Pavati 17×60 Warrior Drift Boat Reviewed

There’s no question she’s a looker, but how does the Pavati row?

When Pavati Marine burst upon the drift boat scene a few years back, it was quickly apparent that they were a company that enjoyed taking an outside-the-box approach to boat building. The man behind Pavati, Chuck Gros, is like a mad scientist…cool new ideas flowing out of his noggin almost faster than his guys could build ’em.

Chief among his concepts was putting doors on a drift boat — but he didn’t stop there. Now, Pavatis feature all sorts of Gucci extras that you won’t find on other production boats, but the big question that’s been on everybody’s minds and on their message boards: How do these things row? Well, we aimed to find out…


But first, let’s take a look at some of the features that make Pavatis unique…

The list has to begin with the doors, and you can order a boat in a 1, 2, 3 or 4-door model. This one is a 2-door “Coupe”

Doors are the signature feature of a Pavati

The doors are stout with car door-style latches that have the release tab housed in such a way that you can’t accidentally release them. Though people have a tendency to slam the doors shut, the latches require a gentle pull and you can hear the two-stage click lock. On this boat the port side latch is smooth as silk, but the starboard one has gotten a little sticky over time. The doors are waterproofed with burly rubber seals…and the bottoms ride well above the waterline, so there’s no worries about taking on water anyway.

Easy in, easy out…

All the skeptics who have gotten into the boat have quickly turned into door aficionados. As it turns out, the doors are not gimmicky at all…not only do they make it a whole heck of a lot easier for folks to hop in and out of the boat without wracking their shins (or worse) on the gunwale, they also make it much more simple for anglers to reach down to the water to wash hands. You can also hop in the boat from deep water with waders on and I can get in and out of the boat while it’s sitting on the trailer as well without the usual trailer wheel hop.

When you’re bow-in to the beach and letting folks in and out, just be sure to pay attention to where the rocks are…when somebody gets in and weighs down one side of the boat, there’s a chance you can scrape the bottom of your door on the shore (ask me how I know!). Perhaps a better system would be to order one with a rear door, since it’s often easier to pull up to shore aft first…

Pavati\’s open door policy makes getting in and out really nice!

2Another one of Pavati’s intriguing features is the “plug & play” floor. First off, all floors are level so getting around on the inside is a snap…no benches to trip over and no angled floor up front to throw you off balance. Additionally, the floors are raised about 6 inches above the bottom of the boat so your feet and gear is never soaking in water from rain or rapids.

Flat & level flooring throughout is a nice touch

Computer cut notches in the floors allow you to move you seats, foot braces, fly fishing stands, tackle storage and rod holders anywhere you want. You can run two or three seats in a straight line across the front for plug pulling or do them all inline down the centerline for side-drifting…I’ve even taken the rower’s seat completely out and made a mini-sled out of the boat in some cases. It’s kind like playing with Legos!

The only downside to this non-bench style of seating is you don’t have as much infinite adjustment control of the weight balance up front. With a couple seats on sliders, you can have guys slide one way or the other an inch at a time to get you centered, but here the increments are more like 6 inches. To me it was worth having a little less control of my load’s balance to gain the walk-around room. Plus, Gross says he is currently working on a way to make the seating even more adjustable.

The notches make everything adjustable

To lock a seat down, simply slide the tab into a slot…

…and lock the other side in with the latch system

Another nifty little feature of the floors is they are easily removed. The floors come in three sections and are all held in by some crazy NASA grade Velcro-type stuff. Simply pull ’em up and lift them out. The heaviest section only weighs maybe 15 pounds, so it’s an easy 1-person job.

Pull the floors out so you can wash out all the leaves, fish blood, roe, etc…

Honeycomb ribs make the boat lighter

Initially, I was skeptical about Velcroed-in floors, but these things are in there solid – there’s no way they are coming out and it is so damn cool to be able to pull them out occasionally hose out the inside of the boat.

The floor sections weigh next to nothing

There are many other cool things that come with the Warrior…Bentley seats, tackle trays, 7 cupholders (which are great for sinkers, scents, pliers, etc) and a whole lot of other stuff. While the twin “The Truth” rulers embedded into the side trays may be a bit optimistic at 60 inches in length, they certainly are handy anytime you’re fishing in an area with slot limits. Just be careful, we nearly had a keeper king hop right off and back into the river as we were measuring it!

“The Truth” rulers are cool…but as a journalism major, the air quotes around them make me wonder if there’s some inside joke at work here!

The Warrior’s anchor nest is a simple thing of beauty. Not only does it feature a diamond plate back to keep your pyramid from scratching your interior, but also has a super cool latch system that holds the anchor in place while you travel and a couple drain plug holders. We’ve all forgotten to lash down our anchors at the end of the day at least once and the results are often very damaging. And, yee-haaaw, no more searching around in the dark for lost plugs. This may be the coolest thing on the boat!

One stop shopping…plugs, anchor and latch

A good idea that was looong overdue!

Of course, with everything inside of the boat being so adjustable, it stands to reason that you need some room to shift your oarlocks around and that’s certainly the case here as you have 8 positions for the stainless and extremely strong oarlocks that come with the boat.

Plenty of adjustability here…

You can get all the normal anchor systems put on a Warrior, but I tried out their slick stomp pedal system. While pedal style anchor releases are nothing new in the driftboat world, this one’s unique in that the pedal is offset off to the right of the rower’s seat and then the line travels under the floor, where it’s largely out of the way.

You can stomp the pedal and release your anchor without letting go of the oars

A pulley system comes with the anchor and makes it infinitely easier to pull up your pyramid. Suddenly pulling 35# of lead up from the depths is a 1-arm show. But, I have to admit, I cut the sucker off after just two days of fishing. While the easy-up part of the deal was sweet, you also have to realize that to make the system work with a pulley, you have to let out twice the amount of line…it seemed like it took forever to pull the pick and I quickly started dreading dropping anchor in anything deeper than about 5 feet. It’s probably not a bad way to go, though, if you’re getting a little up there in age and don’t want to lift so much weight.

Easier to pulll…yes…but you have to drop twice the amount of liine with the pulley system.

You can get all sorts of other crazy stuff on a Warrior. Heated seats and stereos are available and more practical items like a tackle station next to the rower’s seat with room for three big plastic organizer boxes; a sliding fish box, bait boxes, leader rollers, twin heaters, rain tops and a lot more…Basically, if you can dream it up, Gross and crew can probably make it happen.


Bring on the fish blood!

On the outside, the Warrior shows very nicely. When I first rolled into salmon camp, one of the fellas called it a “work of art” and I’ve also had clients describe it as “the Lexus of drift boats” and “way too nice to slime with fish blood.” Pavati has some pretty handy airbrush painters who can do up any design you like, but I opted for a the cleaner look of basic white. What’s cool about the paintjob is that it is powercoated and very durable. The paint’s extremely resistant to dings and scrapes and is also really easy to clean. The inside is also powdercoated and is far superior to the ol’ Zolatone and Clearcoat that’s been standard on boats for so long.

The powdercoated exterior cleans up really nicely

The downside is it’s the first aluminum boat I’ve had with paint (and not bare aluminum) below the waterline and little scrapes and scratches start to show over time.

Speaking of out-doing the old technology like Coat-It and Gluvit, the Warrior can be outfitted with a UHMW bottom that’s epoxied and vacuum-adhered. What you basically get is all the advantages of fiberglass — a quiet and very slippery ride over rocks. The stuff’s so slick that I found during pit stops ashore that somebody would have to hold the boat to keep it from slipping off the gravel bar — a slickness that comes in very handy for running rocky rivers — or when you happen to take a wrong side channel like we did one day and had to drag the boat about 25 yards quite literally over dry ground, which was actually pretty easy.

The black UHMW bottom is slick as ice!

The transom and chines are also unique on the Pavati’s. Beginning with the chines, the Warrior has sorta a “reverse” chine in that it has no extrusions like other aluminum boats. Chines protect the area where the boat’s sides and bottom meet and most metal drifters have the extruded variety…kinda a bumper of sorts. Gross & company decided to put the reinforcements on the inside of the boat, leaving the Warrior with a “hard” chine. It definitely gives the boat a cleaner look, but there’s also some function to the form as well.

Look Ma, no extrusions!

I found that the boat spins on a dime, which is really handy when you’re picking your way through a rock garden. Pavati also claims that their boats track better without extruded chines, which I would say is generally true though in super boily water, I did get pushed around somewhat (though I’m not so sure that there’s any boat that wouldn’t have in those spots). Where I really found that it shines was as you’re descending a fast riffle and there’s and eddy fence on one side. These babies have a tendency to grab hold of an extruded chine and spin the boat alarmingly quickly if you’re not careful. The Pavati chine was super resistant to this “grabbiness,” which is a really nice safety feature.

While I haven’t been concerned with the structural integrity of the hard chine (I whacked it on a rock in a fast and steep Class III pretty seriously and it barely left a ping pong ball-sized dent), normal rock scratches and gravel grinds do show more than they do on a boat with an extrude chine (especially since the boat is painted all the way down.

The radius transom is pretty slick — rather than having a flat area in back that the water can push on, this baby is rounded, so the current simply slips under, and even lifts, the Warrior. It’s actually pretty amazing…pulling plugs or ferrying laterally across a fast chute or riffle, you almost feel like you’re floating above the water in a hovercraft. The transom design is also super handy when running a kicker and/or another angler behind the rowing seat. It also means I have a heck of a lot more room in the back of the boat, which a really nice bonus. I can stand back there with a kicker, jerry jug of gas and a 152-quart cooler and still not feel cramped.

It’s really hard for me to say if the dimpled bottom actually helps. I mean, the concept is solid – folks like Clackacraft, surfboard manufacturers and golf ball companies all certainly buy into the science behind it – with dimples you get less friction and if that means the water slips more easily under the boat, I’m all for it. It’s just hard to say for sure if I can tell the difference without rowing the same boat without ’em. One thing’s for sure, they can’t hurt!

Overall Impressions

Obviously, the Warrior sports a laundry list of desirable features. But, the real bottom line is: Do they row? In fact, that’s been quite the subject of much discussion on the various fishing forums across the West and Great Lakes regions. Many folks seemed to have a negative attitude towards them and many said that the boats rowed like shit, yet none of those folks could claim to have had actually been in one. The few guys I talked to who really had rowed one loved ’em. So, it was with great interest I got in one and tried it out.

I immediately was impressed with the boat’s ability to stop in hot water. The 17X60 is a big boat (the 17 feet is measured down the centerline, not around the sides, so it’s basically an 18 footer when measured in the standard driftboat fashion). I could put the brakes on and get her stopped honestly much quicker than any of the other boats I’ve owned. A big plus, when you want to drop some steelie plugs in at the head of the run. It tracked nicely when back trolling and though she’s a big girl, I was able to row back up on spots when wanted to side-drift again without too much trouble.

The bow sits plenty high and provided a really nice dry ride though spots that I’ve taken water over the front in years past. With three anglers across the bow, I’ve had boats that felt as if they were being pulled downstream by someone yanking on my bowline, but that’s not the case with the Warrior. In white water, it was nimble enough to get through some tricky spots and never felt too big or bulky.


From a fishing standpoint, the boat’s a great platform. When we would hook up, the flat floors and walk-around rowing seat were really nice, allowing the angler to follow his fish if necessary. It also provided a nice stable base from which I could lean out and net fish without feeling like we were going to flip.

Plenty of fishing room here!

Generally, the inside of the boat is very snag-free, but I did catch my net’s mesh occasionally on one of the seat latches and, twice, I’ve stored my net on the rear floor pulley for the anchor and sucked the mesh up into it when I’ve pulled the anchor…quite a fiasco the first time as I went to grab the bag with a fish on and it was jammed!

While you can get some Pavati-designed rod holder brackets for the boat, I often prefer to have clients “ground” the rod against the gunwale when pulling plugs. While the powder coated interior has a really nice and smooth finish, the pressure of a plug working against the current causes the rods to grind and scratch on the gunwale…too bad there’s not a way (there probably is) to get a rubber rub rail on there somehow.

Well, it catches fish…a good sign!

Without hesitation, I can say that the Warrior is truly my favorite boat that I’ve owned so far (I’ve have had many — glass and aluminum from 14 to 20 feet in length). It looks sweet, the features are great and it rows very, very well (I also love the back support on the rower’s seat!). The only thing I can even (kinda) bitch about is that Pavati went a little overboard on the branding with this thing. The Pavati and accompanying fish hook logos are everywhere you look…on both sides of the stern, there’s a MASSIVE Pavati sticker, not to mention one on the inside of each door. “Pavati” is etched into the diamond plate floor not once but twice and it also appears on the nose and oar lock regions…not to mention the backs of all the seats. While the fish hook logo is pretty cool, there are 16…count ’em…16 of the things inside the boat and 6 more on the outside.

The Hook drains are actually kinda cool…wonder if they’d paint a big glob of roe on ’em instead?

Granted, 6 of them are cleverly-designed drain holes, but it just feels a touch over-the-top. There is something to say for understated elegance….

The Pavati Warrior is a beautiful piece of working, fishable art and has no problem standing out in a crowd without the “NASCAR” approach to branding. Besides that, I have absolutely nothing but good things to say about it…It truly is a great boat!

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  1. Ted Henderson says

    I am the proud owner of a Pavati Gaudian. I only row class I and II water but just love this boat. A perfect fishing plat form for all my styles of fishing. Some have looked at my boat, saw all that if had and assume its a heavy slug in the water. I don’t know what the boat weighs equipped the way it is, but I have been told it weighs the same as or less than Willie or Fish-rite and is a larger boat. I would not trade mine for any other manufacturer’s boat.

  2. steve marti says

    I have a 17×60 warrior, side anchor makes the boat drift side to side on anchor, I replaced with a manual center drop, almost lose anchor rope everytime when droping withfish on my rod, the center foot release is the only way to go, but won’t work with anchor cadie, is their a way to use side release with a center drop by making side anchor pulley go to middle

  3. Dale Gallian says

    I’ve rowed several boats in my days .I had custom built glass boat for 22 years thinking it was the beats rowing boat around. until I rowed a Pavati boat .I was surprised how easy it rowed. I love the flat floor. And the it’s nice to sit up higher in the boat rowing yup can up front much easer. I picked up my new 17ft worrier in December with all the bells whistles. I thank Chuck and Steve at Pavati. Great guys .

    • says

      Scott, I use an 8HP Honda 4-stroke on mine all the time. Works great for getting back up for another drift. I use a short shaft with a fin…goes super shallow. Just need to make sure you have ’em make a cutout in the transom if you’re gonna run a short shaft…

  4. Eddie Kim says

    I am a proud owner of the 17X61 Pavati guardian. After reading the reviews, talking with other Pavati owners, and working with both Chuck Gross and Steve Crissler, the Pavati purchase was one of the best decisions I’ve made, and I honestly couldn’t be happier. Because of the center line measurement, the Pavati is way bigger than my previous 17X54, is signficantly lighter, much more nimble and rows WAY better! The level floors and huge transom area makes running a motor and fishing a breeze. The Pavati is a bit more expensive, but with all the added features, it was definitely worth it for me. Cheers to the Pavati team.

  5. Keith Johnson says

    I have the 17′ x 60″ warrior and it rows better than my 14′ aluminum did. At my age the doors are an awsome thing. Standing on the level floors all day I certainly not as tired when I get off the river. The Pavati is by far the best drifter I have had the pleasure to fish out of, and this is saying a lot.

  6. Nick Angeli says

    Hi JD,
    I have talked with you briefly at the Klamath and you seem to be a very down to earth kind of guy. For this reason, I was wondering if I could have your true and full opinion on purchasing a Pavati drift boat. If you were just a weekend warrior + fishing junky, would you spend the money to own a Pavati. I personally have owned a willie and currently own a hyde, but find myself looking in the direction of a Pavati. I love the doors, level floors and freedom to rearrange, but am not sure if the capital sacrafice will be worth the reward. If you could take time out of your busy schedule and give me your thoughts, I would grately and truly appreciate it. Thank you for your time,

    • says

      Hey Nick,

      To be perfectly honest, this boat is my all-time favorite drifter (so far!). And mainly for the reasons you mentioned…the doors, which I thought at first may be more of a gimmick than anything have turned out to be really, really useful. And the flat level floors are great…always been a big fan…had ’em on my 20-foot Willie as well. But you are right — Pavati’s are expensive. So, I guess the question you have to ask yourself is how much time are you really going to use the thing? And also, how long do you typically own a boat? If you’ll use the boat once every month or two…well…maybe less boat is the better way to go. You can probably get away without all the cool Gucci stuff in that situation. But if you plan to use if regularly — and don’t see yourself needing to buy another boat for a long time, then maybe the “Lexus” of drifters is for you. For the guide business, the boat’s been a really cool thing for me as it’s a useful tool but also clients really appreciate the looks and fishabilty of it.

      Good luck with your decision — hope that helps a bit!

  7. Rich Reihl says

    Great review JD. I am a proud owner of a Pavati Warrior 17’x60″ for about a year now. I would recommend Pavati to anyone interested in a drift boat. My boat is the hottest boat on the Skagit. I even have sled owners turning their heads. Chuck and the Pavati team treat you like family during the purchase & sell. I still keep in touch with them on a regular basis.

  8. DON MATEJKA says

    until i row one all day, i need to row or float a ways. Is that a possible senarior to take time out for a potental boat buyer, who has no job, unemployment has run out,and unless you take food stamps, of course thats illegal . I would surely appreacate a test drive, if possible.

    currently Iam rowing a 1968 glen wooldridge alum model. un fortunaily it needs minor repair, the oarlock blocks have gotten brittle and need to be upgraded can you folks do this?

    thank you, don matejka

  9. Eddie says

    Hi JD,
    I enjoy your reviews, definitely have a talent for writing. I along with many others wonder how you feel about the way the Pavati’s row relative to the Clackacraft?

    I rowed a Clack this past weekend and I was absolutely amazed with how well and how effortless it was for backtrolling and also how well it tracked. I just don’t think that they are that comfortable of a platform to fish out of. If the Pavati’s row as well as a Clack… I’m on the list. I currently own a North River db and it rows like a tank… very difficult to backtroll.

    • says

      Hi Eddie,

      Well, honestly, I have never rowed two different boats down the same stretch of water on the same day but I have owned two Clackas over the years and and a Willie and loved ’em all…but I like rowing this boat the best of all the ones I’ve owned so far. It’s hard to say because you can have two boats from the same company that don’t row the same. All I can tell ya is the 17-foot (down the centerline…would be considered an 18 footer from most manufacturers) is an amazing fishing platform and also rows super sweet.

    • says

      Jim…looking at the craftsmanship and design, I believe the Pavati’s will hold up just fine. When you tour their massive 50,000 sq. ft. shop, you get the strong impression that they know what they’re doing there…

  10. Jerry Q says

    Just a guy that likes to fish here, and have had a Lund Tyee for over 20 years. Pimarily fish for smallmouth bass, northers and white bass in rivers. My son and I fish in Western Michigan every year for salmon with a guide. After the last couple of years of research of wondering whether or not I should buy another boat instead of paying the guide (who is TERRIFIC), Pavati is really the only choice. I just wish they were at some of the shows here in the Midwest so I could see one close up. Lots of $$$ to spend sight unseen. I know they’re really designed for the rivers in the West…but there is suprisingly good fishing in the streams of the Great Lakes. I had a 44″ king in the boat on last year’s trip.

  11. Pavati Owner says

    I am so glad that you have this avenue to share reports like this with the public. I am so extremely happy with my Pavati, that I wish I could show everyone in the world just how great these drift boats are. I believe that most skeptics would change there opinion if they took the time to row one of the finest drift boats ever made ( Pavati ).

  12. SteelieFisher says

    wow, thanks for the review. I have been really waiting to hear how those boats row and now it sounds like they row good. Was thinking of going with another brand but this may just have changed my mind!

  13. says

    Hey J.D.

    Great review, I’ve been drooling over these boats since the debut at the Sportsmans Expo. A lot of very very good ideas, but the sticker shock!! holy crap!

    Prince of Darkness

    • Fish4Fun says

      Thanks that was really helpfull. I am buying a boat this winter and the Pavattis are now probably my #1 choice. WIll they be at the boat shows this year?

      • says

        Yes, the Pavati crew will be at the Portland and Seattle shows for sure…I’m not positive about the Sacramento Sportsmen’s Expos.

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