(Be sure to click through all the images in the gallery above.)
Contender’s new 25 Bay is a hard-core inshore fisher with some surprising comforts for the family that include cushioned seating and cup holders. The shallow-draft hull sports the rugged backbone of Contender Boats’ renowned hand-laid fiberglass construction, allowing anglers to leave the inlet when offshore species and conditions lure them seaward.
My test boat was equipped with an adjustable jack plate that set the motor back nine or so inches from the transom. That extra distance helps water form back up astern and give the 15-by-21-inch STS stainless prop a good bite. The Yamaha Offshore F300 used it to good advantage.
With two hefty anglers, 65 gallons of fuel and two Frigid Rigids on board, I clocked 59 mph at 5,500 rpm. The hole shot was good too at 4.2 seconds to plane — I start the stopwatch when I punch the throttle and stop the watch when the bow begins to tip downward. A lighter 21-foot bass boat might top 70 mph using this engine, but it probably wouldn’t make the quick hole shot.
The bay boat accelerated to 30 mph in 7.8 seconds. I found the best cruise speed at 37.8 mph, generating an impressively efficient 4 mpg.
The hull features a double step; it felt good, keeping solid water contact and holding it even in sharper turns. At 35 mph, it went from running straight in intimidating chop to hard-over starboard (and to port), increasing the depth of the turn as it moved. I held the trim setting steady — just to see. Nope, it did not break loose or even make me fear that it would, and that’s a great trait in an aggressive stepped hull.
I often test boats on slick water that makes jotting legible notes seem like dull office work. But not so on this test. Typical Miami winter weather gave us a 15-knot wind from the north, and chop that could rattle young teeth. So, the notes were a little ragged, but my confidence in taking this rig offshore for a sailfish bite soared as it parted the chop.
For anglers, I saw the core equipment one expects from Contender. On the gunwales, two pairs of Mate Series rod holders do double duty. Made of polished stainless steel and scuppered to the bilge, the rod holders have a wide mouth at the top, accommodating a typical cold drink. Four standard rod holders lined the leaning-post back, flanking two more stainless cup holders. I found four more on the helm station. Is this a fishability feature or a creature comfort? Both. You try to fish all day without a cold drink handy.
Two livewells lie on the centerline in the aft casting deck. Plexiglas lids let you keep an eye on the flow. One larger 40-gallon well is ideal for a release well or to hold baitfish, and a smaller 12½-gallon well is ideal for shrimp, pilchards, pinfish or crabs. The gunwales are wide enough and finished in nonskid to offer a secure boarding step, yet leave plenty of room to walk from stern to bow around the console. The bow-deck access is facilitated thanks to a midstep area that can double as seating.
The optional T-top on my test rig offered shade, and the vinyl top was slotted to accept rod tips with butts set in eight (four per side) console rod holders. So much rod stowage would challenge me; I would bring too many sticks.
Design and Construction
Contender was founded on a fish?at?all?costs attitude that would not soften to accommodate passengers at the expense of anglers. Part of that reputation was earned over the years by building hulls solid enough to exceed owner expectations, and carefully fitting the hulls with top-shelf hardware. Yet, with this bay boat, the company obviously found a way to please both and do it without a hint of “Gee, the family will really like this one.”
Yes, the family will, but the jump seats tuck into the aft casting deck without so much as a millimeter of surface change to stub a toe. And at the midstep to the bow deck, a coaming pad wraps from port to starboard, giving a softer backrest for the seats, which are enhanced by snap-in cushions. That’s comfort without compromise.
Inshore or offshore, the 25 Bay is hard-core, but your family will love the ride.
LOA: 25 ft. 4 in.
BEAM: 8 ft. 6 in.
DRAFT: 12 in.
DEADRISE: 15½ deg.
WEIGHT: 3,200 lb. (w/ power)
FUEL: 90 gal.
MAX POWER: 350 hp Yamaha
Yamaha Offshore F300
TYPE: 60-degree V-6
DISPLACEMENT: 254 cid
MAX RPM: 5,000-6,000
HP/LB RATIO: 0.53
FUEL SYSTEM: DOHC Fuel Injection
GEAR RATIO: 1.75:1
WEIGHT: 571 lb.
ALTERNATOR OUTPUT: 70 amps
MSRP AS TESTED: $80,449
NOTABLE STANDARD FEATURES
Heavy-duty rub rail
Chrome-over-stainless or bronze hardware
200 gph bilge pump
Deck scuppered overboard
Waterproof switches and breaker panel
**Contender Boats Inc.