2016 Fishing Boat Buyers Guide: Barker Boatworks 26 Open

For an encore, it revisited that design, removing its casting decks, friendly to fly-fishers, to create a hybrid bay/offshore fisher it named the 26 Open.

Calling Barker Boatworks a newcomer on the waterfront might be technically accurate but nautically misleading. Kevin Barker brings a decade of boatbuilding experience and marries his fishing boat vision to the proven, patented, stepped-V ventilated tunnel hull design of Michael Peters, whose portfolio includes such other famous nameplates as Edgewater, Invincible and Viking.

The first Barker was the Calibogue Bay, a 26-foot coastal bay boat named for the waters Barker boated and fished as a child. It was immediately embraced in postings on Barker’s Facebook page, where Barker sometimes provides photographic updates, hull by hull, and engages with customers and other boaters on details of design and engineering. It’s there the company proclaims its pledge: “Building the highest-quality boats with the ­utmost attention to detail and ­customer service”.

That’s seen in set-back ­engine brackets giving outboard power the best bite in clean water behind the transom. Each boat model is vacuum-infused for the optimum ratios of glass, carbon, Kevlar and resin for ultimate strength and lightness. Hatches are sealed not with a thin seal around the edges but by closed-cell foam across the entire top, dampening sound and sealing compartments below from water. A storage box nests beneath the foldout aft seat and above the bilge compartment. All very classy, very savvy, very fishable.

26 OPEN

Barker Boatworks launched its brand with a smash hit in the 26 Calibogue Bay. For an encore, it revisited that design, removing its casting decks, friendly to fly-fishers, to create a hybrid bay/offshore fisher it named the 26 Open.

“Open” appears a particularly appropriate moniker: The boat is designed to reduce, replace or remove anything that might get in the way of seeking, hooking, fighting and boating fish. Fishing room abounds, both aft of the captain’s console seat (behind a 31-inch-wide helm) and leaning-post tackle station, as well as in the open bow space.

Her freeboard is plenty for deflecting spray in crosswinds or handling seas when venturing offshore. Powered by your choice of outboard, the 26 Open boasts a clean helm station with a large multifunction Garmin display linked to the power plant to report rpm, fuel flow and all other engine functions without the clutter of individual analog or digital instruments.

In-floor storage is unobtrusive but generous, and everything’s set for easy cleaning. A dozen rod holders line the console, which is also fronted by a seat atop storage. A flip-up back aft creates another bench seat, flanked by clear-topped baitwells. If front seating is selected, removable backs await. A panel turns bow seating into a deck.

The boat begins as a wide-open center console, but a sleek T-top or console tower is optional, the latter offering a second helm (station) for directing both the boat and the fishing focus. The design and options are all aimed at crafting your own custom, fearsome, fishing machine.

LOA: 25'6" | Beam: 9'3" | Fuel Capacity: 90 gal. | Dry Weight: 3,900 lb. plus power | Max Horsepower: 400
An upper station on the Open is designed to improve the view while offering shade below. Rod holders are placed from stem to stern.