Boat Show Season 2018

What we’re seeing so far

January 2018 Feature Brady L. Kay Web Exclusive

With the New York, Louisville and other major boat shows opening today, we’re officially in what is best known as Boat Show Season. If the Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Nashville and Toronto boat shows are any indication, we may be off to one of our better years as an industry in recent memory.

As a staff we’ve been out hitting the convention floors this month and while counting the number of pontoons on display is interesting (238 in Minneapolis and 109 in Toronto for example), what consumers want to really know is what is catching our eye. Besides great boat show pricing and overpriced hot dogs, here is a look at some of the pontoon and deck boat features or models that we feel are worth searching for at an upcoming boat show near you.


You can never have enough places for your gear onboard so that’s why we like what SUN TRACKER and its team has developed. With the patent-pending Stow More seat storage system, a new compartment has been created into the previously unused backs of select couches. In the Stow More-equipped couches, there is 50 percent more storage space than couches with only traditional below-seat storage compartments. The seat-back compartments can be accessed without passengers having to leave their seats. This enhances convenience and comfort on the water. 

Hidden Galley

Smoker Craft Inc has release a new Lounge Arm Galley option for all of its pontoon brands. A galley in a pontoon is no doubt a fan favorite as is lends itself perfectly to the entertaining atmosphere that pontoons create. The problem with the galley is they often take up prime real estate in the boat. Smoker Craft has solved this with the introduction of the lounge arm galley option. Hidden in the chaise box of a standard lounger, you will find a compact galley unit. This unit then reveals itself quite effortlessly as you simply pull the door away and fold the galley open by way of the stainless steel handle. Once revealed you will find the galley has a functional counter top, a sink with pressure water, drink holders, a bottle opener and even bottle holders. The compact design allows the galley to be deployed and only sacrificing one seat. 


While pontoon boats continue to get longer and longer, Nebraska-based manufacturer Pond-Tini kept plenty busy at the Kansas City Show last weekend. Pond-Tini is a great miniature pontoon boat for your recreation, hunting and fishing sports. 

Familiar Vibe

While taking a closer look at the Vibe Series fiberglass deck boats from Legend Boats at the Toronto Show, there seemed to be something very familiar about the design. Its headquarters are in Whitefish, Ontario and all Legend Boats are sold exclusively in Canada only. Turns out both its new Vibe Series boats as well as its pontoon lineup are built in the U.S. and shipped up north and if you look a little closer you might recognize the U.S. manufacturer’s handy work. 

New Kid On The Block

At the Minneapolis, Chicago and Kansas City Boat Shows were the first three pontoons off the line for Barletta Boats. The northern Indiana-based manufacturer is excited to join the industry and is doing what it can to get its boats where consumers can see them as they ramp up production.  

At first glance, you’ll notice a somewhat unique “cockpit forward” design. The motor pod and engine is further back on the boat to allow more clean water to get to the engine and enhance the performance.

Barletta Pontoon Boats boast a completely new cross member design too, which is a combination I-Beam and Box design, offering more structural support for higher powered pontoon boats. Above deck, it was the raised helm that seemed to get the most attention at the shows with a slide out dog dish built-in below as well as the “Yeti-Ready” cupholders and built-into the swim platform was storage for an in-floor portable cooler.

Fish On

Angler Qwest from Apex Marine has created a fishing guide pontoon like nothing you’ve ever seen before. The 826 Guide Edition is a fishing amenity designed pontoon boat outfitted for the fishing guide. The bow of the boat features six mid back reclining captain chairs and a pair of Binary wall system with enclosed storage hatches and high pressure washdown. Moving to the cockpit area this features a state-of-the-art helm stand that includes a ten-rocker switch panel, Infinity stereo system, universal ram mount cell phone holder, Super sport steering wheel with power knob, tilt steering, LED courtesy lights and stainless steel cupholders.

The fiberglass leaning post style captain seat offers pull out tackle trays, drawers, plier/ knife holder along with an integrated 25-gallon livewell. Protecting you form the elements is a Heavy-Duty T-Top with color matched canvas for 360 degree unobstructed fishability. The stern of the boat starts with the Radar arch that houses eight rocket launchers style rod holders and six adjustable rod holders on the vertical members. The rear binary wall system is a larger version on the front walls for rod storage that includes lockable doors. Two more fishing chairs fill in the rear of the boat to maximize the amount seating for clients to have comfort while traveling to the fishing grounds. Another high-pressure washdown is housed in the rear fish station next to the quick measure bump board and plier/ tool holder. This boat comes standard with the Qwest high performance triple tube package to achieve high speeds and a smooth ride for you and your passengers. 

What Lies Beneath

Sometimes it’s what you can’t see that counts the most. Forest River Marine, manufacturers of South Bay, Berkshire and Trifecta pontoon boats, is ditching plywood decks and moving in a different direction for 2018. The V-Lite engineered composite honeycomb panels are made from 100 percent synthetic materials. The one-piece, seamless and lightweight panels are impervious to water and will not warp, rot, swell or lose their shape at any moisture level. Plus they’re 50 percent lighter than marine-grade plywood.

Displaying at boat shows across the county including at the Minneapolis Show was a cutaway display and worth a closer look if you have a chance. 

Fiberglass `Toons

On the high-end side of the pontoon industry, fiberglass layouts are dominating like never before. The Legacy LT from Manitou seems to attract a lot of attention wherever it goes. In many cases we’ve seen large twin outboards on the back, but it’s truly the design that has attendees doing a double take.  

Blurring the lines between runabouts and pontoons, the Legacy LT offers remarkable performance and extraordinary luxury. With its way-cool blue LED exterior lighting and 7-inch smart touchscreen and fold down tower, it’s worth seeking out at the next boat show you visit. 

Of course this is just a small glimpse of what we’re seeing at the early boat shows so far with plenty more venues left to go. As we come across new models and features we’ll continue to update our Facebook page. 

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