Offshore Fishing Machines Under 30 Feet

Today’s small offshore fishing boats are more competent than ever. 

There was a time when people thought you were nuts if you ventured more than a few miles offshore in a boat under 30 feet, but that time is long gone. Between modern fiberglass construction methods, the reliability of today’s outboards, and the advent of safety gear like EPIRBS and DSC radio, plenty of people running 20-somethings have become comfortable with hitting the offshore grounds dozens of miles from land. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the mosquito fleet has become so thick that on decent fishing days in most areas, there’s almost always help nearby. 

Still, if you’re going to push 30, 40, 50, or even more miles out in a boat under 30 feet, along with ensuring you have all the appropriate safety gear you want to be dang sure it’s an appropriate boat. It needs to be well-built, have a hullform designed for offshore use, and have enough fuel capacity that you can get where you’re going, fish all day, then run back home with a 10-percent reserve at all times. There are plenty of options that fit the bill and different boats are right for different folks, but you’d be hard-pressed to argue that any of these five aren’t worthy of consideration. 

  • Boston Whaler 285 Conquest 
  • Cape Horn 27 XS 
  • Cobia 301 CC 
  • Defiance 250 Admiral EX 
  • World Cat 260 CC-X 

Boston Whaler 285 Conquest 

There’s a lot to love about the Boston Whaler 285 Conquest. It can cruise at 40 mph while getting better than 1.5 mpg and providing close to 300 miles of range; it offers a cabin with a high cushy-factor, an enclosed head, a mini-galley, and a convertible dinette/V-berth; and it boasts niceties like an anchor windlass, freshwater cockpit shower, and a JL Audio stereo system. What people really love about this boat, however, is its unsinkable nature. Thanks to Boston Whaler’s glass-foam-glass construction methods, sinking is simply not an option. 

The 285 Conquest is just as cushy as it is rugged and fishy.

From the fishing perspective you do give up some cockpit space to get the cabin and comfy helm deck, but all the angling boxes still get checked. There’s a 26-gallon livewell in the transom, a raw water washdown, coaming bolsters in the cockpit, a bait prep station with sink, four flush-mount rod holders in the gunwales, three more in the transom, and four rocket launchers on the pipework. Visit Boston Whaler to learn more. 

Read Next: SoCal’s Migration to Go-Fast Fishing Boats

Cape Horn 27 XS 

The Cape Horn 27 XS has been around for quite a while, and time has tested its offshore chops. Rigged with a pair of 200-hp outboards it delivers a mid-30s cruise while getting 2.3 mpg, which translates into a whopping 362 miles of range (allowing for a 10-percent reserve). If that won’t get you where you want to go, we’d suggest getting your merchant mariner credentials in order. 

For its size, the Cape Horn 27 XS offers tremendous range and fish storage capacity.

Angling highlights include a monster seven-foot-long, 175-gallon fishbox and a 42-gallon livewell. The well is in the back of the leaning post, which allows Cape Horn to keep the transom svelte and as a result this is one of the few outboard boats where you can actually reach the back of the outboards with a rod tip. A broad bow and lots of flair make for a dry ride, and 23-degrees of transom deadrise knocks down the chop. Another big perk is that the boat will plane out and run at 20 mph on a single engine, so if you encounter mechanical mayhem it won’t take you three days to get home. Check out our full review of the boat Cape Horn 27 XS – Get the Gaff or visit Cape Horn Boats to learn more. 

Cobia 301 CC 

The 29’7” long Cobia 301 CC just barely squeaks in under the 30-foot mark, but it delivers even more room that you might imagine thanks to a hefty 10’0” beam. What really grabs us about this boat, though, is how it’s built. Cobia now uses the VARIS system, which vacuum-infuses the hull, transom, and stringers in one shot. That means these pieces are all one solid structure, rather than being different pieces-parts that get laminated together, and you can feel the difference in your bones. When the boat hits waves, even at high speeds, it feels rock-solid underfoot. 

Fishing-wise it’s locked and loaded, with twin 80-gallon fishboxes in the deck, a pair of 28-gallon livewells in the transom, a tackle station with four boxes and two bulk stowage drawers, and a rigging station with a sink and bait tray built into the back of the leaning post. Added bonus: both the T-top and pipes sport rocket launchers, and you get a total of nine. Check out Cobia Boats to learn more. 

Defiance Admiral 250 EX 

If you want a hardcore fishboat that offers the full protection of a cabin but doesn’t have the fancy, price-boosting frills many modern fishing boats are loaded up with, the Defiance Admiral 250 EX is going to be of interest. The helm-deck cabin gets you seating for five plus stowage in the seat bases, and the forward lower cabin has a V-berth with room for two to crash out on overnighters plus a portable MSD underneath. There’s more room than you might guess, too, because despite the 250 EX model name this boat is actually 28’4” long from the bracket to the bow. 

The biggest fishing highlight on this model is the open, unadulterated cockpit. From the cabin bulkhead to the transom, gunwale to gunwale, the entire space in an uninterrupted fish-fighting arena. There’s a pair of fishboxes in the deck, and there’s an option to get the pair of forward insulated cooler boxes plumbed as livewells. Check out Defiance Boats to learn more. 

World Cat 260 CCX 

The World Cat 260 CC-X is one of the smaller production catamarans being built today (and is world Cat’s second-smallest model), but it delivers the uber-smooth powercat ride that will be a big attraction for anglers with tired, aching backs. The cat design delivers another bonus in that it drafts a heck of a lot less than a deep-V and the hull needs a mere 14 inches of water to float, so you can rig a trolling motor on the boat and use this fishing machine hybrid-style without suffering through a hybrid-style ride in big seas. 

The stern design on this boat is incredibly interesting, with a narrow fold-down transom that converts into an aft casting deck. To make it happen World Cat shifts the cooler and (30 gallon) livewell from their usual transom locations, and integrates them into widened aft gunwales. Note: drop the transom, walk out onto the platform between the outboards, and you can get farther aft on this boat than just about any other. Note that this model recently made our top picks for Fishing Catamarans: 5 Hot New Models. For more information check out FishTalk’s review of the boat, World Cat 260CC-X: Slice and Dice, or visit World Cat

Okay: are you downright angry that we didn’t include Boat X, Boat Y, or Boat Z? Well, of course you are — we’ve all got our favorites and thanks to all the factors we mentioned earlier, today there are more offshore-capable under-30 fishing boats than there have ever been. Heck, this list could have included 50 rather than five. But each of these does stand out from the crowd on their own merits, and we wouldn’t hesitate to step aboard any of ‘em and point the bow for distant horizons. 

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...
Skipjack not considered?
@whitecap72 There's certainly other boats to consider, including Skipjack which we have covered in past articles. These are a selection from one of our contributors Lenny Rudow who has experience on each of these vessels. Keep an eye out for future articles covering more offshore fishing machines and make sure to take a look at some of our past copy that has covered even more boats and manufacturers!