Fishing for perfection

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These experts agree that the best boats start with a comfortable, dry ride and plenty of storage

The “perfect” fishing boat is somewhat of an elusive concept. There are just so many variables — big boat or small, inboard or outboard, where and how you fish, your budget, to name a few.

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Variables aside, veteran anglers and boatbuilders agree that the perfect fishing boat, at its core, delivers a soft, dry and relatively fuel-efficient ride in a stable platform with unencumbered deck space and ample storage.

“A well-designed layout is essential to ensure that everything is where it should be to make the day on the water the best it can be,” says Ariel Pared, president of SeaVee Boats in Miami (www.seavee boats.com). “Our boats are known for storage; there is a place for everything. We build a three-piece boat — a hull, inner liner and deck. That allows us to give the owner 360-degree fishability. It allows us to build more compartments.”

Storage should come in all sizes, shapes and kinds, says Al Herum, a former Florida Keys charter captain who fishes a 20-foot SeaCraft with a Suzuki DF140 and used to run a Contender 25 center console and a 37-foot twin-screw Stapleton express. “I have two full anchor sets on the boat for different conditions,” he says. “I have a large coffin box on the foredeck, and I have an in-deck live well in the cockpit.”

Let’s not forget about rods. “Stowage for rods and tackle is imperative, yet all items should be readily available when needed,” says Peter Frederiksen, director of communications at Viking Yacht (www.vikingyachts.com). “You shouldn’t have to move stuff to get at other stuff.”

The more fishboxes, the better, says Les Stewart Jr., Contender’s marketing director (www.contenderoffshore.com). “You need storage not only for your gear but for ice and the fish themselves,” he says. “You need multiple large, fully lined and insulated fishboxes.”

Adds Pared: “Below-deck compartments should drain overboard to prevent contamination of the boat’s bilge and causing nasty odors.”

The value of certain fishing boat elements depends on the type of fishing. “If you fish mostly with live bait, then the bait well system becomes one of the most important single features in a good fishing boat,” says Wiley Nagler, president and owner of Yellowfin Yachts (www.yellowfinyachts.com). “For others, storage is a big issue, but some people take more gear than they need. I seem to take just what I need, so [storage capacity] is farther down on my list.”

Keeping things dry

For Bill Platt, it’s all about keeping his gear and himself dry. “You don’t want to be running 50 to 100 miles fighting spray and wearing every piece of foul-weather gear you have,” Platt says. “Being wet flat-out sucks.”

Platt fishes a 36-foot Invincible center console (www.invincibleboats.com) in the Southern Kingfish Association professional tournament circuit. Dry storage is one of the most crucial components on his boat. On long runs to and from the fishing grounds, Platt wants his clothing and gear to stay bone-dry. And it does because the Invincible’s storage lockers and compartments have rubber-gasketed lids and positive-locking latches for a tight, snug fit.

The entire forward side of the console serves as a door that swings up with the aid of stainless steel gas struts. The builder houses the head here, but Platt and his crew use it to stow gear and personal items.

Well-thought-out storage areas help create a clutter-free open working space on deck, says Owen M. Maxwell, vice president of product development for Regulator Marine (www.regulatormarine.com). “The boat should have ample room to fish, whether it’s a large, workable cockpit in the stern or a full walkaround center console,” he says.

Anglers tend to be intolerant of elbow bumping and tripping over one another or some on-deck obstruction. “I would not buy a boat without a flush deck from stem to stern,” says Herum. “I don’t want the tripping hazard of a raised foredeck, and I want as much freeboard forward as possible. A raised foredeck raises you up and lowers your freeboard in the bow. I like the one-level deck because when I’m up there fooling with the anchor, I have some stability, some support.”

Stability and support loom large in any fishing boat, whether it’s a single-engine 25-foot center console or a 55-foot convertible. “There should be secure seating for all,” Frederiksen says. “The cockpit should be unobstructed — no toe stubbers or sharp angles. The cockpit should be self-draining.”

A day of fishing hard offshore can certainly drain an angler. To limit fatigue and keep the crew sharp, the boat has to handle big seas at a decent clip without beating up the occupants. “[Anglers] have limited time to fish, so they must be able to get where they are going relatively quickly and at a level of expected comfort,” Maxwell says. “Many of our customers tell us that they have more money than time, so this is critical. The hull must also be stable so that you don’t wear yourself out hanging on while fishing.”

The best fishing boats maintain a comfortable cruising speed in 2- to 4-foot seas. “To me, the ride is everything,” says Brad Berk of Niantic, Conn., who used to run a Yellowfin 33 to the canyons — an 85-mile jaunt. “In a 3- to 4-foot chop, I can go right over it without slowing down, without even blinking. In 5 to 6 [footers] that are a little spread out, it seems we can go 35 knots, especially when it’s a beam sea off the hind quarter.”

Fast and fuel-efficient

Fuel economy and speed factor into the perfect fishing boat’s performance picture. If you’re getting about 1 mpg while cruising 30 to 40 mph, you’re in relatively good shape. At 34.5 mph, a Regulator 28 FS with twin Yamaha F300s gets 1.9 mpg. A Contender 30ST with the same engines gets 1.8 to 2.1 mpg at 28 to 46 mph. A Yellowfin 39 with quad 300-hp Mercury Verados will cruise at 40 mph (4,000 rpm) with a mileage rating of 1.2.

Of course, mileage numbers vary greatly depending on the size of the boat and engine setup. A Viking 55 convertible with full fuel and water and a tuna tower cruising at 30 knots gets about 0.3 nmpg for a range of 453 nautical miles, based on 95 percent of its 1,414-gallon fuel capacity. A Boston Whaler 210 Montauk with a 150 Mercury FourStroke gets 3.8 mpg at 32 mph (www.bostonwhaler.com). A SeaVee 390 with twin Volvo Penta IPS600s (435 hp each) gets 1.5 mpg at about 37 mph. An Intrepid 400 with twin 400-hp Volvo Penta D4 diesel sterndrives gets nearly 2 mpg at 34 mph (www.intrepidboats.com).

A good builder will scatter handholds throughout the boat but avoid mounting hardware where it can snag lines or cause bodily harm. Platt’s center console has handholds at the helm console, on the leaning post and on the underside of the hardtop, and a recessed rail surrounds the open bow.

A well-placed handhold helps anglers keep their balance, as does toekick space. A good chef wouldn’t work in a kitchen without it, and an angler shouldn’t, either, says Walter Szeezil, of Palmetto, Fla. He knows because he has owned boats lacking toekick. (All of his residences have had kitchen toekick, though.) “You especially need it at the transom and at the helm,” says Szeezil, who runs a 26-foot Contender with twin 200-hp Yamaha 2-strokes. “Boats without it are really tiring to fish from or drive for hours at a time.”

Comfort for the captain

Comfort at the helm cannot be overlooked, so an ergonomic console design and the latest in electronics help the cause. New steering systems that allow the skipper to adjust friction and wheel response are improvements that most anglers should welcome.

At the fishing grounds, the “way the boat actually fishes, its stability at rest and the way the boat drifts and backs down are all important factors,” Nagler says. “I do not worry so much how an outboard boat backs down because my style of fishing is to fight the fish from midship or from the forward end of the boat.”

A boat that disagrees with the way you want it to drift can be frustrating, Szeezil says. “A boat that’s easy to fish from is one that drifts transom into the sea,” he says. “Beam to the sea drifting is extremely uncomfortable, almost impossible in all but the calmest conditions.”

The 26-foot catamaran he owned did just that. “It was a battle all day long,” Szeezil recalls. “It was one of the reasons I parted ways with the boat. You want to be battling the fish, not the way your boat drifts.”

See related articles:

- Going deep

- A look back at King Cod

- Acts of cod

- What happened to the halibut?

- Sport fishing for groundfish

June 2013 issue