Aluminum or fiberglass boats: which is better?

Written on 06/01/2024
Bud Fields, Outdoors with Bud

Aluminum or fiberglass boats: which is better?

This question is very common, but it can be somewhat controversial. By that, I mean you can ask several anglers which they prefer, and you will most likely receive a multitude of different answers. In my opinion, either will work for you, and you can certainly go places and catch a lot of fish.

I have owned both types of boats, and they served me well. I think it depends a lot on how you want to fish and the type of fish you prefer.

I have owned a boat since I was eight years old. My first boat was a 10-foot wooden boat that was used for fishing on the Mississinewa River where my parents owned a cottage. It was a narrow river and pretty shallow water. You could wade from one side of the river all the way across to the opposite side and barely have water over your waist.

That old wooden boat was propelled by a set of wooden oars, and we used either window weights or we poured concrete into coffee cans with an eye bolt in the center for anchors. That old boat was worked on by my father and I to repair leaks in the floor, but it allowed me to fish multiple locations on the river. Over the years, I gradually progressed to somewhat longer and lighter weight boats.

Years later, I purchased a 12-foot, semi V, aluminum boat and that was one of my favorites. After a few years, I got tired of renting an outboard motor, and I purchased a 5 1/2 hp Johnson Sea Horse outboard, and I felt like AJ Foyt going across the water. I was going as fast as I thought I was, but it sure beat rowing.

I can’t begin to tell you how many fish I caught in the boat, and when I decided to sell that boat, I purchased a 15-foot aluminum bass boat with a 40 hp Mercury outboard. That boat had a 12-volt trolling motor, aerated live well, two Hummingbird flashers, a speedometer and fuel gage, and a trailer. It had swivel bucket seats for fishing, and I thought I was "Big Time." It wasn't the prettiest boat on the water, but I was proud of it.

I started fishing a few bass tournaments, and after seeing all those beautiful metal flake paint jobs and all their fancy electronics, I started feeling rather outdated. I kept telling my wife, "I can’t keep up with those guys!" Here I was running about 24 mph with that little 40 hp Mercury, and I was being passed by 18-20-foot Turboblaster boats with their shiny paint jobs, and they were running about 60 mph. I felt like I was maybe rowing my boat.

After a few of those tournaments, I announced that I wanted to purchase a better, fancier boat. Well, I had never really considered the price of those elaborate bass boasts. I soon discovered I was about to pay more for a fancy boat than we paid to have our new home built.

My next boat was a 16-foot Jason bass boat, and it was pretty gray and charcoal metal flake painted. It had a 90 hp Johnson outboard and had several of the fancy electronics. I told my wife, "This will be my last bass boat." Well, after several years of using that boat, I once again got tired of being passed by those big boats.

I mentioned to my wife, "If I am going to fish with the big boys, I need a big boy boat!” Once again, I was looking at boar dealers and boat shows, and I finally decided I had found the boat I wanted. I bought an 18-foot Stratos with a 150 hp Evinrude Intruder. It had everything I wanted. Well … almost everything.

About one year later, I upgraded the electronics and went with the GPS LCRs. I changed propellers, and I was able to achieve speeds at 72 mph. That was unbelievable to me, but before long, the other big boys started running 200, 225, and 250 hp outboard motors. I was once again being left in the dust.

To list a few pros and cons for each, I will begin with aluminum boats. Years ago, the basic aluminum boat was silver, and if you wanted any type of off-setting trim, you had to purchase automobile decorative tape. Today, there are some beautiful graphics offered. and the aluminum boats are so much prettier.

An aluminum boat is much lighter and can perform quite efficiently with smaller outboard motors, making them more affordable to many anglers. They can also be used in much shallower water locations than the heavier fiberglass boat.

I have fished with friends who had 17-foot aluminum bass boats with 60 hp outboards, and they ran quite well and traveled across the water great. Aluminum boats can be somewhat noisy with water slapping the boat under speed of travel, but you can actually outfit them quite well with the same electronics and other options that are installed on fiberglass boats. With the ever-rising price of fuel, aluminum boats have become very popular amongst anglers.

Fiberglass boats are very popular because they are beautiful. Their assortment of colors and metal flake is more noticeable. They have fancy carpeting, comfortable swivel seats, more powerful trolling motors, and lots of storage capacity.

They run faster and demand higher horsepower outboards. They have aerated live wells to keep your fish alive. They have fancy color-coordinated trailers. Being heavier, the larger outboard motors require more fuel, and they cannot be fished in shallow water locations. But each angler has his priorities of what they want and how they will use the boat.

Can a fancy fiberglass boat catch you more and bigger fish than an aluminum boat? Absolutely not, though I would never admit that to my wife! I always told her I could be fishing out of an ugly aluminum boat and catching a bunch of fish, and no one would notice. But if I was fishing out of a beautiful, metal-flaked bass boat and not catch a single fish but, I would look good, regardless.

I guess an image is important. The choice is up to you. Both types of boats will do what you want.

A special congratulations to Bud and Diana Fields, who celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary on May 28!