They may be loaded with family-friendly features, but many open boats are still fish chasers at heart.
Fifteen years ago magazine articles routinely referred to center consoles as “hard-core fishing machines”—overbuilt open boats with a couple of pedestal helm chairs or a leaning post, rod holders, a livewell, fishboxes, and a cooler. That was pretty much it.
How different the story line is today.
Center consoles now include sunpads, wraparound seating, wet bars, and barbecue grills—along with bigger consoles that house a head, berth, and sometimes a flat-screen television. The changes serve as a microcosm of boating’s metamorphosis to a multipurpose activity. Center console boats now offer something for the entire family, not just the anglers.
“Because the amount of time we all work is greater, when we find time outside of work we figure out how to use that family time in a way we are all together,” says Joan Maxwell, president of Regulator Marine. “Being in a boat provides that platform.”
Center console boats have gotten bigger, with a few models about 40 feet, and faster, with quad-outboard setups no longer a rarity. They can run offshore 100 miles or more and often do so burning less fuel than most diesel convertibles. Today’s center consoles may include plenty of seating and other amenities, but they still have the soul of a fishing boat—50-gallon live wells, outriggers, insulated fishboxes, dry rod stowage, and more.
And it’s not just the larger boats that have gone through a metamorphosis. Smaller models also offer more in the way of performance, comfort, electronics, and fishing features than earlier generations.