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What Are Small Flat Bottom Boats Prone to Do? – Answered

Written by Anthony Roberts / Fact checked by Jonathan Larson

what are small flat bottom boats prone to do

What are small flat bottom boats prone to do? FYI, swamping and capsizing in rough waters are two common flat-bottom boat vulnerabilities. Of course, their intended use and inherent design can also produce other “effects.”

Many folks love these watercraft, allowing them to fish, hunt, and enjoy various water recreational activities. Some also convert these boats into work platforms.

So, relax and continue reading to learn more about the pluses and minuses of such watercraft.

Small Flat Bottom Boat 101


1. What is it

Let us start by describing what is a flat bottom boat. As the name suggests, a flat-bottom watercraft has a horizontal or level underside. You will also notice a missing keel – that structure that serves as a boat or ship’s “spine.”

A flat-bottom boat has a shallower draft (the distance between the boat’s lowest hull section and the gunwales or the upper edges) than a V- or round hull. This design makes a flat-bottom boat ideal for navigating shallow waters because it is less vulnerable to running aground.

You can see the differences between a flat bottom hull to other hull designs in the following image below.

2. Types of flat bottom boats

Interestingly, many types of flat bottom boats exist.

You might already know the barge that transports materials along inland waterways. You also have a jon boat featuring an aluminum, polyethylene, wood, or fiberglass construction. These small flat bottom aluminum boats are perfect for fishing and hunting.

The flat bottomed boats called “dories” are a favorite of open-sea and beach anglers. The same can be said about flat-bottom hulls such as the Venetian rowing boat gondola and the Irish currach.

And if you are looking for a flat bottom sailboat, we have several types. The colonial-era bateau is one (a favorite of North American fur traders), while the pirogue is another. There is also the British trow and the 19th-century scow.

What is a Flat-bottomed Boat Used for?

Flat-bottomed boats are good for different activities, depending on their design and intended purpose. Let us categorize these activities into more meaningful ones.

1. Hunting


Hunting from a boat is never easy because you are at the mercy of the water current. The boat bobs up and down the water’s surface, impacting your aiming precision.

You need a stable platform, such as duck hunting boats, to steady your aim and deliver a kill in a single shot. These watercraft make a safe platform for shooting while allowing you to access shallow banks where gamefowl congregate.

2. Fishing


Although aiming precision is not an issue when fishing, you still need a stable platform to cast. And like flat bottom duck boats, a flat-bottomed watercraft ensures maximum stability, making it suitable for shallow water and bow fishing.

In addition, as they minimize friction, flat-bottom boats don’t really disturb the water, so they don’t scare fish away as V-hulls do. You can also get camo flat bottom boats to blend seamlessly with the water, so fish are less likely to be scared away.

3. Recreation


Canal boats offer a stable platform for sightseers and tourists to enjoy stunning views. Considering that they provide a smooth sailing experience, flat-bottomed boats will make sightseeing a lot more enjoyable.

4. Utility


A flat-bottomed boat’s stability is also worthwhile as a barge (transport of heavy goods), bateau (fur trade), and Durham boat (18th-century freight hauling). Flatboats transport people and freight, while jon boats remain the quintessential utility boat.

Keelboats (river-based cargo transporter), Napoleonic Wars-era prams, punts (cargo boats for angling and fowling), barge-like punte boats, and sailing scows (cargo transporter) are other examples of flat-bottomed boats with utilitarian functions.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Small Flat Bottom Boats?


Now, let us deal with the nagging issue of what flat-bottom boats are most prone to doing. Before that, check out these advantages.

  • Unmatched stability – Flat-bottom boats’ principal advantage is their stability, especially in calm waters. Their large surface area allows them to “sit” or “float” squarely on the water, allowing you to hunt and fish confidently.
  • Excellent for shallow waters – Lightweight flat bottom boats allow you to “glide” on marshes, swamps, and other shallow bodies of water without the risk of running aground.
  • Ideal for inland waterways – Inland water bodies and waterways are naturally shallow. A flat-bottom boat’s shallow draft makes it ideal in such locations.
  • Smooth ride – Have you seen how fast some camo flat bottom boats go? They might not be cigarette boats, but these watercraft offer a smooth and speedy ride.
  • Easy to remove when stuck – The flat hull of these boats allows for effortless sliding and slipping off obstacles in the water. You can jump into the water and slightly push the vessel to break them free.

Now, let us talk about the disadvantages of a flat bottom boat.

  • Swamping – In rough waters, a flat-bottom boat can easily get swamped. That is why many flat bottom boat manufacturers limit their vessel’s use to inland bodies of water.

Such an issue is understandable because a flat-bottom boat has a low freeboard (the hull’s upper parts), making it vulnerable to water splashes.

Strong waves can toss the boat around in rough waters. And since its freeboard sits low to the waterline, water can enter easily.

  • Capsizing – This event is a natural outcome of swamping. The boat loses its stability and balance as more and more water fills the flat-bottom boat’s interior.What’s more, flat bottom boats’ stability can also be lost even if water doesn’t get into them. Because these vessels “sit” on top of the water, strong waves can make them bob up and down. And when the waves get rough and choppy enough, they can overturn the boat entirely.

Some Notes for Using Small Flat Bottom Boats


Experts recommend getting semi-V boats if you must use a small flat-bottom boat in rough waters. These boats are as stable and maneuverable as flat-bottom boats while being able to handle turbulent waters.

On that note, please avoid choppy waters, open seas (even in calm weather), and whitewater rivers when traveling in purely flat bottom boats.

Precautions to Avoid Swamping or Capsizing Flat-bottomed Boats


Here are some precautions to avoid swamping and capsizing your flat-bottomed boat.

  1. Note the flat-bottom boat’s maximum weight capacity and do not overload with passengers or cargo (gear), or both.
  2. If you must bring a hunting dog on your trip, ensure the dog is well-behaved and well-trained to avoid unnecessary boat movements.
  3. Always turn off the boat’s engine and secure the flat-bottom boat by dropping the anchor.
  4. Remain seated until you are ready to fire your hunting rifle or arrow.
  5. Monitor weather reports. If it gets windy, even inland bodies of water can get rough.
  6. If the weather suddenly turns unfavorable, try to distribute the weight evenly around the vessel.
  7. You should also reinforce the vessel with flotation devices to improve its chances in rough waters.
  8. Maneuver your boat close to shore.


Are flat bottom boats better?

A flat-bottom boat is better if you are fishing or hunting in inland bodies of water. Its exceptional stability and shallow draft should help you navigate your boat in places other watercraft cannot.

Tips to improve the stability of a small bottom boat

You can improve a small flat-bottom boat’s stability with the following tips.

  1. Widen the boat’s hull (a challenging and costly modification)
  2. Add buoyant mechanisms (flotation pods or boat stabilizers made of closed-cell or polyurethane foam) in the flat-bottom boat’s stern or rear
  3. Install PVC flotation tubes on the boat’s sides (like an outrigger)


What are small flat bottom boats prone to do? Swamping and capsizing are the two most common issues with flat-bottom boats.

Water can get into the boat through splashes because the flat-bottom boat has a low freeboard. When water accumulates, it upsets the boat’s balance and causes it to capsize.

However, flat-bottom boats are perfect for hunting and fishing in calm inland bodies of water. Their maneuverability and stability are unmatched.

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