choosing a skiff. We touched base on layout above, but what about length? If you are like me, you have a garage that’s size has much to be desired. Space is a huge factor, and an 18 foot skiff just plain and simple won’t fit. I could house the skiff outside, but I personally don’t want it to be exposed to possible theft and the elements such as rain, wind, and dust (even with a cover). This means that any skiff you purchase has to fit in the garage! Looking for a 17 foot skiff or smaller in order to just squeeze by in the garage can narrow down your options, so look accordingly and measure ahead of time.

ROI and Value

Value of a skiff is relative, and I guess the return on investment (ROI) can be as well. One thing we can all agree on is that when you sell your skiff, you want as much money for it as you can get! Besides user-attributed factors such as cleaning, waxing, and maintenance; some skiffs just hold more value than others. A classic example of this is the early 2000’s Hell’s Bay Whipray. A skiff that sold for near $20,000 brand new, are selling for near the same price used…a decade later! When choosing a skiff that will give you the maximum ROI, try not to choose completely outlandish options in your new skiff. Even something a simple as an offset center console can limit your buyer pool when selling the skiff later on.

Also think of your intended usage and your ideal layout from above. Some manufacturers have skiffs which start at $14,000, while others have skiffs which start at $5,000 as a base price. You will need to add options to most any skiff you purchase such as decks, coolers, hatches, consoles, etc. All of these add to the price. Would you rather have a basic skiff for $14,000 and no options, or a loaded skiff for $8,000 that had a base price of $5,000? That question was not rhetorical. Also keep in mind that some skiff makers have different processes to making skiffs than others such as vacuum bagging the hull or hand laying fiberglass and foam. These also factor into the price, so doing your due diligence is key!


Beavertail SkiffTest, test, TEST! Test every skiff you can, from every manufacturer you can. Even if you know you can’t afford ‘the next model up’, it’s good to know what a certain amount of dollars can get you in the future. Wet testing is a great way to see how a boat performs. Make sure you pay attention to details on how the skiff rides. Here’s some points to look for:

  • How well does the skiff handle chop/wakes/waves?
  • How dry is the ride?
  • How quiet is the ride? How quiet does it pole when stalking fish?
  • How stable is it?
  • How weight-sensitive is the hull?

When you are finished wet testing a hull, be sure to inspect the skiff to see how the manufacturer puts them together. Looks for cracks in the coatings, standing water, or anything else that looks suspicious…and don’t be afraid to ask questions!


One thought on “Choosing a Skiff: A Short Checklist”

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  1. reel issues says:

    great post.

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