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BOAT SENSE: INSHORE FISHING BOATS

In this installment of The Fisherman Magazine’s monthly “Boat Sense” series for 2017, Capt. John Raguso breaks down the finer points of the ideal inshore fishing boat for Northeast and Mid-Atlantic anglers.
By Capt. John N. Raguso

The Fisherman Magazine’s “Boat Sense” series for 2017 appearing both online and within our monthly printed editions will explore a number of boating topics, from buying your first boat to tweaking maximum range on your current boat, with a sneak peek at some of the latest boats on the market or soon to be!

Just in time for spring launch, we take a closer look at some of the inshore “hybrid” craft been popping up at marinas over the past few years.

From a builder’s perspective of course, we should first define what constitutes the limits of inshore fishing? Certainly it includes the shallow back bays and channels, expansive open waterways, inlets, rips, ocean side beaches and wrecks and reefs that might be anywhere from 5 to 10 miles offshore. A vessel that explores this domain on a regular basis needs to possess certain attributes in order to successfully navigate an ever-changing environment of wind, varying water depths, currents, washboard chop, wind-against-tide, fickle weather patterns, a hot August sun, windblown spray and more.

From a practical size standpoint, inshore boats that meet most of these requirements typically range from 17 to 25 feet in length, but as we all know, not all boats are created equal. To get a better feel for the true soul of the ideal inshore fishing platform, I reached out to some of the industry leaders for their viewpoints on how they construct and accessorize their ultimate vision of the ideal candidate.

Grady-White currently offers a pair of “hybrid” boats - their 191 and 251 Explorer center consoles. These twins were designed to fill a niche, boats built for a specific set of “jack-of-all trade” requirements. To get additional insights on how these Explorers were birthed, I reached out to Grady-White’s VP of Engineering, David Neese. According to David, “The original 251 Explorer was our initial hybrid model and was introduced a few years back, followed shortly by the smaller 191 CE, to offer our customers a smaller and more affordable version of the same basic shallow water approach. Even though Grady-White was one of the last players to the inshore hybrid dance, we spent quality research time designing a next-gen platform that put every square inch of internal space to good use. The Explorers differ from our regular center console lineup in that they have slightly lower gunwales to minimize wind resistance when drift fishing in shallow bays or inshore waterways. The lower gunwales also make it easier to get in and out of the boat on those days when you are splitting fishing time with family time and you decide to do some clamming in shallow water or head off to your favorite beach.”

“We combine these lower gunwales with a wide beam, reverse chines and moderate aft deadrise (14.5 degrees for the 191 CE and 16 degrees for the 251 CE) to increase stability when working a rod from the roomy bow or stern casting platforms. Our Explorers feature twin livewells, built-in fishboxes that drain overboard even at rest, plenty of rod storage and more. They can drift without grounding in 14 inches of water with the outboard drives up and either model can fish near offshore waters if you pick your days, hence the hybrid namesake.”

Two of the notable options for either of Grady’s Coastal Explorers are a pre-rigged electric trolling motor setup in the bow and a pre-wired power pole anchor for the stern, both of which will allow the operator to leverage their max potential when working shallow inshore waters.

To get an alternate perspective on the world of inshore boats, I contacted Charlie Johnson, the Marketing Director of the Maverick Boating Group, which includes stalwart inshore and shallow water brands like Hewes, Maverick and Pathfinder, in addition to Cobia boats. According to Charlie, Pathfinder is their ultimate “inshore” hybrid boat brand that can do it all, from fishing skinny water back bays, to trolling for tuna and dorado 15 to 20 miles off the beach and everything in between. Pathfinder currently offers seven inshore models in five sizes that range from 22, 23, 24, 25 and 26 feet.

Charlie described the Pathfinder boat lineup as, “Having the ability to fish in skinny water, but also able to handle big water or near offshore tasks in the right conditions. Some of the standard features that we build into our Pathfinder inshore boats have evolved though our many years of experience building dedicated shallow water craft and include moderate deadrise, shallow draft and wider beams for stability; elevated casting decks fore and aft for improved sight fishing and better vantage points to observe the water around your boat; flush, snag-free pop-up hardware like cleats, chocks and running lights to minimize tangles when working a fly rod or fan-casting to schools of gamefish on the surface; dedicated onboard real estate and pre-rigging for both electric trolling motors and power pole anchoring systems; and slightly reduced gunwale height to decrease wind resistance when drifting, but with enough cockpit depth for passenger comfort and safety.”


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