Pro-Line 29 Grand Sport

How to get in the game.

You want free fishing tackle and bait for years to come? Here's how to get it: Tell the wife a 29' fishboat will cost about $150,000, then get the maximum bang for your buck by spending $125,000 on Pro-Line's 29 Grand Sport. Stash the difference in the bilge - it'll be easy to access, thanks to a huge aft deck hatch that lifts on gas-assist struts - and grab some cash when it's time to hit the tackle shop.

Does a good buy mean you won't get the goodies found on more expensive craft? Nope. Check out the standard equipment list. And with the 250-hp Mercury Verado outboards on my test boat, the 29 Grand Sport's performance is near the head of the pack with a 54.2-mph top end and better than 1.5 mpg at cruise. There's little to make you feel like Pro-Line skimped (just a spring strut, some unfinished hatch backs, and four rocket launchers instead of six). Plus there are some unique touches that prove this boat's worth.

My favorite is a simple little drain on the dash, just below the windshield. It doesn't seem like much, but water often pools in this spot. Some designers install a lip rimming the dash with a drain to let water escape, but every time you wash the dash, drip marks run down the outside of the console. Not on the 29 Grand Sport. The deck will stay clean, too, thanks to gobs of dedicated stowage. The 130-gallon in-deck fishboxes, which drain on macerator pumps, are big enough to haul Shamu. Cram them full of hundred-pound tuna and you can continue to fish, thanks to a pair of backup fishboxes forward. There's also a compartment under the foredeck that has a molded-in recess to hold a five-gallon bucket. Another feature is the boat's high, rising sheerline. It has more freeboard than usual, with extremely high gunwales. This adds a feeling of security but creates a sail area for the breeze to catch and looks overly tall from the sides.

The dash features a huge electronics flat and can support several large-screen units. So maybe you shouldn't stash all that cash - spend it on digital goodies instead. Then again, considering how much money this boat saves you, maybe you can do both. Test results next page.