Best Aluminum Fishing Boats for Saltwater

Many Baja anglers dream of someday owning a spacious fiberglass sportfishing cruiser that has a built in bait tank, plenty of open deck space, perhaps a cuddy cabin and maybe even a fly bridge.

But for the average saltwater angler, this vision rarely comes to fruition.  The initial purchase price, high fuel consumption, costly storage and ongoing upkeep of this type of upscale fishing craft is financially beyond their reach.

Luckily, however, there are much more economical ways to get out on the water and catch fish.  One of them is to consider buying a quality aluminum boat.

While it may be true that fiberglass has provided the backbone for recreational watercraft for decades, the reality is that aluminum has long been recognized as a superior material for building boats; particularly those that are intended to be used in saltwater.

The very fact that it is the choice of the U.S. Coast Guard for the construction of their patrol boats speaks volumes about its strength and durability.  Aluminum is also used in the building of mega yachts, as well as those destined for competition in America’s Cup tournaments.

One of the benefits is that aluminum weighs much less than fiberglass, yet it is extremely strong.  On the water, this translates to mean greater fuel efficiency, better overall performance and greater ease in getting your boat off and back on the trailer.  Research shows that all-welded aluminum boats can weigh up to 50% less than boats made out of fiberglass.

Aluminum boats are also less prone to damage when they come into contact with a host of water hazards like buoys, submerged obstructions and floating debris that might otherwise cripple a fiberglass craft.  They are also virtually impervious to fire damage; one of the top safety concerns for those aboard fiberglass cruisers.

When it comes to overall fishability, it is hard to beat aluminum boats that have been properly equipped for angling.  They can quickly put you on a bite more economically, and usually have a lot more usable room for fishing than fiberglass fishing boats and cruisers that may cost much more than their lighter, aluminum counterparts.

As a matter of fact, a well-made aluminum boat can price out as much as 20 to 50 percent less than a fiberglass boat of the same length, depending upon its onboard features.

Fortunately for both manufacturers and consumers, new technological advancements in naval architecture, as well as the advent of computer controlled milling machines, have radically lowered the cost of building a quality aluminum boat.

There are several brands of high quality aluminum fishing boats on the market today.  A few top rated manufacturers such as Lund, Crestliner and Alumacraft build boats that perform well in just about any freshwater venue from a local reservoir to one of the Great Lakes.

On the other hand, there are other popular brands that are specifically built to withstand the rigors of regular exposure to a saltwater environment.  They come in a variety of price ranges, depending upon whether the craft is intended for use in a small bay, commercial harbor, inshore activities or the waters offshore.

The primary issue with aluminum fishing boats that are regularly used in saltwater is the possibility of electrolysis, which causes rapid corrosion.  This generally occurs when 2 different types of adjoining metals come in continuous contact with saltwater.  One of the best ways that this potential problem can be dealt with is by applying a state of the art polymeric coating, will bond chemically with the aluminum, thus protecting the hull and other surfaces where it is has been used from the effects of corrosive electrolysis.

Most of the quality aluminum boats that are destined for use in saltwater are manufactured on the west coast; especially in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia.  Oceanic conditions in this region require a rugged and sturdy craft constructed from a thicker, marine grade of aluminum that is welded rather than riveted together in order to safely handle the ongoing challenges that they will be subjected to over time.

There are currently well over a dozen builders of these types of boats, but only a few have been around long enough to gain a reputation for consistent quality and value.

Here are a few of the most popular:

Pacific Boats

Pacific Boats, formerly named Pacific Skiffs, has been around for over 30 years, and makes boats for both commercial and recreational application.  They are constructed of high density aluminum plate, which offers optimum strength and durability.

Although you can expect to pay more for one of their products, you will be delighted to ultimately discover that you truly got what you paid for; Pacific Boats have one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings in the industry, and are considered to be the top choice for aluminum boats by those in the know.

Pacific Boats have standard models available in a variety of lengths and configurations with numerous onboard options, but they pride themselves on their ability to work with you in custom designing a premium aluminum boat that is perfectly suited to your exact needs.

The light design, coupled with uncompromising strength and reliability, deliver a boat that is easier to tow and saves more fuel, while being able to achieve higher speeds than the same size craft made out of fiberglass.


Klamath Boats

Strong, Light and Eco-Friendly Materials make Klamath different from the rest.

With one of the highest strength to weight ratios of any boat building material, aluminum is ideal for constructing strong, reliable boats today, as is was when the Klamath Boat Company was founded in 1947, and quickly built a reputation for making some of the most resilient aluminum boats on the market.  Over the decades, Klamath so successful that it eventually acquired Valco; one of the largest and most well established manufacturers of aluminum boats in the country.  Their Bayrunner and Westcoaster models were some of the most popular choices selected for saltwater use by a large number of anglers on the Pacific coast during the 1970’s and 80’s.

Klamath boats are made from marine grade aluminum, which is virtually impervious to the elements and makes for easy handling both in and out of the water.  They have also gained a reputation for having an extremely efficient hull design that allows the use of smaller engines that help to increase overall fuel economy.

Some manufacturers of low end aluminum boats try to save costs during the welding process, which can negatively impact the boat’s safety over time.  Klamath, on the other hand has rigid quality standards, and consistently delivers the highest quality weld both inside and outside the hull so that you will never have to worry about your boat unexpectedly falling apart in rough seas.


Gregor Boats

Gregor has been a mainstay of discerning saltwater anglers with an eye for both dependable performance and optimum value since 1964.  During the 1970’s, Gregor’s Baja Special was wider and deeper hulled than conventional aluminum boats of the same length, making it a favorite of inshore anglers in southern California and Baja.

They were also the first manufacturer to introduce the all-welded, rivet free aluminum boat.  They were able to do so after developing their patented Thermotrol welding system, which was created by owner, George Gregory.  This revolutionary process set a new industry standard by making it possible to build an exceptionally strong aluminum boat in less time, and at a much lower cost.

Their boats have been extremely popular for use in estuaries, bays and inshore waters since their inception back in the 1960’s.  Gregor’s new Ocean Series, however, reaches an elevated pinnacle with sturdy aluminum craft that are 20 and 22 feet in length.  These are exactly the type of boats that avid blue water anglers with a desire to venture offshore have been waiting for.

They both feature a deep-V with Hydroflow Keel and flared clipper bow, a double-walled box chine and an integrated structural system that is injected with industrial grade foam to deliver enhanced strength with a minimum of additional weight.

Their strict quality control policy requires that each boat must be fastidiously inspected at every stage of the production process.  After over half a century in business, Gregor has built a brand name that is synonymous with high structural integrity and affordable value.


There are a wide variety of aluminum boats on the market, and with proper maintenance, it is probably true that you can use most of them in occasionally in the ocean or bay.

Nonetheless, it is extremely important to remember that boats destined for exclusive use in saltwater should only be made of marine grade aluminum in order to get the most out of your investment and, most importantly, remain safe out on the water.

About Tom Gatch

For well over a decade, ‘Hooked on Baja’ author, Tom Gatch, has built a solid reputation as one of the foremost published writers and columnists focusing on travel, real estate, recreational and culinary topics in Baja and southern California.

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