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Contender 30ST Boat Review – Red Hot Fishing Machine

The Contender 30ST is one red-hot fishing machine.

Contender 30st
The first topic of discussion one has to raise when looking at the Contender 30ST in depth is performance.

Spend a full day aboard a Contender 30ST ripping across the bay, punching through the inlet, and fishing hard, and you’ll quickly come to the conclusion that few center console fishing boats of the same size can match its combination of performance, seakeeping ability, and fishability. We don’t expect you to take our word for it – anyone interested in buying a boat should go for an extended sea trial on it and form their own opinions – but we can fill you in on a few details that should certainly whet your appetite.

Contender 30ST Features

  • LOA – 29’8”
  • Beam – 9’6”
  • Draft – 1’11”
  • Displacement – 9,250 lbs.
  • Transom deadrise – 24.5 degrees
  • Fuel capacity – 265 gal.

Contender 30ST Performance

The 30ST is built atop a 24.5-degree transom deadrise deep-V hull, with not one but two performance-enhancing steps molded in. If you’re not familiar with exactly how steps work in a hull bottom, be sure to check out Stepped Hulls – Is a Stepped Hull Boat The Right Choice For You?

For the moment, we’ll just put the basics in a nutshell: the steps create low pressure areas under the boat via longitudinal notches, which draw in air to reduce wetted surface and reduce drag and friction. Some work great and some not so much, but in the case of the Contender 30ST they net a significant gain in both speed and efficiency. Check out a number of performance reports for similarly sized and powered boats, to see the proof. Look at 30-footers with twin V6 4.2 liter F300 outboards and you’ll note that at a cruising speed of 40 mph, efficiency averages out to about 1.5 mpg. But when we tested the Contender it maintained 1.9 mpg at that speed. Juiced up to 50 mph it maintained 1.7 mpg as opposed to the average of 1.3 mpg. And while most stepless center consoles with these power plants top out in the upper 50s, the 30ST hits an eye-watering 66 mph.

With the twin steps visible below the console and leaning post, this hull design shines when it comes to both performance and efficiency.

What about down-sides to the steps? These vary quite a bit from boat to boat and can be significant in some case, but not on the 30ST – these steps are done right. We tried cranking the wheel hard-over at high speeds and the boat’s hull grips the water like Pirellies on asphalt. Again, don’t take our word for it. Just get on the boat, nail the throttles, and spin the wheel to find out for yourself.

Seakeeping Abilities

With 24.5 degrees underfoot, the Contender splits open the waves just as easily as one might guess. The hull feels thoroughly solid underfoot, no big shocker since the Contender is hand-laid, the stringers are foam-filled glass, the liner is PVC foam-cored, the pipework is oversized, and the entire boat is built with vinylester resins. The telling factor is that when the boat re-enters the water after a launch, vibrations are minimal.

Grab the pipework, seat-backs, or low-profile grab rails, and give ‘em a shake. You’ll find that everything on the 30ST is thoroughly beefy.

Fishing on the 30ST

Fishing-wise, the Contender 30ST is a fairly straightforward blood-and-guts boat. The console is kept relatively svelte to maximize deck space, as opposed to blowing it up to prioritize head space inside. The bow and stern are unencumbered with niceties and gentrification, and you’ll find an emphasis on stowage. All sorts of stowage. Start with live bait, for example. There are twin 40-gallon pressurized wells with gasketed clear Plexi hatches and baby-blue interiors in the transom. If that’s not enough capacity for your taste, a 70-gallon in-deck box can be plumbed as well.

Opt to have the forward box plumbed, and you can have three wells with a grand total of 150-gallons of live bait hauling capacity.

When it comes down to the details, how the 30ST gets rigged is more or less up to the buyer. Contender offers a lot of ways to semi-customize the boat to suit your style, ranging from flush-mount rod holders to built-in tackle stations to slide-out coolers. One beef: we spotted a spring strut on the leaning post tackle stowage compartment, and past experience has proved that these are often bent or broken by newbie crew members who don’t know how they work. We’d get rid of it.

Once you start turning those cigar minnow into kingfish, you’ll appreciate another form of extensive stowage capabilities on this boat: fish stowage. There are twin 55-gallon in-deck boxes, and a 130-gallon box in the foredeck. It will take a seriously ambitious angler to believe he or she will plug all of those fishboxes, but if you think it will ever be a possibility opt for the foredeck coffin box which mounts over the in-deck box and swings up on hydraulic rams. That option also provides some seating, should you or your crew need a momentary rest while bailing mahi from the bow.

Rig the 30ST to fit your fishing style.

Whatever accessories or arrangements you might choose, one thing is for sure: trollers, live-baiters, chunkers, and jiggers will all find things to love about the boat.

We’ll say it one more time: ride this boat for yourself, to verify just how well its designed and just how impressively it performs. Words and pictures simply can’t do justice to the first-hand experience. We’re pretty dang sure you’ll agree.

For more information, visit Contender.

Check out more boating info from BD’s Lenny Rudow.

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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.