Flats Skiffs


Flats skiffs are small, lightweight boats that are best-suited to fishing in the shallowest water. The best flats skiffs can be operated in as little as one foot of water, depending on the motor and propeller size on the boat. These boats get their name from the fact that you operate them primarily along the shallow banks of backwater channels and inlets, an area of the water often referred to as the “flats.”

The top flats skiff boats will be relatively inexpensive compared to other saltwater fishing vessels. A flats skiff is a highly popular design in coastal areas along the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico and it is not difficult to find one of these boats in such areas. A wide range of manufacturers produce these vessels,making it easy to do comparison shopping before making your final decision on one of these boats.

What are the characteristics of a flats skiff?

Flat skiff boats are unique among small, inshore fishing vessels. Learning how to identify a flats skiff will help you pick out a boat with the features that you want. This type of watercraft is characterized by:

  • A short length. Most skiffs are only 16 to 20 feet in length, which allows them to be maneuvered easily.
  • A center or side console. It is more common to find a side console in these boats, but center console variations exist.
  • Casting decks. The best flat skiffs will have room at the front and back of the console, giving you more room to fish.
  • An engine platform. This feature is a small deck affixed over the motor, which you can use when propelling the boat with a pole.
  • A light color. Almost every flats skiff design will feature a predominately white color.

What type of engine does a flats skiff have?

The flats skiff build features a single outboard motor. Flats skiffs are usually powered with a 60 to 200 horsepower motor. Shorter, lighter boats are more likely to have a horsepower of around 115 or less. Longer and heavier boats commonly have 150 horsepower engines. With these boats being so small, engines with less power still deliver a fast ride.

What are the types of flats skiffs?

Flats skiffs are commonly composed of wood or aluminum. A wooden flats skiff is usually made of composite wood material such as plywood or similar types. The frame is then covered with a layer of epoxy or fiberglass to make the boat seaworthy and streamlined. An aluminum flats skiff, on the other hand, will simply have a frame made of aluminum rather than wood. Wood-framed boats are generally heavier than aluminum ones, but it can depend on the type of wood. Most boats are made by manufacturers as a finished product. However, with the correct flats skiff plans, you can also build a boat on your own. Many manufacturers sell kits to make this easier.

What kind of fishing can I do on a flats skiff?

The best flats skiffs will perform well in both fresh and saltwater. However, flats skiffs are used almost exclusively as saltwater fishing vessels. When these boats are used in freshwater, it is common for fishermen to use them as bass fishing boats. In saltwater, anglers are often surprised to find that they can catch trophy-sized fish in this type of boat.

How do I use a flat skiff boat?

To use a flats skiff, you will need to know how to operate an outboard motor. Using a flat skiff boat to its full potential also means that you should be comfortable operating in skinny water, which is simply a term for extremely shallow water. It is also possible to propel the boat with a pole if you want to fish with more stealth.

Where can I use flats skiffs?

The top flats skiff boats are designed primarily for inland fishing, meaning anything that is shallow and close to the shore. Specifically, a flats skiff is popular in environments such as:

  • Backwater areas
  • Flats
  • Saltwater inlets
  • Marshes
  • Mangrove islands
  • Narrow channels

What are the advantages of using a flats skiff?

A flat skiff boat is a great choice if you want to fish in stealth. Because the flats skiff design allows you to propel the boat with a pole, you can sneak into areas without alerting the fish. These boats are small and maneuverable, making it easy to navigate into extremely shallow water. Many surprisingly large fish can be found in these areas such as redfish, snapper, sea trout, tarpon and snook, among others.

What are the cons of using flats skiffs?

A drawback of the flats skiff is that it is usually a single-purpose boat. Because of the flats skiff’s design and size, it does not fare well in deep or choppy water, meaning that it is usually only safe to operate for inshore fishing.

Who should consider using a flatskiff boat?

The best flats skiffs are easy for beginners to operate. With a flats skiff, experienced fishermen can enjoy themselves as well due to the fact that it is possible to catch large fish in these boats.

How much does a flats skiff cost?

Flats skiffs are relatively affordable compared to other saltwater fishing vessels. Flat skiff boats usually fall within the range of $18,000 to $50,000 for a new vessel. Some manufacturers will allow you to customize a boat, after which you will receive an exact quote.

What are the best flats skiff builders?

The flats skiff is a popular boat design, making it easy to find these vessels from a number of different manufacturers. Some of the top flat skiff boats are available from brands including:

  • East Cape
  • Action Craft
  • Beavertail
  • Sea Chaser
  • Yellowfin
  • Hells Bay
  • Maverick

To help narrow your search of the best flat skiff boat for you, download our guide to buying a boat here.

Where can I find flats skiffs?

It is easy to find flats skiff boats by visiting a boat manufacturer’s showroom in person. Many used flat skiffs are sold online from websites such as Craigslist or eBay. When comparing different types of skiffs, consider these popular options:

  • East Cape EVO
  • Dolphin 18 Backcountry Pro
  • Action Craft 1622 Flyfisher
  • Yellowfin 17 CC
  • Ankona Copperhead


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