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May 23, 2011

Carolina Skiff 23 Ultra Elite SS

This represents the best-running Carolina Skiff I’ve ever driven.

If you instantly think of a flat-bottom, barge-style hull when you see the Carolina Skiff name, then think again. Sure, the company built its reputation on such incredibly stable, shallow-running, affordable craft. But evolution has struck Waycross, Georgia. Designed as a two-in-one crossover vessel, the 23 Ultra Elite SS functions as a bay or nearshore/offshore boat and may well be one of this company’s best-designed, best-running boats to date!

The wind cranked during the Miami International Boat Show in February, making the bays and waterways truly ugly. A one- to two-foot chop within a period of a nanosecond was the norm.

As I idled out of the show marina, my decibel meter registered an almost silent 71 db at the helm, and the wake looked absolutely clear. Trolling at 7.5 mph, the wake exhibited moderate surface turbulence, and subsurface on centerline was minimal.

Though it carries a maximum horsepower rating of a single 250, my test boat came with a 200 hp Suzuki that lifted us onto plane in an instantaneous 2.5 seconds. I am talking up and out! The 200 offered a very respectable top speed of 42.3 mph, burning 18 gph. Budget-minded anglers will appreciate cruising at 25 while burning a scant 6.7 gph. A happy medium between optimum cruise and WOT came at 33 mph using 10.8 gph, and the boat handles very nicely at all speeds.

At 30 mph with the engine tucked under, the 23 Elite bleeds off speed quickly, and the rear end slides enough to keep everyone safely aboard. Drifting outside the inlet, the 23 showed a very short, stable roll moment with moderate transitions. After running in the nasty chop in every possible direction, I found this marine SUV to have a dry, smooth ride and not a single idiosyncrasy.

Anglers prefer clean decks on small boats so cast nets and fly lines don’t snag. Carolina Skiff won’t disappoint them thanks to pop-up cleats and low-profile bow rails. Those who anchor to fish and opt for old-school methods rather than a Power-Pole will like the notch for the anchor rode molded into the anchor-locker hatch. That way, you don’t need to constantly leave the hatch open while you fish.

The 23 boasts room for 16 rods under the gunwales, along with two rod holders in each gunwale and four more across the back of the leaning post (along with a pair of drink holders), coaming cushions all around, a 20-gallon transom livewell and a compartment for storing Plano removable tackle boxes in the transom as well.

Certainly, those flat-bottomed original Carolina Skiff designs proved to be some of the most stable fishing platforms this side of a seaside pier. Thankfully, this new hull design sacrifices virtually nothing in the lateral stability or roll-moment arenas. You can stand on the rail and this 23 barely leans. Riding beam-to the seas while drift fishing is as comfortable as it can possibly be with a short roll moment and extremely gentle transitions.