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Sportsman 20: built like a small yacht

Old salts around L.I. Sound say the Carolina-built center console is like a pocket Buddy Davis

Old salts around L.I. Sound say the Carolina-built center console is like a pocket Buddy Davis

For more than 30 years Capt. Jim Shaw has fished and run boats on Northeast waters. The Stonington, Conn., resident says he spent much of that time looking for a 20- to 21-foot boat — for personal use and for which to be a dealer — that was seaworthy and built like a small yacht.

“I found one,” he says.

What Shaw found was the Sportsman 20 from Bayshore Boats, Inc., of Castle Hayne, N.C. The outboard-powered fishing platform boasts distinctive Carolina styling and a meticulous construction process.

The Sportsman 20’s bottom has more vee — to handle choppier waters — than Bayshore’s original 20-footer, a flats skiff called the Carolina Bay 20.

“It’s just a lot smarter boat for around here,” says Shaw, 45. Compared to the Carolina Bay 20, he says, the Sportsman 20’s hull is more like that of a regular center console.

Shaw’s personal Sportsman 20 has an optional teak toe-rail around the bow, giving it the look of a much larger Carolina sportfisherman. Teak floorboards and additional teak trim are also available.

There are a couple of cockpit arrangements available on the Sportsman 20. Shaw’s boat is set up with a bench seat on the back of the cockpit, while a leaning post is available when the console is placed farther forward.

The console itself has a hydraulic lift so the boat’s electronics can be stored out of sight. This keeps them out of the elements and helps prevent theft, as it cannot be lifted when the power is off. Shaw outfitted his Sportsman 20 with a Garmin chartplotter, a Furuno fishfinder and an Icom radio.

The console is further equipped with an Edson steering wheel and a custom aluminum throttle with built-in power trim and tilt. Hydraulic steering and recessed trim tabs are standard.

“It’s basically set up like a little yacht,” Shaw says.

The Sportsman 20 recently ran comfortably over a 2-foot chop off Stonington at 40 mph. The more throttle we gave the 140-hp Suzuki 4-stroke, the better the boat seemed to respond to the conditions. Beyond the Stonington breakwaters and into Long Island Sound, the hull provided a soft landing in a 2-1/2-foot ground swell, taken at slightly lower speeds.

The Sportsman 20 has an 8-foot, 4-inch beam and 14 degrees of deadrise at the transom. As a way to keep the boat stable at rest, Shaw says, Bayshore avoided any deeper of a vee bottom. This design also means the Sportsman 20 cruises faster and is more fuel-efficient than its competitors, according to Shaw.

In addition to the dry ride and traditional Carolina looks that come with a generous amount of bow flare, the wide bow provides a large platform for fishing.

Shaw says his Sportsman 20 cruises at 35 mph at 4,200 rpm, around 41 to 42 mph at 5,000 rpm, and hits a top speed of 47 mph. Larger outboards are available — the boat is rated for up to 225 hp — but Shaw says he likes the way it handles and its fuel efficiency with the 140-hp engine.

After returning from our sea trial, a couple of old salts admired the Sportsman 20’s looks, saying its bow flare reminded them of a pocket-sized Buddy Davis Carolina fishing boat.

Shaw says the Sportsman 20 is even stronger than it looks. “I can go anywhere in this thing,” he says.

Shaw has visited Bayshore Boats’ North Carolina facility several times and says the Sportsman 20 is built like a tank. The company is especially particular about the fiberglass being “perfect” and not having any blisters, he says.

Bayshore uses quality, modern materials and techniques to build its boats, including vinylester resin, stitched laminates, foam coring and Plexus adhesives, according to Shaw. The company uses a three-part hull mold to build the Sportsman 20 with its dramatic curves and distinctive tumblehome aft.

Shaw says the high-tech materials Bayshore uses keep the boats light but still strong — “super strong,” he says.

“It’s a classy looking rig, too,” Shaw says. “Not the run of the mill.”

The stainless steel hardware is flush-mounted, including pop-up cleats and a pop-up gas cap. Shaw has his boat outfitted with a fish well, a live well under the bench seating, and an extra live well in the storage area under the forward deck.

Shaw, a saltwater fly fishing and light tackle charter captain for Long Island Sound, Cape Cod and the Islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, chose to be a dealer for Bayshore after much waiting.

“I’ve run 80 million boats, but this is the first one I’ve repped,” Shaw says.

Shaw says he planned for years to become a high-end dealer for this area and to find a boat, for his own sportfishing, that would work well in local waters.

Pricing for the Bayshore Boats Sportsman 20, without power, starts around $40,000; base price with power is around $55,000.

Shaw says he is happy to make appointments for demonstrations with interested buyers. Phone: (860) 536-0303.

Bayshore Boats, Inc., Castle Hayne, N.C.