Minnesota is home to more than 800,000 registered boats, many of them unique — or almost unique — in their length, color and shape. And for good reason: Different waters demand different types of watercraft, especially if the reason for being afloat is to catch fish.

Lake of the Woods, for instance, is not safely traveled in a 12-foot car-topper. Similarly, though a 21-foot deep-V might be just the ticket for chasing walleyes on the Mississippi River near Red Wing, you wouldn’t want to launch the same boat in the same river while seeking smallmouth bass upriver from the Twin Cities, between Monticello and Elk River.

Here then, on the eve of the Minneapolis Boat Show, a peek at five boat types I’ve encountered while on Minnesota waters, each craft with its own purpose.

Oar power to you

Floating along on a clean-flowing river casting for smallmouth bass is an unbeatable way to spend a summer afternoon. Best for this purpose is a driftboat. Guided from amidships by an oarsman whose job is to put his bow-and-stern anglers on fish (while also missing rocks and deadfalls), these boats are the ultimate shallow-running smallie finders. Perfect on the Upper Mississippi, St. Croix and other rivers.

Blizzard on Upper Red

You could feel sorry for these fellows — except that the walleyes were biting like crazy on this giant northwestern Minnesota lake on Opening Day 2008. This boat could be a 16-footer or possibly an 18-footer. Either way, it’s all aluminum and sufficiently roomy. And whether this style of craft is made by Alumacraft, Lund or Crestliner, it’s built in Minnesota, to boot. A good choice for waters statewide.

Mississippi backwater bandit

Dick “Griz” Grzywinski of St. Paul and I spotted this guy a couple springs back while chasing walleyes on the Mississippi not far from Red Wing. The month was March, and a lot of style points are due this craft owner, who is obviously also a river duck hunter. Note also on the stern the surface drive outboard, which is great for shallow water running.

Carpe noctEm, baby

These boys — Pat Kirschbaum on the left with Brian Pretschel — are specialists. As nighttime bow fishermen, they head onto lakes and rivers when most other watercraft owners are angling to port. Using flat-bottom boats outfitted with high-intensity lights powered by generators, they prowl the shallows after dark, peering into floodlit water while standing on an elevated deck, bows and arrows at the ready.

Border water special

Husband. Wife. Dog. Motorboat. Canoe. What’s missing? Nothing. This photo was taken on the motorized portage that separates Lake Vermilion from Trout Lake in the BWCA. On Trout Lake, 25 horsepower or less outboards are allowed. So the boat carries camp gear, while the canoe is portaged into paddle-only, fish-laden lakes adjacent to Trout.