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Best Center Console Fishing Boats – 10 Traits To Consider

Center Console Fishing Boats

There are a million center console fishing boats on the market, but different models are ideal for different anglers.

Center console fishing boats are incredibly popular, and no matter where you fish or what style of fishing you enjoy, chances are that when you go to look at new fishing boats center consoles will be top contenders. But all center console boats are not equal – not by a long shot. When you go boat-shopping, be sure to check out these top 10 traits:

If you’re looking for a new center console fishing boat, make sure to check out these 10 items.

  1. Boat construction
  2. Hull design
  3. Size and weight
  4. Seakeeping abilities
  5. Livewell capacity and quality
  6. Style-specific fishing design
  7. Rod and tackle stowage
  8. Drifting characteristics
  9. Fuel capacity
  10. Comfort
boat construction morgan
You always want quality construction like this Morgan 24 center console.

Boat Construction

Nobody wants to buy a flimsy fishing boat, period. How will you know if the center console you’re looking at is well-built? The manufacturer’s reputation and lots of research is the best way to come to a reasonable conclusion. Beyond that, when you sea trial a boat be sure to listen for vibrations and rattles (indicating loosely-fitted parts), creaks in the fiberglass (indicating movement between the molded pieces), and feel for how solid the boat is underfoot when hitting waves at high speed.

boat design
Some power catamaran hull designs run smoother than V-hulls, but they may have their own set of unique trade-offs.

Center Console Hull Design

This is a world of trade-offs – deeper V’s will run smoother through the seas, but less V in the stern (measured as transom deadrise) means more lateral stability, better efficiency, and less draft. The deepest V hulls usually have 24-degrees of transom deadrise, 21-degrees is considered more moderate, and center consoles designed for inshore use, like bay boats, commonly will have a transom deadrise measured in the teens. But don’t forget about power catamaran options, which can run incredibly smooth but may also come with a long list of quirks like sneezing, snap-rolling, or outward-leaning in turns.

The weight of this Sea Hunter is part of why it can take the punishment of running in a raw ocean.

Size and Weight

When it comes to boat size, the mistake most people make is thinking that bigger is always better. It isn’t. Bigger boats cost more to buy and to run, are more difficult (or may be impossible) to tow, and in certain scenarios (like hitting back-country creeks or flats) smaller boats can get to hotspots that larger boats simply can’t go. Many boat owners buy progressively larger boats, then at some point begin down-sizing. So, consider carefully, before deciding three more feet of LOA is really going to be what you want.

Similarly, many boaters get fixated on weight believing that lighter is always better. It’s not. Weight represents another trade-off. The lighter a boat is, the faster and more efficient it will be (all other factors being equal). But on the flip side of the coin, the easier it will be to launch off of waves. Heavier boats have an easier time bulling waves out of the way, don’t launch as often, and as a result often ride smoother in rough seas.

parker boats
The wide beam of the Parker is part of why it is so stable while fishing.

Seakeeping Abilities

Once again, considering this trait means considering trade-offs – reflect back to the plusses and minuses of hull design, size, and weight. Then add to that your own ambition level. Are you a fair-weather fisherman, or will you head out even when the wind is whipping? Are you willing to sacrifice some level of comfort in rough seas, for better performance when it’s calm out? Are you willing to trade some wave-chopping ability, to have better stability? There is, however, a bottom line one can’t ignore: never choose a boat that may force you to sacrifice safety, in any situation you might find yourself in.

boat livewell
If you enjoy live-baiting, clearly, picking a fishing boat with the best livewell possible is important.

Livewell Capacity and Quality

Obviously, this has a much bigger impact on live-baiters than it does on those who are dedicated to trolling or light-tackle casting. How much importance you place on the livewell(s) on any fishing boat is a matter of personal preference that reflects your own fishing style. If this is an important factor, be sure to look closely at volume (more is better), shape (rounder is better), interior color (baby blue helps keep the baits calm), and water flow (generally speaking more is better. Dedicated pumps are a must, the presence of back-up pumps gets bonus points, and hatch quality (no spilling or leaking, please) counts, too.

24 morgan
The 24′ Morgan is a classic SW Florida design for fishing both offshore and inshore.

Style-Specific Fishing Design

If you have a specific fishing style you’re most inclined to, be sure the boat’s design matches. Trollers, for example, will not be happy with a center console that has only two flush-mount gunwale holders and a huge aft casting deck. Fly casters won’t be excited about a fishing boat with lots of snaggy cleats and no raised casting decks. And anglers who enjoy casting light tackle in protected bays won’t be best-served by a deep cockpit with high gunwales. There are a million variables to take into consideration and naturally, most of us enjoy multiple styles of fishing. Just be sure to think about what you enjoy doing the most as you look at the boat’s design traits.

Organized tackle storage is a key element to fishing success and consistency.

Rod and Tackle Stowage

Give this variable more or less importance depending on where and how you travel. For trailer-boaters who may park in a fast food joint or a hotel lot with some regularity, locking rod boxes are a must-have. On smaller boats onboard tackle stowage can save you from lugging a big tacklebox to and from the boat before every trip. And for boats that get left in a marina, both will be quite advantageous.

center console fishing boats
How a boat drifts can have a huge impact on how well it matches your style of fishing.

Drifting Characteristics

Once again, the importance of this trait will vary depending on how you fish. And boats can drift in surprisingly different ways; some drift faster or slower, some drift stern-to and others beam-to, some rock like nuts when drifting in a beam sea, and so on. During a sea trial always be sure to shift into neutral and let the boat drift for a while, so you can get a feel for how it will act. And as a general rule of thumb remember that boats with taller gunwales, less weight, and flatter bottoms will tend to drift the fastest.

center console
Knowing your fuel capacity and range is key. You can use a fuel bladder to extend your range.

Fuel Capacity

This will be of the most concern for offshore anglers who make long cruises, but there are plenty of bay anglers who won’t hesitate to pull the trigger on long runs to distant hotspots. To figure out if a boat’s range is sufficient for your needs, remember the old adage: plan to burn one third of your fuel for the cruise there, one third for the run home, and keep one third for reserve. Checking the fuel economy and range for boat/motor packages at Yamaha’s Performance Reports can be helpful in getting an idea of the range for a boat you may be looking at, and these reports have proven to be extremely accurate and reliable through the years.

center console fishing boats
Comfort is not required, but it sure goes a long way when your making the long haul.

Comfort

A hard-core angler will place this last on the list of importance when it come to considering the traits of a center console fishing boat, but it does still belong on this list. Comfort will dictate when you and your crew cry uncle, and head for the barn. And while we agree that you, the captain, are perfectly justified when you tell less-dedicated guest to quit their whining and keep casting, a small dose of creature comfort can delay throwing in the towel and gain you that extra hour – which could make the difference between a total bust and a plugged fishbox.

center console fishing boats
A center console that matches your lifestyle can bring you a world of pleasure and great memories.

Obviously, when you consider buying a center console fishing boat you’ll want to research each of these traits in detail, do your due diligence, and make a fully-informed decision. But we do want to leave you with one word of caution: be sure to take an extended sea trial on any boat you’re considering before you spend your hard-earned cash. There’s plenty of misinformation out there, and there are also lots of boats that appear one way but act entirely differently when you get them off the dock. So run every boat, and run it hard, before signing any dotted lines. Go into the seas, across them, and with them. Go fast and go slow. Get aggressive at the wheel. Drift for a while. If at all possible, let a week or two go by then take a second sea trial in different conditions.

Remember that virtually everything about boat design involves trade-offs – and that if you pick the best center console fishing boat for your needs, you’re in for one heck of a lot of good clean fun.

For more information about fishing boats, be sure to peruse our Boats category on BD

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Lenny Rudow …has been a writer and editor in the marine field for over two decades, and has authored seven books. He is currently the Angler in Chief at Rudow's FishTalk Magazine, is Electronics and Fishing Editor for BoatUS Magazine, and is a contributing editor to several other publications. His writing has resulted in 45 BWI writing contest and two OWAA Excellence in Craft awards. Volunteer positions have included NMMA Innovations Award judging, serving as president of Boating Writers International, and serving as the president of the Maryland Freshwater Foundation. Rudow is an alumnus of St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology, and The Sea School. He boats and fishes as often as possible on the Chesapeake Bay and in the Atlantic Ocean.