Spotlight on
Center Consoles

For such a simple concept, the center console boat comes in an astonishing variety of guises. Essentially, it’s one big cockpit with a steering pod in the middle. It’s a boat designed to speed you out to where the fish are biting, give you all the room you need to snag, fight and land as many as you can catch, then bring you back alive through no matter what wave and weather conditions.

Outside of that, there are a plethora of options: hull size and shape, from under 20 feet to over 30 feet, in deep-V or even catamaran designs; propulsion, from single, twin or even triple outboards to inboard Diesel; with or without T-top or even a tower; all the basic, ubiquitous fishing amenities like rod holders, rod storage, livewells, fish boxes, bait prep stations; and then, amenities for you and your guests, like rails and hand-holds, adequate seating, coolers for refreshments, and room inside the console for a head.
Peter Van Lancker of Hunt Yachts in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts ran the engineering department at Boston Whaler in the late 1980’s and early 90’s. “When we were building center consoles, they were built as fishing boats,” he recalls. "But now they’re selling them as family recreation day boats. At first the center console was like a pickup truck, where less is more, and the simpler the better. But now they’ve got everything including a head and the kitchen sink in the console and a couch in the back. They’ve got all the bells and whistles.”

So while you would think it would be easy to go out there and select a center console, the multiplicity of facets in these elements of design can put you in a daze pretty quick. Fortunately, fishing for a fishing boat can be an awful lot of fun, because it requires a lot of personal, hands-on investigation. In other words: boat rides!

Dealers are eager to take you out on the water. It’s important to do your homework in the magazines and on the Internet, but once you’ve honed in on the handful of final choices, you’ll find that nothing can replace the experience of getting in the boat and putting it through its paces.

The first step is to decide where and how you’re going to use the boat. If you’re going to stay in protected waters, you might not need a boat that can go 150 miles offshore. If you’re going to keep your boat on a lift at a pier, you might not need one you can trailer. If you are going to trailer the boat, make sure your vehicle can handle the weight of the tow. If you’re going to indulge in other water sports, you might want to make sure the swim platform provides adequate accessibility.

Propulsion is the next item to consider, but that’s too big a topic to cover in this brief space. Beyond that, you’ll want to see if there’s room on the dash for all the electronic displays you’re going to want to install, and the ability to access the back of the dash from inside the helm to make installation and service as simple as possible. You’ll also want to check construction techniques, and hull warranties. But most of all, you’ll need to get the feel for the boat, the acceleration, the planing, the handling in the turns, the stability of the boat at rest in wakes and waves, and overall performance. If it feels right, you’re on the right track.

So where did this simple concept come from? According to Winn Willard, marine architect and partner in the venerable C. Raymond Hunt & Associates of Boston, “The first ones I remember seeing were Aquasports that came out of Florida in the 60’s. They were a new thing when they came up here.”
In fact, the Aquasport website lays claim to applying a number of custom fishing yacht concepts to production recreational fishing boats, including the first line of center console boats in 1964, the first fiberglass stringers, and the “tuna tower” concept in 1967, not to mention the first walk-around cuddy cabin 1972. You’d also have to credit Bob Dougherty, who started EdgeWater Boats after 30 plus years of experience at Boston Whaler.

“Hunt Associates designed the first Robalo in 1969,” Willard recalls. “That was a 19-footer with a low deadrise in the back, sharp in the front, with an outboard. It was designed to be a dual-purpose boat, with a shallow draft for fishing in the flats and a lot of deadrise forward and flare to handle nasty water. That boat begat the Robalo company.”

Fortunately, a number of reputable boat builders have taken the basic concept and run with it, each more or less in its own new direction, to the point where there are so many to choose from today. So go have fun fishing for your new boat. The fun starts right here on this page.

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