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July 25, 2008

Pro-Lite 20

Realizing that some families may be looking harder at affordability, the company spec'd out a no-frills, rolled-gunwale hull in 17- and 20-foot center-console and 18- and 20-foot flats models.

One of the most admirable qualities of the marine industry is its ability to adapt and innovate - whether times prove highly profitable, stable or even uncertain. And that's just the quality Pro-Line harnessed to develop its new boat brand - Pro-Lite.

Realizing that some families may be looking harder at affordability, the company spec'd out a no-frills, rolled-gunwale hull in 17- and 20-foot center-console and 18- and 20-foot flats models. Paired with today's more fuel-efficient engines, Pro-Lite's lightweight hulls run lean and cost less on the front end than most vehicles - many of the boat/motor packages price out in the $15,000-$18,000 range!

Performance
These boats may lack fancy finishes, but the Pro-Lite 20 I ran out of Crystal River on Florida's west coast offered an extremely stable platform and admirable ride. Spring winds had spiced up the nearshore Gulf waters into a two- to three-foot chop, and a surprising number of boaters running the channel created sloppy conditions.
 
I juiced the throttle on the 140 Suzuki four-stroke and trimmed it up slightly. With waves and wakes from all directions, the boat remained dry. In a head sea, it landed squarely and solidly with no perceived flex.
 
With its standard no-feedback, push-rod steering, the 20 required a heavier hand to turn, but it remained easy to control. Extra-hard turns port and starboard caused some ventilation, but Pro-Lite set up this test boat to produce   its optimum speed and hole-shot - employing an aluminum prop and settling the engine low on the transom. The company plans to raise the height of the transom on production models.
 
And true to that hole-shot goal, the 20 jumped to plane in slightly over three seconds. At wide-open throttle (6,000 rpm with this prop), I hit almost 45 mph (44.9) going with the current and 41.5 into it, burning 12.7 gph, which translates to 3.5 mpg. The boat planed at about 2,700 rpm and cruised at 4,000 rpm and 26 mph, burning just 5.3 gph (4.9 mpg).
 
A 70-gallon fuel tank gives the 20  plenty of range for inshore fishing. Depending on power, it could run an   estimated 280 miles with a 20 percent cushion or 350 miles total.