The idea of boat designs that do a good job of providing a platform for fishing and duck hunting isn’t new. For many years a host of manufacturers have been advertising that their boats both hunt and fish with the best of them. The problem is, many so-called “cross-over” boats have serious compromises that, in many cases, don’t perform all that well at either goal!

Case in point, many of the low profile flat bottom boats so popular with duck hunters just don’t have the freeboard to make them a useful or seaworthy fishing craft. In the same token, deeper boats fish well, but they can be challenging to hide in a host of duck hunting situations.

Finding the “just right” compromise is the challenge sportsmen face who are in the market for a boat that truly does hunt and fish with the best of them.

Size Matters

When it comes to cross-over boats, size matters a great deal, and you simply can’t expect a modest 14, 15, or 16-foot boat to perform well on larger bodies of water. This rule of thumb holds true for both duck hunting and fishing because many duck hunting opportunities require navigating across open water to reach protected sloughs and marshes.

Boats in the 17-foot class start to take on the characteristics of a true cross-over boat, but the truth be told, larger 18, 19, and even 20-foot models will be a better choice for the outdoorsman who is serious about fishing and duck hunting. Some flat-bottom boats are even available in larger 22, 24, and 26-foot models, providing more room and a greater sea-worthy rating.

Hull Designs

Flat bottom and modified V style hulls are the boats typically characterized as cross-over models. These hull types are versatile enough to make them a good choice for anyone shopping for a boat that hunts and fishes well. Of these two hull designs, the modified V is more versatile in that it can handle bigger water and waves far better than a flat bottom hull.

However, it is important to note that flat bottom hulls are available in some impressive sizes, including 20, 22, 24, and even 26-foot models. The larger boats are commonly used as a platform for custom building enclosed boat blinds made from welded steel tubing or aluminum tubing and covered with sheets of aluminum flashing material.

The idea of developing boats that both hunt and fish with the best of them isn’t exactly new, but there are many more boats on the market these days that do just that. Utility cross-over boats are some of the author’s favorite boats because they can function as excellent fishing and hunting boats.

Some of these blinds are so elaborate they include heaters, stoves, interior lighting, and storage boxes to keep decoys organized. Honestly, the sky is the limit on what features and creature comforts these boats can be designed to deliver. Generally speaking, these larger flat bottom boats feature permanently attached blinds, so they are not really a cross-over design.

While traditional V hulls aren’t typically lumped into the cross-over category, this functional hull design can and does play a major role in the hunt/fish lineup of versatile hulls. Years ago, Lund got the ball rolling with their “Alaskan” series of V hull utility boats. The open floor plan of these boats and the dead grass paint job made them an immediate hit.

These days there are several other open floor plan V hull utility boats on the market. Starcraft and SmokerCraft produce the Freedom 160 and 180, which are offered in both a tiller or side console version. Also, Polar Craft produces the Outlander series, which is available in 14, 15, 16, 18, and 20-foot models. The Outlander comes with a factory camouflage paint job and a host of tiller and side console configurations.

The V hull design sees a lot of use not just for fishing but also as a “tender” boat for layout duck shooting. Many outfitters also use the V hull designs as work boats for hauling customer’s gear, baiting chores for bear stands, and even hauling heavy items like ATVs to and from places where they are needed. The V hull design can also lend itself well to after-market boat blinds.

Adding a Boat Blind

While the V hull is not as popular a choice for adding a boat blind as the flat bottom and modified V hulls, many after-market blinds are available that nicely adapt to the shape of the V hull models. Avery, Beavertail, and Banded make canvas flip-style blinds that can be mounted on just about any V hull design.

For the hunter who is looking for a little more creature comfort, custom build boat blinds are also available. The BUST’EM Boat Blind is built onto the hull of the customer’s choice. The BUST’EM Boat Blind is built from steel tubing that is welded to create a framework and doors front and back, along the sides, and lids covering the top of the blind. Doors and lids feature power pistons that hold the door in the open position.

The framework is covered with a rubberized flat stock material that is tough yet flexible enough to withstand lots of abuse. On the outside of the blind, hog wire is secured to allow for brushing the blind.

Extra features include a dog door, dog ladder, custom paint finishes, and power pistons on the overhead lids feature magnetic connections that make it easy to swing open the hatch when it’s time to shoot. Because these blinds are built to fit each boat, the fit and finish are exceptional. BUST’EM can also do other custom projects like camouflage paint on the blind and boat, adding LED lights, float pods that help get on plane in shallow water, and a host of other accessories.

To do the custom work of the BUST’EM Boat Blind, the customer must deliver their boat to the BUST’EM factory in Missouri, and the build typically takes about 10 days. One of the nicest features of these custom duck boat blinds is that they can be put on and taken off quickly, making them ideal for the outdoorsman who wants to fish and hunt from the same boat.

Engine Considerations

The most common mistake boaters make is underpowering their hunt/fish boats. Most boats are going to perform best when the maximum or near-maximum horsepower outboard is selected. This goes double for hunters who load the boat down with heavy decoys, blinds, dogs, and gear.

Both tiller and side console rigs are suitable for hunt/fish models. The tiller models provide a little more interior room in the boat, but console models are generally more comfortable to drive and more practical as a fishing boat.

Jack Plates

While you don’t often see a jack plate on an aluminum boat, mounting a hydraulic jack plate is an important accessory to consider on any hunt/fish boat package. Duck hunting often requires accessing shallow water. A jack plate allows the engine to be raised vertically, making it more practical to access shallow water and get the boat on plane in skinny water.

A jack plate will also lengthen the entire boat package and typically gives the boat a little more performance, especially in rough water situations.

Summing it Up

In the world of boating, just about every boat on the market is a compromise. The art of finding the “just right” boat for hunting and fishing applications boils down to doing some homework and searching out a craft that offers the important features needed to hunt and fish with the best of them.