Flats skiffs initially spawned the bay boat, a slightly larger alternative vessel that floats fairly skinny and accentuates casting fore and aft while providing a comfortable ride in chop. Now it seems bluewater boats have been bred for diminutive size, shrinking the offshore center console to fit the bays and backwaters.
Bay boats now range from compact, lightweight 22-foot technical tournament skiffs to 26-plus-foot hybrid inshore/offshore vessels with greater cockpit depth and slightly sharper deadrise. To explore this crossover market further, we identified almost a dozen branded bay boats with cockpits measuring at least 19 inches from deck to gunwale cap. Seven builders responded by our deadline and provided more information about these designs. (Boats are ordered from shortest to longest.)
Tideline 235 Hybrid
This center console catamaran actually employs the word hybrid in its model name. “This boat was designed specifically to be able to fish both inshore and offshore,” says George Stronach, Tideline president. “The advantage that this boat has, which is a characteristic of cats in general, is that the entry on the vees is so sharp, providing a very smooth ride. The chine, which is just above the waterline, and Tideline’s trademark bow flare make this a very dry-riding boat as well.”
Another nod to offshore fishing: This boat can handle up to 400 hp in a twin configuration and tops out around 60 mph. It features two 56-gallon fish boxes in the sole; for additional insulated stowage, Tideline can convert half or the entire front box for fish. The 235 Hybrid comes with 120 gallons of standard fuel capacity, with an option for 160 gallons. At cruise, the boat achieves about 3 mpg, giving it a more than 300-mile range standard; 500 with the larger fuel tank.
Grady-White 251 Coastal Explorer
The aft cockpit depth of Grady’s 251 Coastal Explorer — an evolutionary design, introduced in 2014 — measures 20 inches. The company broke the mold in many areas with this new and innovative setup.
“This was a special new entry in the inshore/nearshore market for us, and we felt it was key to have the SeaV2 [hull] design performance characteristics yet add the shallower draft (14 inches) to make this model a unique boat,” says Shelley Tubaugh, vice president of marketing. “By keeping the sharp entry, signature bow flare and continuously variable vee of the hull bottom, we were able to create a truly flexible boat that could venture into the ocean more than others in its class.”
Aside from the relatively shallow draft, the 251 comes with casting platforms fore and aft that convert to comfortable seating. Grady offers optional trolling-motor and shallow-water-anchor rigging. The bow boarding ladder, while geared toward beachgoers, also creates a convenient entry and exit for wading or surf fishing.
To enhance offshore safety, Grady’s builds include ample foam flotation and overboard-draining insulated boxes so the bilge doesn’t continually fill. The 251 CE accommodates the standard aft 12¾-gallon livewell and an optional 25-gallon well in the helm seating unit. Factory testing shows a top speed of about 50 mph with the max 300 hp outboard; more than enough oomph to eat up water on a remote, though nearshore, run.
Sea Born FX25
When the FX25 debuted in 2012, “the design was intended to meet the continuous needs and requests of anglers who wanted more than just a single-purpose boat,” says Sean McCoy, Sea Born’s director of marketing. “We knew we needed a big casting deck for multiple anglers but didn’t want to sacrifice the forward seating, so we created a smaller yet comfortable U-shaped lounge with removable cushions” aft of the deck.
Knowing the boat needed shallow-water capability, Sea Born adjusted the transom deadrise to 17 degrees, expanded the beam to 8 feet 9 inches and thereby kept the draft to 11 inches. In another nod to inshore fishing, the company offers a release livewell in the bow.
Barker 26 Open
Debuting at the 2015 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, the Barker 26 Open represented a natural evolution of the company’s first model, the Calibogue Bay. “Our hull runs so dry and comfortable that customers wanted more offshore capability and versatility,” says Kevin Barker, president of Barker Boatworks.
With a stepped-vee, ventilated-tunnel design, the 26 Open can handle rough conditions. Barker removed the casting decks for greater security while fishing in any sea. (Aft cockpit depth measures 19 inches.)
The 26 Open also retains inshore fishability with its 14-inch draft, built-in steps up to the foredeck for easy access to a cast-netting platform, and the ability to accommodate a 72-inch-shaft trolling motor.
Offshore anglers can opt for a full second station that provides a bird’s-eye view of surrounding seas, as well as a full complement of electronics and controls. The 26 Open comes with 195 gallons of macerated, insulated fish boxes plus an optional 115-gallon coffin storage box for more gear.
Livewells include a 45-gallon tank behind the leaning post’s tackle station and a 15-gallon bow pitch well for keeping sailfish baits.
Yellowfin 26 Hybrid
Yellowfin introduced the 26 Hybrid, with its 21 inches of aft cockpit depth, for owners looking to step up in boat size yet still fish inshore and offshore. “We had a lot of our 24 customers that were growing out of the back bays and nearshore waters,” says Heath Daughtry, Yellowfin vice president. “They wanted a bigger platform that would allow them to explore inshore and offshore, accommodate the family and not require a huge commitment to a towing vehicle. This inspired us to fill that void in our lineup.”
The 26-foot length and 8-foot-8-inch beam combine with a sharp 60-degree entry and Yellowfin’s signature flare to keep anglers dry and comfortable when running offshore. Anglers can choose a single 400 hp outboard or twin 200s. “Range in the 26 Hybrid is superb at more than 3.3 mpg with twins,” Daughtry says.
The hybrid draws 15 inches with the single outboard and 18 inches with twins. It’s capable of drifting deeper flats inshore or posting up on shallow canals and ledges.
Fishing features include large 50- to 90-gallon livewells, oversize insulated fish boxes and the option of a second station for sight-casting inshore or prospecting offshore.
Padded seating is available atop the U-shaped bow storage and forward-console bench and along the transom bench. Yellowfin offers a variety of leaning posts and a single or double swim platform aft.
“Most models out there tend to lean one particular way, either family or fishing. I truly just don’t see the versatility in another product out there like we have built in ours,” Daughtry says.
Jupiter 25 Bay
When Jupiter introduced its first bay boat last fall, the company clearly entered fresh, new territory. “We applied the clean, sleek and elegant lines of our bigger offshore boats to the bay boat, giving it design and functionality to handle fishing and cruising from various shore distances,” says Mike Adams, national sales manager. “The higher gunwales, coaming pads throughout and flush decking with a minimal design make this boat more than capable of handling nearshore and offshore fishing.”
The aft cockpit depth for the 25 Bay measures 22 inches. At the bow, the deck lies 25 inches below the gunwale. Jupiter opted to eliminate fore and aft casting decks “that become obsolete when fishing in any type of sea,” Adams says. “This is truly a hybrid, running in less than 14 inches of water yet with the offshore running attitude of our 38 center console.”
The 25 Bay’s list of performance and fishing features includes a 40-gallon livewell, twin 55-gallon insulated fish boxes, loads of gear storage, a helm unit with tackle storage, a port access door, a Porta Bracket (allowing 12 to 24 inches of vertical movement) and CZone digital switching. The 25 also offers a 280-mile range at cruise with its standard 85 gallons of fuel capacity and an optional tower with remote helm.
A 45-degree deadrise at the bow tapering to 15 degrees at the transom creates a smooth ride, with stability at rest. “We wanted to design a boat that the Tampa Bay locals have been asking for, a boat that completely accommodates the fishing trends in this area,” Adams says. “As word slowly spread, we quickly realized the market had a soft spot for a true shallow-water-capable boat that easily fishes offshore. We designed a bay boat with a great ride, range and capabilities.”
Sportsman 267 Masters
Sportsman introduced its brand-new flagship 267 Masters this year, based on the success of the 227 and 247 models, says Richie Rodgers, director of sales and marketing. “Our customers and dealers demanded that we design a larger platform that could still fish as skinny as our bay boats but offer the option of offshore capability for those days you want to head out for table fare.”
The boat’s 26-foot-7-inch length and 9-foot-2-inch beam combined with a 50-degree entry and significant bow flare give it that offshore credential. It also offers 21 inches of cockpit depth aft.
“An innovative scupper drain system quickly clears the deck of any water that might make it over the gunwales in rougher conditions,” Rodgers says.
The 267’s bay-boat features include a flat sheer line that allows anglers to use the entire bow casting deck comfortably, a draft of 14¾ inches and yachtlike nonskid on the decks that creates a stable grip and easier cleanup than diamond nonskid, he adds. The 267 also features an aft casting deck with fold-down transom bench seats. Add the optional tower and the boat can be optimized for sight-fishing.
Equipped with four livewells, port and starboard locking rod boxes on the front deck and ample vertical rod holders, the 267 can carry all the bait and gear you might need to fish one zone in the morning and a second zone in the afternoon.
“Above all else, the overwhelming comment we hear from our customers is how well this boat rides in rough water while offering the best of both worlds for inshore and offshore fishing,” Rodgers says.