Montana Guide Boat Printed Plans

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11' 6"/ 3.5 meters


Note: These plans consist of a booklet of 39 pages of text, drawings and photos on 8.5" x 11" pages. The printed version is black and white. The PDF file for instant download on this page has color photographs. To save $5 and postage costs choose the download by ordering on this page. For PDF plans, click HERE

makes a good fishing, waterfowling and general recreation boat

This is a lightweight and much simplified version of an old market hunters boat used to hunt river bottoms and sheltered lakes. This adapted version makes a good fishing, waterfowling and general recreation boat. It can be rowed, paddled or poled, and for covering the miles under power the smallest of outboards can be used or even an electric trolling motor provides adequate thrust for the featherweight double-ended hull. A side motor mount works or some builders even chop off one end to make a transom to mount a small motor. Five or six foot oars work well for open water and can be stowed inside the boat for travel. For exploring small tight streams a single or double-bladed paddle can be used or multiple oarlock sockets can be attached along the side decks and the seat location can be adjusted for the best rowing/paddling position.

There’s room for two to sit in the cockpit, or space for one adult to recline. It will float in about four inches of water with a 250 pound load and the hull is low-profile and can easily be camouflaged by reeds or riverbank brush. At 11 feet and 6 inches and less than 60 pounds it makes an ideal car-topper and will also slide into the back of a standard size pickup bed. The wide flat bottom provides stability to stand, kneel or sit, and the lightweight hull becomes more stable with loading.

The boat can be carried by one person, but with its tough graphite/epoxy bottom its even easier to drag the hull using a short tether hooked to a bow eyelet. The hull slides easily over parking lot surfaces, launch ramps, river rocks and gravel, and dragging the lightweight hull makes the graphite bottom slicker with use. Graphite also provides a well protected surface virtually impervious to sunlight. For an interesting final finish some builders epoxy lightweight fabric or camo netting right onto the hull and deck to produce a finish that blends into the scenery.

In addition to providing a comfortable backrest, the wide coaming surrounding the cockpit serves as a structural support for the deck and helps keep the cockpit dry in a downpour. A waterproof poncho can be clamped onto the coaming to keep the interior warm and dry and for additional weather protection or camouflage, flexible battens can be attached temporarily to the coamings to support camo netting or a rain cover. The deck can also be equipped with hooks or shock cord loops to secure and adjust coverings and netting.

This version is built of marine grade hardwood ply and epoxy, and the epoxy coating hardens and stiffens the ply, preventing moisture soak and eventual rot. Four structural bulkheads stiffen the hull, support the deck and divide the hull into five separate compartments. The bulkheads are secured and made watertight with a bead of thickened epoxy. The two smaller end compartments are useful for dry storage and emergency flotation. They can be left sealed and provided with hatches or plastic screw-out deck plates for easy access. The larger compartments can be opened as needed with cut-outs to provide over six feet of legroom to stretch out in comfort.

Both ends of the hull are identical which simplifies construction. There are no difficult scarf joints to fit, and all seams are backed up by epoxy glued butt-blocks which provide additional hull reinforcement. Glass tape is applied over exterior seams for extra strength, and to form a structural chine joint. It usually takes about 25 hours for a first-timer to cut out and pre-finish the plywood parts, and another 25 hours to assemble the basic hull. The hull is stitched together using plastic ties or copper wire to hold pieces in alignment until a bead of thickened epoxy is applied, after which the ties are removed. The flat deck is a cinch to build by placing a straightedge across the sides and marking bulkhead tops for trimming. The deck is glued in place with epoxy then the hull edges are rounded slightly and finally wrapped with glass tape. Properly built and sealed, the boat will last for generations with minimal maintenance.

The package contains 40 page building plans, with material sources and discussion of options.


Builder Comments

Dear Mr Butler,

I just finished and tried out your Montana Guide Boat. Just perfect for my use. I'm 70 years old and needed a boat I could toss up on the Blazer by myself. At your suggestion I did make a few modifications because of where I use the boat. I needed a "Delaware River Rock Cruncher" to fish the shallows in the upper end of the Delaware River for trout and smallmouth bass.

I made the boat from 1/4" Philippine mahogany plywood for extra strength and cheapness ($7.50 a sheet), and I built on a motor mount for an electric motor.=I also installed lifting handles and tie down points on the deck. The boat makes a nice stable fishing platform for working the shallows with a fly rod. Sincerely.

Adam Patarcity
New Jersey



... just wanted to let you know my Guideboats have worked out pretty well. Like we discussed I built 2 of them, and we strap them together bottom-to-bottom to slide in the truck bed. When the kid comes home from college he likes to duck hunt and then we do a lot of fishing too and here in Michigan we live close to some good lakes. I made the cockpit openings smaller since they’re solo boats and we don’t usually take the dogs anyway. To stay dry if we get caught in rain I made a little spray cover tarp and I clamp it over the cockpit coamings like you mentioned. I should have used the thinner plywood you suggested and they would have been about 20 pounds lighter but they’re still easy to handle.

Maury Lillenthal



Paul... just a note to send these photos and let you know I did use the same cockpit size you have in the plans. Its just about right for my 6 year old and myself and he caught his first fish the other day (with a little help) and I will say that from now he's hooked.

J. Ziegler



Paul... I’m thinking of building your 19 foot sailing dory next. Looks like it would haul a ton of gear and kids. I really like my little Guideboat but my wife is not thrilled about being left at home so often—and has threatened to use it for a planter. Yikes!

S. Smaller,



Mr Butler... your Guide boat reminds me of a boat my Father built for the family over 60 years ago and I think he found the plans in a magazine. I enjoy all the options and discussion in the plans and I always like to make some changes anyway to customize the boat. It slides easily right into the back of my little Toyota truck.

D. Shanahan,



... It actually rows better than I expected with my 6 foot oars, sitting on the removable plank seat. It didn’t paddle very well however, with me kneeling, but I added a small shallow keel and that made a lot of difference. But now the keel drags on the bottom in really shallow water, so to gain something you also lose something. It sure feels a lot safer and more comfortable than my old canoe and I can also stand to cast.

Rob Collum



... the little folding canoe seat worked well and I built a separate cockpit space for my dog in the forward compartment.

John Erdrich



I’m doing the Guideboat as a serious layout boat for duck hunting here in the wetlands of Idaho, something light and tough enough to drag over miles of trails to remote lakes---the graphite bottom treatment is very cool... and now I’m experimenting with your suggestion to epoxy a lightweight camo net/fabric right over the plywood...

Jerry Crawford.


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Additional Information

Designer Name:
paul butler
Length (range):
8' - 15'11"' / 2.44m - 4.85m
11' 6"/ 3.5 meters
Length at Waterline:
10' 3"/ 3.1 meters
3' 10"/ 1.1 meters
Hull Weight:
Under 85 lbs / 38.56kg
Estimated Hull Weight:
60 lbs/ 27.2 kilograms
Under 6" / 15.24cm
Unloaded Draft:
3"/ 7.6 centimeters
Weight Capacity:
250 lbs/ 113.3 kilograms
Primary Material:
Marine Plywood
Method of Construction:
Stitch and Glue
Hull Type:
Hull Shape:
Flat bottom
Power Source:
Built-in Floatation:
Unit of Measure:
Instruction Manual:
Step-by-Step Instructions
Lofting Required:
Recommended Experience Level:
Designer's Thoughts on Experience Level:
written for amateur builders
Boat Type:
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