The last decade has spawned a new breed of angler, one who prefers comfort and convenience over hard edges. Today’s angler often fishes with family, expects flawless and functional technology, and finds fun guiding friends to new experiences on the water.
To fit that bill, center console boat manufacturers have responded with ever-greater levels of luxury, performance and versatility. Fishing might remain an angler’s foremost interest, but if your wish list also includes sunset boat rides, beach picnics and even watersports, you no longer have to compromise.
On today’s market, you’ll find everything from well-appointed cruisers that give a slight nod to fishing to serious fishing machines that have softened their corners. The first thing to look for: a reliable brand that was born to fish.
Size Does Not Matter
While smaller, single-outboard center consoles can’t offer as many luxury variables as their larger cousins, you can still expect creature comforts when it comes to seating options, removable tables, fold down transom benches, swim platforms, stereo systems, and padded coaming, as well as conveniences like well-placed cupholders and USB chargers.
You should also find exceptional fit-and-finish in the way of fully fiberglassed hatches, proper drainage channels, overboard-draining fish boxes, and gasketed hatch lids. Even fine touches such as friction hinges, magnetic door holders or hydraulic ram-assisted stowage boxes can find their way onto the smallest vessels.
At the helm, look for a comfortable footrest and tilt steering wheel. Some single outboards can now be equipped with power-assist or digital-electric steering and fully integrated boat-control systems such as Yamaha’s Helm Master EX — which offers options such as autopilot, trim assist, troll control, and virtual-anchor modes. Also check for safety traits such as recessed or full bow rails and ample cockpit depth.
Smaller luxury center consoles should feature at least one, if not two, livewells with pump system, horizontal and vertical rod holders, and insulated fish boxes. Builders get bonus points when they add blue walls, baffles, LED lighting, and gasketed lids to their wells.
A luxury center console builder also considers seakeeping and stability at rest throughout its model line. A sharp entry and variable-deadrise V hull with at least some bow flair delivers a comfortable, dry ride. A proper V design coupled with a suitable amount of beam helps the boat rest easier at anchor, and allows multiple anglers to fish one side of the boat on a drift. You might also consider a Seakeeper gyro stabilizer, an option that has become more common as anglers and boaters feel the benefits of eliminating roll offshore.
Bigger and Even Better
As you ratchet up in length, moving into twin-, triple- and quad-outboard boats, you’ll start to find impressive seating materials like premium vinyls and multidensity foam that often blankets the deck from bow to stern. Foldaway transom seats, flipout backrests, sun loungers and either second-row helm seats or a mezzanine bench bring sophisticated comfort for anglers or for enjoying a day on the water with family and friends.
Bait-prep stations often adjoin the helm seating. Look for rod holders and tool caddies convenient to the cutting-board surface and tackle drawers.
Some of these stations can be fitted with bait coolers/freezers or even outfitted with grills and food-prep zones so you can cook your catch.
Larger vessels also come with side boarding doors and aft tuna gates, which create easy ingress for hailting aboard a heavy fish. Side doors should open in and tuck out of the way. When you look at the tuna-gate setup, make sure that it affords a clear path. You should also be able to fight a fish around the outboards, either from the cockpit or the swim platform. While great for fishing, these doors also make getting on and off the boat from the water easy when enjoying water sports or an afternoon swim.
Today’s larger center consoles generally come with a full glass enclosure and a hardtop; some tops offer cool touches such as a cubby for your fishing kites or overhead storage for your PFDs.
On the console face, expect to see two large electronics displays. Some manufacturers package these items, others allow you to select your own based on your personal needs and preferences from chirp sonar, and imagine sonar (for down and side views) to 3D or multibeam options. Most higher-end displays also allow you to network many of your vessel’s systems such as underwater lighting, and in the near future, even your outriggers.
Other top-end options include helm and belowdecks air-conditioning, powered by an onboard generator. While you’re considering your electric needs, also look for options to wire plugs beneath the cockpit gunwales for kite reels, deep-drop reels and downriggers.
What Lies Beneath
Most of today’s center consoles offer at least storage and often a small head compartment below the helm, graduating up to a fully equipped cabin with a small galley, pull-out shower, and even lockable rod storage.
While the cabin might not affect your fishing to any great degree, it can affect your enjoyment on the water. For times when you’re on the water all day with your less-fishy family and friends, a good cabin will provide a place to store gear. The addition of an ample size head with good lighting and that is easy to access will further provide for a day of enjoyment.
Once you decide on the features you want, make sure the boat runs to your satisfaction. It should offer plenty of acceleration, mid-range punch and an ample top speed. Remember you won’t be running full out most of the time. Visit the manufacturer’s website to review performance reports, than take a test ride and find some rough water to see how the boat handles in quartering, beam and following seas. Make gradual and relatively sharp turns to feel the boat’s weight shift. Use the tabs and the engine trim to find a comfortable running attitude.
If you follow your own checklist and evaluate your priorities, you’ll find the right luxury center console for you. If the boat offers you the right amenities and provides you with more days on the water, you’ll never be sorry that you expanded your wish list.