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Wood Boats or Glass?

Four fishy captains give us their preferences

October 7, 2020
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A collage of four male boat captains in caps and sunglasses.
A collage of four male boat captains in caps and sunglasses. (from Left): and Courtesy Capt. Randy Baker and Courtesy Capt. Danny Ford and Courtesy Capt. John Galvin and Courtesy Capt. Jon Meade

Capt. Randy Baker

A man smiles as he sits on the deck of a boat.
Capt. Randy Baker, Nomad, Destin, Florida Courtesy Randy Baker

I have spent the majority of my professional career on fiberglass and/or composite boats, so I have to say, those are my choice. Weight, strength, durability, lower maintenance and the inability to rot are some of the advantages glass boats have over wooden ones. I’ve been asked on many occasions which type raises more fish, or offers better fishability, and I’ve fished extensively on both. In my opinion, what the boat is made of doesn’t really matter; how the boat is driven by the captain, how effectively the spread is presented by the crew, and the sheer ability of the angler to get the job done are really what make the difference.

Watch: The Viking 37 Billfish is certainly a stunner.

Capt. Danny Ford

A man in cap and sunglasses stands on a boat deck.
Capt. Danny Ford, Anakalea, Jupiter, Florida Courtesy Capt. Danny Ford

I have been fortunate to run several types of sport-fishing boats, and some rode and fished better than others. In my ­opinion, a wooden boat has a softer, more forgiving ride and tends to fish quieter in any given sea condition. With today’s technology, available composite materials, and massive horsepower, boatbuilders are pushing the envelope—with some making the switch from wood to composites with great success. There are also builders that are using wood-fiberglass-composite combinations to save weight and increase strength. But, in all honesty, I still love the sound and feel of a good wooden boat.

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Capt. John Galvin

A bearded man wearing a visor hat and sunglasses smiles. with the ocean in the background.
Capt. John Galvin, El Diablo, Cape Cod, Massachusetts Courtesy Capt. John Galvin

That’s a tough question—one that has perpetuated conversations between crews for years—that really has no wrong answer. I have enjoyed working aboard a variety of both types of boats, and find there are advantages and disadvantages to each. But for the past four years, I have strictly run Viking boats, so I am going to lean toward a glass boat as my preference, primarily for ease of maintenance and service reasons. In my experience, consistency and similarity between fiberglass models have always made an easy transition whenever new boats are introduced to a program, which definitely helps to lessen the new-boat learning curve.

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Capt. Jon Meade

A man stands at a boat helm wearing sunglasses.
Capt. Jon Meade, Showtime!, Stuart, Florida Courtesy Capt. Jon Meade

I try to keep firm in the “chrome-over-brass” ideal. To me, getting to the fish and driving over them is the most important part of the equation. I have done extremely well on fiberglass hulls, but if I had to choose, I’d go with cold-molded wood boats. Hand-built boats, more often than not, are designed to the owners’ exact wants and needs. Everything is a compromise, and custom boats afford the opportunity to design the ride: weight-conscious to make it fast, and layout to make it comfortable. Not everyone is happy with an “out-of-the-mold” design. In Showtime!, we have the exact weapon for our needs.

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