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Guide To Buying A Sportfishing Yacht

By Robert Bowman | Posted On Jul 12, 2023
Updated On Sep 12, 2023

One doesn't simply decide one day to go out and buy a sportfishing yacht. There have been many experiences, discussions, dreams, and research that have led up to this point. Maybe you've outgrown your center-console and looking to move into a boat with more range and more accommodations. Maybe it's about competing at billfish tournaments. Regardless of the reason, once you've become determined to own a sportfish the process begins of narrowing down the right one based on how you plan to use it. There are a variety of factors to consider when weighing your options such as how many people do you plan to bring on board overnight, how fast would you like the boat to go, do you have a slip to keep it in, and what type of sportfish is needed for the variety of fishing you plan to do.

Let's be honest, owning a sportfishing boat isn't exactly a sound economic endeavor. The money spent on fishing gear alone is not for the faint of heart. Before you begin the process of actually looking for a boat, it's important to understand the market, be clear on your objectives, prioritize your needs, and plan out a budget for the boat, as well as the after-purchase maintenance.  



As the world's largest yacht brokerage firm, we have expert yacht brokers available to go through the market with you and help you with making an educated decision. There are over 2,000 sportfishing yachts for sale available today all across the world in varying condition, age, price, and capability. Hiring a professional yacht broker doesn't cost you anything as the commission is paid for by the seller, but it can save you tens of thousands of dollars (or more), as well as many headaches. 

If you choose to hire a yacht broker to assist in finding the right sportfishing boat for you, remember to ask for references, a list of previously sold boats by the broker, and research the firm the broker works for. A professional brokerage firm will have a substantial support staff that is knowledgeable about the regulations and closing documents to ensure everything goes smoothly.



44-foot sportfishing boat

(Above: This Cabo 44' Sportfishing boat is a great option for someone moving up from a center-console. It has a bow thruster, Zip Wake Trim Tab control, and lots of fishing features on board. It also is easily managed without a captain.)

The first order of business when selecting the right sportfishing boat for you is to determine the size of boat you want to buy. Do you plan to hire a captain to run and maintain your sportfish or will you be driving it yourself? If this is your first sportfish and you want a more private, personal experience there are plenty of options that are easily managed under 50-feet. Many of the newer model sportfish will already have bow thrusters and joystick controls installed, making docking less stressful. In contrast, a larger yacht means greater range, more accommodations for overnight trips, more storage, but also will require a captain. Consider talking with your broker about these topics when deciding on the right size range for your boat:

  • Can you find a slip to keep your boat and how big is it?
  • What type of fishing do you plan to do? As Captain Steve Castellini says the right size boat depends on what you're trying to accomplish, "For offshore tuna fishing in the northeast for example, it's about a large cockpit with a wide beam. Tunas bite in white water so your prop wash is not that big of a deal. Big Tuna in shallow water are the opposite, they want less of a prop wash so a narrow beam boat is better. It really all depends on what you're wanting to target."
  • Do you plan to do more than offshore fishing? If cruising is also in your plans, you may want a shorter boat that has less of a draft so that you can go more places, especially when in the islands.



merritt 86 foot custom sportfishing yacht

(Above: A large custom sportfishing yacht, like this Merritt 86, is truly a work of art. While it may take longer to sell, it is handmade and will hold its value.)

One of the first questions your yacht broker may ask is whether you're considering purchasing a custom sportfishing yacht or a production boat. Many buyers keep their options open between the two and focus more on price and size. Still owning a custom boat versus a production boat is a different experience and there are pros and cons to both. Here are some facts to consider when making a decision:

  • There are far more production boats for sale than custom boats. A custom boat is more scarce than production models as fewer are built, allowing them to hold their re-sale value.
  • Custom Boats are unique and often have customizations requested by the owner that may or may not be something you need or want.
  • Viking Yachts, a production boat builder, has narrowed the playing field by investing millions in the latest tools, machinery, and materials. They offer a great deal of customization options and quality control is much better than many production boat builders.
  • There are advantages to production boats including a lower cost to produce in bulk and improvements through repetition.

Well-known custom boat builders still producing boats today include Garlington Yachts, Merritt Boats, Jim Smith Boats, and others on the list.



Tower controls on Viking sportfishing yacht

(Above: A full set of controls on the tower of a Viking 64 sportfishing yacht.)

Sometimes finding the right sized sportfishing boat is not enough to meet your needs, there are also other attributes that are required. Whether for practical use when fishing or for overall comfort on board, make a list of all of the equipment you desire. More updated and substantial equipment can raise the cost of your boat. Finding a sportfishing boat that is already equipped with what you want is ideal, but you may have to compromise and install certain equipment after the purchase. Here are some examples below of considerations for equipment on board the sportfishing boat you plan to buy:

  • Do you have a preference for a specific brand of electronics? Garmin, Raymarine, Furuno, Simrad, and others can vary greatly in ease of use.
  • Do you require a tuna tower for spotting boiling fish or birds? Keep in mind where you live and whether or not you'll need to get under a bridge. 
  • Many boats today have Seakeeper Gyro Stabilization to limit any rolling of the boat. Is a Seakeeper a requirement for you?
  • Do you prefer an open flybridge sportfishing boat or will you want an enclosed bridge to stay out of the weather?
  • How many rod holders will you need? Do you like a certain brand of outrigger? How many fish boxes will you need?
  • Other machinery on board can include a water-maker, ice makers, satellite internet, and much more.



(Above: This Sunny Briggs 61 Custom Boat was outfitted with twin ZF Zeus Pod Drives with joystick controls.)

It's not as common as finding a sportfishing boat with straight shaft drives, but there are boats on the market that use pod drives. While pod drives have been around for more than 50 years, for the last 10 years or so some builders have integrated pod drives more frequently to increase maneuverability and efficiency.

United Yacht Sales broker Greg Graham has sold 4 sportfishing boats with pod drives. "There's not many traditional shaft boats that can maneuver like a boat with pods," he says.

Still, there are challenges with owning a pod drive sportfishing boat including the perception of them in the market place and how that affects its resale value. Additionally, pod drives are meant to sheer free of the engine without leaving a hole in the boat if it takes a substantial hit. This can mean having to replace the entire pod drive system should something happen. Not all marine service technicians are skilled in servicing pods as well.



class rybovich sportfishing boat re-fit

(Above: Some classic custom sportfishing boats, like this Rybovich, have been re-fit with new engines, interiors, and more. Don't overlook it just because it's a older.)

Sportfishing boats are complex, high performance machines that endure corrosive saltwater, pounding seas, and constant UV rays from the sun. Things are going to break and there is a really good chance there are some items that need to be addressed on the pre-owned sportfishing boat you plan to buy. With any purchase, a survey is required and a good surveyor can give you an accurate, complete picture of the condition of the boat. This is where hiring a professional yacht broker can really make the process much easier and less stressful. 

A knowledgeable yacht broker can offer recommendations on a good surveyor, but also help to explain what your next step will be once the report comes back. Are the results from the survey major items or purely cosmetic? How many of the items should you ask to be resolved before the transaction is completed? Should you renegotiate the purchase price? Your broker should advise you to ask for a complete history of how many times the boat has been sold and its complete maintenance/service records.



United Yacht Sales has the world's largest network of boat buyers and sellers in the industry, thanks to our team of over 250 yacht brokers in 104 different locations. To begin the process of searching for a sportfishing boat for sale, please call our main office at 772-463-3131 and we will connect you with one of our expert yacht brokers.

Whether buying a luxury boat or selling one, we have the right expert on staff to assist you in navigating the brokerage market for your type of yacht. If you're looking at selling a boat, there is no quicker way to get activity than listing it with United. Our entire team is immediately notified every time a listing agreement is made with United Yacht Sales and many boats are sold before they ever even make it online. Our support team is among the best in the industry at marketing your yacht. 100% of our marketing budget goes towards advertising our clients' listings, a claim not many other firms can make. To get started listing your yacht, fill out our online form What's My Yacht Worth?


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