Hydra-Sports 3600VX

The 3600VX qualifies as a formidable fishing machine.

Darwin would be proud of his theory being confirmed yet again. The strong survive, and when the DNA of a powerful brand like Hydra-Sports is blended with the DNA of premium inboard builder MasterCraft, the gene pool gets stronger. That’s what we discovered recently when visiting the factory and later test-driving the new models, including our 3600VX. You might not expect that from this unlikely suitor, but MasterCraft Boat Co. gathered top fishboat engineers from other offshore greats and instructed them to tweak the models, preserving hard-core fishability while adding what MasterCraft customers expect: top-shelf design, style and quality in a boat perfectly suited to its task of catching fish. Bravo!

Running this 36-footer in the Florida Keys showed that its performance and handling quality are nothing short of spectacular. The boat turns on a dime, with the rear sliding just enough and bleeding off enough speed to keep everyone safe but still scribing a very tight arc in a course reversal. Firewall the throttles and the 3600VX gets up and runs quite nicely on just two engines. Throughout the sea trials, everyone aboard remained dry and comfortable. And while I really don’t need a side-power bow thruster on a boat this size, it does give me optimum control no matter the conditions. Anyone can dock this boat like a pro.

A feature I particularly appreciate is the hull-side diving door. Hydra-Sports engineers came up with a new hinge design that allows the door to fold inboard far enough to lay flush against the gunwale rather than sticking out into the walkway when closed. This door lets swimmers and divers leave and re-board easily without ever having to go near the engines. In addition, pull up alongside a floating dock and your guests will have a much easier time boarding the boat by stepping through rather than climbing over the rail.

Hydra-Sports has always been about hard-core fishing. Lest you worry about a ski-boat philosophy creeping in, fear not. Fanatical anglers will find the 3600 every bit as equipped and capable as ever.

On deck, Hydra-Sports issues heavily padded helm seats with fold-up bolsters as standard equipment. The H-S team has also done a masterful job with its innovative transom seat featuring a backrest that automatically rises when the seat folds open for vastly increased back support under way. The expansive dashboard provides more than enough space to flush-mount a pair of 12-inch, and perhaps even 14-inch, displays with room left over for autopilot, VHF, tab indicator and more.

Belowdecks the amenities have really been upgraded. A midship berth sleeps two skinny adults or one average-size one. Additionally, narrow Pullman berths on either side of the dinette/forward V berth hitch to the ceiling to accommodate extra children. When not deployed, they act as the comfortable seat backs in the dinette. You’ll find all-new Corian counters below, beautiful new oak flooring, handsome maple cabinetry and architectural sink and shower fittings (the boat has a 40-gallon freshwater capacity). Several hatches overhead provide enough ambient light (and air circulation) to avoid the “cave” feeling common to many boat cabins. And both below and on deck, storage abounds. In fact, fill all the storage space and you may have to repaint the boot stripe an inch or two higher.

Hydra-Sports now refers to its bigger offshore boats as “the Customs,” since it builds them to order to exactly fit your personal requirements. Just a few of the possibilities include factory-installed Raymarine or Garmin electronics, higher-quality sound and video systems, a wide selection of outriggers, rod holders, downriggers and, well, you name it. Other nice touches that our test rig sported included Hydra-Sports’ engraved pop-up cleats, green underwater led lights, an upgraded tackle center with vented top, drainage in the drawers, gasketed doors and hidden fasteners. One option I haven’t gotten used to enough to love yet is Lenco Marine’s new Auto Glide trim tab system. I’m sure that once you reach a comfort level and set it up properly for your boat, it works great, especially for newer captains. But an experienced skipper can make the adjustments more efficiently.

Dropping the throttles, the 3600VX required just four seconds to hit plane and only eight seconds to reach 30 mph. At wide open, the triple Yamaha 300s on our tester pushed the boat to 54.2 mph, while the boat’s minimum planing speed settled in at 18 mph.

Perhaps the closest competitor to the 3600VX is the Everglades 350LX. Also a centerline-helm cuddy design, both sleep four to six, though the Everglades' V-berth insert is an electric high-low table. With triple 350s (150 more ponies than on our Hydra-Sports), the Everglades topped out at 63 mph in testing. It also burned an additional 25 gph to reach that speed.

Other available features on all “the Customs” include powder-coated towers, special upholstery and your choice of gelcoat and trim colors. Oh, and I would definitely opt for the Maxwell electric windlass with controls both on the bow and at the helm. It makes anchoring much less onerous.

Finally, if you'd like to spec out your own boat with the features and colors of your choice (without having to hear from a dealer five minutes later), visit Hydra-Sports' new design-a-boat application at hydrasports.com. It's very cool.

Comparable model: Everglades 350LX