Every summer until I was 15, my dad and I fished the skinny coastal waters inside Indian River Inlet, Delaware, for fluke. Though I remember our excursions with great fondness, I recall my dad always wanting a boat that would allow us to go farther offshore, while still being able to work inside the inlet. Unfortunately, boats were purpose-built for one or the other in those days.
Boatbuilders eventually cracked this problem with bay boats: relatively flat-decked, low-freeboard, shallow-draft designs that can fish and explore coastal waters, and that can venture offshore when the weather is palatable.
Regulator Marine, known for smooth-riding offshore center-console hulls, launched its first bay boat—the Regulator 26XO—in February.
“We designed the 26XO for coastal fish and play, and for offshore fishing and exploration on the right weather days,” said naval architect Lou Codega, who has designed every Regulator model. “It’s a crossover of sorts, which is why we gave it the XO badge.”
The 26XO looks different from most Regulators—especially when it comes to its low freeboard—but the new boat still has familiar design cues. There’s the sheerline that rises gracefully to the heavily flared bow before falling slightly at the tip. Also recognizable is the cutout transom, with angled-up ends and rounded topside transitions.
Jigging for striped bass on Chesapeake Bay seemed like the perfect activity to test this particular model, so I joined five marine industry colleagues at a Yamaha Marine media event in June to see if Regulator got the bay-boat mix right, so to say.
At the dock, the 26XO easily swallowed up all our gear and tackle in stowage cubbies and lockers. Fishy features included a 32-gallon livewell with a tackle center, three forward fish boxes, rod holders, an optional bow-mounted trolling motor, and optional twin Power-Pole anchoring blades. (Fly anglers: The under-gunwale stowage cannot accommodate 9-foot fly rods.)
Loaded and ready to go, we sped down the Miles River for open water as Regulator skipper Al Partin stoked the coals inside the Yamaha F300 4-stroke outboard. According to Yamaha, the F300 can launch the 26XO up to 39.5 knots at wide-open throttle and cruise around 25 knots. With six people aboard and a full load of fuel and gear, we managed a top end of about 32 knots.
While most of us stood for the ride, we each could have taken a seat in the three cockpit jump seats, twin bucket helm seats, forward console bench and forward chaises with flip-up backrests. Many of our crew appreciated the privacy of the under-console head compartment.
The fish were highly uncooperative that afternoon, but the boat never felt cramped, and we were never climbing on top of one another to get a cast in.
On the cruise back to the dock, the hull flew nicely over a short but steep 1- to 2-foot chop, just like a Regulator should.
This article originally appeared in the October 2019 issue.