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Boat Sense


Be first at the canyon, last to leave the bite, and still be back at the weigh station with time to spare with the new breed of high performance center consoles; a June "Boat Sense" spotlight in The Fisherman Magazine.

By Capt. John N. Raguso

There is nothing quite like the exhilarating feeling of speeding to your favorite offshore fishing spot at 35 to 40 knots, racing the oncoming sunrise to see who gets to the 100-fathom line first. Captain and crew are alone with their thoughts in a dreamy trance contemplating the rod and reel battles to come, as the wind howls through the riggers, punctuated by the occasional “whoosh” of the deep-vee slicing through pre-dawn seas and the steady growl of a trio or quad of big-block four-strokes pushing relentlessly towards the GPS’s final destination.

This is the ultimate in get-there fast sportfishing, and you are on the right boat, at the right time and in the right place to make it happen. I have been there and done that and it’s truly a singular experience.

This Boat Sense column focuses on high performance sportfishers, which are a special breed of center console craft designed to travel great distances at high rates of speed and have the fuel capacity/range, comfort and power to get you there and back faster than the average fishing boat. High performance center consoles typically range in size from 32 to 50-plus feet in length and the majority of them are outboard powered. These boats can bridge the gap between wave crests when underway at speed, effectively neutralizing the tendency of smaller vessels to fall off of wave tops and into the troughs, creating a smoother and drier ride in the process.

Northeast anglers and their style of high performance center consoles have to travel longer distances than their southern counterparts to get to the numerous canyons that dot the 100-fathom curve from the DelMarVa all the way northeast to Gloucester, enduring constantly-changing weather patterns and shifting sea conditions many miles from shore. Although high performance sportfishers tend to have a singular look and feel, there are many traits that they all share in common.

Bigger is definitely better—and bigger gives you a lot more room both above decks and below to add all of the requisite fishing and comfort features that make an extended stay at your favorite canyon an eminently workable and comfortable experience. Most high performance chariots offer at least 10 to 12 hours or more of cruising range, so depending on your projected outboard power and fuel burn, fuel tanks can be anywhere from 350 to 1,000 gallons (You read that right, we’ll explain more later in the article.). If I were shopping for a high performance chariot, I would insist on at least a 12-hour cruising range or more, if that were available with optional fuel tankage from the boat builder of choice.

These vessels typically have a minimum of two recirculating livewells; 1,000-quarts plus of insulated cooler capacity via either under-sole fishboxes, external coffin boxes or both; storage for at least 20 rodholders; sitting positions for at least five to six crew members; a sleeping cabin under the huge center console; plus room for two or three big function displays at the expanded dash for all of your marine electronics.

Tackle centers are a must, as are plenty of dry storage for all of your gear, a standup marine head and at least 30 gallons or more of freshwater capacity. Some of the larger boats in this size range take the creature comfort factor to the max with air-conditioning and even more spacious quarters down below.

The first generation of high performance boats introduced back in the early 1990s started to break the 30-foot barrier, with triple two-stroke outboards on mid-30-foot hulls. The vessels in this initial vanguard were racers that were converted over to fishing boats by adding a center console, a T-top and a few other requisite items like rodholders, fishboxes and livewells. Some names that come to mind from these early trend setters and opinion-shapers were Donzi, Fountain, Cigarette, Scarab and other lesser known Florida boutique boat builders. Most of these early platforms sported traditional 22- to 24-degree deep-vee running bottoms with long length-to-beam ratios of 3.5 to 1 or more.

The problem with these first generation offerings were that they were not really designed from the get-go to be sport fishing boats and a lot of their hull shapes and build technology were borrowed from the race boat world with band-aid solution add-ons to appeal to anglers. Sure, they could go fast into the sea in a straight line, but didn’t have a lot of room onboard for the usual fishing gear, due to narrow beams and deck plans that were not quite fit for the task. And when you stopped to troll, drift or anchor, these running bottoms were prone to excessive amounts of rock and roll due to their unique length-to-beam ratios, and not up to the typical multi-mission specifications required by today’s bluewater fishing machines.

But the need for speed was firmly planted in the minds of coastal anglers who wanted to be the first ones to the faraway fishing grounds and evolution, driven by consumer demand and the birth of the SKA (Southern Kingfish Association) tournament trail, began to reshape the marketplace. At the turn of the millennium, new designs from builders like Contender, Intrepid, Donzi, Hydra-Sports, Yellowfin, Scarab, Regulator, SeaVee and others started to appear to curious onlookers on the boat show circuit, with fresh ideas and advanced hull shapes.

And now that the great recession seems to be behind us, both the 40- and 50-foot barriers have been broken in rapid succession, as boat builders race to see who can be the top dog in the high performance sportfishing world.

These days, it seems that there are dozens of boat builders offering 30-foot plus high performance center consoles, with relatively new players coming into the market on a regular basis. One of the hottest new builders that has made its way up north is Invincible, joining some of the more traditional names like Scout, Grady-White, Boston Whaler, Pursuit, Mako, Robalo, Everglades, EdgeWater, Cobia, Key West, Jupiter, Southport, Sea Hunter, Sea Hunt, Sailfish, Pro-Line, Sportsman, Century and others who have all created their own vision of what the ultimate high performance fish boat should offer.

And the big dog on the block as of this writing is Hydra-Sports Custom’s totally “killa” 53 Sueños (dream) center console, which can be powered by up to a quartet of fire-breathin’ Seven Marine 627-horsepower four-stroke outboards, with a top speed of almost 70 mph and a comfortable cruising speed of 51 mph at 0.5 mpg - that’s really moving!

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