I've never rowed the Fish Craft drift boats but I've heard alot of complaints about the Alumaweld drift boats in that they're very heavy and don't track or manuever very well.
If you're looking to spend about $3900.00, you may want to consider picking up a used Hyde. You should be able to find one for about that price if you keep your eyes open. From most of the guides that I know and have talked to, most prefer the Hyde and/or a Clackacraft boats. The companies have been around for a long time and they know how to build good, solid boats. I've been very happy with my aluminum 16.8 Guide model.
Many of the new drift boats from many manufacturers start about $4,000 to $5,000 and then once you add things on, the price goes up considerably. A brand new Aluminum Hyde with all of the options goes for about $9,200.00. The used boats go for about half of that. If you haven't already, check out the Hyde site http://www.hydeoutdoors.com.
I'm not sure what Fish Craft offers for the $3900.00, but I'd recommend that you price out the options that you want and see if what you would really spend woundn't be more like around $6,000 to $7,000 once everything is tallied.
There are lots of opinions about wheather one should buy a glass or an aluminum boat. Some say that the glass boats are a little lighter and quieter, and maybe warmer. Aluminum boats are extremely durable. An aluminum boat with a UHMW bottom virtually slides over rocks. Most manufacturers offer a lifetime warranty on the boat against punctures etc..
Most folks that I know that purchased a 14 foot boat eventually traded up to a 16 foot boat. More space is always better. The other piece of advice that I would give is to spend the extra money and get the counter-balanced Cataract oars.
I have to second Steve's response with regards to Alum vs Glass. I have heard the same things and I think it also really depends on what type of water you will be spending most of your time on. For example you do not see too many glass boats on the OP, but you see a ton on the yak.
My brother and buddy and I picked up a used 2002 Clacka early last year directly from Clackacraft in Clackamas down and OR and I think buying used directly from the manufacturer is the way to go. We have the 16.8ft weight forward model, and it came with everything for alittle over 5k, that includes premium trailer, cover, anchor, oars you name it. Also they were kind enough to ship the boat free of charge from Idaho where it was used the previous year to OR so we wouldn't even have to pay sales tax which saved us around 500 bucks.
I have rowed my boat on rivers like the Hoh through the Oxbow canyon, and all the way the ocean "almost" lol, the Yak, the Sky and it handles it all.
I am a Clacka fan but of course that is because I own one, I am sure either Hyde or Clacka can set you up and if you want to view some used boats see the link below:
I second that used boat idea.
Buying a used Clacka boat from the mfg also gives you the benefit of their warranty. I spoke with a salesman on the phone a couple times about a particular boat, and to entice me he offered to have their shop redo all the ding repairs from the previous owner (you could see them in the online photos). So they will haggle if you are so inclined. He also mentioned they ship free from ID shop to OR shop.
To add a some more to the above comments... Glass vs Aluminum is the ongoing debate. Most steelhead die-hards prefer aluminum and I take it from your posts and photos thats what your favorite type of fishing is.
Hyde has recently come out with a new technology that I think has put the Glass vs Alum debate on a different level. They have a new high tech coating - a kind of polymer shield that bonds to the bottom of their glass boats that is virtually indestructible. It is very slippery, bonds permanently to the hull, is light (by contrast the UHMW shoes are quite heavy) and is almost bullet proof.
They call this coating G4 technology and it is available as an option on new boats or a retro-fit on older Hydes (post 1998 models only).
I can tell you from personal experience as an owner of an all glass non-G4 Hyde and a new Hyde with the G4 coating, the difference is quite remarkable. I guide part time and my boats get quite a bit of use. My 2003 Hyde Guide model with G4 has shown no absolutely no signs of bottom wear and tear despite numerous low-water fall and winter trips down the Yakima, the Skagit, Montana rivers, etc. I have purposely on several occasions aimed for partially submerged rocks on the Yak just to test the G4 and see what results were - the boat just slipped over and post float inspection showed no damage. Try the same thing in a normal glass hull Clacka,Hyde, Lavro, etc - and when you looked back you will see a huge white rub mark on the rock and little cloud of suspended white fiberglass floating in the water.
For me the Glass vs Alum debate is over. The G4 takes the fiberglass to nearly the same level of durability as aluminum, and you get the other advantages of glass to go along with it - quietness, rowability, warmer, and a little more fisherman and client friendly.
And re the special price - a lot of the big manufacturers do that, by the time you add in the extras you really want, the price may be just the same.
Whatever you decide, drift boats are an awesome way to fish and totally enhance the fishing experience - have fun!
PS:If you are interested in knowing more about Hyde, or want a contact person at the manufacturer, please feel free to e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org). I know the boat and the people there quite well, and would be happy to share with you.
PPS: Attached is shameslessly cheesy picture of a large Dolly from a December float down the Skagit in my Hyde!
Hope you will have a fishing experience like the one in Luke Chapter 5:6-11 !
When I bought my Lavro about ten years ago, I had decided that I absolutely had to have a fiberglass boat. Aluminum was heavy, cold, noisy, and sticky to rocks. It turns out none of that is particularly true. All else being equal, aluminum and fiberglass boats weigh about the same. When my glass boat hits a rock, it rings out pretty loud (and it has stuck to a couple); if it's any quiter than a metal boat I would have to say we're into a level where it can't make much difference. I suppose if it's cold enough you could get your tongue stuck to an aluminum boat and you shouldn't have to worry about that with glass. But to be honest when it's that cold I stay home, and I try to keep my tongue off the boat in any weather. Glass boats tend to have rolled gunwales and soft chines (Hydes are the exception) which reduce handling, especially in the wind. To be frank I think the only real difference is price, and the aluminum boats tend to be a little cheaper.
That said, I would second the suggestion about making sure what the price includes. When Boat manufacturers advertise really low prices, it often turns out to be for just the hull. You'll need a trailer; is it included, anchor system, oar locks, foot brace, etc?
I would also recommend a 16-footer. It's pretty tight for three guys in a 14. If you are going to use it for fishing the Yak or other trout rivers where you'll be fishing from a moving boat, and you think you might ever have someone in the back, you really do want a 16, and you want one with an adjustable rowers' seat so you can trim your load. If your boat is not balanced forward, it won't handle very well.
On the other hand, if your boat is not perfect, you'll still have so much fun you probably won't notice. Mine is certainly not the nicest in the world, and doesn't have near the performance features of the newer Hydes and Clacks, but I love that old tub. Who am I racing anyway?
I couldn't pass up this opportunity to share as a guide on the American River in the Sacramento area. I have been running a 17' 54 wide Fishcraft since 2003. At the age of 50 I found it quite easy to control after only 2 trips, another recomendation is if buying new outfit it the way you want to be able to fish it. This can even be done a little at a time not all at once expense. Since Riverman took over the line from Del the original owner I can't speak for the newer models but I'm sure glad I have mine.. We don't see too many glass drifters down hear in Sacramento area but there are a few. The American is not a big river but very rocky bottom, and with a gluvit shoe on my aluminum I'm very happy with the way it slides over the rocks. Noisy but sometimes ya gotta wake them up to get them to bite!
I did a lot of research last year when considering a driftboat. One conclusion I drew was that the 16 is a safer boat in bigger water, and that would probably include most of the OP. I narrowed down to glass and Hydes (with the G4 shoe) and Clacks, which have the dimpled bottoms and really do glide over obstructions. Both are built incredibly well.