Louisiana native Capt. Brad O'Dell has been around boats all his life and has skippered everything from a 7-foot pirogue to a 194-foot oil rig supply vessel. But the best boat he's ever owned is the one he has now, a boat that was brought back to life with a thorough makeover and has served the 52-year-old construction salesman and fishing-lure maker for the last 15 years.
It's a 1983 SeaCraft 20 Master Angler, which O'Dell bought in 1995 for $6,500. "I wanted a good, reliable offshore fishing boat," says O'Dell, who lives in Melbourne, Fla. "Not only to fish from but because I invent and make saltwater, deepwater fishing lures for marlin, dolphin, those kinds of fish. They really need to be tested in varying conditions, and that requires an all-weather boat."
The SeaCraft name kept popping up during his search for a boat. "I've been around a lot of boats and a lot of people over the years," he says. "Everybody I talked to agreed: If you can find a SeaCraft, buy it. One guy had three of them and he said every time he sold one, he cried. So I starting looking, and the third one I came across I sea-trialed, made an offer and it was a done deal."
O'Dell had also worked search-and-rescue around Key Largo, Fla., in a SeaCraft, though he didn't really know much about the builder at the time. "It was the boat we used in our offshore runs," he says. "So later on I remembered what it was capable of. It was a boat you could take anywhere."
The $6,500 price tag reflected the boat's condition. "It had been used and abused, but it ran," O'Dell says.
He blew the outboard it came with and replaced it with its current engine, a 1995 Mercury. "The steering arm broke, too, and I brought it to a shop," he says. "I noticed cracks in the transom plate and that's what started the restoration."
Since then, he's basically rebuilt the boat, with the process documented on his website (www.frenzie.com). "It's a great fishing boat," he says. "The high gunwales feel safe, and in rough waters you can easily walk all around the boat. It has a deep cockpit and there's not a lot of stuff on deck - even the hand rails are recessed."
The Master Angler's true test comes when there's a fish on. "It's a good fish boat, very responsive, quick to the helm," says O'Dell. "It doesn't back well because of that low transom, but you can make a nice sweep toward the fish instead. When you've got a 30- or 40- pound dolphin, you can maneuver just about any way you want."
O'Dell fishes the waters between Miami and Marathon, in the Keys, poking in and out of the bays, channels and hideaways as well as running offshore. He can range 80 miles or so a day with the 150-hp Mercury and 50-gallon fuel tank. "It's a pretty fast boat, but I'm more interested in range," he says. "Sometimes I run 15 or 16 knots testing a lure, sometimes 3 or 4 knots, and it does both well."
It takes a lot of weather to slow the SeaCraft, he says. "I've been out many times when bigger boats, 30- and 40-footers, were coming back in."
But it's those fair-weather days that stand out. "We start out for dolphin in the early morning, maybe stop for yellowtail or even lobster on the way in or drag across a reef for grouper," O'Dell says. "When I go fishing, I might come back with just about anything. When I grill, I like to have a smorgasbord."
And that's kind of what the Master Angler is, too - a full plate of inshore and offshore boat. "It's an all-around anywhere boat," says O'Dell. "I can't see owning any other boat than a SeaCraft."
The 20 Master Angler shows the classic lines of a SeaCraft center console, with its high sides, flared bow and notched transom. There's a small foredeck (with storage locker below) and the wide gunwales start forward and narrow moving aft. Underneath are recessed hand rails and, on the port side, lockable racks for eight fishing rods. The open foredeck serves a casting platform and doubles as a 280-quart in-deck fishbox.
At the transom, there's a 65-quart bait well to port and a self-draining 15-quart ice chest to starboard. The high sides translate to a maximum cockpit depth of 2 feet. The helm station features a pair of pedestal seats and a large instrument panel, protected by a tall windscreen. There's a hinged cooler seat ahead of the console and more storage in a 125-quart compartment underneath the deck, forward.
The 20 Master Angler rides a variable deadrise hull, with three longitudinal sections. The outer (at the chines) is relatively flat and the inner (at the keel) is a deep-vee, with a moderate section in between. Hull steps at the juncture of the sections create aeration, reducing drag and improving speed and economy.
SeaCraft Marine Industries was founded by South Florida angler Bill Potter in the late 1960s. Its first major success, the 20 SF, debuted in the early '70s, and more than 1,700 of the tough fishing boats were sold during that decade. In that time, SeaCraft boats became sought-after for their fishability and offshore performance. In fact, the company held the Miami-Nassau speed record for a twin-outboard boat in the '70s. The 20 Master Angler debuted in 1975. SeaCraft went out of business in the mid-1980s and was revived by Tracker Marine in 1996. The boats are still built today. Prices for an original 20 Master Angler vary greatly, from less than $10,000 and up. The later models, built in the 1990s and 2000s start in the low to mid-$20,000 range.
LOA: 19 feet, 8 inches
BEAM: 7 feet, 6 inches
DRAFT: 1 foot (engine up)
WEIGHT: 1,600 pounds (without engine)
HULL TYPE: variable deadrise (16 degrees at transom)
PROPULSION: single outboard to 175 hp
FUEL CAPACITY: 42 gallons
DESIGNER: Bill Potter
ORIGINAL BUILDER: SeaCraft Industries, Princeton, Fla.
This article originally appeared in the September 2010 issue.
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