It’s mean. It’s cold. It’s windy. Sometimes you’re looking up at the waves instead of down. And that’s on the nice days! But walleye anglers wouldn’t have it any other way. For those who chase Stizostedion vitreum in all weather and all seasons, boats have to be deep, strong and durable to earn an angler’s trust. Walleye fans also want a boat that has all the tools to make them successful.
There’s a wide choice of boats in this genre-at least 19 manufacturers make one or more models designated for the walleye market. Our test, at Eddy Creek Resort on Lake Barkley in western Kentucky included seven of the best. Some makers provide entry-level boats that are affordable for most. Others offer dream boats that seem to have everything-and a price tag to match.
Fortunately, walleyes don’t care how much a boat costs, so pick the one that suits your budget and your needs. Try to get a test ride in several versions. Then make your choice.
ALUMACRAFT 175 CS
Due to minimal weight and lots of horsepower, the Alumacraft 175 CS was one of the quickest boats out of the hole, with an average time of around 2.1 seconds. It also delivered plenty of top-end speed, peaking at 53.3 mph. The boat was packaged with the Yamaha High Pressure Direct Injection (HPDI) outboard which increases fuel economy and extends the boat’s range.
The dual-cable steering system on the boat we tested was fairly stiff because of the big Yamaha 175; the hydraulic steering option would be a good investment if you choose a motor with as much power. There are lighted, locking rod boxes under both gunnels, and a “ready-rod” bench with Rod-Saver straps on the port side.
Construction is riveted marine aluminum-.100 on the bottom, .080 on the sides-and over this Alumacraft adds a second .080 plate on the bottom and another .100 plate on the bow to provide greater resistance to damage and to increase hull stiffness. The floors and decks are marine plywood, and seat bases have an aluminum plate backup to that plywood, to handle the strain a bouncy ride can put on seats.
A concave spray rail helps knock down spray. The 28-inch freeboard is more than on some bigger boats, enabling the 175 to challenge rough seas.
Contact: Alumacraft (Dept. OL, Highway 67 North, Arkadelphia, AR 71923; 870-246-5555; www.aluma craftboats.com).
Like the Alumacraft, the lightweight G3 also came out of the hole like a rocket, posting a 2.2-second time to plane. The boat ran with the fastest hulls in the test, despite giving up 25 horses to some, with a top speed of 53.2 mph. The G3 has a double bottom-two plates of .100-inch marine aluminum-as well as a double-thick bow. The tall bow on this boat was an impressive feature; when you face big head seas, 32 inches of freeboard offers a lot of security.
There are locking rod lockers under the gunnels. They’re carpeted, but there are no racks to keep gear untangled. Both the transom and the bow-deck livewells have lift-out bait buckets and both are lighted. The test boat had a single console, but those who fish the coldest weather may prefer the walk-through windshield model.
Anglers with long legs will like the 39 inches of legroom from the front edge of the seat to the console footrest. Floors are marine plywood, while the forward deck features an aluminum frame with plywood hatch doors. The transom is marine plywood encased in aluminum. Heavy-gauge spray rails stiffen the bow area and help keep water out of the cockpit, plus a one-piece extruded aluminum keel protects the boat’s “spine” if you run aground.
Contact: G3 Boats (Dept. OL, 901 Cowan Drive, Lebanon, MO 65536; 877-877-4348; www.g3boats.com).