Center Consoles vs. Bay Boats

When it comes to choosing a boat that is versatile, seaworthy, and suitable for a variety of activities, two popular options often come to mind: center consoles and bay boats. While both offer their own set of benefits, center consoles shine in their ability to adapt to different environments and provide an exceptional boating experience. 

So, what sets center consoles apart? From superior handling and performance to increased storage and versatility, center consoles offer a range of benefits that make them a top choice for fishing, cruising, and water sports.. Whether you’re a seasoned boater or a newcomer to the water, understanding the advantages of center consoles can help you make an informed decision and find the perfect boat for your lifestyle. 

Advantages of Center Console Boats

  • Versatility

Center consoles are popular because they’re so versatile and easy to use. These vessels are designed to accommodate a range of activities, from fishing to water sports and leisure cruising. With their open deck layout, center consoles offer ample space for movement and gear storage, no matter your boating pursuit. Swimming and diving are a breeze. The design also ensures 360-degree access to fishing spots, enabling anglers to move freely and cast from different angles.

The versatility of center console boats makes them an excellent investment for families that enjoy a variety of water activities.

  • Superior Handling and Performance

One of the most significant advantages of center console boats is their handling and performance. The center console design provides excellent stability and balance, making it easier to maneuver in rough seas. Their deep-V hull design and wide beam provide stability and ensure a comfortable ride, even in choppy waters. This versatility extends to their offshore capabilities, enabling you to venture further into open waters or explore coastal areas with confidence.

The helm position also provides excellent visibility, allowing the captain to see all around the boat. This makes it easier to navigate through narrow channels and shallow waters, making it the perfect boat for fishing and cruising.

  • Increased Storage

Center console boats have plenty of storage space, making them ideal for long fishing trips or extended cruising. The open deck layout provides ample room for gear, coolers, and other equipment. Many center consoles also feature abundant storage options, built-in rod holders, tackle storage, and livewells, making it easy to organize and access your fishing gear.

Center Console Design Features

Center console boats come in a range of sizes and designs, making them suitable for various activities. In addition to the open deck layouts whose benefits we’ve described earlier, here are some of the common design features found in center console boats that make them a cut above bay boats.

Deep-V Hull

Many feature a deep-V hull, which provides the center console’s excellent stability and balance in rough seas. The deep V also allows for a smoother ride, cutting through waves and reducing the impact of chop on passengers and equipment. What that translates to:

  • More comfort over long rides
  • Easier fishing in rougher waters
  • Better performance to tow water skiers and wakeboarders


The T-top is a popular roof design over the helm on many center consoles. It provides shade and protection from the sun but also provides a place for mounting electronics, such as radar and GPS systems – or that awesome sound system to take your boat to the next level.

Customization Options

Speaking of sound system upgrades, center consoles can be easily customized to suit your needs and preferences. Here are some customization options to consider.

Ultimate Electronics

Center consoles can be equipped with a range of electronics, such as GPS systems, fish finders, and radar. These systems can help you navigate, stay safe, stay in communication, and of course find fish as you adventure out into new waters. Electronics upgrades are an important part of customizing your boat — they’ll help you address bad weather, common water conditions, and other issues that affect the waters you’ll boat the most.

More Seating Options

Center consoles can be customized with a range of seating options, including bench seats, captain’s chairs, and leaning posts. The seating options you choose will depend on your needs and the activities you plan to do on the boat. 

Are you a social butterfly or have a huge family you want to take with you on your adventures? Do you want to up your boat’s comfort? Start with seating customizations.

Adding Fishing Features

Many center console boats come equipped with a range of fishing features, such as rod holders, fish boxes, and livewells. These features can help you organize your gear and make your fishing trips more successful. But this is also an area open to customization! While bay boats are great for most types of inshore fishing and some types of offshore, there’s a reason why center consoles are so popular among even the top competitive anglers – you can go further and do more.

Want more amenities? Want more capacity or additional functionality? Want your name on everything? Ultimate Marine’s unique boat buying experience is a cut above because of customer service and in-house customization. We can help you customize and personalize your boat to be yours, and yours alone.

Why Boaters Choose Bay Boats

Bay boats are designed for use in shallow waters. They’re easy to trailer and take out to bays and rivers for fishing shallow species. 

Shallow Draft

Bay boats have a shallow draft, making them ideal for navigating through flats. Their hull design, typically a modified V-hull or a tunnel hull, is made to glide in skinny waters. Anglers use bay boats for sight-fishing or exploring hard-to-reach areas like shallow coves and estuaries. 

Bay Boat Design Features

Bay boats come in a range of sizes and designs, making them suitable for various activities. Here are some of the most common design features found in bay boats:

  • Shallow draft — Bay boats have a shallow draft, which allows them to navigate through shallow waters. This feature makes them a good choice for fishing and exploring bays, rivers, and estuaries.
  • Flats design — Many bay boats feature a flats boat design, which provides excellent stability and balance in shallow waters. 
  • Center console design — Many bay boats feature a centralized helm, borrowing the excellent visibility and maneuverability of center consoles. The shallow draft is what separates a bay boat from the deep V of a center console. 

Bay boats cater to anglers who prioritize exploring shallow waters and targeting inshore species. Their low draft and maneuverability allow for seamless navigation in tight spaces, opening up opportunities for some interesting fishing experiences.

Center Console vs. Bay Boat: Which is Right for You?

When deciding between a center console and a bay boat, it’s essential to consider your needs and preferences. If you plan to fish in open waters and want a boat that is versatile and easy to maneuver, a center console boat may be the better option. If you plan to fish in shallow waters and want a boat that is easy to trailer and store, a bay boat may be enough. If you’re also interested in cruising, swimming, diving, or water sports, a bay boat won’t cut it. 

Ultimately, the choice comes down to: What do you want to be able to do with your boat?

Conclusion: Choosing between a center console and a bay boat depends on your boating preferences and the specific activities you plan to engage in. While bay boats excel in navigating shallow waters and offer a specialized platform for inshore fishing, center consoles epitomize versatility and adaptability across various boating pursuits.