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Since 1968, Pro-Line continues to appeal to consumers looking to get max value for their fishing boat investment.
By Capt. John N. Raguso
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Pro-Line has been making affordable fishing boats since Ray and Dan Atwood opened up shop back in 1968 down in Florida. Tens of thousands of fishing boats later and after a 2010 move to Washington, NC, Pro-Line continues to appeal to consumers looking to get max value for their fishing boat investment. Responding to various dealer and customer requests, Pro-Line took its proven 26 Express layout and created a hybrid design of sorts, adding a downsized, open-back pilothouse to a proven and popular model. The net result of the integrated framework with the large tempered glass windows and a fiberglass hardtop is unparalleled visibility and situational awareness in a full 360-degree circle around the boat, with the added benefits of weather protection for the captain and co-pilot. Unlike full box pilothouse designs that can be hot and stuffy, the Pro-Line 26 XP offers an open back design that can be weather-protected with a simple optional drop curtain. Large hinged vent windows port and starboard will focus fresh air into the house area when underway, plus a pair of screened vents overhead will add to the positive airflow.

From an angling standpoint, the three-sided mini pilothouse set-up compromises none of her standard fishing features; if anything, it enhances them and also increases the number of days you can fish due to the added weather protection. There are the usual two flush-mounted stainless steel rodholders per side in the thigh-high gunwales that offer 26 inches of internal cockpit depth amidships and 25 inches aft. A quartet of horizontal poly racks are positioned below each covering board port and starboard that will keep a variety of useful items at the ready, like lightweight spinning and baitcasting rods, gaffs, a tagging stick boat hook and deck brushes. A four-rod overhead rocket launcher is set on top of the fiberglass hardtop and it’s easily accessible from the cockpit. When it’s time to chill out your catch, twin insulated fishboxes positioned under the cockpit sole that measure 75 inches long by 18 inches wide by 17 inches deep will do the job nicely and drain their contents overboard at day’s end via a standard macerator pumpout. For live bait fans, a 20-gallon recirculating baitwell is located right where it will do the most good, in the starboard corner, set high in the transom cap, so there’s no going down on your hands and knees to grab a “livey” to catch the main course. A handy tackle center that includes a trio of 3600-series Plano tackle boxes is located just under the portside transom door, plus a freshwater shower/washdown system is also standard equipment, set conveniently out of the way in the port corner, but in the perfect spot for deployment for hosing down beach-goers or a bloody cockpit sole after a flurry of tuna, mahis or blues attack your baits. There’s a drop-down doublewide bench seat that stows neatly into the transom cap when it’s time to fish and the roomy cockpit measures a full 87 inches wide by 72 inches in length (44 square feet) and will accommodate a quartet of anglers with no personal space issues.

The helm features twin captains chairs that sit atop fiberglass stowage boxes, which will hold additional tackle and safety gear. The dash panel measure 18 inches wide by nine inches deep, so there’s plenty of room to flush-mount your favorite marine electronics, plus a marine compass is standard. Six feet, four inches of headroom is under the three-sided pilothouse with plenty of elbow room. Stepping down into the cabin through the 18-inch wide folding companionway, the cabin offers 65 inches of standing headroom, a six-foot long double bunk with a fold-down pedestal table filler, a portable head to starboard and a freshwater sink to port, plus a quartet of under-bunk stowage boxes.

Pro-Line has gone all-out to provide some powerful outboard options for the 26 XP, with the latest two-strokes from Evinrude, or four-stroke power from Mercury or Suzuki. If you opt for two Merc 150 HP Verados, factory tests have indicated a top speed that will range from 47 to 50 mph, depending on your passenger and fuel load. Twin 150 Suzukis will offer similar performance, but going with the max twin 225s will offer a top speed in the 55 to 58 mph range. You can also go with solo power if you like the simplicity of a single six-cylinder outboard with either an Evinrude 250 or 300 or a 250 or 300 supercharged Verado from Merc.

Notable standard features on the Pro-Line 26 XP include twin auto bilge pumps (one forward and one aft); a six-pack of eight-inch stainless steel pull-up cleats; all composite construction with foam-filled fiberglass stringer grid; Lenco recessed electric trim tabs; marine compass; folding doublewide bench seat aft; stainless steel bowrail and more, backed by a ten-year hull structural warranty. The MSRP of our test boat outfitted with a Merc 250 Verado four-stroke outboard, tilt helm upgrade, cockpit bolsters, aft enclosure for the pilothouse, double bench seat fore and aft at the helm with storage locker, four-speaker stereo, battery switch, port and starboard windshield wipers, spreader light and a portable head with overboard discharge was $110,070. According to the folks at my local dealer the Long Island Boat Center, the fall boat show special price for this option’s package on the 26 XP is only $94,109.