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Where fishing meets high performance

In the past year, a couple well-known boatbuilders have blurred the line between high-performance boating and center console fishing.

In the past year, a couple well-known boatbuilders have blurred the line between high-performance boating and center console fishing. One — a legendary name in offshore deep-vees — is carrying its bad-boy image into a more family-friendly market. The other has been building center console fishing boats for years but is reaching back to its go-fast roots for inspiration — and to remind competitive anglers of its speedboat heritage.

Within a matter of months late last year, Cigarette Racing Team unveiled a 39-foot center console and Wellcraft resurrected the Scarab name for its top-of-the-line tournament center consoles, in addition to introducing the 30 Scarab Tournament.

Cigarette debuted its Top Fish at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. The 39-footer was striking from dockside, with its custom paint job, edgy graphics (a shark attacking a billfish, no less), huge Northstar touch-screen navigation system at the helm, and a trio of black Mercury Verado 4-strokes hanging off the transom.

“What we wanted to have was a family performance boat,” says Cigarette CEO and president Skip Braver. “And we knew we wanted it to look like a Cigarette.”

The Top Fish at the boat show was admittedly over-the-top, with its custom aluminum billet T-top supports, pleated cockpit bolsters, embroidered logos and actuated transom and helm seating. It had the look of a concept boat, but the Top Fish is for real. Cigarette hopes to sell 24 center consoles a year on top of the 75 to 80 boats it typically sells annually.

The Top Fish project took two years to come to fruition, according to Braver, and there was plenty to learn along the way. For example, the style of hatches used on fishing boats was completely foreign to Cigarette. Braver also insisted on getting the ride right, which proved a lengthy process. To accomplish that, the company started with its classic deep-vee hull design and changed the center of gravity, increased the beam and reduced the transom deadrise to 22 degrees from the traditional 24 degrees of a Cigarette.

The key to the ride was the boat’s center of gravity. Braver says many competitors’ boats don’t get it right, so Cigarette worked with the hull and used sandbags in testing. “When I knew we had it right was when we ran it without the hardtop; it went 66 mph,” says Braver. “And then we ran it with the hardtop, and it ran 66 mph. Everybody’s saying how cool it is, but when you ride on it that’s what it’s all about.”

The Top Fish hit that 66-mph mark in sea trials with triple 275-hp Mercury Verado supercharged outboards. The boat has an impressive cruise speed of 48 mph at 4,500 rpm. With quadruples, the boat should hit 74 or 75 mph, Braver says.

For a center console geared toward the family market, there were other considerations besides speed and ride. “We wanted a big shower,” says Braver. “I’m a big guy; I don’t exactly fit in a closet.” An airline-style door provides access to the air conditioned in-console head and shower compartment. And if the kids get tired of fishing, they can retreat to the air-conditioned forward cabin to play video games on the entertainment center with flat-screen television.

The Top Fish reflects the evolving lifestyle of a number of Cigarette customers, which more and more includes children and fishing, according to the company.

Wellcraft’s Scarab customer of yesteryear has gone through a lifestyle change as well. “He had six-pack abs and three girlfriends,” quips Wellcraft general manager Mike O’Connell of the typical Scarab owner of the 1980s. “Now he has 12-pack abs and three ex-wives.”

Joking aside, the company is targeting the performance-boat market with its Scarab Tournament center consoles, in addition to the performance angler. The Scarab name made its official re-entry last summer, and the 30 Scarab Tournament is the new model, while some existing Wellcraft center consoles were rebranded Scarabs.

“All those old line drawings are incorporated into these Scarabs, especially the 30,” says O’Connell.

“We wanted to come back as fishing performance,” says Wellcraft director of marketing Peter Taylor. “Go-fast for a reason.”

In addition to competitive anglers, a prospective Scarab owner might be someone who has participated in poker runs but now wants to take the kids fishing. “Maybe they’re looking at something else to do other than run around picking up cards,” says O’Connell.

While it’s still about performance, the Scarab name has been appropriated for a new mission. “It’s not about racing,” says O’Connell. “It’s a Scarab hull, but it’s modified for fishing. It’s designed to be stable.” The 30 Scarab Tournament has a retail price of $132,300, and hits a top speed of 54 mph with twin Yamaha F250s.

This intersection of high-performance and fishing isn’t exactly new. Fountain Powerboats and Donzi Marine, for example, have been active in both offshore powerboat racing and tournament angling for years, offering lines of high-performance and fishing boats. Donzi actually first entered the fishing boat market when Don Aronow created a 19-foot center console in 1965. The company has exited and re-entered that market a handful of times — the company has changed hands several times, too — but for the last decade it has had a strong sportfishing program.

“All of these [Donzi center consoles] start as true high-performance hulls — our offshore racing hulls — with the stepped bottom and everything else,” says Donzi vice president of marketing Josh Stickles. He says the deep-vee boats have been relatively narrow but are becoming beamier.

Stickles calls resurrecting the Scarab name a “smart move” by Wellcraft. Not to be outdone, however, Donzi recently introduced a hybrid center console called the 35ZFX. The new boat has an L-shaped seat forward of the center console, a cabin in the bow … and, of course, power options to 600 hp.


Wellcraft 30 Scarab Tournament

LOA: 30 feet, 2 inches

BEAM: 9 feet, 2 inches

DRAFT: 2 feet, 7 inches (engines down)

DISPLACEMENT: 6,635 pounds

HULL TYPE: deep-vee


TANKAGE: 288 gallons fuel, 13 gallons water

ENGINE OPTION: twin outboards to 600 hp

SPEED: 54 mph top, 29 mph cruise (with twin Yamaha F250s)

PRICE: $132,300

CONTACT: Wellcraft Boats, Sarasota, Fla.

Phone: (941) 751-7838.


Cigarette Top Fish

LOA: 39 feet

BEAM: 10 feet

DRAFT: 3 feet

DISPLACEMENT: 11,500 pounds

HULL TYPE: deep-vee


TANKAGE: 420 gallons fuel, 40 gallons water

ENGINE OPTION: triple or quadruple 2- or 4-stroke outboards to 1,200 hp SPEED: 66 mph top, 48 mph cruise (with triple 275-hp Mercury Verados) PRICE: $425,393

CONTACT: Cigarette Racing Team, Miami.

Phone: (305) 931-4564.