There’s a center console that’s a perfect fit for just about everyone and every application
Center console boats are incredibly popular and it’s no wonder why: they offer incredible utility, the ultimate in fishability, and they make great family boats as well. With a center console you can try kite fishing one day, go lobster diving the next, and then have fun towing the kids around on tubes or nosing up to the sandbar to cap it all off. There are, however, a wide range of center consoles out there on the water. Which one will be right for you? As you narrow down your search, consider the plusses and minuses of each of these types:
- Bay Boats
- Power Catamarans
- Center Console Yachts
Skiffs are small, simple center consoles which usually feature little more than an open deck, the centered steering station, and often a built-in livewell or fish box. The real beauty of a skiff lays in its simplicity. They’re relatively inexpensive, are easy to operate and tow, and – because of their minimalist nature – require little maintenance. On top of that, many perform great with outboards like the inline four-cylinder 75hp to 150hp FourStroke engines. One of the very best things about skiffs is that they feature a very shallow draft, which is great for fishing or just exploring because it allows you to access skinny waters that would ground larger boats. What are the downsides to owning a skiff? Since most are on the small side, they can’t haul a large crew, and they aren’t intended for large, open waterways. Some also have flat or nearly flat hull designs which, while they offer excellent stability, can be bumpy or wet in a chop.
Bay boats are an extremely popular genre of center consoles, which are usually mid-sized (in the 18- to 26-foot range), are designed with minimal draft so they can access shallow water and feature the elevated fore and aft casting decks that light tackle anglers love. When bow cushions, a sound system and a tow pylon are added, a bay boat also make for an excellent family fun boat. Bay boats can also be outfitted with angling accouterments like integrated livewells, onboard tackle storage, and insulated fish boxes. Many are rigged for performance at a competitive level and carry outboards like the Mercury Pro XS models, but bay boats also run quite well with Verado outboards or the tried and true FourStroke outboards, depending on the needs of the individual boater. On the flip side of the coin, the elevated casting decks found on bay boats can limit cockpit space and seating in some cases. Most bay boats also have semi-V hull designs that are less ideal than a deep-V for taking on large waves in open waters. Still, plenty of the models out there are more than sufficient for light-duty offshore fishing on days when the weather allows.
Offshore center consoles are designed with one mission in mind: making long runs to the offshore fishing grounds, loading up the fish boxes with a big catch, and then returning safely back to the inlet. To this end most carry two or more outboards that provide maximum power, reliability and efficiency, and large Verado outboards and FourStrokes are commonly seen on their transoms. Extensive integrated fishing equipment is usually built right into offshore center consoles, and most offer plenty of seating for large crews. When equipped with Verado outboards, the boat can be equipped with Joystick Piloting for the ultimate in maneuverability and easy docking. Most offshore center consoles also have deep-V hull designs with 21- to 24-degrees of transom deadrise, which are ideal for chopping through large waves. But those deep-V hulls also require much more draft than flatter hulls, which can make shallow fishing grounds off limits in some cases. Offshore center consoles also tend to be larger and brawnier than many center consoles designed for lighter duty, which means that trailering them can require serious tow vehicles, if it’s an option at all.
The term hybrid is usually applied to center consoles that are designed to split the difference between bay boats and offshore boats. They’ll usually have moderate to steep V in the hull, slightly higher bows and gunwales than a standard-issue bay boat might, and elevated casting platforms that are large enough for an angler or two to cast from but aren’t so big that they eliminate the deep cockpit area you want to fish from when offshore. They’re a great choice for anglers who enjoy fishing in both coastal and offshore waters. A hybrid may run smoother in big seas than a dedicated bay boat, but it also is likely to require a bit more draft. Like bay boats, they are also great for boaters who enjoy fishing as well as tow sports and other non-angling activities.
Power catamarans (often called powercats, or simply cats) are center consoles that have two hulls rather than one. This gives them a number of advantages, including enhanced stability and increased deck space, but the main benefit most cats offer is a shockingly smooth ride. Think of the two narrow hulls moving through the water like a pair of knives, versus a monohull which is more like a single spoon moving through the waves. Plus, many powercats compress air between the hulls to create a cushion of sorts that further reduces wave impact. Catamarans also allow for much more bow space than conventional hulls because there is little if any taper on a cat.
Center Console Yachts
Five years ago we wouldn’t even have been talking about center console yachts, but the availability of uber-powerful engines like the Mercury 350hp and 400hp Verado outboards combined with multi-engine control systems like SmartCraft and Joystick Piloting have made it possible to build center consoles larger and heavier than ever before. These engines have the torque and the technology to outfit boats in the 40- to 60-foot range with triple, quadruple, and even quintuple and sextuple engine packages that provide spectacular performance. And yes, these boats are true yachts with amenities like full cabins inside the console, air conditioning both inside and at the helm, integrated outdoor grills and wet bars, and lounge areas large enough for huge crews. Whether your goal is hardcore offshore fishing or just cruising, a center console yacht can be customized with whatever you want to make it perfectly fit your personal style and needs.
Which of these types of center console coats will be the best for your needs? Only you and your family can say, but your local marine dealer will be happy to show you the features and benefits of the types of center consoles you’re considering. And one thing’s for sure: no matter what kind of boating gets you most excited, there are center consoles designed and built exactly for the task.