One of the most admirable qualities of the marine industry is its ability to adapt and innovate – whether times prove highly profitable, stable or even uncertain. And that’s just the quality Pro-Line harnessed to develop its new boat brand – Pro-Lite.
Realizing that some families may be looking harder at affordability, the company spec’d out a no-frills, rolled-gunwale hull in 17- and 20-foot center-console and 18- and 20-foot flats models. Paired with today’s more fuel-efficient engines, Pro-Lite’s lightweight hulls run lean and cost less on the front end than most vehicles – many of the boat/motor packages price out in the $15,000-$18,000 range!
These boats may lack fancy finishes, but the Pro-Lite 20 I ran out of Crystal River on Florida’s west coast offered an extremely stable platform and admirable ride. Spring winds had spiced up the nearshore Gulf waters into a two- to three-foot chop, and a surprising number of boaters running the channel created sloppy conditions.
I juiced the throttle on the 140 Suzuki four-stroke and trimmed it up slightly. With waves and wakes from all directions, the boat remained dry. In a head sea, it landed squarely and solidly with no perceived flex.
With its standard no-feedback, push-rod steering, the 20 required a heavier hand to turn, but it remained easy to control. Extra-hard turns port and starboard caused some ventilation, but Pro-Lite set up this test boat to produce its optimum speed and hole-shot – employing an aluminum prop and settling the engine low on the transom. The company plans to raise the height of the transom on production models.
And true to that hole-shot goal, the 20 jumped to plane in slightly over three seconds. At wide-open throttle (6,000 rpm with this prop), I hit almost 45 mph (44.9) going with the current and 41.5 into it, burning 12.7 gph, which translates to 3.5 mpg. The boat planed at about 2,700 rpm and cruised at 4,000 rpm and 26 mph, burning just 5.3 gph (4.9 mpg).
A 70-gallon fuel tank gives the 20 plenty of range for inshore fishing. Depending on power, it could run an estimated 280 miles with a 20 percent cushion or 350 miles total.
For safety’s sake, 20-footers should be considered inshore and nearshore vessels. But anglers still find plenty of great fishing within those confines. In fact, give me a single marsh shoreline and I’ll keep myself busy for hours and hours.
To accommodate inshore fishermen, Pro-Lite designed a broad casting deck forward on the 20. Throw a net, toss a bait, drop a line – all with the comfortable knowledge you won’t easily back off this platform.
The rolled-edge design opens up the deck space, giving this 20 a bigger-boat feel and offering anglers a virtual skating rink 360 degrees around the console. Two feet of interior freeboard also means youngsters stay safely inboard.
Stow rods in four vertical holders set into the console sides. If you buy the optional T-top, you can mount more rod holders there or buy any of the many aftermarket holders that screw to the side of the boat, strap onto a cooler or clamp onto the gunwale with a vise.
Pro-Lite also fitted the 20 with pads fore and aft on both sides of the boat forward of the console in case anglers care to mount their own horizontal rod holders.
The flip-flop cooler seat can function as a fish box; a second drink cooler could easily sit on top of a mat ahead of the console. Tackle fits under the console or in the forward storage area.
The 20 comes with a 9 1/2-gallon livewell in the port aft corner – that’s about the same size as a medium Bait Saver and almost twice the capacity of a 5-gallon bucket. So you’ll keep a healthy supply of baits as long as you don’t overcrowd them.
Design and Construction
At the helm, Pro-Lite keeps things basic and uncluttered with minimal gauges and switches. However, anglers will find plenty of room to mount electronics in the face of the console or on top.
The poly-plastic gasketed hatch covers feature T handles – all are low-profile to minimize snags. Cleats at the bow and at each stern corner come standard.
The rolled-gunwale deck covers a foam-filled stringer system and foam flotation between stringers, making for a solid sandwich of fiberglass, foam and composite material. Our prototype test boat featured a deep transom notch without a splashwell, but Pro-Lite plans to raise the transom height in production. Either way, the cockpit remains self-bailing.
These boats are built at the Pro-Line factory in Crystal River, Florida, and come with a 10-year hull warranty. Now that’s a total-bargain package today’s families can really live with!
LOA……20 ft. 6 in.
BEAM……8 ft. 5 in.
HULL DRAFT……1 ft. 3 in.
WEIGHT……2,100 lb. (w/o power)
MAX HP……140 hp OB
PRICE……$17,978 (introductory factory price w/ Suzuki 115 four-stroke)
_Pro-Line / Crystal River, Florida / 800-344-1281 / _www.prolineboats.com