In the fifth part of our series on what to look for in a center console boat, we asked our experts about considerations when it comes to features and amenities. Here are their recommendations.
David Glenn, Pursuit Boats
“At Pursuit, we think that all of the fishing-specific features in center consoles take precedence. The must-haves would be rod holders – gunwale and assorted mounting locations on T-tops and such to get rods out of the way when fighting fish – as well as tackle storage, a livewell and insulated fish boxes.
“But as more families are starting to fish together, husbands, wives and children of all ages have different needs when it comes to comfort. Additional seating in the bow, forward of the console, and foldaway-style seating in the transom and gunwale areas port and starboard are great ways to let everyone on the team find a comfortable place to sit and cruise back and forth to the fishing grounds.
“Pursuit has a tender line of center consoles aptly named Sport Tenders. First and foremost, a lot of seating is great to give clientele a comfortable platform to cruise, picnic, dive and fish from. The tender needs to have abundant storage spaces for all types of different stores, as a day’s activities can start with a little fishing, move towards an island picnic with some water sports activities, a snorkel, tube ride or some wakesurfing, or even a full tank dive, then back to the mothership.
“And of course, one of the most important things to keep in mind when it comes to features is a company’s reputation for building a quality product. Then, take a look at the features and see if they’re built into the original design with limited seams and heavy-duty hardware. The ability for the product to be durable, lasting and easy to maintain are as important has having the right features. The more systems and parts that are built in-house, the more the builder can control within its own doors.”
Joan Maxwell, Regulator Marine
“There are a number of must-haves: First, a boat capable of getting to the fishing grounds and home! If there isn’t enough V in the bottom and the boat isn’t heavy enough to ride well in rough seas, then all the other ‘haves’ are useless. Second, adequate electronic space and electrical systems that are robust enough to support them. Third, under-gunwale toe room. Basically, when a fisherman has his knees/thighs against the gunwale, his feet are under the gunwale, anchoring him in the boat. Fourth, rod holders and fishing tackle storage. Anglers must have a place to secure their gear for the ride offshore and back. Fifth, a livewell. Not all anglers live bait fish, but those who do consider it heresy if a boat doesn’t have at least a small live bait well. Sixth, fishboxes – preferably in the transom or in the floor and large enough to throw a tuna in.
“Cruisers will want seating, seating and did I say seating? Cruising is about comfort and entertaining. Another must-have: tunes! Look for a stereo with iPod/phone docking station and electronics that allow for changing songs right from the screen. Large, lighted head compartments let children and adults go to the bathroom without feeling like their climbing into an underground cave! Lastly, safe boarding ladders for returning to the boat after a swim.
“Those who plan to use their center console as a tender need to look for tow eyes that are placed on the hull in such a way as to allow the bow to ride up on the waves and surf down them while the boat is under tow. You’ll also need adequate and safe boarding from the larger vessel. Some boats use dive doors while others, like Regulator, use the engine bracket and transom walk-through door. Hawse pipes both stern and mid-ships allow you to easily secure bumpers.”
John Caballero, SeaVee Boats
“Fishability is enhanced with a flush deck from transom to bow. This allows anglers to fight fish around the entire boat without the danger of stumbling over steps. A livewell in the transom makes it easy to monitor and access your bait. More hardcore fishermen might want a second livewell, particularly if they do lots of live chumming or carry more than one species of bait. Rod holders act as storage devices. You’ll need more than you think for fishability and convenience. Look for a well-insulated fish box, large enough to hold your catch. Choose your mission-critical electronics, like the fish finder and chart plotter, wisely, and make sure they’re installed properly.
“Comfortable seating becomes the central focus for cruising. Most center consoles have built-in seating in the forward console area. This could be supplemented with wraparound seating in the bow. Most seats will feature integrated cup holders, or they might be installed nearby. The leaning post on larger center consoles can be modified to increase fore and aft facing seating. Lastly, the transom area can typically accommodate a bench seat, and in larger craft, wraparound seating. An alternative to molded-in seats are fold-down bench seats that get out of the way or can be removed outright if additional deck space is preferred.
“A specially designed tow eye must be properly installed on the boat if it’s to be towed behind the mothership. The tow eye should be surrounded by a strike plate to prevent any damage to the surrounding gelcoat by the tow bridle. Some boats tow better than others, so check into the builder’s reputation in this area. Storing the boat aboard a large vessel requires lifting points, with the proper hardware installed. Otherwise, it’s a function of an onboard davit system and storage cradle matched to the boat. Some owners may prefer that their center console tender be powered by diesel engines, so it can be fueled from the same tanks aboard the mothership.”
Shelly Tubaugh, Grady-White Boats
“No matter what type of boating you’re doing, safety is always foremost in choosing a boat. Coast Guard-certified basic flotation is included in all Grady-White boats, even though it isn’t required in boats over 20ft. Consider this important factor in any boat brand you’re evaluating.
“Hull performance is also key for any type of boating. Having a continuously variable hull like Grady-White’s SeaV2 hull that can slice through any kind of difficult sea conditions guarantees you’ll have more days on the water when other hulls won’t be comfortable to take out, giving you more value for your boating investment.
“Quality materials and workmanship that mean a minimum of maintenance over time are important, too, so that your investment lasts and you have more time fishing than taking care of a boat. Built-in fishing features like toe rails, rod holders, raw-water livewells, washdowns and fish boxes all make fishing more fun and efficient. Check to see that these features are designed in a way that they are truly functional and fit your needs for the type of fishing you’ll be doing.
“After safety, hull performance and quality, cruisers will want to look for creature comforts that make their day more fun, like plenty of comfortable seating. Consider cushion thickness and placement around the boat when evaluating this aspect. Also, simple things like cup holders, storage for your sunscreen, sunglasses, etc., and a nice head compartment can make your day much more enjoyable.
“For service as a tender, the first three count here again – safety, a great hull and high quality all combine to make a tough, sturdy boat that can withstand time at sea as a tender. The quality of materials and reliability of workmanship become even more important if the tender is going to be on deck on a larger vessel and left for long periods of time.”
Dale Martin, Sportsman Boats
“Some must-have features in a fishing boat would be a soft, dry ride to get you to the fish, a self-bailing cockpit that drains well and doesn’t let the water wash back into the boat, large livewells and, for the lucky angler, a fish box and room for a big cooler.
“Most center console buyers spend more time cruising with friends and family than fishing. Comfortable seating and lots of storage top the list of must-haves in any family fishing boat. When Momma is happy, we’re all happy.
“Quality stainless steel hardware, through-bolted with backing plates, are a must for the harsh saltwater environment. When considering a specific boat brand, talk to customers that own one, and if possible, take a plant tour of the facility that builds them.”
Alan Lang, Scout Boats
“As a buyer of a fishing boat, you’ll definitely want rod storage, livewells, a fish box and a comfortable platform to fish from. Other fishing features will depend on what type of fishing you do. You’ll also want a boat that provides safety and stability.
“For cruising boaters, look for things like drink holders, nice cushions and comfort areas in the vessel for entertaining. Also look for storage. Coolers and electric grills are very nice. Air conditioning, an enclosed head, good sound system and lighting are also important.
“If you plan to use the boat as a tender, you’ll need a nice stainless-steel tow eye. The placement of this eye on the bow is crucial, and so is the shape of the boat. Scout places its tow eye in a fashion that keeps the bow high to prevent it from getting ‘stuffed’ under water by oncoming waves. The tender should also have foam flotation in the event of taking a wave over the bow or gunnels in heavy seas.”
Coming up: Look for the final article in center console, covering warranties, in the next issue of All At Sea. To comment on this article, email firstname.lastname@example.org.