Some people cannot unlock their gaze from a 50-foot custom sport fisher or a lovingly restored vintage draketail workboat. For others, old school muscle cars catch their eyes, or perhaps a classic side-by-side 12-gauge shotgun. For me, it is waterfowling boats. Small ones, big ones, fat ones, skinny ones. I love ’em all. Weird, perhaps but whenever I see a rig especially tricked out I cannot help but check out it out. It’s like a tractor beam pulling me ever closer.

So earlier this fall when an Xpress hunting rig rolled up the ramp in front of my shop, I hustled outside to gawk at it. I asked so many questions and stared so long that may have even made the guy a bit uncomfortable.

The company builds a full line of aluminum boats, ranging from bay boats and shallow-water skiffs to bass boats and utilitarian jon boats. The one in Xpress’s hunting boat line that I bet would be right at home on the Chesapeake would be H18DB. Wanting to learn more, I called down to Xpress HQ, located in Hot Springs, AR, unquestionably one of the most storied duck hunting states in these here United States. I had a good chat with Clay Connor, director of marketing for the boat builder, who shared highlights of the company’s 50-year history.

“We’re still family owned and operated, and if you look back at our history, it’s pretty impressive,” he explained. “We were the first to take inert gas and weld two pieces of metal together to create a very strong boat.” Hence, the coined phrase “all weld.”

Any hunting boat is only as good as its materials and processes, he said. An Xpress boat starts with high-grade 5052 aluminum alloy. Using an Auto CAD program (automated computer-aided drafting), technicians precisely cut the metals into various parts of the boat. Then, Conner explained, skilled craftsmen weld the hull together—all without rivets and screws. In late 1980s, Xpress developed the Hyper-Lift hull, once again setting the bar high for other aluminum boat builders. This padded hull not only improved Xpress’s metal boats’ performance but now offered them with style once reserved for fiberglass boats.

Running a Hyper-Lift hull, you quickly get how the design improves hole shot while providing for a drier ride and superior handling, especially when compared to an average riveted aluminum boat. XPress boats are also built with longitudinal ribs instead of the typical cross rib layout used by other boat builders. This further enhances stability and performance because water pressure runs parallel with the hull. The floor is one solid piece of aluminum, and every void in your hull is filled with premium, environmentally-friendly expandable foam that strengthens and provides additional flotation. Shimmy and shake are not an issue. As you’d expect, the rig meets or exceeds all U.S. Coast Guard standards.

At 18-feet long, the H18DB is capable of handling most Chesapeake hunting scenarios. It’s stout enough for the open waters of the Susky Flat, Potomac, or James rivers yet nimble enough to navigate some of the Bay’s narrower marshes.

And finally, what’s a duck boat without a long list of standard features? The H18DB meets this and then some, including a proprietary non-skid liner, step-pod transom, LED bow and running lights, and the convenient Xpress Duck Boat Accessory Rail. Up front there’s lockable storage for gear bags as well as a welded-in, lockable gun box running inside the port gunwale. For those who want to opt for additional extras you have choices, lots of choices, including: Humminbird Helix series sounder/GPS combo; Minn Kota trolling motor (Edge, Maxxum or Fortrex series), and a NatGear Paint upgrade.

A snarling chop and busting ice at the ramp with your duck boat are common realities when Chesapeake waterfowling. Having the confidence that comes with all-weld construction and attention to detail is worth every penny. Xpress Boats is rightfully proud of its claim as the “Original All-Welded Aluminum Manufacturer.”

The H18DB outfitted with a Yamaha F40LEHA retails at $14,495. Its smaller sibling, the H16DB, also rigged with a Yamaha F40LEHA lists at $13,995.

Xpress Hyper-Lift H18DB Specifications:

Length: 18'

Bottom: 63"

Beam: 75"

Side Height: 22'

Transom Height: 21"

Approx. Weight: 717 LB.

Max Weight: 1,242 LB.

Max. HP: 70 HP

by Capt. Chris D. Dollar