Certainly, Contender has built fine, high-performance fishing boats for years, but only recently has the company changed its philosophy from exclusively building solid-bottom deep-V hulls to stepped-hull designs. Not to the exclusion of its old concepts, mind you, just in addition to them. Contender has always given its customers flexibility, and adding stepped hulls to its model mix does just that.
The Contender 37 sports two ventilating steps in the running surface. As this represents the first 37-foot hull of its type for Contender, the company has been working assiduously with Yamaha to determine the correct props for this boat (and for the 350 hp outboards). While tight-lipped about size and pitch of these new prototypes, they have four blades rather than three.
Our vessel came with triple Yamaha 350 hp four strokes on the transom. As you'd expect, this is a fast boat - as are all Contenders. But you can also cruise comfortably at 45 mph and 4,000 rpm, using 34 gallons per hour total. We topped out at 70 mph and 6,100 rpm.
At 812 mph, I saw very modest surface turbulence with all three engines running and subsurface turbulence on centerline, but nothing that would ever affect lures. And it all dissipates by about the fourth wave back, so a long line down the middle of the pattern won't be impacted.
The 37 Contender won't plane on one engine, but it certainly gets up quite readily and runs at a respectable speed on two.
In about a three-foot beam sea, the Contender 37 rolls moderately but with slightly exaggerated transitions - a trait common to vented hulls. But in all conditions, this hull ran smoothly and dryly.
Historically, stepped hulls don't turn as well as solid-bottom vessels with unbroken chines. I congratulate Contender on the handling characteristics of this 37. At cruising speed in a hard-over turn, the props don't blow out! And although the boat bleeds speed very quickly (a very good thing from a safety standpoint), it carves a very tight arc.
All in all, its handling characteristics provide for a very responsive yet safe and comfortable ride.
When it comes to fishing features and layouts, few builders match Contender president Joe Neber's fanatical attention to detail.
Most Contender owners opt for rod holders covering 360 degrees of the gunwales. This hull number one sported nine rod holders in gunwales on each side, plus three more on the outside of the transom in addition to eight across the back of the hardtop and six more across the back of the leaning post. Add to that more along each side of the console for vertical storage and yet more rod storage in under-deck boxes or in the console, and you begin to see that you could likely carry your entire fishing arsenal aboard with you at all times.
Anglers will also appreciate that this one-deck-level center-console features all pop-up cleats and bow lights - nothing to snag a line.
The leaning post's cushioned seat hinges forward revealing the obligatory tackle/catchall storage. Just aft of that is a large, in-deck livewell to augment the two 40-gallon wells in the transom. All have blue interiors and Lucite hatches. Baits like daylight and the color blue, apparently.
Finally, fish boxes to port and starboard in addition to centerline access to the lazarette by the transom round out the belowdecks compartments. One of my favorite things about Contenders is how well all the gasketed hatches fit. If you just let them fall closed, they don't slam. They just go "phumph" as the air escapes.
Design and Construction
Starting at the top, Contender builds truly beautiful hardtops. And the company will give you whatever design you want from full width to Key West style. And since nobody really uses ultra-short rods, I like the holes in the top for the rod tips.
I appreciate the great handholds throughout the boat, especially the recessed bow rail and the Garelick tube ladder the owner had installed in the transom. Personally, I would like to see the console door open to the side instead of rising up so that the helmsman's vision isn't blocked if someone needs to go to the head. That said, it's a remarkably spacious console with a fixed porcelain head, finished liner and hatches for wiring access.
As a company, Contender is aging very gracefully. This boat represents a philosophical departure for Contender, yet it qualifies as an improvement in stepped-hull performance. Add to that the facts that Contender uses only the finest ingredients and that the new 37 is very handsome, and I fully expect it to do well in the marketplace and on the fishing grounds.
LOA......39 ft. 1 in.
BEAM......10 ft. 8 in.
MAX POWER......(4) 350 hp OB
MSRP......Price on request
Contender Boats / Homestead, Florida / 800-645-2906 / www.contenderfishingboats.com