Flats boat or bass boat, or something else?

Wavewalk S4 flats boat

“My father is retired, and he owns a sixty thousand dollar bass boat that he takes out maybe twice a year, but he fishes out of his Wavewalk 500 nearly every day.”
-Clint Harlan, Missouri

Different boats with many similarities

Bass boats and flats boats have a lot in common, and they also differ from each other in some details.
Depending on their size and the speed required from them, these two families of small to medium size motorboats are propelled by one or more outboard gas engines, and they are relatively wide for their overall size.
The decks of both types of fishing boats are generally flat, and they don’t feature a cabin. Both types of boats feature a special casting area in the front of their deck, where one and sometimes two anglers can sit or stand, and cast comfortably.
Both bass boats and flats boats are stable, and their hulls are designed to have a shallow draft, which is why they are generally more flat than the deeper hulls of boats designed to travel offshore, in rough seas.
All these boats are comfortable to travel in and fish from, and the more expensive ones offer a plethora of amenities that make traveling and fishing easier, more comfortable, and more enjoyable for their crew.

Another noticeable difference between flats boats and bass boats is color – Flats boats tend to come in light colors, predominantly white, and bass boats tend to have a dark hull, with dark blue being their more popular color.

Many people who own a flats boat use it inland, in freshwater, as a bass boat, but it seems that the opposite is less commonly practiced.

Flats boats are skiffs designed primarily for saltwater, and in general, their makers strive to enable them to go in more ‘skinny’ water, namely very shallow water. They are named ‘flats boats’ after the wide stretches of flat, shallow water in coastal areas in the southern regions of the United States.

How shallow can you go?

Fishing in shallow water is the raison d’être of flats boats, skiffs, etc. This is where fishers of all disciplines, from reel and fly fishing to net casting strive to get those big redfish, snook, seatrout, snapper, tarpon and many other species that live typically in those rich fisheries.

When push comes to shove, it’s the depth of the propeller that determines how shallow the water you can go in can be, and not just the number of inches that the hull drafts.

Unless a boat is outfitted with a special outboard motor called ‘mud motor’, the effective depth where you can drive it is about one foot of water, or more. This is because even a small propeller is about 8 inches in diameter, and it rotates at least an inch below the anti ventilation plate (often referred to as anti cavitation plate), which itself is required to be immersed in one to two inches of water below the hull’s lowest point (typically, its keel). And naturally, you need some good clearance between the propeller and the bottom of the body of water in which you’re navigating, or else…
Needless to say that the water you drive in has to be free of seaweed and other types of aquatic vegetation that’s likely to snag your propeller.
These are the reasons why you need an alternative mode of propulsion for the really ‘skinny’ water, and this alternative is poling –
The quintessential element that makes a boat a flats boat is the poling platform featuring at the stern, and some flats boats are dubbed ‘poling skiff’.

Poling? Come on!…

Opinions differ as to how effective poling is in terms of covering any meaningful distance, because in the first place, not too many people are sufficiently fit to pole, and even an athletic, experienced and highly motivated pole pusher cannot move a skiff at a speed that’s comparable to the speed achieved in kayaks and canoes.
As for poling against a current, even such as in a slow moving river, and let alone a faster, tidal current – good luck with that.
Being flat bottomed, flats boats don’t offer very good directional stability, and their high deck structures tend to catch wind, and for these reasons, plus the overall size and weight of the vessel, poling in unfavorable wind conditions must be ruled out.

To be fair, it would be hard for one person to move a fairly large and heavy boat such as a flats boat just by using their muscles. These boats don’t lend themselves to human powered propulsion, whether it’s paddling, rowing, or poling.

It seems like the only effective human powered mode of propulsion for boats this size could be stand-up sculling, which is a traditional method that’s still popular in Asia, especially with heavier boats. But stand-up sculling is a technique that requires a skilled and experienced rower, namely someone who’s in excellent shape and rows frequently, and let’s face it, this requirement doesn’t fit the description of our typical weekend flats fisherman…

Hey, what about me?

The person who activates the push pole in a flats boat can help their fishing buddy by identifying fish from the height of their poling platform, but they are pretty much prevented from taking part in actual fishing action. Too bad for them…


Whenever you fish in skinny water that’s affected by tides, you risk getting stranded as the tide ebbs, and this means you and your fishing buddy would have to spend many more hours together, and in the company of mosquitoes. Lots of them… In other words, skinny water capabilities are not just about fishing.

Putting in, taking out, etc.

Being full fledged boats, you can launch neither a bass boat nor a flats boat from a beach, let alone one where rocks and oyster beds are present, and you can’t launch from a dock either. You need a facility known as a boat ramp that allows you to access water that’s deep enough with the trailer on which you transport your boat. Such boat ramp has to have a parking lot too, for you and other boat owners like yourself to park your vehicles and trailers.
Driving to a boat ramp takes time, waiting for other boaters to launch and beach may take additional time, launching takes some extra time, and so does parking. And none of these activities is something to look forward to, because they’re not fun.
Taking your boat out is equally frustrating in terms of time wasted on doing other things that are not fishing.

In dollar terms

Buying, operating and maintaining a bass boat or a flats boat isn’t cheap. However, we will not discuss these well known issues because we assume that if you’re reading this article, you can afford such expenses. Whether you would want to spend this money if you had a good, cheaper alternative to owning such a boat is another question.  After all, owning a big and expensive boat offers other advantages that are not directly related to fishing.

In sum, neither bass boats nor flats boats are very practical for really shallow water and for shorter trips. 

Not an alternative, really

No sensible angler would consider a SOT or sit-in kayak (SIK) to be an alternative to a full fledged motorboat, because of the obvious shortcomings of fishing kayaks, which are that they are extremely uncomfortable, wet, and slow, and paddling or pedaling them takes too much time and energy. A kayak’s range of travel is limited, even with an electric trolling motor, and besides – why did we even bother to mention these kayaks in the first place?…

Canoes are OK for a crew of two paddlers (well, sort of), but they don’t work well for one paddler, and motorizing a canoe is problematic.

As for Jon boats, dinghies, and other smaller fishing boats, you need a trailer to transport them, and you can’t paddle them effectively.

Inflatables? Nah…

A pretty good alternative

The patented twin-hull, 85 lbs W720 kayak skiff can be easily outfitted with an outboard gas engine, and easily driven across long distances. It’s back pain free, dry, and it offers plenty of storage. It paddles better than any other kayak out there, including in strong wind, and one person can car-top it effortlessly in less than thirty seconds.
You can launch a motorized W720 from any dock or beach, including rocky beaches, and you can paddle it in water that’s just a few inches deep, and even go over obstacles. The W720 is the most stable kayak out there (after the S4), and anyone can paddle it standing, and fish standing in it.

But there’s an even better alternative:

The best alternative

While the W720 is unrivaled in the world of kayaks, it is limited as far as load capacity is concerned. Its 400 lbs capacity is fine for two full size fisherman, an outboard motor, and plenty of fishing gear, but that’s about it – no carrying capacity for more, and this can be a problem for some people.
And this the perfect alternative is The S4 Microskiff.
This new boat does more than effectively bridging the worlds of kayak fishing and regular fishing from boats – It offers a range of benefits that in some cases make it a better solution than bass boats and flats boats –

The ultra lightweight (98 lbs) S4 can carry on board 600 lbs of passengers, motor and gear, which is enough for two large size fishermen, their fishing gear, and a powerful outboard. The 6 hp outboard featuring in our demo movies fits it perfectly.
The S4 offers all the advantages listed above for the W700, namely easy car-topping, easy launching anywhere you want, easy paddling, skinny water mobility, easy stand up fishing, comfort, storage, stand up paddling and fishing, etc., plus full tandem capabilities, for both short and long trips.
This makes the S4 both a full solo and a full tandem cartop boat and paddle craft, and if you tried to go on a fishing trip in a bass boat or a flats boat by yourself, without a fishing buddy, you’d probably agree that neither of these full-fledged boat types are optimal for one person to use on solo fishing trips. It can be done, but it’s not that much fun.

The S4 is a unique watercraft, and you’re likely to appreciate it either as a great alternative to a bass boat or a flats boat, or simply as a new type of fishing boat that redefines the market.

Best Boat For Under $10,000 in 2024

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9 thoughts on “Flats boat or bass boat, or something else?”

  1. One conundrum I have with the Wavewalk boat is what to call it. Is it a fishing kayak, cat-a-yak, micro-skiff, stand-up cat board, light weight personal watercraft, all of the above or something else?

    Maybe, might we host an in house contest to label this most innovative design? But, more uses will continue to surface.

    I am looking forward to demoing the W500 and the W700 designs from my docks in Key Largo following the Thanksgiving holiday. If I could only figure what to call these aquatic critters…

    They really are “something else”.

    Larry J.

  2. Thanks Larry,

    Yep, it’s a conundrum that I’ve been struggling with for the past eleven years… “Boat” is a word used here in the US for a category of bigger watercraft, “Kayak” is almost an insult in the context of the Wavewalk, “Catamaran” does not encompass the uniqueness of this invention and its key features that are very different from those of typical catamarans… and now that we offer features ranging from spray shields to joystick steering, and we can use powerful outboards, we’re talking about performance in terms of sporting and fun that are comparable to what people look for in personal watercraft (PWC), commonly known as jet-skis…
    For the past several months we’ve worked hard to figure out how to position Wavewalk and its new product line in the context of the new markets that have opened to us, and it’s not easy, although it’s a lot of fun 😀 …
    This is a good opportunity to thank Michael Chesloff, Pyt Rotary, and yourself for the insight that you guys have contributed to this process.


  3. Yoav,

    Maybe, your vessel’s design is so unique it should simply be called what it is, Wavewalk. You can compare kayaks, canoes, or wavewalks and choose your own favorite lightweight cruising option. The kayak and canoe were Native American designs built around the materials available then, wood, skin, bark, sinew, etc. In recent years, canvas, aluminum, fiberglass, or plastic covered the same old designs. Modern molding and innovative thought has created another easily portaged watercraft that offers even more advantages: stability, stand-up ease, ergonomic comfort, simple car topping capacity, motorization capability, and much more… The wavewalk is a design unique to itself and should carry its own moniker as well, Wavewalk. You don’t need to re-invent the wheel. You invented the wavewalk. And, it’s made in the U.S.A.

    Happy Thanksgiving,

    Larry J.

  4. Thanks Larry 🙂

    We need to use common words and labels for two reasons – One is that we must show up on Internet search results for what people look for, which is common product names and product categories they already know, and the second reason is that we need to explain to these people what a “Wavewalk” is in terms that are familiar to them…
    Practically speaking, it’s mission impossible, especially now that the W700 is positioned in the boat market, which includes many more categories than the kayak market.
    But these are ‘good problems’, essentially, since they stem from the fact that this product is incredibly versatile, while offering top performance and even unique performance in so many applications.

    Happy Thanksgiving!


  5. Clearly, the W is neither a Sit-Inside or SOT yak; it’s a SOTI (sit on top inside) yak.

  6. Gary,

    The W saddle is similar to saddles incorporated in various vehicles ranging from snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles (ATV) to cross-country (off-road / dirt) bikes and personal watercraft (PWC) commonly called ‘jet-ski’.
    People who operate these snow, land and aquatic vehicles ride their saddles, and thus benefit from several advantages, including optimal comfort, control, stability, and balancing capability, all of which are critical for operating these high performance sporting vehicles.
    However, within this group of personal vehicles, the W is different in one thing, which is that its operator rides its saddle while being inside the vehicle, and not on top of it.
    Therefore, I think the term ‘Ride-Inside’, or simply ‘Ride’ would better describe the W in kayak term: Ride-Kayak, Ride-Inside Kayak (RIK).
    But as Larry said, the W is no more a kayak than it is a canoe, a personal catamaran, or a car-top boat… 🙂


  7. And after One-Shot gets through with it, it can be called a jet-rik.

  8. My own arrival into the Wavewalk network of satisfied owners came through an Internet search for the perfect fishing kayak. For years, I have fished and dove from canoes and even had a cata-canoe (two canoes clamped and braced by 2×4’s w/ a small outboard mtr.) rig that we used on the Peace River in Florida with four adults and one very quiet baby.

    There are some pretty fancy rigged fishing kayaks that arrive in the Keys when the cold wind blows. However, the balance and comfort level of these vessels, either the sit on top or slide in cockpit styles, kept me from moving in that direction. A search of “fishing kayak” in Google Images brought me to the Wavewalk design. “That’s it!” I said. Obviously, with a second Wavewalk on order, I have found my best easily portaged boat for probably the rest of my life.

    The evolution of canoes and kayaks has led to the wavewalk which incorporates the top features of both Native American mono-hull designs and combines the stability of the Pacific Islander catamaran twin hulls. Add the personal watercraft features, and you really do have “something else”. That is a wavewalk.

    Eventually, Wavewalks will be recognized for what they are, wavewalks. Revolutionary truly improved designs, ultimately, prevail. In the meantime, the W500’s and W700’s will be found as the best of the rest.

    And, “Made in the USA” means a lot to me!

    Larry J.

  9. Thanks Larry, you are very kind 🙂

    Made in USA means a lot to me too, which is why it says so on every page of our website. But it’s probably a slightly different meaning than it is for other Americans –
    Since Wavewalk has always had to contract custom rotational molders to manufacture its boats, I’ve had to struggle continuously to get both the quality and the price we need, and if anyone thinks it’s easy, well, to put it nicely “I have news for you…”
    In the first years, when I was a rookie, it was hell, especially since our products are extremely challenging to produce. In fact, I had to learn the hard way that only a handful of custom molders in the US have both the equipment, the knowledge and the will to tackle these technical issues. Now that I’m more experienced and we have better molds, things have gotten better… but it’s still hard 😀
    This is to say that in this case Made in USA means there’s a lot of effort going into these boats, but I would not consider making them elsewhere.


    PS — We are not the only ones who think that the Wavewalk is compatible bass boats. Checkout this website: https://www.bassresource.com/bassfish/bass_boats.html

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