I took the liberty of climbing aboard the Contender 36 at the dock when no one was around. My first thought was, “Sheesh, you could take a cab from the bow to the stern.” This boat offers a huge amount of fishing space and can transport you to any fishing grounds in the blink of an eye.
Normally I would hesitate to run a performance boat in the 4- to 5-foot seas we encountered during the Miami Boat Show. But since the Contender 36 is meant to go fast in such conditions, off we went. Quite honestly, I’m surprised this boat doesn’t have spare tankage for carrying extra testosterone. It’s a highly refined monster. Specially designed and built for triple engines, our boat had three Yamaha 250-hp EFIs connected to Gaffrig racing controls. I’ve never been a big fan of triple-engine installations, but I discovered more benefits to this package than disadvantages. The two outboard engines set farther apart make for much better close-quarters handling around a dock than standard close-set twin installations. The boat pivots substantially better with increased distance between drives. Live-bait fishing also draws benefits from three engines, but more on that later.
The boat does exactly what Contender says it will. Thanks to greater length and weight than the 31, running over 50 mph in 4- to 5-foot seas proved no problem for the boat or passengers. In calm water, I found it to be about 3 to 4 knots faster than the 31 with twin 250s. But triples burn a ton more fuel than twins, don’t they? Well, yes – and no. At 60 mph, we burned 90 gph. Drop it to 50 mph and the consumption drops to a little better than a mile per gallon. With a 410-gallon standard fuel capacity, you get a pretty nice range at 50 mph. The question that begs an answer: How many owners with a boat capable of going faster than 60 mph want to run at 50?
My main question, “It’s such a fabulous fishing boat; why can’t I get it with twins instead of triples?” got an unexpected answer.
“If someone specifically wanted twin engines, and I couldn’t talk them into a 31,” says Contender President Joe Neber, “I’d recommend cutting back on fuel capacity and moving other weight farther aft.” With that said, however, Neber insists triples are truly the only way to go on this boat. “The performance characteristics of this hull really only make sense for one purpose – going fast in big seas over long distances. Then, when you get [to where you’re going] it fishes as well as – if not better than – any boat in our fleet. It’s certainly the most maneuverable of all our boats.” I’ll vouch for that.
If you qualify as a truly hard-core offshore fisherman, you won’t find a more complete, better-designed fishing platform than this Contender. Two above-deck livewells in the transom augment another in the cockpit sole. Huge in-deck fish boxes outboard on both sides can handle numerous large tuna.
At first glance, it’s surprising to find no under-gunwale rod storage as standard equipment. Further investigation reveals five vertical rod holders on each side of the helm console, four more across the back of the T-top, five across leaning post back and racks for seven rods in each of two large in-deck compartments forward of the console. Of course, with many avid kite fishermen as owners, Contender mounts five in-gunwale holders along each side, with optional under-gunwale outlets for electric reels.
I found an amazing amount of room alongside the console – enough for two large anglers with fish on to pass each other. I also marveled at the security in a rough sea. No matter where you stand aboard the Contender 36, if you start to lose your balance, there’s something close at hand to grab onto and a place to plant your feet.
As an example of attention to fishing detail, bow gunwale heights have been designed with spinning reels in mind. An average adult can reel down on a fish (remember, the reel is below the rod) and not bang the reel into the deck.
Finally, thanks to the boat’s weight and size, one engine in gear provides a perfect live-bait speed.
Design and Construction
To avoid confusion, the Contender 36 is not simply an extended 31. Contender started with a clean sheet of paper and built this boat specifically for triple engines. It made the transom and stringers beefier and cored the topsides with AL600 epoxy-impregnated Baltek balsa. This new product provides a better lamination bond while virtually eliminating any possibility of water intrusion into the balsa. Otherwise, the 36 boasts the same heavily overbuilt construction as on all other Contender boats. It also uses only vinylester resins for maximum blister protection which, combined with bi- and tri-axial fiberglass cloth makes for a very heavy, solid fiberglass bottom construction.
Unlike many performance boats that simply add fishing features to an offshore racing hull, Contender makes boats for fishing – then they make them fast. You can expect any Contender to be far more stable in a beam-sea drift, for example, than a performance-cum-fishing boat. I can’t imagine a more capable fishing platform than this 36.
WEIGHT 5,600 lb.
DEADRISE 24.5 degrees
FUEL (std.) 410 gal.
MAX HP (3) 300-hp OB
MSRP (base boat)$99,929 w(w/o power)
Triple Yamaha 250-hp Saltwater Series II
Contender Factory-rigged,one 30-inch shaft, two left-hand/one right-hand rotation)
TYPE 90-degree V-6
DISPL. 191 cid
MAX RPM 5,500
HP/LB RATIO 0.52
FUEL SYSTEM Ox66 EFI
GEAR RATIO 1.81:1
WEIGHT 493 lb.
ALT. OUTPUT 35 amps
MSRP(3 engines) $54,016
Yamaha’s 250-hp Ox66 fuel-injected Saltwater Series outboards last in warm, salty water. Contender includes loads of customization in the rigging and controls, accounting for the difference in price from published Yamaha MSRP.
Notable Standard Equipment
• 3 large live baitwells
• Recessed hydraulic trim tabs
• Two 76-gallon fish boxes
• Recessed bow rail
• 10-year hull warranty
This hull won’t appeal to everyone. It’s huge, expensive and monster-tough. But it runs very fast in big seas for long distances.