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The Shape of Things to Come

D URING THE PAST couple of decades we’ve seen a gentrification of our favorite fishing boat design, the center console, as manufacturers have added countless features intended for “family friendliness.”

Few boats are designed purely to serve the anglers these days, With every added cushion or expanded console cabin, there’s a fishability price to be paid. Recently, however, this trend has accelerated at light speed.

In the past two seasons we’ve suddenly seen a slew of center consoles introduced to the market that don’t even pretend to be fishing boats. Sure, they might still have rod holders in the gunwales, but beyond that they’re clearly designed for tanning, day cruising, and towing the kids on water toys.

Believe it or not, this is a good thing.

This new genre of “luxury” center consoles has forced the development of certain features which—surprise—have unexpectedly positive results for us. Some of these perks are so impactful they should be taken into account, as you look at new fishboats.

Tow-bar Arches: These have been available for center consoles for some time, and more and more we’re seeing them added to bay boats. Why dare blemish the flat, open aft casting deck with one of these waist-high arches? How could you possibly accept the loss of space where you plan to stand as you cast for redfish, specks, and flounder? These are questions you might ask right up until the moment you actually fish from an aft deck equipped with one of these arches.

Yes, it’s true they diminish the standing space you naturally lose to the motor-well, perhaps by as much as another 20 or 25 percent. However, they also function well as a sort of leaning post, giving you something to lean back against for a momentary rest.

That means in the long run, you’ll be able to maintain your battle-station for longer stretches of time without a break. On top of that, you can hook a foot around the post’s leg for increased balance. So, on rough days when you might otherwise have to remain in the cockpit, you can cast from the elevated position. Finally, (when anodized, not powder-coated) these posts also allow you to have a welder add on a rod holder or two.

Front-facing Bow Seatbacks: Whether these are helpful, or detrimental to anglers depends entirely on their design. Removable seat backs are bulky and a pain to stow, and flip-down seatbacks require larger seating areas, which eat into deck space.

A few designers have created seat backs that swing out of the inwale, at the aft end of the seat. When they aren’t deployed, these in effect create a forward gunwale bolster, which is comfortable to lean up against while fishing.

Forward Console Entries: These are becoming more and more popular because they make it easier to get into a head compartment. But there’s a bonus for anglers, too. With the old-style side entries, getting rods, gaffs, and other lengthy items inside the console was often a bit challenging. With a front entry, however, loading gear becomes a whole lot easier. This is great for long-term stowage but also for trailering, since it allows you to get your goodies safely locked away and out of the wind-blast.

Cameras: Just this year, we’ve seen integrated cameras, similar to the back-up cameras in all of today’s cars, appear in the bow of some larger center consoles. Placing a camera there helps with docking and close-quarters maneuvering when you may have difficulty seeing beneath the bow from the helm. There’s no real down-side to anglers, other than a slight increase in the boat’s cost.

There is one fishing-friendly benefit. Most center consoles of this size are also equipped with windlasses which are controlled from the helm. These make dropping and pulling the anchor easy, but from the helm you may not be able see when the anchor line comes taut. This can make pin-point positioning over a wreck or reef difficult.

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With the camera, however, you can see it at all times. You can also see when raising the anchor is problematic, or if it comes up covered in mud and needs to be dipped or washed down before bringing it up to the boat.

Enlarged Sunpads: Bow sunpads have grown larger and larger, in the interest of tanning. That, we couldn’t care less about. However, there’s an advantage to those drop-in platform fillers and extended bow seats. With the cushions removed, they become much bigger casting decks.

There’s a down-side here, too, because you’ll have less bow cockpit space. When it’s rough out and standing from an elevated position is difficult, you’ll wish you had more low deck space between the gunwales. But for anglers who usually fish protected waters, or who don’t go in adverse weather, these enlarged sunpads aren’t necessarily a bad thing.

Freshwater Tanks: These days, even relatively small bay boats and center consoles are often offered with optional freshwater tanks and a pull-out shower near the transom. The stated purpose is so swimmers can rinse off after a dip in the brine.

Yippee.

The reason we anglers like them, is they extend our fishing time. With the freshwater shower aboard you can rinse down your rods, reels, and tackle on your way back to the dock. That saves 10 or 15 minutes of clean-up time that used to take place at the marina or at home in the driveway. Thus, you can stay out and spend an additional 10 or 15 minutes fishing.

The bottom line? In many ways, modifying center console design for family friendliness and general comfort can take a serious toll on fishability. But in these specific cases, what appears to be the gentrification of a fish boat can actually increase your effectiveness as an angler.

Email Lenny Rudow at [email protected]

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