In search of that perfect boat? First identify your exact needs What works in the bay may not be equally suited to occasional trip offshore


At the mouth of the Severn River on many summer and fall evenings, a young turk in a 40-foot sportsfisherman often is on patrol, bottom-fishing for white perch, while an old-timer in a 12-foot tin boat anchors at the farewell buoy and chums for rockfish, wildly rocking in wakes of passing motoryachts.

Probably each would say he has the perfect fishing boat. But opinions on fishing boats are like noses -- everyone has one.

And what works splendidly on the upper bay might be out of place at the mouth of the Potomac River and even less suited to an occasional trip offshore, while what works superbly offshore can be overkill for Chesapeake Bay.

"There is no such thing as a perfect boat for all uses, really," said Dave Mueller of Anchor Yacht Basin, a Carolina Classic dealer in Edgewater. "Most of our customers are seasoned boaters and have bought something before at a lesser price and found it couldn't do all those things they wanted."

Pursuits like spending most of the season cruising and fishing Chesapeake Bay and also taking a fishing vacation down the ocean. Pursuits that require a boat to have at least two personalities -- that of a fishing machine and a weekend cottage.

"We have found that our customers like our Carolina Classic 28 for that, because it has more accommodations than our 25-footer," said Mueller, whose company will debut the Carolina Classic 35 at the United States Powerboat Show in Annapolis. "The 28 has better accommodations and they can overnight on the bay or take it to Ocean City for a month and have a place to

stay over on the weekends."

The Carolina Classic 28 comes with a hefty price tag of about $100,000, depending on choice of gas or diesel engines and optional equipment. But the 28 also has the strength and design to run effortlessly offshore to the canyons after billfish or tuna."

But what about the guy whose budget might be stressed by a $250 monthly payment -- much less the excess baggage of a hundred grand note.

Among the much improved manufacturers around is Bayliner, a U.S. Marine company that has upgraded its line of Trophy sportsfisherman over the past few years.

"On the East Coast, Bayliner is the most popular boat, based on numbers sold," said David Baumgartner of Riverside Marine in White Marsh. "I got guys that run them offshore for tuna and use them in the bay for rockfish, and probably the most popular of the Trophy series is the 2002, a walk- around model that comes as a package -- boat, motor, trailer and all the goodies except a depth finder."

Baumgartner said Riverside is a former dealer for Pro-Line, Aquasport and Angler boats, all good manufacturers of inshore/offshore fishing boats 30 feet and under. Recently, Riverside added the Robalo brand, a sister company of Bayliner and long a big name among fishermen.

"But the bread-and-butter is that 20-foot walkaround," said Baumgartner, whose company will have more than a half-dozen Bayliners displayed along F Dock.

"For the median-income, everyday guy who wants a boat to go fishing on, this is the ticket."

The package for the Bayliner Trophy 2002 runs between $20,000 and $22,000, Baumgartner said.

Fred Quimby of Fred Quimby's Marine Service in Easton sells Contenders, Makos, Scouts and Carolina Skiffs, a range of vessels under 30 feet that covers all price ranges for production fishing boats of that size. And he has been selling boats along Route 50 for years.

"The perfect boat depends on what your needs are," said Quimby. "Really, if you fish the bay or the ocean, you need a different kind of boat to do it right."

For the ocean, Quimby recommends a 31- to 35-footer with twin engines, T-top, outriggers and a full range of electronics. And while that same boat could be used on the bay, he said, a smaller boat might not be best for the ocean.

"You could cut down to a 23- to 27-footer and have all you'd need to fish on the ocean," said Quimby. "But you'd have to pick your days."

For bay fishing, Quimby recommends the 21- or 23-foot Contender center console or the Mako 221 or 232, with twin outboards on the larger models and singles on the smaller boats.

Prices for the Contenders and Makos are similar, running into the $30,000 to $40,000 range for the 21- and 22-footers and to more than $70,000 for the 27-foot Contender, depending on options and engines.

"But which is better for someone?" Quimby said. "Look at it this way: When you go to buy a car, they might have four of the same model on the lot. Which do you pick?

"You pick the one with the colors and options you like, and it's the same way with a boat."

For fishermen looking for a strong, serviceable boat that can be inexpensively customized, Quimby said, the increasingly popular Carolina Skiffs are worth a close look.

Carolina Skiffs' base 21-foot boat sells for about $4,600, Quimby said, and for another $2,000 or so fore and aft decks, a center console and special seats can be added. The base price for the 23-foot vee-hull made by the same company is about $5,600.

Prices do not include power, but the skiffs are easily driven by low-cost, low-horsepower engines.

"If you are going to fish the rivers, Eastern Bay or Chesapeake Bay, you don't really need any more," said Quimby. "I can catch just as many fish in a 20-footer as in a bigger boat. But that bigger boat, of course, is going to cost me a lot more money."

High-end, low-end and mid-range, there are dozens of good fishing boats out there, and many models will be available for inspection at the powerboat show.

With a little casting about among the dealers and lenders, it probably is possible to catch a boat that is almost perfect.

Pub Date: 10/11/98

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