I've had the opportunity to drive many different bass boats and I still don't like getting fish slime or fish guts on the carpet. When I drive flats or bay boats I notice they never have carpet, are easy to clean, have very non-slip patterns molded in to their fiberglass sole (floors) and are fitted out pretty much like a bass boat. So why haven't flats or bay boats made their way inland?
Yes, flats boats are mainly center console designs allowing for 1.5 people to sit on the seat behind the console but that's not all bad. The additional height gives you better visibility to see other boats and maybe even some fish activity. The seating in this Nauticstar 2200 suggests you can have two people leaning up against the bolster but you'd need to be close personal friends or spouses, like onboard this Skeeter (doing about 57 mph down the ICW).
In either boat, you're going to be going fast, seating comfort is usually secondary to getting to the fish first. The Nauticstar shows the aft seats folded down while the Sketer shows at least one of them in action. Those seats are sturdy whether they're stowed or open for use; they have to be because they're going to get stepped on and pounded on if they're open or stowed.
Safe, secure yet accessible rod and gear storage is key to either design. This Shearwater 23TE gives protected storage a whole new meaning. Just about everywhere there are hatches allowing for a dozen rods to be stowed along with compartments for tackle boxes and of course, live wells. There's storage below the seat on the front of the console external rod holders everywhere and don't forget the cooler below the bolster found on most flats boats. It has plenty of freeboard for safe boating yet it's easy to walk around the console or up to the foredeck or after deck for fishing.
On this Pathfinder 24 Bay model, the couple extra feet in length give even more places for storage under the aft passenger seats and shows off the live wells it adds. Recessed rod holders along the gunwales are great for trolling or resting a rod when it's not in use and you're on another line.
The bow area of this Skeeter 22 Bay even accommodates a trolling motor, "fighting chair" and lounging for tired anglers. And no carpet there either.
Some bass boaters will say a flats boat can't go as fast as a bass boat. Well, most flats boats can accept the installation of a jack plate to help get the most out of your engine for speed.
The Pathfinder 24 Bay I ran sported a Yamaha 300hp Four Stroke that had no problem getting us up and going.
Flats and bay boats carry as much electronic gear as any bass boat. There's space for multiple batteries, the trolling motor, nav gear, marine radios and great sounding stereo equipment. So selecting the right engine with plenty of charging power is as important on a flats as it is on a bass boat.
Can a flats boat be used for bass? Can a bay boat be considered a multi-species fishing machine? Can a bass boat be used for going after bonefish? Absolutely! But for me, cleaning sand, fish bits, spilled soft drinks and granola bar crumbs off the bare fiberglass deck with just the hose sound nice and easy. Okay, yes I do have carpet on my pontoon boat.
(Bill Gius is a three-plus decade marine industry veteran with extensive, hands-on accessory, boat and engine experience. Bill has been working with iboats.com for six years to help manufacturers and dealers use iboats� online marketing, advertising and lead generation services. Bill can be reached at 800-869-1686 x199 or email@example.com.)