Robalo (meaning “snook” in Spanish) has always had a loyal following, though I never considered it one of the top offshore fishing boats. In fact, right up until this boat test, I had considered the company’s motto “Blue water tough” just so much advertising hype. But it’s time to eat crow. After running a new Robalo, I came back thinking that I hadn’t seen a boat quite so well designed and well built in a very long time.
Our test day in Islamorada greeted us with a beautiful sunny morning and seas 2 to 3 feet out of the southeast. But the stationary hurricane some 200 miles to the south added an urgency to the test. We probably wouldn’t have a second day to fish.
With twin 150 hp Mercurys, the 2320 experiences moderate bow rise coming up onto plane. To counteract the bow rise, I used trim tabs and found them to be quite sensitive. They need just the slightest tap for measurable response. However, simply changing the Laser props (originally designed for bass boats) offers a better solution for curing the bow rise. These wheels have holes in the blades specifically to induce ventilation for better acceleration.
Despite the Lasers, the 2320 displayed terrific performance characteristics. It turns with just enough side slip to keep you in the boat. At wide-open throttle, 6,000 rpm produced 53 mph. Leaping over waves produced cushioned landings and neither a creak nor working sound to be heard. The 2320 cruised at a very respectable 38 mph turning 4,200 rpm. Running at cruising speed down sea, the boat tracks perfectly with nary a swerve.
Drifting beam to the seas in a gentle 2- to 3-foot ocean swell offered a comfortable roll moment with ever so slight a thud as the hull reached the apex of its roll and the chine hit the water. And from the beam-to position, you can easily steer the boat down sea with no power.
Fishermen will find the 2320 well thought-out. Standard fishing appointments include a tackle center on the side of the console, a freshwater sink with a shower in the transom and a large live well forward of the console, internally lit for night fishing. A second, even larger bait well in the transom abuts a prep station with sink and cutting board for chopping or cleaning.
Movement throughout the boat proved unrestricted, and the raised foredeck seemed the right height for either throwing a cast net or casting. For fly fishing, I’d probably remove the bow rail and trade the midship and bow cleats for the pop-up variety.
The Pompanette helm seats, while very comfortable and much sturdier than most production-boat molded seats, could easily be swapped for a leaning post that still wouldn’t interfere with the under-seat cooler. On the other hand, the Pompanettes can swivel 180 degrees and face aft for comfortable seating while watching a trolling spread.
In short, everything that should be aboard like rod storage, live wells, cockpit coaming, fish boxes and rod holders is all plentiful and well placed. In fact, in most instances, these features have been improved to the point of being a step above most comparable boats.
One feature that fits the “done-in-improved-fashion” bill is the gauge display set into a covered depression in the console. Almost like a “look-down” computer desk, it keeps everything dry and doesn’t strain your neck to see the gauges. Robalo provides loads of space for flush-mounting electronics. And the instrument box covers are a composite, new to production boats, called PPG: fiberglass-reinforced Plexiglas that looks exactly like glass but is much tougher than glass, regular Plexiglas or Lucite.
The designers have created a very large foot well for the helmsman, as well as a very innovative means of mounting the entire center console from the inside so there’s foot room all the way around. Thanks to the helm’s ideal ergonomic design, drivers will find comfort and unrestricted visibility either standing or sitting.
Not just bowing to the trend, but practically worshipping at the altar of making center-console fishing machines more family friendly, the 2320 provides seating for 10 passengers on helm seats, fold-out transom bench, console-front and padded foredeck.
The bow and integral pulpit with roller will make anchoring much easier, though with such great Robalo attention to detail, I’m surprised the boatbuilder doesn’t provide either a molded-in or steel anchor hanger in the anchor rope locker.
Overall, the construction is extremely solid, fit and finish superb, gel-coat flawless and hardware oversized and top quality. The foam-filled hull, deck, stringers and gunwales are tough enough for Robalo to offer a seven-year hull warranty. In fact, other than the dive pack option, you probably won’t find anything to add to the 2320. Everything – right down to the stereo and VHF radio and antenna – comes as standard equipment.
Doug Smith, owner of The Boat House, had the T-top on our test boat specially designed and fabricated to replace the similar, standard factory top. He wanted his tops to be slightly larger for added protection from the hot tropical sun. The custom top also allows his dealership to fit TopGun outriggers and an overhead electronics box – though I can’t imagine anyone needing the latter with all the open space for flush mounting instruments.
To say I was surprised at the dramatic improvements over Robalos of years ago would be understatement. This 2320 easily qualifies as one of the finest-looking and best running offshore center-consoles on the market.