Can’t Afford a Drift Boat? Try Building One!
By Toby Trigger

Posted: March 12, 2016

Drift boats are classic fishing vessels and for some rivers in Montana they are the best way to navigate.

Known for practicality and low maintenance this classic style boat has evolved from large, heavy rib style versions made from wood to expensive space aged materials with every option you might expect on a commercial fishing boat – including gas stoves and refrigerators!

I am much more practical than that (which also means frugal or broke) but I wanted a boat nonetheless.  I love to fish trout and steelhead and getting away from shoulder to shoulder fishing is sometimes tough, a problem which I overcame with a one man pontoon raft.  The problem was that I couldn’t bring friends or family.    New fishing rafts start at the $2,500 mark and driftboats are nearly double that.

So what’s an angler on a budget to do?  Build one from scratch!  I contacted Paul Butler a former Bitterrooter-turned-Washington resident who designed a lightweight driftboat that uses a stitch and glue method that anyone with basic wood working skills can make.  The finished weight is less than 150 pounds and at 14′ I could easily modify my utility trailer to haul it although some people strap them to the rooftops of Subarus.

I bought plans for $48 and ordered 4 mil and 6 mil marine grade plywood, epoxy, fiberglass cloth and putty for about $700.
Driftboat materialsDrift boat build marine grade plywood


Building a boat in winter is more pleasant inside a shop with a little elbow room.  My friend John is a seasonal worker of sorts who happens to have a work shop with heat.  And I convinced him that since he wasn’t working he may as well build a boat.

Drift boat build layoutDrift boat build John cutting with jig sawDrift boat build John cutting



The plans were relatively easy to decipher and easy to cut, glass and epoxy even for first timers like us.





We kept track of hours and so far we are in at 65 total man hours. The boat is taking shape and the remaining tasks are installation of gunwales, bulkheads, seats and finish work.  And in the spirit of the do-it-yourselfer we are going to build our own oar locks and anchor system from scrap metal.

The satisfaction of saving thousands of dollars is outweighed by building my own boat with a friend but I’m still pretty happy about the extra money in my wallet.

Drift boat build top view glued














Drift boat build side profile

For boat plans and other great project ideas check out and if you build one we want to see pictures!  Click the link below to watch Triggers drift boat take shape from tbe eye of time laps photography:

Drift boat build vid

New Podcast!

Riley's Meats - Butte Wild Game Processing