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October 26, 2001

Grady-White 180 Sportsman

From angling the shallows to hitting the open water on a calm day, 18 feet of Grady-White Sportsman can go a long way.

Not that you need it when fishing for light-tackle small game fish, but as with every Grady-White, you can lock your toes under something when working over the gunwale. In this case, a faux wood-grain strip of starboard runs beneath the rod storage area and works perfectly.

Despite its relatively narrow beam, the 180's gentle roll in a beam sea made drifting and trolling comfortable. Fishing backcountry means frequent anchoring, and I'd like to see Grady make a slight change in its anchor locker. The shank of the anchor can't go down far enough in the locker to close the lid because the anchor line gets in the way. I'd like to see some means of segregating the line from the shaft.

Grady provides storage for two rods under each gunwale. Our boat had two rod holders in each gunwale (one pair standard) and four vertical rod holders attached to the helm console. It also came with the optional live well under the padded, console-front seat, which doubles as an insulated cooler. I enjoyed using a prototype bait-cutting table that attaches to the splash-well grab rail. Expect to see it offered on future models.

Each hand-laid Grady hull ends up with eight layers of glass on the keel. No coring, just solid glass with the stringer area filled with foam. Grady uses Excel marine plywood for stringers and transom. It's guaranteed not to rot for a lifetime.

Grady has introduced a few trick innovations with this Sportsman. I've never liked reversible helm seats. They always feel under-engineered and with only two positions - fully forward or fully back - are just not utilitarian enough. Grady has taken the same 1-inch-diameter stainless rail material they use throughout the boat and made a reversible seat-back with four positions. Now it can be used as either a seat-back or heavily padded leaning post.

You'll find storage quite adequate for both fish in the bow compartment and dry goods in the console. But the best storage spot has to be the electronics box. Most little skiffs force you to mount your electronics atop the console. Of course, you must then remove it all each time you leave the boat. The 180 has lockable storage for the flush-mounted electronics that can fit a VHF, color video sounder and GPS with room to spare. The clear Plexiglas cover allows you to see the instrumentation while keeping it protected from the elements.

All in all, this new Grady-White 180 Sportsman offers a lot of boat in 18 feet. And entry-level buyers should appreciate the opportunity to get Grady-White quality at an affordable price.