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12 Best Bay Boats (Includes Photos, Features & Reviews!)

Explore the top 12 bay boats for all your boating needs! From family-friendly features to angler essentials, find your perfect match with photos and reviews.

Tobi Miles
October 23, 2022
12 Best Bay Boats (Includes Photos, Features & Reviews!)

If you are looking for a new boat, you are probably overwhelmed with the array of types, styles, and models offered by the various manufacturers. Finding the right boat can be a challenge. One of the more popular options for recreational boaters is a bay boat. This hybrid design gives recreational boaters options and features that fill many niche requirements for families and sportsmen.

Bay boats are neither open water boats nor shallow draft flat bottom boats meant for activities in shallow water. The semi-V hull design offers a smoother ride than flat bottom shallow draft boats. The hull doesn’t require as much water as the deep-v hull of an open-water boat. Many bay boats have fishing gear and enough power to water ski or tube.

A bay boat can take the family for a day of recreational boating activities and provide the anglers in the family with a stable fishing platform that can perform almost as well as specially designed bass boats or flat bottom boats. In many ways, a bay boat is one of the best compromises in features, comfort, and uses that you can choose when selecting a boat.

1. Scout 251 XSS

Scout Boats

If having the option of boating inshore or offshore is on your list of features for your bay boat, you should take a look at the Scout 251 XSS.

These boats feature a slightly deeper V-hull than some other bay boats giving a more comfortable ride in bigger waters while needingg only 13 inches of draft to operate safely.

Scout outfits the 251 XSS with rod holders and storage, an anchor locker and a transom ladder making this boat equally at home towing a water skier or a tube. You can pack a whopping 1,695 pounds on board and mount up to a 400-horsepower engine to get you where you want to go in a hurry.

Length: 24 feet 10 inches

Weight: 2,300 pounds (w/o engines)

Type: Center Console

What Are Customers Saying?

For the most part, people who buy a Scout 251 XSS are more than pleased with their purchase. These purchasers cite the abundance of features and accessories that are included with the boat, the overall quality of the construction, and the way the boat handles in bigger waves. The one downside mentioned most often is the higher comparable price of these boats.

2. Contender 25 Bay


Contender designs their boats for a purpose. Located in Florida, these guys know what most people want in a bay boat, and they have designed the Contender 25 Bay to fill that niche. It doesn’t matter whether you are fishing inland shallow waters or want to pick a calm day to spend a little time offshore, the Contender 25 can fill the role.

Contender provides the accessories and options to customize your Contender 25 Bay to fit your exact needs. These boats come standard with a live well, rod holders, forward casting platform and pop-up jump seats.

The Contender 25 Bay is aimed more at the fishing community that needs a boat that can occasionally fill the need for a family recreational boat.

Length: 25 feet 4 inches

Weight: 4,200 pounds (w motors) approximately

Type: Center Console

What Are Customers Saying?

Customers of Contender boats frequently mention the fantastic service and customer care of this company. Almost all purchasers of these boats order optional equipment to customize their boats and found the process easy and the outcomes satisfying.

These boats are very popular with anglers because of the wide array of fishing-related accessories that are included with the basic boat models.

3. Ranger 2360 Bay

Sport Fishing Magazine / YouTube

One of the big selling features of bay boats is the multipurpose utility that these designs afford to the owners. Putting as many different options onto a single hull as possible gives more value and greater attraction to buyers. Ranger has succeeded in meeting this challenge with the Ranger 2360 Bay.

Those who want to indulge their fishing interests will find what they need on these boats. Every Ranger 2360 includes standard rod holders and storage, a built-in cooler, and flip-down rear seats for comfortable traveling over the water.

Families will find plenty of room for a day on the bay with their kids or friends in the well-designed floor plan of these boats. Anglers are not forgotten with standard features such as rod storage and gunnel rod holders.

Length: 23 feet 5 inches

Weight: 3.400 pounds (w/engine) approximately

Type: Center Console

What Are Customers Saying?

Most customers who purchase a Ranger 2360 Bay tout the family-friendly design of these boats. They cite the standard features such as an onboard stereo system, convenient cup holders, a wrap-around rear seat, and a place in the console to stow a porta-potty. Customers of Ranger also like the affordable price of these boats when compared to others.

4. Tidewater 2210 Carolina Bay

Tidewater Boats

If you spend more time on the open ocean than in the bay but still want bay boat performance, the Tidewater 2210 Carolina Bay is a good option.

This 22-foot boat easily handles all but the worst of big water with a large bow flair that cuts through the waves comfortably. The large casting deck provides plenty of fishing space and helps shed water quickly and safely.

Families are not forgotten in this design. Fold-up jump seats provide plenty of space for passengers while keeping the deck clean and free for your on-the-water activities.

Rod holders, tackle boxes, and a large cooler are optional accessories that can be added. You can opt for a Yamaha F150 XB motor with up to a maximum of 250 horsepower.

Length: 22 feet 10 inches

Weight: 2,600 pounds (WO/Engine}

Type: Center Console

What Are Customers Saying?

The most common comment among customers of Tidewater is the number of options and features that are available for these boats. Some even comment that it is hard to choose because there are so many possible combinations. Most customers love how these boats handle bigger waves when on the open waters close to shore.

5. Parker 2500 SE

Parker Boats

In truth, the Parke 2500 SE performs more like a deep-water boat than a bay boat. If you want to spend the majority of your time offshore but want the shallower draft necessary to operate in bay areas, the Parker 2500 SE is a great combination of hull design and features. The gunwales of these boats are a bit deeper than most bay boats giving you an edge in the offshore environment.

However, you won’t find the Parker 2500 SE lacking if you want to take the family for a day on the bay. The forward fishing platform has a removable cushion that provides plenty of lounge space for the family.

A flip-down rear seat and a transom door make this a perfect boat for family water activities. With a draft of 15 inches, this is also a versatile bay boat.

Length: 25 feet 4 inches

Weight: 4,300 pounds (w/engine)

Type: Center Console

What Are Customers Saying?

These are popular boats with fishermen in the coastal regions who venture offshore for blue water fishing. They consistently mention the deeper gunnels and the hull’s stability when navigating these waters.

Fishermen seem to love the many fishing features included as standard items with these boats. One downside mentioned frequently is the overall cost of the Parker 2500 SE.

6. Bayliner T18 Bay

Fish Master

For those who are looking for a boat just a bit smaller, the Bayliner T18 Bay may be an option. While this model of Bayliner boat is a bit shorter than some of our other choices, it still manages to provide space for six people. Built with casting decks fore and aft, these boats feature an M-hull design for stability and comfort.

Families appreciate the spacious layout, but fishermen won’t find their interests lacking. A self-bailing cockpit keeps things dry. At 2,000 pounds of dry weight with the engine, most SUVs can easily tow and launch these boats. A full array of options can be configured to make this the perfect family day boat or a versatile bay fishing boat.

Length: 18 feet 2 inches

Weight: 2,000 pounds (w/engine)

Type: Center Console

What Are Customers Saying?

Overall, the biggest fans of the Bayliner T18 line of boats are families who are interested in water recreation but want to be able to fish occasionally. Most purchasers of these boats cite the smaller size and lighter weight as part of their choices. Many owners also make note of the reliability of the included Mercury engines and the easy maintenance.

7. Wellcraft 222 Bay Boat

Yacht World

If fishing is your main interest, then an obvious choice is the Wellcraft 222 Bay Boat. Wellcraft has focused this design more on the above-average fisherman than the family boat owner who wants to fish occasionally. Features such as a blue live well with lights and a 34-gallon capacity speak to this focus on fishing.

Even the T-top is geared toward fishing with four rod holders on the front and four more on the leaning posts, and an additional four rod holders on the gunwales.

Rod holders under the gunwales give you places to stow more gear than even the most intrepid angler wants to carry. You can get to where you want to fish at the 50-mph top speed provided by the Evinrude engine.

Length: 22 feet

Weight: 3,900 pounds (w/engine)

Type: Center Console

What Are Customers Saying?

By and large, most people who purchase a Wellcraft 222 are more interested in fishing than family recreational boating. Most comments center on the many features provided for angling enjoyment and how the boat is laid out to facilitate fishing on the bay offshore close to the beach. Most customers found these boats to be priced mid-range for comparable styles of bay boats.

8. Crestliner 1800 Bay

Crestliner Boats

The Crestliner 1800 Bay offers a different boat from most of the others on our list. This boat features all-welded aluminum hull construction.

All metal boats typically require a bit less maintenance than fiberglass boats which can be a big selling feature for some boat owners. These boats are geared more toward bay activities than offshore fishing, with lower gunwales than many of the other boats on this list.

The Crestliner 1800 is another boat that is more popular as a fishing boat than as a family recreational boat. The amenities and features are geared more toward a day of fishing than a day with the family on the water. However, you can easily adapt this boat to a family outing on the bay for a day of water recreation.

Length: 18 feet 6 inches

Weight: 1,216 pounds (WO/engine)

Type: Center Console

What Are Customers Saying?

Those who purchase the Crestliner 1800 Bay focus on the aluminum welded hull as the main selling point. They like the ease of maintenance and the strength of the all-metal hull. Anglers also mention the low gunwales as an advantage when fishing and the relatively shallow draft of these boats.

9. Sportsman Masters 207 Bay Boat

Yacht World

If you are like me and are a technology junky, the Sportsman Masters 207 Bay Boat may be just what you are looking for. Along with all of the usual features you expect from a top-of-the-line boat manufacturer, Sportsman outfits their bay boats with a complete set of factory-installed SportLink electronics.

These smaller bay boats are designed for single-engine operation and are rated for up to 150 horsepower. You can enjoy plenty of bay fishing with the shallow draft allowing you access to water that is only 12 inches deep. With a 7-person capacity, the Sportsman Masters 207 can also provide plenty of family on the water recreation time.

Length: 20 feet 4 inches

Weight: 2,000 pounds (WO/engine)

Type: Center Console

What Are Customers Saying?

Owners of Sportsman boats consistently comment on the quality of these boats. Most customers report that the Sportsman Masters 207 is one of the easiest boats they have owned to launch and load onto a trailer. Performance and handling on the water are also top-rated by boat owners.

Fishermen like the three live wells located forward and aft. One criticism often heard is the diminutive size of the windscreen, which doesn’t seem to offer much protection.

10. Robalo 226 Cayman

Robalo Boats

The Robalo 226 Cayman is a smaller boat that performs and feels like a much bigger hull. These boats are rated for engines up to 150 horsepower. The factory configuration usually includes a 200-horsepower Yamaha motor.

The V-hull is deep enough to handle almost any kinds of conditions you may encounter on the water. These characteristics make the Robalo a great boat for families.

Robalo rates this boat for 8 people allowing you to enjoy time on the water with your friends and family in comfort and style. A closed compartment can house a porta-potty for added convenience. Anglers won’t feel neglected. Robalo adds massive amounts of storage for rods, tackle, bait, and live wells. The closed compartment offers 5 feet of headroom, making it unique among most bay boats.

Length: 22 feet 6 inches

Weight: 3,400 pounds (w/engines)

Type: Center Console

What Are Customers Saying?

Both recreational boaters and fishermen rave about the ample deck space on the Robalo 226 Cayman. Boat owners like the deep cockpit that can be transformed into an entertainment space by bringing out the auxiliary table. Huge live wells and the large stern deck with two live wells get praise from avid fishermen.

11. Sea Hunt BX 25 RS

Salt Water Sportsman

If you want to do the bay, the Intracoastal waterway or some limited offshore with style and comfort, you should take a look at the Sea Hunt BX 25 RS. These boats offer a touch of luxury with above-average quality.

The design handles shallow water with ease and is comfortable for making the trip offshore. These boats are also at home in shallow water, needing only 15 inches of draft to operate safely.

Huge bait tanks, captain’s chairs, underwater LED lights and an integrated fiberglass top make this almost a luxury boat. The cockpit features a tempered glass enclosure for optimum comfort despite the worst conditions. The Yamaha touchscreen controls give a nod to the latest and greatest technological innovations. The cockpit is well-designed and puts everything within easy reach.

Length: 25 feet 3 inches

Weight: 3.700 pounds (w/engine)

Type: Center Console

What Are Customers Saying?

The overall impression from owners of the Sea Hunt BX 25 FS is that this boat performs more like an offshore boat than a bay boat. The comments mention that the aggressive bow rake gives an impressively smooth ride. These boat owners also speak highly of the Sea Hunt’s maneuverability and handling on the water.

12. Regulator 26XO Bay Boat

Regulator Marine

Regulator has a reputation for building great offshore boats, and they have translated that reputation and knowledge into a superb bay boat.

This boat features a bow that is a bit higher and with a more pronounced flare than most other bay boats giving it an aggressive visual effect and a ton of stability. You can explore offshore or take this boat into some seriously shallow water because it only needs 14 inches of draft.

The Regulator is truly more of a fishing rig than a recreational boat, but its roomy interior and ample seating can handle your family boating activities with ease and comfort. There is foredeck seating as well as comfortable aft seating enough to handle. The open bow design lends itself to a day on the lake with the family or fishing. There is also plenty of storage both fore and aft.

Length: 26 feet 9 inches

Weight: 6,780 pounds (w-engine)

Type: Center Console.

What Are Customers Saying?

Anglers rave about the storage and the ample live well capacity of these boats. Most Regulator 26XO owners say that these boats handle offshore almost as well as many boats designed specifically for blue water motoring. Several owners use these boats for family recreational boating and maintain that pulling skiers or tubers doesn’t strain the boat at all.

Tobi Miles
Article updated:
March 28, 2024
A nomadic wordsmith savoring the world's flavors and penning stories that turn every journey into an epic.
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