Like you all, I’m sick of hearing the term “social distancing,” sick of having to do it, but happy as hell, so far, it has kept me safe. And I’m grateful.
Boaters boated and fishermen fished. And they did it a lot more. Some because they had more time on their hands, some because they needed the escape from a political tempest and others as a bully pulpit for the political tempest. Whatever the motivator, if their old boat wasn’t up to their new commitment —71 percent said they would fish or boat more during the pandemic—they shopped up a new one with about 15 minutes of web surfing. We’ve heard of fishermen, spurred on by the COVID-19 outbreak, who selected, equipped and closed on their new boat without ever stepping into a showroom. It just showed up on a dock or a dealer lot, ready to hitch to a ball mount.
This is the seventh time we have conducted this survey of all things saltwater fishing. And you all have been consistent. Consistently keeping your boat, making your allotted days on the water, taking the largest crews your boat could accommodate and going for fish.
Though our survey indicates that you fished more, we didn’t need a survey to tell us that. Boatbuilders told us when they sold out their entire inventory by May. Dealers had empty lots and sought out unused used boats to put on the block. If you sold your boat without replacing it, we are sorry. But your timing was good. You got more money for it than you ever will in the future.
Bay boats and center-consoles still dominate the fishing market. The former have one engine; the latter, on average, have two. Cost is no object. Only safety, and fun.
With an average crew size of three, you’re well within the social-distancing rules, and boatbuilders are making sure your boat will accommodate them.
Our guide exists because as boatbuilders compete for your money, they offer more seating, more fishability, better-looking color schemes, and far more powerful and efficient engines to drive the vessel. Your choices are getting harder to make; the purpose of our guide is to help you navigate the seas to your perfect boat. Don’t let anybody tell you it doesn’t exist.