I rarely see such topsy-turvy, washing-machine wave action as we encountered the day I motored the Cobia 296 center console to the mouth of Fort Pierce Inlet. The wind cranked about 20 knots from the southeast and stacked up steep peaks in the 4- to 6-foot range as it slammed the outgoing tide.
Cautiously, I tested the gauntlet, then finally picked my way through to rough outside waters. We stayed just long enough to feel this beefy center console launch and land solidly, though surprisingly softly and quietly.
While we carried just a quarter tank of fuel plus requisite safety gear for our outing, we ran with four adults aboard. During our brief time outside the inlet, the 296, with its 10-foot beam, provided a very stable platform even in pitching seas.
The vessel also backed quickly in both directions. And while backing created substantial splashing, water that entered beneath the transom door drained immediately.
Running with the seas, the 296 tracked like a Cadillac on smooth pavement. I slowed to idle speed and found 3 mph at 600 rpm moving into the current. From idle, I buried the throttles on the twin F250 Yamahas, and the bow tipped over to plane in 4.3 seconds, without the use of trim tabs.
I found the boat’s sweet spot – where it cruised most efficiently and comfortably – at 3,800 rpm and 35 mph, burning 17 gph. At full gallop, it clocked 56 mph at 6,000 rpm, using 44.4 gph.
Hard turns to port with the standard power-assist steering produced an extremely quick reversal, within 1 1/2 boat lengths. Turns to starboard swung broader, and speed bled off more quickly.
The boat proved responsive in close quarters too, quickly spinning either way using just the throttles.
Since Maverick Boat Company took over the Cobia brand in 2005, owner Scott Deal has demonstrated his fishing savvy with each new model. Every aspect of this 296 reflects the thought and experience of a seasoned angler.
Obviously, all boats represent compromise, but count on this center console to offer serious tournament capability – and not at the expense of the family. Today’s times call for pooling the experiences of parents and kids. Fish this boat; lounge on this boat; take this boat on a cruise.
Anglers immediately note such details as an oversized anchor locker large enough to stow a retrieval system. Hide a cast net and safety gear in the in-deck forward storage box.
The 296 features a level deck from bow to stern, providing easy footing for fishing around the cockpit. The recessed bow rail runs all the way back to the helm area.
The helm itself features bolster seating that cradles you as you navigate heavy seas. Cobia provides ample space for in-dash electronics and mounted gauges at chest level so you can monitor all systems without having to look down through the steering wheel.
The helm unit also includes a tackle center with dual insulated cooler buckets on top for chilling bait or drinks. Below them, Cobia crafts two drawers and a holder for multiple plastic tackle boxes.
Two 40-gallon insulated and macerated fish boxes in the cockpit sole give anglers ample space to store their catch. Aft, the transom bulkhead houses two 28-gallon elliptical livewell systems with overflow drains at the top and short standpipes. Between them, Cobia bolts a Corian cutting board.
Standard vertical rod holders number eight, with an option for four flush-mount kite-rod holders and more in the optional hardtop. Anglers will also find horizontal storage for six rods beneath the gunwales.
Design and Construction
Besides designing comfortable bow and transom seating for passengers (bow seating converts to an optional sun pad), Cobia incorporates an electric sliding access door at the front of the center console. Actuate the ram to open or close the door by touching rocker switches placed both outside and inside the console.
Inside the console, family members find a roomy comfort station/changing room with freshwater shower, sink and electric head with macerator. Cobia also offers a freshwater shower at the transom, a boarding ladder and a splashwell wide and uncluttered enough to walk across.
In building the 296, Cobia employs a unique hatbox stringer system. Instead of stiffening the tall sidewalls of the stringers with excess material that would add weight, the company uses a plating system. This system spans each stringer from sidewall to sidewall as it transitions into the upper section that connects to the cockpit floor.
The system reduces load stress on the sidewalls, creating a strong, stiff, relatively lightweight grid with enough height and width to brace the floor while providing a structural backbone for the hull.
Cobia builds according to National Marine Manufacturers Association standards, and by June all models are expected to gain the European Union’s CE certification. With such quality control, innovation and obvious fishing know-how, Cobia shows impressive momentum in a very competitive market.
LOA……29 ft. 7 in.
HULL DRAFT……21 in.
WEIGHT……5,915 lb. (dry, w/o power)
MAX HP……500 hp
MSRP……$123,700 (w/ twin F250 Yamahas)
_Cobia Boat Company / Fort Pierce, Florida / 772-460-5258 / _www.cobiaboats.com