There comes a time in every duck hunters career where they either get sick of hiking into spots, or they are ready to explore more water. Therefore, the time comes where you need a boat to get in and out of the marsh, but not just any boat, the best duck boat. However, where do you begin to look for a boat and what do you need in your rig? This is why we not only found the best duck hunting boats, but we also broke down what to look for to help provide you with the tools to know if you need it or not.
Best Duck Boat Manufactures –
Pro Drive – Best Duck Boat
When you hear Pro Drive, most people think of shallow water outboards, and you’d be right. However, Pro Drive creates their own line of quality aluminum boats. Pro Drive currently offers three models, X Series, SBX Series, and the TDX Series. Each of the series has their own unique backwater uses and capabilities. However, the X Series and TDX or Timber Series that stand out the most for being the best duck boat.
X Series –
The Pro Drive X Series originated to match their fantastic shallow water outboards. After numerous tests and drafts, the X series was built with a tapered chime and smooth bottom giving it better top end speeds, higher weight capacity, and of course maneuverability. Because when it comes to duck hunting you have to have a rig that can cut around stumps, logs, grass, and shallow spots with a twist of the arm.
When it comes to running through the harsh conditions of marshes and flooded timber, Pro-Drive made sure they created a thick enough hull. Therefore, all boats are constructed with 5086 aluminum which is 1/8″ thick.
Layout & Design –
When it comes to the style, size, and layout for the X Series, there is plenty of options to pick. Therefore, you have the option of picking a 16′ – 20′ boat with a width of 48″ – 54″, and a side height of 18″ – 21″ sides. As for the inside layout, there are plenty of options. However, some of the most common and most necessary to duck hunting are the following. Multi-position gun boxes, trolling motor brackets, LED light bars, subfloor with non-skid paint, and of course many other options. When it comes to amenities Pro Drive didn’t leave out much to question.
Excel Boats – Best Duck Boat
If you’re looking for a tough, rugged and one of the pioneers in aluminum boats. Excel boats are the best duck boat manufacturer. Located in Mountain View, Arkansas, just 70 miles north of Little Rock is where Excel boats tailor their boats to the fishing and hunting their customers need them from.
F4 Shallow Water –
The F4 shallow water aluminum boat was designed to offer the best performance when matched with a surface drive motor like the Mud Buddy. If you’re looking for a boat that can slide over logs, skim over marsh grass, and fly through to your duck hole, the F4 is the best duck hunting boat. With a slick and nearly flat bottom, the F4 can go through and over just about anything. Plus with the tapered chine, it provides quick responsive turning.
If you’ve ever wondered where the timber step down or shallow water step down was started. Look no further, Excel Boats owner Glenn Foreman started this revolution over 18 years ago. Now everyone wants this feature when looking for the best duck boat. Offered in 16-19′ feet and width of 51″ to 60″ plus you can toss anywhere from a 50-60 horse motor on the F4. It’s one tough boat which is why it makes our list of the best duck boats.
Layout & Design –
When it comes to the overall features and layout, the Excel F4 is limitless. First off it’s equipped with rod and gun storage, bow rails, fully flat floor, storage trays, and storage boxes. However, if you are planning on taking the F4 to the next level there are plenty of options and designs to pick from. There are four different floor plans that you can pick from, from single to dual gun storage, or a completely open layout. Plus there are eight different colors to pick from to match your hunting grounds. There’s even the option to through in a live well and a trolling motor to not only make this the best duck hunting boat, but also a top-notch backwater fishing boat as well.
War Eagle Boats – Best Duck Boat
Since 1992, War Eagle has been a pioneer and stand out manufacture of creating the best duck hunting boats. Every War Eagle boat is made using all welded aluminum, and a wing transom design that allows each boat to maneuver and handle in any type of water condition.
War Eagle is known for having the absolute best camo paint and quality. Therefore, if you are looking for an individually painted and proven process to not only last in the marsh but keep you concealed, then War Eagle has to be one of your top 3 duck boats to consider.
750 Gladiator Shallow Water –
The Gladiator, (first with a model name like this you know it’s going to be one tough boat) is one tough and rugged rig that it had to make our list of the best duck boat models. The Gladiator is a 17’4″ and a width of 50″. It’s also made with 23″ sides to keep you dry, but yet low enough to climb in with waders. However, the Gladiator is also built with step float boxes on the transom making it easier for you and your dog to enter your duck boat.
The bow of the Gladiator is made extra long, which War Eagle calls the “duckbill”, is made to help push through and deflect grass, cattails, and brush. This comes as a standard feature along with adjustable hand rail, rear pods, Linex spray in floor and walls. If you’ve never had a Linex bed liner, they are one of the toughest surfaces, not only are they tough against dents, scratches, water, and anything else you can through at it. Essentially, what that means is, it’s perfect on a duck boat.
Layout & Design –
The Gladiator has one of the more open layouts and floorplans. It’s not as customizable as other duck boats. However, sometimes keeping it simple is the best for duck hunting. When it comes to duck decoys, gun cases, dogs, and anything else you’ll need to take a limit. Having the open floor space is perfect. Although the Gladiator has plenty of storage for small items, and any boat accessories you may need.
Uncle-J Custom Boats – Best Duck Boat
Have ever wanted a completely custom duck boat made exactly how you envisioned it? Then you have to contact Uncle J Custom Boats. Located in Morgan City, Louisiana, Uncle J is a leading fabrication and welding company that turned into one of the best duck boats manufactures for custom shallow water boats.
Custom Shallow Water –
Every Uncle J boat is custom made and designed with your input and needs. To begin you have to call up the shop and begin letting them know what you’re planning on using your boat for, duck hunting, bow fishing, or bay boating. Then you can proceed to the width, length and motor size requirements you need. Most people assume that ordering a custom duck boat is going to break the bank. However, it’s quite the opposite, instead of having things you’ll never need you simply won’t have to pay for it. Other manufacturers may build their boats with storage, and features that cost a lot but have no value to the hunting you do.
Instead, Uncle J can start with a low budget and add in anything you desire or want. The second added benefit to this model is that you can have them build features into your boat in the exact location you desire. For example where you want lights, or where the gas tank should be mounted, all the way down to where you want the seats located.
Layout & Design –
As we talked about, the layout and design is up to your imagination and budget. If you want gun storage boxes, or a cooler holder, just let them know. Uncle J boats will build it to your specs. When it comes down to quality and fabrication techniques, Uncle J boats uses only the best people in the industry. They spend countless hours ensuring your boat will stand up the conditions you can throw at it.
Gator Trax Boats – Best Duck Boat
With the help of Allen Wall, Kent Saxon, and David Porter, Gator Trax started in 2000. Gator Trax was born for the need for custom shallow water boats. The three founders had the passion and intent for the customer to order up what they desired. Therefore, when Gator Trax formed the idea for a custom shallow water boat took off. Plus with the help of the mud motor craze building up, Gator Trax became a well-known brand and duck boat manufacturer.
When Gator Trax first started they only had 3 sizes to pick from. However, with the growth and demand they now have over 50 + sizes and combinations to choose from, and yet you can still customize layout and features.
Marsh Series Shallow Water Boat –
Since most waterfowl hunters are looking for a boat that can reach untouched duck holes and marshes. You need something that has enough size for gear, but not too big that it’s hard to conceal or steer. This is why Gator Trax developed the Marsh Series boat. A backwater beast designed to hold 3 or 4 hunters. It depends on whether you desire the 14′ or 16′ boat.
Layout & Design –
When it comes to the design and layout of the Marsh Series it’s fully customizable. When you place your order you can simply run through the add-ons you want your boat to have. For example, if you want a custom built matching blind you can add that. If you need particular seats in specific locations you can order that too. There’s even the option for LED kits, gas tanks mounts, GPS mounts, battery brackets, or even box lid pads. The options are endless, it all depends on what you need and what you have for a budget. However, Gator Trax is very transparent with their prices. Therefore, if you check out their website you’ll get a great idea of what the boat and accessories will cost.
Top Related Article – Best Duck Hunting Waders
Phowler Series Boats – Best Duck Boat
Phowler boats have been building and creating some of the best duck hunting boats for the past decade. Each boat is designed and tested for duck hunting. No model gets developed without the intent of hunting from it first. With that in mind, each boat is built with 0.125″ thick 5086 marine grade aluminum. Designed to mount any surface drive, long-tail, or outboard you desire within capacity.
Phowler boats are designed to make it through some of the roughest waters found in duck hunting holes. They are so confident that the hulls have a lifetime guarantee on all welds and transoms for as long as you own the boat. I would have to say they are one of the only manufactures that stand by a warranty like this.
Phowler Extreme Sneak Boat –
Phowler boats have six different models to choose from. However, the best duck boat model has to be their Prowler Extreme Sneak Series. Built with a 44″ or 50″ bottom and 60″ upper, this sneak boat is the perfect duck hunting boat setup. The boat is designed with an almost cockpit approach to keep your gear and yourself dry, yet remaining low profile making it very stable in any water condition.
When it comes to the strength of the boat, it can support anything from a 12 hp Copperhead to a 36 hp Pro Drive. The Prowler Extreme Sneak is one tough boat that has a number of options. For example, depending on the places you hunt you can select from a 14′ to an 18′ boat.
Layout & Design –
As for the layout and design, the Extreme Series has plenty of options and similar to Gator Trax. Phowler has online pricing so you can build your boat with a budget in mind. All you have to do is let the Phowler team know what you want. Some of the options you can select are deck rails, layout covers, layout seats, Hydro-Turf, extra handles and much more.
Timber Creek Boats – Best Duck Boat
Last but certainly not least is Timber Creek Boats. As one of the newer custom boat manufactures, Timber Creek has brought back custom boat building with a touch of modernization. As so many established duck boat manufacturers offer series and lines, Timber Creek has a motto that says ” Whatever you want we can do.” They have brought back the completely custom duck boat making while remaining a leader in innovation and custom fabrication work. Each boat is custom made to your specs for the exact purpose you want the boat for.
Tyler Cruitt is the sole owner and founder who lives in Foley, AL. He grew up on the backwaters of the Alabama River and Mobile Causeway. With his extensive experience and fabrication detail, he has started one of the best duck boat company’s today.
Custom Shallow Water Boat –
Like we said as of today Tyler at Timber Creek Boats only offers completely custom boats. There isn’t a make or model that is the same unless desired. Instead, each boat is built for each particular customer. If you have the option look at the builds Tyler and his team have completed. Each boat has unmatched detail and craftsmanship. If you want the best duck boat when it comes to fabrication and detail you have to reach out to Tyler to discuss options and builds.
Layout & Design –
As for the layout and design, again there isn’t something Timber Creek boats won’t do. If you can dream it or desire it, Timber Creek will fabricate it and design it for you. The options are endless, which is why if you simply can’t find what you’re looking for in a duck boat. Reach out to Timber Creek and start your build.
Length & Width –
When it comes to finding the best duck boat for yourself. There are many things to factor in and consider. The first one to think of is what length of a duck boat will meet your needs. However, first, you need to think of where you’ll be taking your duck hunting boat. Will you be hunting on large lakes, rivers, and coastal waters? If so, you need to consider getting a long enough boat that provides stability, and maneuverability for rough waters. The drawback is when you get let’s say a 20′ + boat you limit yourself to being able to hunt small waters and marshes. Having a long boat not only provides stability but also added weight capacity, however, the longer it is, the harder it’s going to be to go in small waters and rivers.
Therefore, many waterfowl hunters look for a boat that is 17-18′ as a general starting point. This length provides enough room and stability for most duck hunting waters. However, if you tend to hunt timber, small rivers, and marshes. A 14-16′ boat is going to give you the maximum maneuverability around stumps, logs, and shallow water. I always recommend taking a ride on a friends rig in the places you’d like to hunt to have an idea of what length of boat will work best.
Similar to the length of a boat the width has drawbacks going either way, but not nearly as much. Most duck boat manufactures will have a couple options to pick from ranging from 44-50″ widths. The narrow a boat is the easier it will be for small shallow waters. However, the wider bottom will provide more stability and floor room for decoys, dogs, and hunters. I would take a look at your local boat dealer to see what fits your gear most comfortable. You don’t want to buy a brand new boat and have the width be too small for the gear you require to hunt ducks.
Hull Configuration –
When it comes to deciding on what type of hull design to pick there are quite a few options. First and foremost the best for shallow water is a flat bottom or modified V hull. The reason a flat bottom works and is so widely adopted is that it slides and skims over shallow water, logs, brush, and grass. However, if you start getting into rough water, a flat bottom boat is going to be one sketchy adventure. They don’t have the ability to stay as controlled in rough waters as a V hull would.
There’s a number of V style options, from a complete V hull which runs bow to stern. There are also modified V hulls that run a V on the nose but transition into a rounded or almost flat bottom. The V makes the boat a lot easier to maneuver when there are choppy waves or rough waters, however, they run a little deeper in the water. Each duck boat manufacturer has their way of building a hull, it’s what differentiates them at times. Therefore, be sure to talk with your local dealer to understand what will be the best for the hunting conditions you’ll most likely hunt.
What Type of Motor?
The ultimate question when you are buying a duck boat is to pick out a motor. Now not that many years ago the craze for having a mud motor took off. Everyone thought to be able to duck hunting you have to have a mud motor. However, that isn’t always the case instead it’s more about the condition and water you are planning on duck hunting. They each have their advantages and they both can’t shoot ducks….only you can do that. However, before you pick out your dream duck boat consider the two options.
Mud Motor –
Mud Motors are really shallow water motors. They can run essentially out of the water or in water. Instead of the motor being water cooled and needing water to cycle through it. A mud motor is air cooled. This allows it to run on the surface of the water. Giving you the ability to push over logs, stumps, mud, just about anything you can skim across. Plus mud motors are built tough as nails, depending on the manufacturer they have their own way of protecting the prop, but they can run through just about anything.
The drawback is that they are quite loud since the motor is above the surface and closer to the driver. Additionally, they don’t have as high of a top end speed or load carrying capacity. Plus if you are a Great Lakes hunter or big river hunter where the water gets rough quickly. A surface drive motor just won’t have the same stability as an outboard.
The use of an Outboard motor is perfect for large deep V boats that are needing stability in larger bodies of water. The outboard is tried and true, there’s plenty of places you can reach with an outboard. Plus nearly all outboards have reverse, whereas having reverse in mud motors has become a fairly new addition. Plus if you like using your boat for fishing in the offseason an outboard is going to be a lot easier to run than a mud motor. However, there are plenty of people that have two boats for two different kinds of hunting situations. Nonetheless, they each have their purpose and both can get you to your duck hole.
Interior Layout & Design –
For most duck hunting boats if you have the ability to buy new you can customize it according to your preferences. For example, if you want LED lights on your boat you can specify where and how many you want. If you want a gun storage locker on the right, left, or both sides of your boat you can make that happen as well. Plus with the number of boat manufactures they each have their very own unique style and layout. Its one of the best things about buying a duck boat, each one is usually set up just a hair different the next one. As each hunter has their own way of storing decoys and hunting out of it.
This is why when you go to build or buy the best duck boat, be sure to take a look at all layouts to see what will work the best for you. You’ll want to consider where you’ll want things stored and placed.
Maybe you’re about to buy a duck boat used and you want to add a few accessories to make it more customer or fit your hunting style. The following options are the top ones to consider:
For the number of mornings, you’ll be going into the marsh before the sunrises, having bright LED spotlights are helpful. I’d suggest looking at a light bar for the front or sides of the boat. Not only will this help you find your way in the morning, but it will shed light on your decoy spread. They are very affordable and if you run them on a switch you can turn them off as hit your spot in the morning. I’d also recommend running them on something that can pivot and turn like a Ram Mount to give you the option to adjust them.
One thing most people tend to neglect is concealing their duck boat. I’m someone who leans on more concealment is always better than less. A fancy camo paint job is not always going to conceal you from ducks. Therefore, using marsh grass and natural looking cover is going to give your duck boat a much more realistic look. Avery RealGrass is cheap and easy to attach to a blind or your duck boats rails. Plus it can be cut or tied in any fashion to conceal your boat.