Bay Boats - Able to access the shallows, yet still take on big bays.
Size Matters: Scout 24 Bay Scout
What’s one thing that’s always at a premium in bay boats? Space. Most fishboats designed for bays and backwaters are just too small to support a half-dozen anglers and oodles of gear. There are some super-sized bay boats out there, but can a big boat compete with the smaller ones when it comes to fulfilling the bay fishing mission? Scout’s 24 Bay Boat says yes – here’s what I thought after casting from one.
First, the advantages all the bonus space 24’ of LOA gets you: the boat can support a full T-top, has tons of dry stowage space, and deck space that smaller vessels simply can not provide. Check out the anchor locker, for example, and you’ll note room for a big Danforth and 200’ of rode. Under the casting deck, which opens on gas-assist struts, there’s room for gear bags and safety items plus locking rod stowage for a total of eight rigs. On top of that, there’s room for a portable MSD inside the center console. I found fishing to be super-comfy, too, considering that our test boat had seat pedestal bases in both the forward and aft casting decks. As you’d expect the ride through snotty seas is also a cut above the norm for a bay boat, and since the Scout is built with foam injected between the hull and deck, it provides a particularly solid ride.
What about the down-sides of a big rig? Don’t think you’ll have a problem getting into skinny water—hull draft is 11”. Once you’ve located the fish you’ll appreciate the huge aft livewell which comes with slide-in dividers, so you can keep your shrimp separate from your specks. Triple-racks on the sides of the console and four more on the back of the leaning post hold your rods, and an Igloo cooler seat holds your future dinner. Unlike most boats in this class the Scout also has rodholders in the aft deck, so you can troll with ease if the mood strikes you. It’s a long run to the next hotspot? Range is another way the Scout separates itself from the competition, thanks to exceptional fuel capacity. The integrated tank holds a whopping 85-gallons, so even when rigged with the maximum 300-hp powerplant you’ll have plenty of juice for the big haul. How about bigger speed? No problem, the Scout I tested (with a single 250) reached 56-mph and cruised at over 40 with two people aboard. And the bigger-is-better attitude continues at the helm. Most bay boats barely have room for a minor-league surface-mounted fishfinder, and if you like to hit the inlets or venture to a near-by wreck for some bottom fishing, you’ll want better electronics at the dash. The Scout has room for a honking 10” flush-mounted screen, so you can carry the same powerful units as the blue-water anglers do.
So: does size really matter? Heck yeah, and other then increased towing weight and price, I didn’t see any real down-sides as compared to smaller rigs. Take a few casts from one, and I’ll bet you agree.
See what Scout has to say about it at www.scoutboats.com.
LOA - 23’10”
Beam - 8’6”
Draft - 11”
Dry weight - 2,100
Fuel capacity – 85
Max. HP - 300
Price – Between $50,000 and $60,000 depending on power choice and options.
Observed performance notes w/2 people and full load fuel, single 200 HP Yamaha F-200 four-stroke outboard, swinging a 15 1/4” x 17” three bladed stainless-steel prop:
Speed in MPH
Gallons per hour
Miles per gallon
Wide open throttle/6000
Is a 24' bay boat too big? I say no.
The Scout's laid out for maximum fishability, with livewells and pedestal seating fore and aft.
Blackjack 224: Hit the Jackpot
I love boat testing gigs in Texas. I go down there regularly for Texas Fish & Game magazine, and it seems like everyone who lives down there is riddled with southern hospitality. It’s impossible to have a bad time. On top of that, the folks at TFG always bring me a great selection of cool boats to run. One stand-out: the Blackjack 224. Lay your eyes on the bow of this boat, and you’ll notice some Carolina Flair. Not only does this make it look broader and more aggressive that most bay boats, it also throws spray out and away from the boat, providing as dry a ride as possible. Now direct your eyes to the stern. You’ll see tumblehome at the transom, where the hullsides are slightly rounded and are complimented by a spray rail. It’s a traditional design feature lost soon after most production builders went from wood construction to molded fiberglass, and these days you usually see it only on custom-made cold-molded boats. Details like these are what gives the Blackjack 224 class—something missing in the vast majority of vanilla-flavored bay boats.
Compared to other bay runners, the Blackjack is built with a little more tilt towards rough water ability and a little less towards shallow running. It needs about a foot of water to float. But between the flair, an aggressive 15-degree deadrise, a warped, modified V hull, and a fiberglass stringer grid injected with foam, the Blackjack can laugh at conditions that would leave most bay boats sitting at the dock. On top of that the Blackjack holds a whopping 70-gallons of fuel, so popping through the inlet on nice days is an option.
More touches of class: The Blackjack has dedicated drift anchor cleats mounted amidships. Hatches are compression-molded foam-cores, so they look flawless inside and out, and have insulating value. Check out that intake manifold system: instead of multiple through-hulls for pumps and whatnot, the Blackjack has a manifold that sits under a shelf in the starboard side aft deck. This manifold services all of the water intake systems, like a sea chest system works on high-end yachts. And don’t forget to look at those rodboxes, too. They hold up to seven rigs, and are 9’ long so even the fly guys have a place to stow their sticks.
Low points? I’m at a loss. I can’t even rant about the price, because this rig sells in the upper 30’s. Even decked out with maximum power it barely breaks 40 thou, which really isn’t bad in this day and age.
When all is said and done, there can be only one conclusion: the Blackjack 224 doesn’t just have good fishability, seakeeping, and construction—it also has things which most bay boats lack: individuality and craftsmanship, blended with functionality. In other words, it’s got class. Click on www.k2marine.com to see the company web site. LOA - 22'2" Beam - 8'3" Draft - 12" Dry Weight - 1,950 Fuel Capacity - 70 Max. HP - 250 Price - Upper 30's to mid 40's.
Observed performance notes w/ 2 people and half load fuel, single 225-hp Yamaha F225 outboards swinging a 14 5/8” x 23” three bladed stainless steel prop:
Speed in MPH
Gallons per hour
Miles per gallon
Wide open throttle/5900
The Blackjack 224 shreds Aransas Bay.
Note the tumblehome in the transom - sweet.
Blazer Bay 2220 Professional: Fire Walker
This bay boat is hot! Hot! Hot!
Want a boat that’s so hot it sizzles? Blazer Bay’s 220 Professional has all the fishing features you need to compete in top-level tournaments, finish details that will surprise even the pickiest of mariners, and handling as sporty as a two-seater.
The foredeck of the Blazer Bay is flanked with rodboxes, and in the foredeck itself there’s a pair of fishboxes. There are three livewells, one for anglers fishing at the bow under the forward console seat and two aft wells in the aft deck. Open the hatch next to the center aft well, and you’ll gain easy access to all of the boat’s pumps and mechanical systems. The leaning post, which is capped off by a quartet of rocket launchers, houses a 94-quart cooler below. Pull-up cleats make fly fishing snag-free, while seat pedestal bases (one in the bow, and two in the aft deck) mean you can lean back and relax while you cast.
To get a real feel for just how well the Blazer Bay is thought-out, poke your head into the center console and look at the undersides of the vertical console rodracks. Each rod tube has a small drain tube fitted to the bottom, which will carry any errant water into the bilge. On many lesser boats, that water would simply run into the console and reek havoc with your gear.
Our test boat was rigged with a 225-hp Mercury Optimax outboard swinging a three-bladed stainless-steel prop. It shot the boat onto plane in seconds, and the Blazer Bay weaved through tight turns like a thoroughbred while pounding down the chop without hesitation, rattles, or bangs. The hull bottom features a small pocket at the transom, and draft was reduced even farther with a hydraulic jack plate. Once the flats are within casting range you’ll have no problem powering up the electric trolling motor, since there’s dedicated stowage for the batteries inside the console. Performance? Hot. Looks? Hot. Fishability? Hot, again—there’s just no better word to describe the Blazer Bay 220 Professional.
LOA – 22’2” Beam – 100” Draft – 11” Displacement – 1,750 Fuel capacity – 60 Max. HP - 300 Price: The upper 30’s to lower 40’s.
Lake & Bay 20 Backwater: Hold onto your hat!
It was fun zooming around Port Aransas in a Lake & Bay 20 Backwater, but the dealer I was with wasn’t so amused when the 62.1-mph headwind we created ripped his prescription sunglasses right off his head. If you’re looking for a flats and bay boat that can tear across the water’s surface so fast you leave a trail of glasses and hats in your wake, this is one you have to see. Our test boat was powered with a 225-hp Evinrude E-Tec, and as we zipped through the bay I thought the wind-blast would pull the hairs right out of my head. Hole-shot and handling are just as exhilarating as top-end performance, and with our test boat’s dark blue hull, low profile lines and curved poling platform pipework, it looks just as good as it runs. Same goes for the boat’s interior, which features touches like fully finished hatches inside and out, all of which dog down. In fact, I didn’t find a rough, unfinished edge anywhere on the boat.
The down-sides? Top-shelf boats don’t come cheap these days, and a fully-rigged Lake & Bay 20 Backwater with the 225-hp powerplant and a trailer lists in the upper 40’s. Is the upper 40’s reasonable for a 20’ boat that’s limited to relatively calm inshore waters? To me that sounds like an awful lot of cash, but hey – it’s a personal call. One more thing: the console is pretty small. That means more fishing room in the cockpit, but it also means you don’t get much protection from the wind and spray.
Even though this boat won’t get you into big water, it will take you places no man has gone before. Draft is a mere 10” so you can run into the skinniest backwater fishing holes around. And poling this rig won’t break your back, because it hits the scales at 1,150-lbs. You’re a competitive angler, and you make long runs in search of better hotspots? Then you’ll also appreciate the 48-gallon fuel capacity, which will keep you going full-tilt for hours.
Interior design is straight forward, with an anchor locker on the forepeak, a foredeck livewell, and a fishbox/icebox just behind it. Gunwales are wide enough to walk 360-degrees around the boat, and they ring a flats boat-sized cockpit with a small center console. There’s also a livewell in the large aft deck, flanked by a pair of stowage compartments. Which, of course, are a necessity—you’ll need that space to secure your hats and sunglasses, before nailing the throttle. See the manufacturer's take at www.lakeandbayboats.com. LOA - 20'1" Beam - 7'9" Draft - 10" Weight - 1,150 Fuel capacity - 48 Max. HP - 250
If you feel the need for speed, the Backwater delivers.
Nautic Star 2200 Tournament: Star Vehicle
What happens when you mix a brand new 22’ boat with 225 horses on the transom, an itchy throttle hand, and a 20-knot breeze that has the bay whipped up into a fearsome frenzy? One heckava boat test, that’s for sure. So I cinched down my foul weather gear, gritted my teeth, and climbed aboard Nautic Star’s new 2200 Tournament for a test run that was guaranteed to be wet, bumpy, and down-right fun.
Of course, they say there are no guarantees in life and as soon as we broke a plane, the old saying proved true: much to my surprise, the 2200 Tournament didn’t throw spray, nor was the ride very bumpy even as we charged into a two foot chop. Nautic Star’s construction techniques explain why: the one-piece foam-filled fiberglass stringers are fiberglassed into the hull, the deck is glassed on top, and all the cavities are pumped full of foam. The hull and deck fit together tightly, because the tooling for this boat was created with a computer-controlled 5-axis router. You want a solid boat? You’ve got it.
The lack of spray can be chalked up to the Nautic Star’s design, which is wider than usual up forward, creating some flair in the bow (which throws the water away from the boat) and a large foredeck. That also makes for a lot more room up front then you might expect, including a wide casting deck, 43 insulated gallons for icing down fish under the casting platform, and plenty of stowage space. That extra beam up forward also helps improve stability, and during the test I noticed there was less rock and roll than I would have expected, when waves struck us on the beam.
As is always the case with boats, there’s bound to be a down-side to different design choices. In this case, it must be noted that the wider bow creates more drag, reducing speed. Still, if you go for the 225-hp Yamaha on our test boat it shouldn’t be much of an issue considering that we broke 50-mph. And should you so desire, the boat’s rated to take up to 250 horses. Sure, there are tournament guys who aren’t happy unless they’re sizzling along at highway speeds, and this won’t be their boat of choice. But for most of us this is plenty of juice. Back off to a normal cruise at 4500 rpm and it’s economic speed, too. At 36.2-mph this rig sips 10.7 gph, which means you’re getting better than three mpg—that’ll get you get to the hotspot with plenty of fuel left in the tank.
You want fishability? The Nautic Star has got it: six vertical holders on the console, four in the leaning post, two flush-mounts in the gunwales, six racks in insets under the gunwales, and locking rodboxes in the foredeck with removable rodrack inserts that hold 10 rigs. Room for improvement: the forward rodbox hatches will bang on the inwales if you open them without care. A rubber bumper here would solve the problem.
The boat’s pre-wired for a trolling motor, so shallow water/light tackle anglers can add an electric kicker easily. Those more inclined to live-lining will be interested in the 20-gallon lighted, aerated well under the console seat, and if you like to toss a cast net to catch live peanut bunker or spot you’ll appreciate the compartment under the foredeck which is sized for a five-gallon bucket. There’s also a lighted 37-gallon well in the stern which has an aerator with a timer. Both wells pull water from brass high-speed pick-ups, and neither spilled water all over the place when we ran across the chop, thanks to their light, strong, tight-fitting RTM hatches. Those hatches also boost the boat’s fit and finish appeal, since they’re smooth, shiny, and gel-coated on the underside. And, since the boat looks nice, you’ll want to keep it that way. Good thing Nautic Star incorporates a raw water washdown in a self-coiling hose holder in the console. Just remove a pie plate, pull out the hose, and you can wash down the entire boat with a high-pressure blast.
While we’re at that console, we need to poke inside for a moment. When I stuck my head in there, I got some deep insight into just how well though-out the 2200 Tournament is. I looked up at the bottoms of the console-mounted vertical rodholders, and the cupholders at the helm, and I saw little tubes running down from all of them—the holders are all plumbed with drains, so they don’t fill with water nor do they allow it to drip down into the console. On most boats, they’d simply drain onto your gear, battery, or whatever else you have stowed inside the console.
Next I looked up at the back of the dash, and saw water-tight Deutsche wire connectors. Nice. And supported, well-loomed wires. Nice, again. Yup, it all points to one thing: a boat that’s been designed and built with a lot of attention to detail.