In the market, but for what?

Hoping to get some advice from the WFF collective on a boat purchase. First, a little background information, that might be relevant. I grew up around small runabouts and fishing boats growing up in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. Also, navigated the St. Lawrence River and near-shore Lake Ontario, both big water. While I did own a small fiberglass runabout for a short time, the rest of my boats have included canoes, kayaks, one-man pontoon, and float tube. Now we live in Richland (Tri-Cities, WA) with the Columbia, lower Yak, and lower Snake in our "backyard". I am now retired (for the most part) @ 67 and have a 6-year-old grandson who is my almost constant companion that I would like to introduce to the outdoors through enjoying waterways and fishing. And finally, I have <$10,000 to spend on a boat.

Now that I live in the PNW, I have been lusting for a drift boat or fishing raft but my only similar experience has been with the above mentioned pontoon with which I have mostly floated the Yak canyon (post-flip flop), the Clark Fork below Missoula, and Flathead around Columbia Falls (i.e., easy water). Have also had to deal with a wife who insists the I'm too old to be rowing the larger river craft. These comments started after my 2011 heart attack and subsequent by-pass surgery. I strongly reject her view, but really don't know how hard it is to row these craft. The alternative and her preference is to get a small aluminum (14-16') fishing boat, which is attractive for use close to home on the big rivers. The challenge here is finding a decent used boat within my financial limitations.

I realize this seems all over the board, but it is turning into a more difficult decision than I thought it would be. So, I would appreciate your thoughts on the following:
  • Would a drift boat and/or fishing raft be out of the question for a person my age in average physical condition?
  • How effective is a drift boat fitted with a small outboard for large water such as the Columbia River or lower Snake?
  • What else should I be considering?


Active Member
No advice on the boat selection Steve but I think your wife is on the right track. At 67 with heart problems in the rear view mirror it is probably safe to say that you are not going to get any younger. In lieu of fishing with your grandson I would opt for a boat with both gas and trolling motors, it would give you better mobility and more places to fish than a drift boat. A drift boat isn't exactly indigenous to central Washington although it is superb for the area it was designed for.

Another thing is the grandson would get some opportunities to run the boat which I'm sure he would welcome and enjoy. It sounds like your wife wants to keep you around for awhile. Pay attention.


Well-Known Member

Floating the Yak, Clark Fork, and Flathead is a completely different boat than what I'd want for the Columbia or lower Snake, which are effectively large reservoirs.

For the home water on the Columbia and Snake I'd recommend a 16' aluminum boat with an outboard. I'm 69 years young and have a 16' Lund SSV with a 40/30 Yamaha jet that I can handle single-handedly or take one or two passengers with me. ( I can also tow it with my Subaru, so no special towing vehicle required.)

If you want to take your grandson on float fishing trips, and I can totally identify with this just as soon as my grandsons are old enough, I'd suggest a 2-man fishing raft from BDD here on the forum. I think he calls his boats Catchercraft.



Ignored Member
I tend to agree with Salmo. I’m 65 and dealing with my own medical issues and although I can still row and will still float in my 8 foot pontoon and have experience rowing drift boats I don’t think I would want to work a drift boat or large raft all day in the river.

I fish the lower Skagit quite a bit and use a 17 foot sled with a 60 hp jet. The Skagit isn’t as big as the Columbia or Snake but is still considered a big river. Salmo could probably pull it around with his suby but I use a truck. I used to have a 9.9 hp trolling motor for it but used so infrequently I sold it. I still have a small electric trolling motor for those rare times I need one.

I don’t think you would need a jet but horse power is desirable in rivers. Don’t skimp on the motor.

Jim Ficklin

Genuine Montana Fossil
The Columbia & Snake are big rivers with a lot of barge traffic. Add in big winds and small boats don't exactly provide a "warm fuzzy" on big water, at least in my case. There were a few times that my shorts were tight when I was in an 18' bass boat when confronting barge traffic on narrow parts of the Snake & in sudden winds on the Columbia. When I used a boat on the river, it was a 21' Northwest jet, but I was running up into the Hanford Reach a lot. I'd go no smaller than a 16' boat with a lot of freeboard.
Think I made a decision. Checked out a used Smokercraft, 16' Pro Lodge at Northwest Marine & Sport and immediately saw I was going to have a problem with my intended storage. This boat or more accurately the trailer will not fit through my garage door. This put an instant wrinkle in the plan, however, the pause is good because I've decided to wait until next season and buy a new one. Will give me time to find an alternate storage situation and save up a bit more cash. Thank goodness one of my previous employers keeps wanting me back to consult from time to time. Thanks all for the input.

Greg Armstrong

Look into a folding trailer tongue. It might make the boat/trailer fit in your garage. Fulton makes retrofit kits from $100- $250
Great “invention”. My Whaler would never fit in my garage if it weren’t for the folding trailer tongue. Just be aware of the wiring that runs through it when you go to fold it up... real easy to cut it in half. :eek::eek:
I'm pretty fond of the 16' size boats...easy to launch alone...easy to trailer...large enough to fish most bodies of water given that you factor in conditions for when you're going out. (I used to avg 25 bar crossings in the ocean a year in mine...when my schedule was more flexible to match favorable ocean conditions)

A 50 hp will push most of them to low 30's mph, and a typical 30-50 ft lb bow mount trolling motor gets them around well enough too.

Beamier is better. (width) Makes for a more stable ride, and less draft in the water.
Look into a folding trailer tongue. It might make the boat/trailer fit in your garage. Fulton makes retrofit kits from $100- $250
Thanks for the input. However, the issue is width not length. Our garage is very deep but the doors are <8' wide. The Smokercraft I'm looking at has a wide beam, which I want and the trailers are >8' wide.

@veilside180sx I won't likely be putting this boat in the ocean, but I agree with all of your points. Will likely put at least a 50 on the boat I'm looking at. The 16' Pro Lodge series is rated to 60.

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