We ran this boat for most of the summer, but one snotty day chasing bluefish taught me all I needed to know about it. The wind was blowing against the current in the narrow confines of the western Long Island Sound, tightly stacking up three-to-four-footers between us and the fish. Leaving the harbor we aimed into the waves, fully expecting a saltwater shower. But even at 30 mph, we stayed bone dry. And when we found a school of blues blitzing a group of peanut bunker, we were able to safely fish in the rocking waves due to the Seaswirl Striper 2301 CC's deep cockpit and reassuring stability. Over the course of that day, as well as the rest of the season, the 2301 CC proved itself to be quite capable.
Another endearing feature of the 2301 CC doesn't need a day on the water to be appreciated. If you're in the market for a small center console, you'll notice it right in the showroom: the price tag. The basic boat with a 200-hp Johnson sells for only $31,725. Even with a single 225-hp Evinrude Ficht Ram, the price remains under $40,000. Our test boat, powered beyond many boater's needs with twin 150-hp Evinrudes, costs $47,540. All in all, that's a lot of boat for your money.
VALUE ADDED. For starters, look at the cockpit. The boat comes standard with a 30-gallon livewell, a raw-water washdown, four recessed rodholders, and two stainless-steel rocket launchers in each gunwale. The aft coamings are padded, and moving forward, the raised 5'2"-by-5'8" bow casting platform has a built-in, self-draining, 4'7"-by-1'10"- by-1' fishbox. Add the optional aluminum T-top ($3,605) and you've still got a lot of boat for your dollar.
Compare the 2301 CC's features to another economical center console, the Canadian-built MPL-24 ($40,000 with a 225-hp Mercury EFI). It comes standard with a T-top, rocket launchers, and a trailer, but it doesn't have any of the 2301 CC's other amenities. The Robalo 2220 Center Console ($39,995 with a 200-hp Mercury) has more comparable standard features, including two livewells in the cockpit and a 109-quart fishbox in the forward casting deck. In addition, the 2220 Center Console has an 18-gallon freshwater cockpit shower, dual bilge pumps, and an electronics box at the helm. The 2220 Center Console also comes with hydraulic steering, an option on the 2301 CC. Look for other little things - like the 2220 Center Console's one - piece stainless-steel bowrail compared to the 2301 CC's assembled one-that make up the price differential.
THE HIGHS: Stable bow casting platform has lots of freeboard to keep you safe in rough water. Jumps on plane like a rocket. Nice stainless-steel grabrails let everybody hold on at the helm.
THE LOWS: Scuppers in sole have no screens and clog easily. Hatches rattled and bounced at higher speeds in chop. Toerail needs to be extended farther forward.
Performance-wise, these boats are fairly similar. The 2220 Center Console has a 142-gallon fuel tank, which gives it more range than the 2301 CC. But the 2301 CC is about 1,000 pounds lighter, which helps to even things out. As did our test boat's Evinrude Ficht Ram engines, which over the course of a season proved fuel efficient. We could take several long fishing trips on each fill-up.