Great Live-Bait Center Consoles

A sampling of fishing boats with robust livewells, convenient rigging, extra rod holders and more

Best live-bait center console fishing boats
Wherever you fish and whatever you target, chances are you've tried using live bait at some point in your angling life. If you fish from a boat, you've already evaluated the vessel for handling, keeping and deploying live prey. So what characteristics make an offshore vessel keen for live-baiters?Courtesy Manufacturers

When I asked several top boat manufacturers for their opinion of what characteristics make an ideal vessel for anglers fishing with live bait, I heard mostly about superior livewell systems. But while the number, location and capability of livewells certainly rank high among live-bait-boat qualities, I was sure there must be more. Besides livewells, I suggest the following should also be considered:

  1. The number and location of rod holders, including a place to perch kite rods or multiple lines to feed kites (i.e., a rocket launcher);
  2. Convenient rigging station for bridling materials, dip nets, etc.;
  3. Optional bonito/tuna tubes for larger liveys;
  4. Ample electrical outlets for kite reels; and
  5. A strong saltwater washdown system for cleaning up slime and scales.

What's convenient to one angler might not be for another. And many specific live-bait-boat features must be added as options. To get you started: Here are seven offshore center-consoles that offer superb live-bait amenities. They are listed alphabetically.

Contender 35ST

Contender 35ST center console fishing boat
Daryl Deka and Team Hardway run a Contender 35ST called Doing It All out of south Florida, winning top prizes in live-bait tournaments such as the Silver Sailfish Derby out of West Palm Beach. This past season they took the championship title in the Quest for the Crest Sailfish Series. Deka says their Contender features 48 gunwale rod holders and five electrical outlets around the boat to deploy multiple kites from any location. The team’s 35ST also comes with four wells — two standard 40-gallon tanks in the transom, a 55-gallon well in the aft deck and an 85-gallon well in the bow deck. Each is filled using its own 1,500 gph pump fitted into a sea chest. “The sardines like it best with the top overflow closed and bottom open. The scales fall off them easily, and the bottom drain pulls out the scales, keeping the bait from choking,” Deka says. “Herring like a little overflow from the top, like 25 percent, and the other 75 percent flowing out the bottom. The herring swim up high in the well, and too much suction out of the top stresses them. The goggle-eyes and speedos stay at the bottom of the well, preferring the top-overflow setup.” Read more about this Contender and some other great live-bait center consoles here.Courtesy Contender
Contender 35ST center console fishing boat live bait wells
Contender 35ST Specifications:
LOA: 34 ft. 10 in. • Beam: 10 ft. • Deadrise: 24.5 deg. • Draft: 21 in.
Courtesy Contender

Hydra-Sports Custom 4200 SF

Hydra-Sports Custom 4200 SF center console fishing boat
The Hydra-Sports Custom 4200 SF 4200 comes with two 45-gallon, pressurized transom livewells, each with a seacock, two drains and two rotary pumps connected to a high-speed pickup. "We build redundancy into all of our systems," says Alex Leva, Hydra-Sports Custom president. "Say you were loaded with goggle-eyes for a tournament; you might operate both pumps (changing over the water every two minutes) and both drains to keep these baits healthy and alive." Also, as the boat runs, the force of water into the pickups spins the rotary pumps faster than the 12-volt system runs them, Leva says. The added volume of water must exhaust through the extra drains.Courtesy Hydra-Sports Custom
Hydra-Sports Custom 4200 SF center console fishing boat
Hydra-Sports 4200 SF
Hydra-Sports can add a bow baitwell into the foredeck, and as many rod holders as you can fit along the gunwales. A dry-storage locker forward provides indents to secure two cast-net buckets. A tricked-out tackle center with 10 drawers just aft of the leaning post puts all bridling supplies, hooks and leader material in easy reach. The tackle center is lined at the back with four rod holders, so you can easily anchor the rod you’re rigging. Truly customize your 4200 with fore and aft rocket launchers and tuna tubes astern to subdue the largest live baits.Courtesy Hydra-Sports Custom
Hydra-Sports Custom 4200 SF center console fishing boat live bait wells
Hydra-Sports Custom 4200 SF Specifications:
LOA: 41 ft. 7 in. • Beam: 12 ft. 2 in. • Deadrise: 23 deg. * Draft: 24 in.
Courtesy Hydra-Sports Custom

Invincible 42

Invincible 42 center console fishing boat
This 42-foot-9-inch open fisherman employs a proprietary sea chest that feeds water to the wells at all speeds. Livewells in the sole aft and in the transom comprise 170 gallons. The transom well sports an acrylic lid to better monitor bait health. “For fast boats, it’s all about getting to the fishing grounds first. But it doesn’t help if you get out there and your bait is dead,” an Invincible spokesman says. “When a boat is on plane, there’s so much air under the hull that standard pickups are not able to grab enough water to keep the wells properly fed. Our pickups in the box are fully shielded. There’s always water in there.”Courtesy Invincible
Invincible 42 center console fishing boat
Invincible can also install above‑deck wells that are removable, with flush rigging that makes the wells essentially plug-and-play. Customers can also choose more optional in-deck wells. Anglers who pitch live baits also appreciate the single-level deck surrounding the cockpit. The flat layout promotes better footing and easier movement fore and aft. A deluxe tackle station with rigging space and a full tackle-box system stands aft of the helm.Courtesy Invincible
Invincible 42 center console fishing boat live bait well
Invincible 42 Specifications:
LOA: 42 ft. 9 in. • Beam: 11 ft. 7 in. • Deadrise: 22 deg. • Draft: 23 in.
Courtesy Invincible

Jupiter 38 HFS

Jupiter 38 HFS center console fishing boat
Jupiter Marine offers its customers as many as four livewells of varying sizes located in the transom, the tackle station and in the deck. The typical setup involves a bronze through-hull with a seacock and a flow-control directional inlet, enabling an angler to adjust the flow from the 1,600 gph pump for the size, quantity and health of the bait. The livewell tubs also come with two overflows and a dedicated drain to enhance that flow control. “But here at Jupiter, we are all about building the boat to the customer’s needs. Does he want it plumbed a certain way? OK, we’ll do that,” says Bob Bissinger, Jupiter sales and marketing manager. Bissinger says a lot of customers ask for swivel rod holders in the aft corners to hold kite or bent-butt downrigger rods. Jupiter also has an option for electric-reel outlets that can be placed wherever the customer desires. The 38 HFS comes standard with a rocket launcher behind the helm seats, a small rigging station next to the livewell with a sink, and freshwater and saltwater washdowns. Bissinger adds: “Our hull and deck design does away with screws and fasteners that impede quick and safe movement around the deck. There are no ‘toe bangers.’ Our tower pipework terminates on the console, not the floor, for added space and easier movement.”Courtesy Jupiter Marine
Jupiter 38 HFS center console fishing boat live bait wells
Jupiter 38 HFS Specifications:
LOA: 38 ft. 2 in. • Beam: 10 ft. 7 in. • Deadrise: 24 deg. • Draft: 24 in.
Courtesy Jupiter Marine

Regulator 34

Regulator 34 center console fishing boat
Regulator added even more insulation to its livewells for 2015 on all models; the 34 comes with a 25-gallon transom tank and an optional deluxe livewell leaning post with 40 gallons of bait storage. The 34 provides four standard rod holders on the gunwales and four more on the seatback, perched just above the tackle center in the helm unit, for ease of rigging. Adding a hardtop or T-top increases the rod-holder number by five, plus anglers can order many more rod-holder pairs that can be installed anywhere in the gunwales. Choose from in-line holders, pipes angled to 30 degrees, or whatever you need, the company says. The new triple-outboard-powered Regulator 34 offers extra rod storage inside the console. Regulator also installs a freshwater shower at the transom-gate door in addition to saltwater and freshwater washdown systems, for ease of cleaning up bait slime aft or washing your hands.Courtesy Regulator Marine
Regulator 34 center console fishing boat live bait well
Regulator 34 Specifications:
LOA: 33 ft. 10 in. • Beam: 10 ft. 11 in. • Deadrise: 24 deg. • Draft: 27 in.
Courtesy Regulator Marine

SeaVee 320Z

SeaVee 320Z center console fishing boat
SeaVee builds its boats to customer request, so the company can provide as many as four livewells aboard the 320Z — a standard 55-gallon transom tank, a second transom well (45 gallons), a 60- or 80-gallon forward in-deck well and a 100-gallon aft in-deck well. "Multiple livewell systems yield the ability to better target species by choosing the best bait for the application," says John Caballero, SeaVee marketing manager. "Each of the four wells can hold a specific bait such as goggle-eyes, herring, sardines, etc." In addition, bow livewells give anglers quick access to fresh bait during a hot bite. An angler can also throw a cast net, and then conveniently turn and deposit the bait into a bow in-deck well without handling and harming the fish. SeaVee’s sea chests use more-robust bilge pumps instead of livewell pumps; the pumps are always fully submerged in water, where they remain cooler and avoid air locks. The pump strainer also prevents damage from grass and debris. “Bearing the above in mind, the sea chest is a more capable system in pressurizing a livewell than an in-line pump alone,” Caballero says. Pressurizing a well reduces the sloshing of water inside. A well’s overflow is generally closed via a seacock. SeaVee usually allows a 2-inch overflow at the highest point of the well and closes the bottom drain with a removable plug. “We avoid using a stem (overflow tube or stand pipe), since it acts as a whipping post for bait while underway,” he says.Courtesy SeaVee
SeaVee 320Z center console fishing boat live bait wells
SeaVee 320Z Specifications:
LOA: 32 ft. 5 in. • Beam: 9 ft. 4 in. • Deadrise: 25 deg. • Draft: 20 in.
Courtesy SeaVee

Yellowfin 36

Yellowfin 36 center console fishing boat
Yellowfin and Gem Products designed a unique intake system that's flush with the bottom of the boat, and prevents grass and debris from clogging the livewell pumps. The 36 comes with a 55-gallon well on the transom — flanked by rod holders so you can bait up quickly and easily. Anglers can also order a leaning post with an additional 80-gallon tank. The company designs round wells that bring in water from the bottom, forcing it out the top, which Yellowfin says is best for life-giving water flow. Livewells are pressurized to keep baits from sloshing while the boat is moving. Buyers can, of course, get silly with rod holders, and the helm seat features tons of tackle-box storage. The 13-inch-wide covering boards allow a mate with a cast net to move fore and aft carrying an armload of bait, without jumping down to the deck. Dedicated to live-bait and tournament fishermen, Yellowfin also offers a suite of options throughout its boats, from multiple console designs to cockpit and foredeck add-ons. “Yellowfin is a custom shop,” the company’s website states. “Your options are limited only by your imagination.”Courtesy Yellowfin
Yellowfin 36 center console fishing boat live bait well
Yellowfin 36 Specifications:
LOA: 36 ft. 8 in. • Beam: 10 ft. • Deadrise: 24 deg. • Draft: 20 in.
Courtesy Yellowfin