What is a Sled Boat?


Sled boat

When it comes to fishing and hunting on inland waters, people usually need to navigate fairly shallow bodies of water. To do this they need a boat that is designed to be able to traverse these shallower depths, and the preferred types of boat will have a flat bottom hull or a relatively shallow draft. One such boat is a sled boat but what exactly is a sled boat?

A sled boat is a type of motorized boat that has either a flat bottom hull or a semi-v hull and is usually made from aluminum. The main use of a sled boat is for inland waterway fishing and hunting because of its ability to be used in shallow bodies of water. Sled boats are equipped with either tiller motors or center console controls.

Sled boats uses

Sled boats are shallow water boats designed to to be used in fairly calm waters. Unlike a Jon boat, which can be motorized or manually propelled, a sled boat will almost always have an outboard motor mounted to it.

Sled boats are popular for people who like to go fishing and hunting because this type of boat allows them to easily traverse shallow waters due to the flat bottom or semi-v hull design of the boat.

Given that a sled boat is motor powered this gives you the option to go upstream and not just downstream, which is a big advantage over other types of manually powered shallow water boats.

Sled boats, being motor powered, allow boaters to travel long distances, to access fishing or hunting spots, much quicker than in other types of shallow water boat such as a drift boat for example.

Sled boats are fast and can perform outstandingly well with as little as a 35 horsepower prop motor.

Since sled boats have different builds and come in many different varieties they can be difficult to categorize. However, there are mainly two different types of sled boats that are available in the marketplace.

Two common types of sled boat are:

  1. Tiller steered sled boats.
  2. Center console steered sled boats.

Sled boats will be either tiller steered from the stern of the boat or steered via a wheel mounted steering mechanism at the a center console in the middle of the boat.

Two types of sled boats

There are advantages as well as disadvantages to getting either a tiller steered sled boat or a center console steered sled boat.

We are going to discuss these advantages and disadvantages further now.

Tiller steered sled boat

Tiller steered sled boat
Tiller steered sled boat

A tiller outboard motor is controlled via a tiller handle. Jon boats, drift boats, and even canoes and kayaks can be fitted with trolling motors that have a tiller for steering, trimming and regulating speed. Larger outboard motors are usually required for sled boats as they are bigger and heavier vessels. Trolling motors are not powerful enough for this type of boat but tiller controls still work well.

The steering on an tiller outboard motor is attached directly to the prop. It is controlled by the tiller handle which gives leverage using torque force that allows the operator to turn the device to change the direction of the boat. Along with direction control, the tiller also has a dial where you can adjust the speed of the boat and it can be used to lift and lower the prop for trimming.

There are people, especially anglers, who prefer tiller motor sled boats over console steered sled boats due to certain advantages it offers.

Here are some of the advantages of this type of sled boat:

Advantages
  • The boat has more open deck space allowing for freer movement on the boat. This is especially useful whilst fighting a fish or moving from one side of the boat to other.
  • Some people say that they have more responsive control of the boat especially when changing directions.
  • Tiller steering tends to be more responsive compared to center console steering.
  • There are less parts that could fail when you go out on a boat trip.
  • Tiller motors are cheaper to buy and cheaper to run.
  • The maintenance for the boat is not as expensive compared to a center console sled boat.

Of course with advantages there come disadvantages.

Here are some disadvantages when using a tiller steered sled boat:

Disadvantages
  • It is not as comfortable to operate a tiller motor sled boat compared to a center console sled boat.
  • Tiller steering gives you less control and can sometimes feel uncomfortable to operate.
  • The tiller operator is more likely to get wet than a center control operator.
  • Tiller motors are not as securely fixed to the boat – be sure to attach a safety chain.

Center console sled boat

Center console steered sled boat
Center console steered sled boat

A sled boat that has a center console has a helm at the center of the boat, hence the name. The helm of the boat houses the console where the operator controls the ignition, trim control, and the steering via a steering wheel mechanism.

Here are some of the advantages of having a center console sled boat:

Advantages
  • The helm provides protection to the boat operator from splash.
  • Some sled boat owners say that it gives them more time to actually enjoy the scenery as opposed to operating a tiller motor (though I don’t know why that would be).
  • Gives comfort to the operator and the passengers of the boat.
  • It gives an added stability and balance to the operator because there is something that you can hold on to.
  • A steering wheel tends to be more responsive than a tiller.
Disadvantages
  • It is more difficult to maneuver compared to a tiller motor sled boat.
  • Tillers can be used to slow the boat, trim the motor and adjust course with one motion while several are required with a console operated boat.
  • The helm takes up a lot of space, so there is not as much room to move about when you are fighting a fish.
  • It may be necessary for you to carry spare parts in your boat or road vehicle so that if there something breaks down while you’re on a fishing trip, you will be able to fix it.
  • The maintenance costs are higher because of the more complex steering and control systems.

Which is better?

Comparing the two types of sled boat, you begin to wonder which of the two is better. But considering that both of the boats have their own advantages and disadvantages the decision of whether a tiller motor sled boat is better than the center console sled boat is usually up to a person’s own personal preference.

One might prefer the better comfort offered by the center console sled and therefore opt to choose it over a tiller controlled boat even though it is relatively harder to maneuver and requires more maintenance. On the other hand one may prefer the better maneuverability, cheaper cost and less maintenance that a tiller motor sled boat offers.

It is worth noting though that many sled boat owners say that the type of control and steering mechanism you need is dependent on how big the boat is.

If you have a sled boat that is 18 feet and above, then there is more than enough space for a center console and enough room for moving about the boat when you are fighting a fish. The center console steering wheel may also give you more, and easier, control over a bigger boat.

Conclusion

A sled boat is a motorized boat that is usually used on shallow inland waterways. It can have either a flat bottom hull or a mod-v shaped hull.

A sled boat is usually used for fishing or hunting because of its large size and ability to be used in shallow bodies of water.

The two types of sled boat are:

  • Tiller motor sled boats.
  • Center console sled boats.

Tiller motor sled boats are controlled by a tiller attached to a stern mounted outboard motor. The tiller not only controls the direction of the boat but it also has a control dial that changes the speed and can be used to trim the motor. The maneuverability of this type of sled boat is often better than that of a center console controlled sled boat.

The other type of sled boat is the center console controlled boat. This type of sled boat has a helm in the middle of the boat that houses different controls for the ignition, steering, speed and trim etc.  This boat offers more comfort to the boat operator than the tiller motor sled boat.

The two boats have their own advantages and disadvantages, so the choice of boat is often down to personal preference only. However, some sled boat owners claim that bigger boats should used center consoles rather than tillers.

Overall, a sled boat is a good shallow water fishing and hunting boat because of its shallow draft which allows it to easily pass through shallow waters.

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