The Cobia's base price with a 225-hp four-stroke comes in at $62,386, the lowest starting point in this rally. To make a comparable list of features, add on $136 for a compass, $314 for a washdown pump, and $707 for trim tabs, for a total of $63,543-still a strong value.
The most expensive boat is the Grady-White, at $87,725 with a single 250-hp Yamaha HPDI. Why so much? There are a lot of standards, and most are a grade above the rest. Livewell and washdown pumps are dedicated and 1,100 gph instead of the more common 800 gph, or shared, pumps. The standard head is a fixed electric, not a portable. Plus you get items the others leave out, such as windshield wipers, a refrigerator, locking electronics box, vertically and horizontally adjustable seats, and windlass prewiring. Still, even with all these advantages, it's a lot of money.
At $64,679 with a single 225-hp four-stroke on the transom, the Pro-Line is the most reasonably priced boat we tested. This figure gets you all the basic standards a fishing family demands, plus a fridge and that four-stroke. A bargain? You bet.
Boston Whaler's 255 Conquest holds several advantages over the competition: awesome construction, an extremely smooth ride, good single-engine performance, and a cockpit that screams "fish here." However, the slamming, creaky hatches, and pump-share arrangement with the livewell and washdown are letdowns on an otherwise top-shelf fishing machine. Boston Whaler also fell short in the cabin, with no enclosed head, or galley. Add in the must-haves and watch the price climb.
Century's 2600 WA strikes us as a fast, fun-to-run, all-around well-built and well-equipped boat. We also give it high grades in the looks department, with color-matching fabrics and gel coat graphics. However, with the smallest cockpit and a tight walkaround, this isn't the best boat for fishing, especially since it's so expensive.
Cobia's 270 WA has speed, handling, strong but light construction, great pricing, and the largest cockpit. On the flip side, the galley icebox is a waste of space (does anyone still use them?), and it was downright painful to hear the fishbox hatch slam. Most important, the sidedecks end near the bow, creating a step-and a tripping point. In fact, it's fair to ask whether this boat should even be called a walkaround.
Pro-Line's 26 Walk is an incredible bargain. It has solid performance numbers, good ride, solid construction, sexy looks, and a great standards list. The cabin also comes better equipped than the norm, and the wide, deep walkaround was one of the easiest to navigate. But when it comes to fishing, the molded transom seat keeps you too far from the motors and eats cockpit space. Also, the livewell is tiny, and the cockpit is the second smallest of the group. Despite its strong overall showing, the Pro-Line just misses taking the day.
Grady-White's Islander 270 is at the top, or close to it, in just about everything: ride, livewell design, overall fishability, walkaround safety, washdown potency, cabin and cockpit design and outfitting, and a long list of quality standard features. In fact, this boat tied or took first place in every category we considered except cost. Do its qualities outweigh the price tag? Yes. It's no bargain, but at least you can see where your money has been spent. The complaints are few: Get rid of the useless transom mini cooler, and end livewell leakage. That said, this is our winning walkaround.