Your guide to the newest and hottest fishing rigs
by Monte Burch and Kurt Beckstrom
The purpose of a fishing boat is to get you to the spot on the lake you want to be, then allow you to fish it easily and efficiently for as long as you want to stay. It should hold as many people and as much gear as you wish, and complement your preferred fishing styles.
The nine rigs we’ve highlighted here include an all-new bass boat from Stratos, boats built especially for catfish and crappie anglers, as well as craft for inshore saltwater fishermen. And for more details on the fishing boats we presented in the February issue of North American Fisherman, just scroll to the bottom of this page for quick links to specific website pages.
Stratos 189 VLO
Along with its new 326XF multi-species/family rig, Stratos introduced the 189 VLO bass boat
, a completely new competition-level rig. Dubbed the “Vee-Low,” the boat is 18 feet, 9 inches long, rated for 150 horsepower and offers a number of new and unique tournament-specific features. Yet, the VLO will sell for less than $30,000, according to the company.
One of the most innovative features, the flip-up passenger windscreen, provides second-angler protection when running, then flips down out of the way for single-console fishability. The low-profile driver-side console is large enough to take a large-format, flush-mount LCD screen, and is tapered to provide a protected area for the tips of long rods strapped to the casting deck. In addition, the port and center rod lockers offer enough space to hold numbers of 7½- and 7-foot rods (respectively), while the center locker also has an organizer that holds tackle trays. A centrally located angler work station at the front-deck step-up keeps tools and other gear at-the-ready to expedite dehooking, re-rigging and other tasks.
Other standard equipment includes a 34-gallon divided livewell, along with additional storage, under the rear deck; two bike seats with pedestals; 70-pound, 24-volt MinnKota Maxxum bow-mount; console-mounted Humminbird 325 and a 5x2 MinnKota onboard charger.
SeaArk ProCat 200
Serious catfish anglers will truly appreciate the new ProCat 200 from SeaArk. A smaller version of its popular ProCat 240 which was introduced three years ago, the new 200 features a 20-foot hull with a 15-degree hull rise for a smooth and dry ride. The wide, 72-inch bottom is the same as on the 24-foot model, offering a very stable platform for fighting big fish, as well as excellent handling ability on big water. It’s rated for 175 horsepower.
The rig’s catfishing features include: a self-draining bow with a 25-gallon livewell/rinse tank; a level area, with tie-downs, for a removable bait tank; an 80-gallon rear-seat livewell and a 12-volt outlet for spotlights and such. Comfort and convenience touches include a walk-through windshield, rotating captain’s chairs, and accessory rails for attaching rod holders.
Nitro Z-7 Sport
Nitro is among the leading names in bass boats; it’s the rig KVD runs, after all. But last year the company introduced a boat designed for serious fishermen who take their family time on the water seriously, too. At 19 feet, 5 inches long, the Z-7 Sport
is rated for 150 horsepower and carries six people.
Features like the removable MotorGuide W55 bow-mount trolling motor, flush-mounted Lowrance Mark-5x sonar, 10 large storage areas for rods, tackle, PFDs and skis, a divided livewell and bow-deck lounge pads means the boat is equally at home probing the lily pads for bass as it is towing a wakeboard rider mid-lake.
Extreme shallow-water performance is what Ranger’s 168 Phantom is all about. At 16 feet, 8-inches, and weighing approximately 650 pounds, this boat is designed for optimum performance with outboards from 60 to 75 horsepower. It drafts about six inches, with the outboard up, and the deck and cockpit area are surprisingly large. Generous storage space under the front and rear decks, under-gunnel rod racks and vertical holders on each side of the console mean anglers can easily keep the fishing area clear of tackle and gear.
Hobie Mirage Revolution 11
The number of kayak anglers is growing every year as more fishermen realize how simple, inexpensive and exciting the sport can be. A kayak allows you to approach fish in places that are unreachable with a larger boat, or even on foot, and being so close to the water, the action is in-your-face.
Hobie, a leader in the field, offers serious fishing kayaks in many styles and sizes, but its most recent introduction is the Mirage Revolution 11. This compact 11 footer weighs just 47 pounds, so it’s easy to maneuver on and off a cartop carrier, or into a pickup bed. Plus, it’s highly responsive on the water.
Yet, it offers the same outstanding fishing features found on larger versions, including ample tackle/gear storage, areas to mount sonar and rod holders, a rear cargo area, as well as Hobie’s exclusive Mirage Drive peddle-propulsion system, complete with a twist-and-stow rudder. Optional equipment includes an aerated livewell, and the eVolve electric motor system for when you want to go farther, faster.
If you’re a hardcore bass angler looking for all the comfort and performance money can buy, the Charger 596
deserves a test drive. Big, roomy and comfortable, the 21-foot, 9-inch bass boat features Charger’s unique sloped front deck. We’ve tested many of these boats over the years and the distinctive deck design provides an uncluttered view while the Triple-step hull puts you instantly on plane.
The rig is also extremely solid, featuring an all-composite construction and a sturdy four-inch thick transom. It has lots of spacious storage compartments, 10 in all. This boat also offers the optional, patented ProAir Livewell cooling system that uses the built-in ice chest to keep livewell water cool, and your catch lively.
The Charger 596 is fully appointed, with such amenities as livewell pump-out and courtesy lights, Dual Pro battery charger, built-in jackplate, Lowrance X-52 depthfinder and power-assist lids on all compartments.
The exclusive Hyper-Lift hull that provides Xpress aluminum bass boats an ultra-fast hole-shot, as well as extreme handling and maneuverability, does likewise for the company’s Hyper-Lift Crappie Series fishing rigs. Two versions, the all-welded H18PFC
, stretch 18 and 17 feet, respectively, offer spacious decks, and plenty of storage to make fishing comfortable and efficient.
War Eagle Coastal Tomahawk 21
War Eagle’s Coastal Tomahawk 21
, the flagship on the company’s saltwater sportfishing side, is an all-aluminum, center-console rig aimed at inshore anglers looking for exceptional handling and fishability. The boat is rated for 150 horsepower, to get anglers to and from their favorite fishing spots in a hurry, plus it offers extraordinary storage space, including three lockable compartments, port and starboard 7½-foot rod boxes, plus vertical holders for six rods, and a 17-gallon livewell.
Phoenix tournament-grade bass boats have a well-deserved reputation for speed, handling, comfort and fishability, and the 618 Pro
provides all of that in a slightly smaller, more compact package. Yet, it offers all the unique storage features as the larger boats in the company’s lineup. This includes Phoenix innovative Rotating Tackle System; basically a Lazy-Suzan-type arrangement under the front deck that holds several 3600-size tackle trays, plus miscellaneous gear. In addition, there’s the under-seat net storage compartment and buddy rod storage, all designed to help keep the fishing area organized and obstruction-free.
The 618 Pro is 18 feet, 6-inches long and is rated for outboards of 115 to 150 horsepower.