It wasn't long ago that waterfowlers had only one choice to make when selecting a duck boat: jon or modified-V. In today's world of increasing advancements, hunters are left with a mind-boggling amount of hull designs, options, and add-ons to choose from. The greatest leap in boat designs for 2013 is, unquestionably, the modification of hulls, from structural ribs for durability to massive float pods and drop-decks for functionality. In addition, manufacturers are taking more time to build crafts that perform with popular surface-drive mud motors.
As those motors get larger and heavier, boat builders are finding new ways to compensate for weight and load-bearing requirements, so flat-bottoms can still skate on inches of water. Custom boats are also becoming more desirable and within reach, as builders offer a variety of options on their most popular models. You'll find everything from sneaks to layouts and swamp-busting monsters, all with one common goal: Getting you to the ducks. Check out the best duck boats for this year.
At only 62 pounds, and made out of indestructible polyethylene rotomolded plastic, the 10-foot AquaPod Sport
is the perfect one-man boat for remote locations. These boats draft in almost no water, making them easier to navigate shallow marshes. Modern technology has created a material that's so lightweight, loading, unloading and carrying is an afterthought. Shock cords across the boat are standard, and make it easy to grass up and blend in. Accessories include hunting blinds, a motor mount and nine-foot kayak paddles for extra zip.
Some die-hards will tell you there's absolutely nothing in the sport like the up close and personal feel of layout shoots. Bankes
has led the way in the layout market for years with their personally-designed, hunter-tested models. The newest edition to the fleet is the 10-foot, one-man Pumpkinseed. Small enough to be transported in the back of an SUV, this unit is plenty roomy for a big guy, and is rated for 300 pounds. Flotation is injected throughout the boat for safety, and there's no wood, so it won't rot. The boat sits a little over 12 inches above the waterline, so it's invisible to ducks.
Carstens has been building layout and sneak-style boats for 40 years. Today's models are all fiberglass, super lightweight and extremely durable. If you're the type that dreams of a quiet day in the marsh, Duck Logic
has your Carsten's rig. From the 10-foot Puddler to the 14-foot Canvasback, all Carstens' products come complete with full flotation and incredible stability. Many of the boats can be equipped with motors, from a small electric to long-tails. Duck Logic offers six models, along with covers, blinds, seats and paddles.
Price: $529 (base model)
Without question, the standout feature of the new Excel F4
is the boat's rear step deck. This area, just above the waterline at the rear of the boat, is a large platform that makes entering the boat from the water effortless. In addition, it serves as a great platform for a retriever, is loaded with flotation for safety, and places the mud motor further back for better performance and keeping water out. Other features include a large, built-in gas tank in the bow, a giant storage/gun box and running lights. A super-hardcore option is the 3,000-pound built-in winch, complete with controls. Also new for 2013 is the cool old-school camo package from Drake Waterfowl.
Price: $(contact your local dealer for more info)
Gator-Tail Gator Series 16x54
Gator-Tail's Gator Series
'dropdeck ' places the motor much further back than usual, allowing for high-speed reverse without dumping a bunch of water into the boat — it also makes for the perfect dog ladder. Available in four lengths (16-, 17-, 18- and 20-foot) and five widths (40-, 46-, 54-, 60- and 72-inch), customers can build exactly what they want, but price the boat within a package. G-T's list of options includes deck extensions, handrails, bowrails, poling platforms, and endless rod and gun storage boxes. One cool standard feature is that the operator's seat is actually a roto-molded cooler.
Gator Trax 18x70 Big Water
All Gator Trax boats
are 100 percent custom made, so no two are exactly the same. The Big Water combines a massively wide flat-bottom with high sides, providing a dry, comfortable ride and shallow draft. The hybrid rake system is built as a modified-V front, fading to a completely flat bottom. This allows the boat to navigate through rough seas without slap, as a mod-V would, but traverse through super shallow water like a square-bow. Hulls are available in the standard .125 or the thicker .190. Rig dual 54-hp mud motors to blast through the marsh.
Go-Devil 16x60 Surface Drive
Since 1977, some of the most reliable duck boats in the country have come out of Go-Devil
's Baton Rouge machine shop. During that time, the 16x60 SDB has been one of its best sellers, especially when paired with the company's largest surface-drive outboard, a 35-hp Vanguard. Clocked at 30 mph — considered lightning fast for a 35-horse — all G-D boats thankfully come standard with a front grab bar for stability. Built from one continuous piece of 1/8-inch thick aluminum alloy, there are no seams or splices to compromise the boat's durability. Aluminum push-pole included.
Lowe Frontier 2070 CC
Looking for a monster duck/fishing combo with the guarantee of one of the strongest names in aluminum boat building? Then the 2070 CC is what you need. Lowe boats
come with a 10-year hull warranty, a great option for waterfowlers who hunt the rough-and-tumble backwaters (Lowe details its warranty information more than most — showing a commitment to life-long customer satisfaction). The 2070 features amenities like a 22-gallon aerated livewell, all-welded construction, and a super-tough extruded keel, which will not split or splice. The center console beast weighs 1,100 pounds and the boat is rated for outboards up to 115-hp.
Pemberton Dragonfly 1289
Every marsh junkie knows airboats are awesome, and allow access to the most remote places on earth. Their big drawback, however, is they're incredibly loud, and drink fuel like a monster truck — until now. Pemberton
has created a series of 'mini-airboats ' that are lightweight, fuel efficient, and no louder than a lawn mower. Their secret lies in composite hulls, which are lightweight, yet strong enough to drive right across land. Power is derived from a four-stroke, heavy torque Generac engine, originally designed for the generator industry. Getting an efficient 10 mpg — unheard of in an airboat — the whole rig weighs just 600 pounds.
Price: $15,800 (base model)
Pro-Drive 18x54 X Series
new line of boats are built to perform with their already proven surface-drive motors. After extensive testing, a unique tapered chine was found to be the best hull design, running higher out of the water at nearly all speeds and making shallow-water access more feasible. The same hull design was found to maneuver best at low speeds. Pro-Drive also leaned on its own airboat building expertise when designing the X Series to produce a nearly indestructible boat. The ribs are longitudinal, and combine with 2x2 square aluminum tubing, bracing the walls and floor, and a 2x4 transom brace. Weighing in at 625 pounds, the X Series comes in Pro-Drive's custom camo paint job.
War Eagle 761 Blackhawk
Stop by your nearest duck club, and there's a good chance a War Eagle
will be tied to the dock. These boats are used across the country by professional waterfowl hunters and some of the nation's best crappie anglers for reliability for getting to the holes mallards and papermouths covet. The 761 comes in at 17.5 feet, with a massive 89-inch beam, built atop an 18-degree V-hull. The hull has been redesigned in this series for a very smooth, dry ride even in choppy water. The look of a duck boat is combined with the amenities of a high-end fishing rig, complete with a ton of bow storage, trolling motor bracket, pedestal seats on raised platforms, and an 18-gallon fuel tank.
was building welded duck rigs before many boat companies were even in business. For over 50 years, the Xpress concept has been to meticulously build each hull, inspecting and re-inspecting for flaws, injecting each cavity to the max with expandable foam. The result is a top-of-the-line boat that far exceeds Coast Guard standards for safety. Standard on the HD15DB is a welded-in, lockable gun box, enclosed rear deck, and eight-gauge wiring harness for a trolling motor. RNT-V's Jim Ronquest, one the most respected authorities on green timber hunting, runs the boat through the rigors of Stuttgart's backwaters daily.
Phowler Extreme Series
Only a true waterfowler can appreciate the construction of a durable hull. We crash into all kinds of obstacles on the way to the blind, and Phowler
knows it, so they put each boat to the test before it's deemed marsh-worthy. The Extreme has a .125 hull (lifetime guarantee) with five internal and two external stringers. Available in 16- to 24-foot models, It will carry the heaviest of loads and has a wide-open floor plan, so there's plenty of room to pile in the decoys and the rest of your gear. A movable gun box is also included.
SeaArk Mud Runner 170
You have to like a product that promotes hitting stumps. The new SeaArk Mud Runner
incorporates both transverse and longitudinal ribs to make the boat incredibly strong. Also notable are huge float pods in the back, both for increasing performance and providing a perfect stepping platform. SeaArk has traditionally been known for extremely heavy-duty caprails, and when combined with the aforementioned ribs, the boat is brutally durable. Adding to the indestructible theme is the Timber Runner package, which includes a reinforced bow deck and covered LED lights.