Gamefisherman was founded in Stuart, Florida, in 1985 by Mike Matlack, a lifelong fisherman who had spent many years working at Rybovich Boat Works in Palm Beach. At that time, boat builders were enjoying the efforts of engine manufacturers, who were producing bigger, more powerful engines. The new iron allowed builders to create larger boats into the 60-foot range with more complex systems. But Matlack remained a fan of the day-boat designs that were coming from Rybovich and Merritt during that period. For that reason, the first boat produced by his company was the Gamefisherman 40, a serious offshore machine sought out by tournament fishermen who believed a good boat is like a sharp hook and designed to do the job well.
The boat’s traditional cold-molded construction resulted in a modest displacement of 19,000 pounds. With mid-size, fuel-efficient, six-cylinder diesels and a 400-gallon fuel capacity, its lively performance from 24 to 28 knots at cruise merged with good range. A slippery, modified-V running surface with a crisp trolling wake at 6 knots could attract billfish like few other designs. Capt. Bubba Carter ran hull No. 5, the Tijereta. In 1990, while fishing out of Flamingo Bay in Costa Rica, his boat racked up more than 1,330 billfish in 190 days.
The 13-foot beam allowed for a wide cockpit that could anchor a fighting chair and still have room to spare for anglers working stand-up gear on 100-pound Pacific sails, marlin, swordfish, tuna and big mahi. The teak deck helped to muffle engine noise, and a bait-prep station, cockpit controls and a transom door made this boat suitable for any fishing mission. The flybridge was efficient with a single helm seat and small lounges flanking the mahogany helm pod. A tuna tower was a popular option.
As a true day boat, the deckhouse was tall enough to provide room and clearance for overhead fishing rod stowage. A small lounge and a dinette table provided comfort and weather protection for anglers, yet kept them just steps away from the cockpit for when there was a hit on a line. Below, single bunks were located port and starboard with the head in the bow. The Gamefisherman 40 packed ample amenities for owners who wanted some comfort, but focused most on fishability.
Much of the allure of the Gamefisherman 40 was the simplicity of its mechanical and 12-volt electrical systems, which made it a good choice for fishing in areas like Costa Rica, where self-sufficiency is paramount. Today, the Gamefisherman 40 has a peculiar habit of showing up in out-of-the-way places like Morocco and Pacific Ocean atolls as the tender for megayachts cruising around the world in search of new big-game hot spots.
Mike Matlack retired and sold his company in 2018, but the old school Gamefisherman 40 remains highly regarded by new and experienced tournament anglers who aren’t necessarily interested in the next best thing, but rather the boat that already knows how to raise billfish.
This article was originally published in the January 2022 issue.