Ridetheducksofseattle is reader-supported. When you buy through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

5 Best Lake Boat Brands for Fishing, Cruising & Family Fun

Written by Anthony Roberts / Fact checked by Jonathan Larson

best lake boat brands

Everyone deserves only the best lake boat brands within their budget. And while some folks believe inland waterways crafts aren’t different from their seagoing counterparts, some manufacturers up the ante to deliver some of the best boat types for lakes.

Leading the charge is Boston Whaler, with its penchant for highly stable vessels. Not far behind is Chaparral, revered for its sporty and high-performance yet affordable offerings. MasterCraft refuses to be outclassed, offering water sports enthusiasts a reliable platform.

And who could forget Sea Ray’s luxurious lake boats and Yamaha’s cutting-edge watercraft with water jet propulsion systems?

That’s just a taste of what’s in store in this article. So, join us in exploring the boating world’s five best boat manufacturers.

Top 5 Lake Boat Brands

Buying a watercraft from the best boat brands for lakes makes perfect sense for aspiring inland waterways vessel ownfers who want to get the best lake boat for the money. These watercraft are dependable and safe, ensuring operators will have a pleasant time with their families.

So, what are the top boat brands for inland waterways? Let’s start with the Boston Whaler.

1. Boston Whaler


Boston Whaler is dead serious about its “unsinkable” badge, as demonstrated in how their ship still floated when sawed in half in their public demonstration. Thanks to the foam-cored hull, their boats are at the pinnacle of vessel craftsmanship, beating other boat companies on paper and in the water.

This brand focuses more on vessels with a classic look and vibe. Safety is a principal concern, prompting the company to produce boats for lakes with higher gunwales and chrome/aluminum-finished grab bars on hardtop skeletons. 

The mahogany wood trims in the interior transform the nicest lake boats into high-end variants. And their Mercury engine can deliver a blistering speed few of the top boat brands can outrun—up to 61.3 MPH.

Boston Whaler lake boats are perfect for fishing, cruising, and water sports. Although the ride could be slightly bumpier than other quality boats, its stability, performance, and speed more than compensates for the minor hiccup.

Here are two noteworthy models.

  • 170 Dauntless


Never underestimate these small boats because they can outrun and outmaneuver high-performance watercraft. Perfect for leisure cruising, fishing, and water sports in small lakes, Dauntlesses have a top speed of 37 knots (42.6 MPH) and a cruising speed of 23 knots (26.5 MPH).

  • 190 Montauk


These lake boats have a center console design, making Boston Whaler one of the top fishing boat brands. Although not a flat-bottom vessel, Montauks are excellent for treading shallower waters where other boats cannot go.

2. Chaparral

Chaparral is one of the popular boat brands for inland waterways, especially among families and individuals who don’t have enough budget for a Boston Whaler or MasterCraft. Although these vessels come with entry-level price tags, they remain good lake boats.

Established by William Pegg in 1965, Chaparral is the go-to brand for family pleasure boating and fishing enthusiasts. Known for its fuel-efficient and stable fiberglass boats, Chaparral maintains its position as one of the most reliable boat brands.

Its offerings might not be as extensive as other brands, but its product lines offer enough versatility to cater to different water activities.

Although the brand is now under the Brunswick Boat Group, it retains the glorious tradition of impeccable craftsmanship.

Here are two of the brand’s bestsellers.

  • 287 SSX


Screaming of luscious comforts and enviable storage space, the SSX is as impressive as other top rated lake boats. This vessel balances performance and cruising comfort to provide families with a comfortable platform to enjoy lake scenery.

  • Vortex 203 VRX


This jet propulsion watercraft takes the fight to Yamaha, although it’s a 20-foot boat. Families will never worry about hauling a weekend’s worth of food, beverages, entertainment, and gear because this watercraft has plenty of space to fill.

3. MasterCraft


Despite its expensive price, MasterCraft always manages to wow seasoned anglers and pleasure boat enthusiasts. However, its niche is in the performance-driven market of water speed demons.

These speed boats for lakes make excellent wakes, meaning they’re perfect for water sports, including water skiing, wakeboarding, and wakesurfing. Experts say these vessels are surfer’s boats, featuring a dedicated system for creating waves best suited for novices and surfing legends.

Unsurprisingly, MasterCraft is a National Marine Manufacturers Association awardee for innovation. Its singular focus on water sports makes this brand one of the most dependable in performance- and power-driven inland waterway vessels.

Unique to these boats is a plumbed-in ballast, allowing them to tow surfers in any water and weather condition. The console is also noteworthy, resembling that of a sports car.

Two of MasterCraft’s most celebrated models are the following.

  • 2023 Prostar

This ski boat’s four-fin design gives it exceptional tracking, control, and a smoother driving experience. Handling is as reliable as ever, although seasoned water skiers say the Prostar’s signature wake keeps them glued to the boat.

  • XT25

If Prostar is a water skier’s best friend, the XT25 is a wakeboarder’s reliable companion. It’s a versatile watercraft, capable of accommodating a booze party for 18 while delivering admirable performance for water sports.

4. Sea Ray

Sea Ray is one of the most trustworthy pleasure boat brands, predating Boston Whaler by more than half a decade. It’s also one of the best high-end boat brands, making it beyond the reach of some families and individuals.

Many reasons explain Sea Ray’s hefty price tag. Its pleasure boats and luxury yachts are recipients of many awards, including NMMA’s Product Quality and Innovation Awards. The company also enjoys a strong following in the boating community with its Editor’s Choice accolades.

Sea Rays feature advanced Dynamic Running Surface, SkyFlow, and Quiet Surface technologies. The NextWave platform bolsters the brand’s forward-thinking philosophy.

From small to large lake boats, Sea Ray vessels are a masterpiece of cutting-edge technology with enough provisions for an uber-comfortable lifestyle.

Below are two of Sea Ray’s most popular models.

  • SLX 400


You can forget a luxury Mediterranean cruise once you spend a night or two in this uber-exotic vessel. A spacious deck and five-star hotel-like amenities fill the watercraft from bow to stern, giving you the ultimate definition of pleasure boating.

  • Sundancer 370


This cabin cruiser is perfect for large families who want various water-related activities for every member. It’s perfect for lounging, cruising, and fishing and has enough luxurious furniture to make it a comfortable home or hold a party on the water.

5. Yamaha

This Japanese brand is best known for its water jet propulsion system (think Jet Ski). Its offering of high-performance sports vessels ranges from 19 to 24 feet.

Yamahas are more than nice lake boats. They’re the epitome of Japanese ingenuity and unparalleled perfectionism. The brand never rests on its laurels, continuously looking for better and more exciting ways to deliver the utmost boating experience.

Yamaha lake boats feature the company’s signature WakeBooster technology, allowing water sports enthusiasts to attack artificial waves with their surfboards, wakeboards, and skis.

Comfort is a given, and performance is a guarantee in all Yamaha lake boats.

Here are two cool Yamaha lake boats worth noting.

  • AR195 Sport


A versatile lake boat, the AR195 marries the performance of pro water sports vessels and the opulence of a five-star yacht. It’s a family boat ingrained with the adventurous spirits of water daredevils.

  • 190 FSH Sport


This vessel feels at home in inland bodies of water as it does in the open seas. It’s a pro angler’s favorite, with humongous live wells and numerous storage compartments for stowing fishing gear and resources.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Lake Boat

Please consider the following factors when shopping for a lake boat.

  1. Activity – Do you need the lake boat exclusively for fishing or water sports? Do you prefer leisure cruising? You could pick a versatile watercraft that can do all three.
  2. Comfort – Consider the boat’s ride comfort and not only the plushness of its furniture and other amenities. Space shouldn’t be overlooked also.
  3. Budget – Luxury has a premium price. You might want to check a lake boat’s offerings to consider the features you can let go of.
  4. Usage – Is this a family boat or something good only for you and a fishing buddy?


Boat types for lake activities. The best boat type for fishing on lakes

The best boat type for fishing on lakes is bass boats. And some of the best brands of fishing boats on inland waterways are Boston Whaler and Chaparral.

Are lake boats easy to operate for beginners?

Lake boats with simple controls and features are easy to operate for beginners. Examples are aluminum fishing boats, dinghies, pontoon boats, bowriders, and fish-and-ski watercraft.

What safety equipment is recommended for lake boating?

The safety equipment for lake boating is similar to vessels for saltwater applications. Everyone onboard needs a personal flotation device. The lake boat must also have a life ring, visual and sound signaling devices, and at least one type-approved fire extinguisher.

How often should I service my lake boat?

An annual professional servicing is ideal for a lake boat, regardless of usage frequency. Meanwhile, petrol-powered vessels require periodic assessments every 1,500 operating hours. Diesel versions require maintenance checks every 5,000 operating hours.


Boston Whaler leads Chaparral, MasterCraft, Sea Ray, and Yamaha in our list of the best lake boat brands. These boat companies have unique offerings setting them apart from the rest of the pack.

One brand focuses on classic versatility, while another emphasizes affordability without sacrificing quality and performance. One company is the pillar of water sports technology, another is stalwart in boating decadence, and the last in wake technology.

You won’t go wrong with any of these lake boat brands.

5/5 - (2 votes)