Many anglers hang their boat-buying decisions on a price tag. If it fits the budget, they write the check. But price is not the only determinant of value, and value goes a long way toward satisfaction. To explore just a few of the options for boats that cost less than $80,000 — a fair middle-of-the-road figure in today’s market — I picked five boats from a variety of manufacturers.
There are certainly many others that fall under this mark, particularly in the bay-boat genre. But this sampling should offer some idea of the features aboard such boats. The Cobia and the Sea Chaser offer twin-outboard power options; all other models feature single-outboard power. All fall into the 23- to 26-foot range.
I asked the boatbuilders to explain what makes their model a good fishing machine and to list the features anglers would most appreciate. (Boats are listed by LOA.)
“This boat has a wide beam for its size, so it’s very roomy and a stable fishing platform at rest,” says Charlie Johnson, Cobia marketing director. “Yet it’s still a great-running boat with a far‑forward, sharp entry, lots of bow flare, and a variable-deadrise hull that’s 21½ degrees at the transom.”
The 237 also features a level floor stem to stern, which makes fighting a fish around the boat simple and unhindered, and allows an angler to move forward so the captain can chase a fish.
“It’s properly laid out with plenty of aft storage so rods and terminal gear are always within reach,” Johnson says. “The livewell and fish boxes have extra-large openings for easy access — a difference maker when the action heats up and you have to act quickly.”
Features that most anglers should appreciate include a blue-tinted 28-gallon livewell with a clear acrylic lid, mounted just off centerline; 80 gallons of in-deck insulated fish boxes with gas-shock-assisted lids and wide openings, aft of the helm station; easy access to pumps and batteries; a helm-seat tackle station with an underseat cooler; and an optional hardtop with a five-rod rocket launcher.
The 237CC can handle up to 300 hp with either a single- or twin-outboard configuration on the transom.
Cobia 237CC Specifications: LOA: 23 ft. 7 in. • Beam: 8 ft. 10 in. • Transom Deadrise: 21½ deg. • Draft: 17 in. • Dry Weight: 3,500 lb. (w/o engine) • Max Power: 300 hp • MSRP: $78,971 (w/ twin Yamaha F150XBs)
Sea Born FX24 Bay
“Extreme value is what makes the FX24 Bay such an exceptional fishing boat,” says Sean McCoy, director of marketing for Sea Born. “It’s packed with so many features that are found in boats costing well over $80,000.”
McCoy says the twin-stepped-hull boat runs in just a foot of water, and it offers 20 inches of freeboard for a little extra security in rougher sea conditions. It features a broad forward casting deck and a practical floor plan for both tournament and recreational anglers.
The FX24 comes with a nine-gallon aerated, insulated livewell on centerline aft, and an eight-gallon well under the front console seat. At the bow lie two large rod lockers, anchor storage, a trolling-motor pad and a casting-chair mount. Storage below the forward steps includes an 84-quart Sea Freeze chest with removable divider.
Rear folding jump seats convert into a flush aft deck. Sea Born also provides an in-deck cast-net hatch and a raw-water washdown system. The leaning post comes with a bait-prep table and four rod holders to add to the other 10 vertical holders around the boat.
Sea Born FX24 Specifications: LOA: 23 ft. 9 in. • Beam: 8 ft. 6 in. • Transom Deadrise: 17 deg. • Draft: 12 in. • Dry Weight: 2,200 lb. (w/o engine) • Max Power: 300 hp • MSRP: $52,899 (w/ Suzuki DF250)
Sea Chaser 24HFC
Sea Chaser‘s Georgia builder, Carolina Skiff, designed the 24HFC as a crossover bay and offshore boat that fits a fisherman’s needs while addressing the desires of most other on-water enthusiasts. HFC stands for “hybrid fish and cruise.”
The 24-footer’s stepped-hull design helps enhance fuel efficiency and acceleration, and the center-console’s deck layout provides storage, easy bilge access, a large foredeck with U-shaped seating, a swim platform, and a side-entry door to port.
For anglers, it features two 25-gallon aerated livewells and a high-speed livewell pickup, a 32-gallon in-deck fish box with bucket storage, a leaning post with backrest, six gunwale rod holders, blue LED underwater lights, a raw-water washdown system, and an aft 15-gallon storage hatch.
Options and upgrades include a leaning post with a 32-gallon livewell, a powder-coated T-top, trim tabs with an indicator, and a windlass.
Power the Sea Chaser 24HFC with a single 200, 250 or 300 hp outboard or with twin 150 hp outboards. The boat comes with 100 gallons of fuel capacity.
Sea Chaser 24HFC Specifications: LOA: 23 ft. 9 in. • Beam: 8 ft. 5 in. • Transom Deadrise: 18 deg. • Draft: 12-14 in. • Dry Weight: 3,165 lb. (w/o engine) • Max Power: 250 hp • MSRP: $42,248 (base boat, hull only)
A special version of Pursuit‘s newly redesigned C238 center-console, the C238se brings all the performance, comfort and dependability this brand stands for to a 24-foot offshore fishing platform. “We think anglers will enjoy the ease of movement throughout the design,” says David Glenn, Pursuit marketing director. “In addition to the standard fishing features, a single Yamaha F250 makes for a great power match, delivering consistent, carefree performance for running offshore.”
Fishing features include a lighted Oceana-blue 23-gallon recirculating livewell, four stainless-steel gunwale rod holders, undergunwale rod storage, a transom door, and additional rod holders with a standard fiberglass T-top. The C238se also offers cushioned seating fore and aft and a tempered-glass windshield, and the head comes with a full-length fiberglass door for ease of use.
Yamaha performance data for the 24-footer with an F250 showed a top speed of 47 mph, attaining 1.94 mpg. The boat cruised most efficiently at 26.4 mph (3,500 rpm), achieving an admirable 2.96 mpg. At that speed, it offers a 280-mile range with its 105-gallon fuel capacity.
Pursuit C238se Specifications: LOA: 24 ft. 4 in. • Beam: 8 ft. 6 in. • Transom Deadrise: 21 deg. • Draft: 17 in. • Dry Weight: 4,850 lb. • Max Power: 250 hp • MSRP: $79,995 (w/ Yamaha F250)
“The AV-26 has a very wide cockpit, aft deck and foredeck that provide a very stable fishing platform, while also having a relatively shallow draft,” says Henry Sikes, sales and marketing manager for Carolina Composites, makers of Avenger, Pioneer and Bull’s Bay boats. “It has three livewells standard (twin 27-gallon wells aft and a 12-gallon well beneath the forward console seat), with the option for a fourth [and] plenty of storage for all your tackle, and it’s low-profile to reduce the effect of the wind while fishing with a trolling motor.”
Forward, the AV-26 offers four roomy hatches, including a 65-gallon main hold for life jackets and extra gear, and port and starboard lockable rod boxes. In the step up to the foredeck, Avenger added a 24-gallon insulated, gasketed drink cooler. More storage lies beneath the deck ahead of the forward console seat, beneath the center console, and in the cockpit sole aft.
Other standard features include six gunwale and deck rod holders, a 4-inch jack plate, trim tabs, a 65-quart Yeti cooler, a trolling-motor plug, and undergunwale blue LED lighting.
When Sport Fishing tested the Avenger AV-26 bay boat (with a hardtop and second station) late last year, we reached a top speed of 52.7 mph at 5,800 rpm. Factory testing showed a top end of 57.8 mph for a boat without the superstructure.
Avenger AV-26 Specifications: LOA: 26 ft. 2 in. • Beam: 8 ft. 6 in. • Transom Deadrise: 15 deg. • Draft: 14 in. • Dry Weight: 3,100 lb. (w/o engine) • Max Power: 400 hp • MSRP: $73,025 (w/ Yamaha F300)