Powercats Versus Monohulls: Let the Debate Rage On

Some anglers are powercat lovers and others prefer a single hull underfoot. Which boat is really better? Both, and neither. Truth be told there are advantages and disadvantages inherent to both types of designs, and which will serve you best depends on your own personal wants and needs. Let’s dive into the debate of powercats versus monohulls.

But before digging into the plusses and minuses of each type of boat, let’s make one thing perfectly clear right from the start: any statement we might make about cats or monos in general will be painting with an absurdly broad brush. Each and every cat model is just as different from one another as each different monohull is. We often hear statements like “cats ride smoother,” but some cats run smoother than others and it isn’t tough to find a model that’s bumpier than plenty of monohulls in specific conditions. On the flip side of the coin we also hear that monohulls handle better than cats, but some do and some don’t. So take all those generalizations with a grain of salt. 

Why We Love Powercats 

The number-one reason some anglers swear by powercats is their smooth ride. Wait a sec — didn’t we just dump all over that assertion? Well, sort of. A more accurate statement would be that well-designed, properly built powercats often run smoother than a monohull of the same size and weight in a chop. And this isn’t just an assertion, it’s been proven while measuring impact forces via accelerometers in cats running alongside monohulls (average reduction in impact force: 25-percent). 

Is there an angler alive who wouldn’t love tearing through the ocean on a Freeman 42LR? We don’t think so.

Why do cats have the potential to run so much more smoothly? Impact surface area is a big part of the equation. Think of a monohull like a spoon being pushed through the water, while the cat is more like a pair of knives. And in many cases powercats up the smoothness ante by designing in a compression tunnel. In these cases the tunnel between the two hulls narrows as you move aft. When the boat moves forward at planning speeds air gets compressed as it’s squeezed into the tighter and tighter space, creating a cushion of sorts that absorbs the blows as the boat meets waves. 

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Another reason why anglers love cats is the enhanced deck space. Cats carry their beam all the way forward right up to the stem of the boat, as opposed to the ever-narrowing bow cockpit in a monohull. As a result, some cats have over 20-percent more deck space than some monohulls of the same length and beam. Just look at the cockpit and bow on an Invincible 33, for example. It’s their smallest cat model but you could pack aboard a half-dozen anglers and still have gobs of elbow room. 

You want to maximize deck space? It’s tough to beat a powercat like this Invincible 33

Enhanced static stability is another big bonus cat-lovers enjoy. Even in small models you can generally walk from one side of the boat to the other without a fraction of the rocking and rolling you’d experience in a deep-V. 

Why We Love Monohulls 

We just mentioned enhanced static stability in a cat, which is actually a great time to start talking about monohulls — because when that stability gets interrupted by something like a wave hitting the beam, some cats react with an incredibly fast righting force. That can create a “snap” roll, which can be very uncomfortable. Monohulls, on the other hand, rock and roll back and forth in a gentler, more predictable manner. Speaking of predictability, they also enjoy boat-like handling and bank into turns. Some cats do, but some others don’t. 

There isn’t just a head compartment inside the Everglades 395CC’s console, there’s an entire cabin. 

Monohulls also get the nod when it comes to interior volume excluding deck surface area. That deep belly is great for housing fuel tanks, fishboxes, lower cabins, and deep console compartments. But in a cat, all those things have to be squeezed into two smaller areas as opposed to one big one. Consider the Everglades 395CC, for example. It’s a center console, but it has a bona fide cabin with lots of headroom, a settee/dinette that converts into a berth, a head, and a mini-gally. You need a deep belly going lower than deck level to gain all that space. Plus, all that volume below the waterline makes for more buoyancy. Monohulls are generally better weight-bearing platforms, and you can load them down without the ride suffering too much. 

Monohulls also gain an advantage when it comes to cold, hard cash. Foot for foot and all else being equal, cats tend to cost more than monos simply because it takes more material to build two hulls and bridge them than it does to make one big one. Resale ease and value is another monetary matter to consider. Cats have never made up so much as 10-percent of the overall boat market and usually account for a lot less, so finding a buyer for one can take significantly longer than it does to find a buyer for a monohull. 

We should also point out that monohulls are more traditional-looking fishing boats, and fishermen do tend to be traditionalists. In surveys the most common reason why people say they don’t like cats is simply because they “look funny.”  

The Bottom Line 

What about issues like performance and efficiency? Some cats get a slight advantage, but many of today’s tricked-out monohulls do quite well and it’s even more dangerous than usual to make any generalizations when it comes to speed and range. Besides, these days it seems like if you want to go faster you just add another outboard or three, right?! 

Take an angler who’s never been on a power cat, put him or her on a boat like the Freeman 42LR, then blast them 50 miles offshore at 60-plus mph. It’s a safe bet that they’ll become an instant cat lover. Or take a cat fan, put him or her on a Contender 35ST, and do the same. Yeah, they’ll have a newfound respect for what today’s monohulls can do. The bottom line? In the cats-versus-monohulls debate, the real answer as to which is best is neither. And, both. 

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...