When boat shopping, the first question that comes to mind is how you plan to use it. Anglers want tackle storage, families like comfortable seating and wakeboarders need speed. With the needs and features checked off the list, what comes next? Most often it’s the price. There might be something missing from the list, though—the boat’s hull design.
Car buyers give little thought to the exterior design (not to be confused with the exterior styling and graphics) and the same goes for boats. Yet nothing makes a difference in your boating pleasure more than the design of the hull. You might have all the features you need inside the boat, but not on the bottom. Choosing the right hull can make a huge difference in comfort, ride, performance and handling.
Understanding the basics of hull designs—and how each makes the boat perform differently—are worth taking the time to know. There is much give and take when it comes to hulls, and no design does everything well.
Here is an example. When perusing boat specs, new boaters rarely stop at deadrise, because they don’t understand what it means. Measured in degrees, deadrise is the angle where each side of the bottom intersects with an imaginary horizontal line (the water line). Deadrise can be measured anywhere on the hull, but most boat makers list transom deadrise.
Deadrise relates to the type of hull. Deadrise is important because it’s a common measure of how soft a boat will ride. Put another way, more deadrise generally equals the ability to run at faster speeds and slice through the chop. Flat bottom jon boats have zero deadrise, while a bay boat might have a 25-degree deadrise.
Here’s a look at the most common types of hulls.
The deep V hull is wedge shaped from bow to stern and has a more pronounced deadrise. Deep V hulls are most common in boats used on large bodies of water, where taming the chop in rough conditions is a must. The better ride qualities are offset by added draft—or how deep the hull goes below the surface—and reduced stability. Those compromises enable the hull to slice through waves, rather than take a pounding. Aluminum multispecies fishing boats and bay boats have deep V designs.
Mod V refers to a one-piece hull with a modified V shape at the bow that transitions to a flatter V at the stern. This design, along with a lower profile in the water, provides a near-perfect mix of handling, stability and fishability. The flatter portion toward the stern adds stability and speed, while a tapering wedge-shaped forward helps cushion the ride like a deep V. This hull design is most common with small freshwater boats because it provides the better of two worlds for family needs.
With zero deadrise, flat-bottom hulls are popular for some small skiffs and jon boats. The reasons why are shallow draft and stability, which makes them ideal for small waters. Flat bottom boats are easy to maneuver in calm water, but not in mild chop or rough water.
Saltwater skiff hulls have flat bottoms with squared sterns and sharp bows. The latter characteristic separates skiffs from traditional flat-bottom hulls, which have squared bows and sterns. The first spec looked at by most skiff buyers is draft—the less the better. Skiffs are designed and laid out for skimming across shallow flats, or for maneuvering narrow backcountry channels. All that adds up to a hull design that is geared for accessing shallow water without compromising handling and performance.
Whereas draft is most important to skiff and inshore boaters, offshore anglers first look at deadrise, which dictates how well the boat handles waves in big water. Transom deadrise is significant because, on a planing hull, only the aft end is consistently in the water. The steeper the deadrise, the better the hull can slice through pounding waves. Look for a deadrise of 21 degrees or more when shopping for an offshore boat.
Pontoon hulls comprise two or more metal tubes. Also called logs, those support decks fitted with all sorts of accommodations, such as spacious lounge areas, lots of storage and open deck space for entertaining. Pontoons come in round, U-shaped or elliptical shapes. Cylinder-shaped round logs offer maximum structural strength. The larger diameter of the pontoon, the better. Larger pontoons offer an optimal balance of high-riding flotation and efficient performance. The pontoons are welded/bolted to deck support channels and cross beams, which are the structures that connect the pontoons to the deck. The more structurally strong the better when it comes to support channels, which are key components for durability and the ride of the boat.
Exclusive to bass boats, the performance hull design does what it means. Designed around tournament competitions—which are timed events—the ideal performance hull runs dry and stable in rough water without compromising handling. Performance hulls are like fiberglass versions of mod-V aluminum hulls. None are the same and all have specific design features setting them apart. An example is the NITRO Vortex Technology™ (NVT™) hull, a revolutionary design that uses a series of parabolic curves instead of traditional strakes. The result is a hull with exceptional top-end speed and lift—plus improved acceleration—all while maintaining superior control and handling.