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Watercraft Review

Fish Pristine water, and catch more fish, with the help of RO's Kevlar reinforced Drift Boat

Date: 1/19/04
Tackle type: Watercraft
Manufacturer: RO Drift Boats
Reviewer: Buzz

Total Score: 8.41

Introduction: Fly-fishing from a drift boat offers new ways and more opportunities to present your fly to fish that otherwise would go untouched. Sharing the bank with other fishermen can get old real fast, not to mention the monotony of being stuck in the same place all day. Ro Drift Boats offers a dependable fly-fishermen friendly boat that will take you to pristine spots on the river, giving you the chance to leave the crowds, and land that trophy rainbow.


RO Drift Boat Specifications

Material Fiberglass w/Kevlar re-enforced chines
Color Grey/White
Length 16" (Guide Model)
Trailer Yes (2 Wheel)
Capacity 5 Persons or 1,000lbs
Features Front & rear doors, padded swivel seats, low back rowers seat, floor mounted anchor system, anchor, anchor rope, Carlisle oars, front and rear knee locks, and heavy duty trailer with double rollers.
MSRP $4000 and up (depending on configuration)

About RO:
Ro Drift Boats was founded in 1995 in St. Anthony, Idaho.  They are a family owned company that pays close attention to the design and detail of their boats. Two of the brothers are fly-fishing guides that spend much of their time on the water testing and providing design recommendations to the Ro design team.


RO Drift Boats are constructed of fiberglass and Kevlar, we tested the 16ft guide model


Impressions: My first impression of the Ro drift boat was pure excitement over the advantages to drift fishing over wade fishing.  Second, the storage area of this boat makes it easy to grab all your fly gear and avoid the concept of packing light for convenience. This allows you to bring all your flies, rain gear, and spare equipment to maximize your chances of catching fish. Upon further inspection the boat has every feature you would expect from any great drift boat. Rod storage allows for you to rig up numerous rods and grab one handy should you break off in fishable water. Finally, it’s sleek yet stable appearance makes it an attractive option for any fishing day with a couple of your buddies.


The RO offered comfortable pedestal seats and plenty of rod storage (right) as well as easy to reach places for your beer

Real World Tests:
We tested the
Ro’s fiberglass 16’ guide model drift boat to see just how versatile a fishing vessel it was on various rivers in diverse conditions. I was very surprised at how stealthy you can be in sneaking up on those hard to reach fishing holes. The hull design lets you creep up in just a few inches of water without making a sound to spook weary trout. However, this boat also has the durability and the rigidity to encounter forceful rapids and unsuspecting rocks and handle them with ease.

The RO can rest in basically no water, and the Kevlar reinforced bottom can almost as much of a beating as most aluminum based drift boats


The Design: Drift Boats are most notably constructed of 3 materials.  These materials include Aluminum, Wood, or Fiberglass. Each has their own pro’s and con’s that need to be weighed by the user’s needs to determine which will best suit their fishing excursions. Aluminum tends to be an attractive option when considering fishing rivers with strong rapids and is proven to withstand the test of time. However, they can be extremely noisy. Wood boats are undoubtedly the most beautiful boats on the water, but tend to be high maintenance with varnish coatings and wood sealants. Fiberglass molds used by Ro offer a significant weight savings and superior rowing ability over other models.


The part of the drift boat that takes the most beating is the bottom of any drift boat which constantly gets pounded by rocks from the river bottom. Ro has constructed a Kevlar re-enforcing process to strengthen the entire hull. Kevlar is not only light, but pound for pound six times stronger than steel!


The RO provides a stable fishing platform, and fly fisherman can lean and fish from all sides of the boat

: Rowing a drift boat is something that takes both practice and patience. Beginners should be very careful not to get themselves into situations that are unforgiving. With no motor, the only thing to keep you safe in a drift boat is the precision at which your oarsmen guides. I found this boat to row extremely well in all conditions except for wind. When the wind picks up, it is very difficult to manage not only conflicting water currents, but the forceful winds as well.


For those anglers needing more thrust to get through “dead water” you can actually mount a trolling motor on the back of the boat. This can be a battery powered trolling motor, or gas powered motor so long as the power rating does not exceed 10hp. This is a very good option when fishing waters where there is a dead area. It will allow for less work for the rower to row, and permit the anglers on board to maximize their time fishing prime waters.


It is possible to mount a trolling motor or even a gas kicker motor to help get you through dead water quicker

Stability: With up to 3 or 4 people in your boat and bags of fishing gear it is important to have a stable boat. While the seats and elevated casting pedestals are very stable in both the front and the back, the floor beneath the rowers feet is quite flimsy. The reason for this is that the bottom “flexes” to channel water and allow for better maneuverability in rowing. This flexing of the bottom can take some getting used to but after a few times out it earned my level of trust.  


The RO Drift boat allowed us to fish water that would normally have been unreachable from shore, and the ability to carry all your gear made it possible to switch rigs and techniques on the fly...all of which added up to landing more fish


Durability: The drift boat material of choice in consideration of durability is without a doubt aluminum. However, with the advancements in technology, Ro has done a great job getting the absolute most out of their boats for fiberglass. With a Kevlar bottom, the most of the boat taking the wear and tear is just about bulletproof. The reason someone would choose a fiberglass boat over aluminum is likely because they like the low volume approach instead of the “clang clang” noise that aluminum occasionally puts out. Since fiberglass has been know to not handle the sun well, all fiberglass boats should be garaged and definitely covered at all times when not in use.

RO Drift Boat Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality Great overall construction. Fiberglass with Kevlar re-enforced chines, a good overall combo. 9
Performance Great maneuverability in a wide range of conditions, with the exception of heavy wind, and effortless ferrying 8.5
Price A good price for the quality you are getting. Good resale value on this watercraft as well 9
Features Tons of features available including a side mounted anchor to various rod holder options 9
Design (Ergonomics) Great layout is easy to fish from. Many useful rod and drink holders and plenty of room to stow other gear. Only downside is the flexible bottom takes some getting used to, especially if you are used to fishing on more rigid drift boats 7
Application Can be used on a wide range of conditions but only the most experienced should attempt to tame high level rapids 8

Total Score


Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

J Quality craftsmanship L Flexible bottom takes getting used to
J Plethora of features L Can be difficult in windy conditions
J Stealthy Quiet  

I have seen many of fishermen spend an obscene amount of money on rods, reels, and apparel ranging in the thousands of dollars only to be fishing from the bank all day. I’ve also seen fishermen in drift boats with primitive fishing equipment knocking em’ dead with double hook-up’s. The difference is simply fishing where the fish are. Drift Boats of any type will take you to new water with less pressure and more fish.  This translates to more hook-up’s and less messing around with the elbow to elbow fishing that bank fishing sometimes creates. Ro offers a unique versatile package that can accommodate any type of fly-fishermen that likes to frequent local streams. Their boat handles great on the water and has every feature that you could expect from a Top of the line drift boat, just without the Top of the line price. There are other more expensive brand named boats on the market but few offer the price-performance ratio that RO's boats tender. 









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