Can money buy you happiness? You can spend a lot-or a little-when shopping for a 23′ center console. But whether you get more by paying more is up for debate. The following four contenders are separated by a mere 8″ in LOA. Their price tags, however, range from $41,000 to $82,000. Does that $40K make a difference in a boat’s performance, construction, and fishability? Let’s find out.
CHRIS-CRAFT CATALINA 23, 941/351-4900 www.chriscraft.com
|Displacement (lbs., approx.; w/o power)||4,484|
|Fuel capacity (gal.)||100|
|Water capacity (gal.)||13|
|Price (w/250-hp Yamaha F250, no trailer)||$82,687|
PERFORMANCE: The down-angled strakes get deeper as you move aft, and when combined with wide, turned-down chines, bow flare, and an aft pad, give a soft, dry, fast ride. Despite its substantial weight, it charted nearly the fastest top speed at 47.3 mph with 250 hp. It’s also economical, achieving 2.6 mpg at 4500 rpm while cruising at 33.2 mph.
CONSTRUCTION: Fiberglass structural liner is bonded into the hull. Hull and deck are joined with a structural adhesive. Voids are filled with foam. Hatches are vacuum infused for a smooth finish inside and out. All deck hardware uses 316 stainless steel, and teak trim accents are solid, not veneer.
FISHABILITY: The 20-gallon helm livewell features LED lighting and a pump timer. Dual port and starboard fishboxes are macerated. Rodboxes run down both sides and will hold 7′-long rods without bending or jiggling. Knife/pliers holder is stainless steel, not polyboard. Cockpit dinette table flips to serve as nonslip foredeck casting platform.
HIGHS & LOWS
HIGHS: Awesome looks and fishability. Light, strong hatches are finished on both sides and fit perfectly. Excellent detail work; even a clip to hold VHF antenna when folded onto gunwale. ** **
LOWS: Raw-water washdown and livewell share same pump. Aft deck hatch leans back on hinges without added support. Small screw-out pie plate in anchor locker offers minimal access.
LAGUNA C-24 SC, 888/654-3298 www.lagunaboats.net
|Displacement (lbs., approx.; w/o power)||3,000|
|Fuel capacity (gal.)||121|
|Water capacity (gal.)||40|
|Price (w/225-hp Mercury Verado, no trailer)||$61,900|
PERFORMANCE: Being relatively light, it jumps onto plane. Ride is acceptable, but compared to the others, it’s not as smooth. Mercury’s digital throttle and shift is silky smooth, however, and SmartCraft instrumentation lets you monitor vital stats. At 4500 rpm, the 225-hp Verado got 2.5 mpg while reaching 34.5 mph. Top speed peaked at 44.7 mph, the slowest of this group.
CONSTRUCTION: Compsys stringers are made from preformed foam with glass-fiber skin and tabbed to the hull. Deck is bonded to the stringers with polyester putty. All wood-free construction; transom is cored with Penske board. Shoebox hull-to-deck joint is fastened every 6″ with screws.
FISHABILITY: Features dual 20-gallon livewells at the transom, a bow casting deck with a sizable fishbox below, foldaway transom bench, and toerails for leverage. It’s also chock full of rocket launchers-five on the T-top and four in the leaning post backrest complement the four gunwale rodholders. Four under-gunwale rodracks increase stowage. A raw-water washdown cleans up the mess.
HIGHS & LOWS
HIGHS: Long list of standard features. Beefy, custom aluminum trailer built for the highway. Console stowage accessible from inside head compartment and under console seat. Transom bench won’t eat up cockpit space. ****
LOWS: Anchor locker is small. Need a big hook and long rode? Look elsewhere. Console door needs fastener to secure in open position.
PRO-LINE 23 SPORT, 800/344-1281 www.prolineboats.com
|Displacement (lbs., approx.; w/o power)||3,540|
|Fuel capacity (gal.)||125|
|Water capacity (gal.)||18|
|Price (w/225-hp Suzuki DF250, no trailer)||$46,500|
PERFORMANCE: This boat excels at both inshore and offshore duties. It finishes near the top of the pack in rough seas, and it runs fast and efficient. A 250-hp Suzuki pushed it onto plane in short order, topping out at 47.5 mph. Efficiency was above average, achieving 2.9 mpg at 4500 rpm while cruising at a comfortable 34.4 mph.
CONSTRUCTION: Foam-filled fiberglass stringer grid is laminated into the hull. High-density, closed-cell coring replaces all wood. The hull-to-deck joint is bonded with adhesive and secured with stainless-steel fasteners. Polyester putty bonds the deck to the stringers.
FISHABILITY: An 18-gallon livewell is located along the port side at the stern, along with a pair of 30-gallon integrated fishboxes below the forward seats. Strip off the cushions for a nonslip casting deck. A pair of rodholders is mounted in the gunwales, and the leaning post features four rocket launchers. Rod stowage is in one of six holders below the gunwales.
HIGHS & LOWS
HIGHS: Spacious dash flat allows flush-mounting of two 10″ displays. Deep recesses around cleats accommodate oversize lines. Electronic box pre-rigged with terminal block and rigging wire.
LOWS: Livewell and washdown share a pump. Console head access door small, doesn’t secure open. Throttle hits the leaning post when tilt-back helm is open.
SEA FOX 236 CC, 843/761-6090 www.seafoxboats.com
|Displacement (lbs., approx.; w/o power)||2,800|
|Fuel capacity (gal.)||122|
|Water capacity (gal.)||40|
|Price (w/200-hp Suzuki DF200, no trailer)||$40,957|
PERFORMANCE: Despite its 200-hp Suzuki having the lowest horsepower here, the lightest boat of our test group galloped to a 46.1-mph top speed, while establishing a comfortable cruise at 33.6 mph at 4500 rpm. Not so surprisingly, it also proved to be the most efficient of the four at that speed, averaging 3.1 mpg.
CONSTRUCTION: The hull is a conventional fiberglass laminate reinforced with a foam-filled fiberglass grid to which the cockpit sole is bonded. Rigging conduits route cables, wires, and hoses. The transom is cored with Penske high-density plastic and capped with a protective aluminum engine plate. Hatches are finished on both sides.
FISHABILITY: Forward casting platform has treaded steps on both sides. Railing recessed along knee-high gunwales, along with pop-up cleats, offers snag-free casting. You’ll find four rodholders in the gunwale and a large 40-gallon lighted livewell at the transom. Stowage after the catch, however, is lacking, with only an insulated box under the forward platform and a 72-quart Igloo cooler.
HIGHS & LOWS ****
HIGHS: Plenty of angling room. Stowage for as many as 18 rods. Finished bow locker offers rubber grommets to secure anchor. Convenient gunwale-mounted drinkholders. ****
LOWS: Dedicated fish stowage too small to hold anything bigger than stripers or grouper. Cramped head compartment. Hatch drains hold water. Leaning post too close to helm.
****The BOTTOM LINE:** **The Chris-Craft is a well thought out hardcore fishboat, not just a pretty face. But you will pay a bundle for those good looks. The Laguna’s price brings it closer to being affordable, but it’s still not inexpensive. Also, its ride is okay, but far from the smoothest. Not only is the Sea Fox fast and efficient, it has a tempting low price, but its level of finish may not meet your expectations. That leaves the moderately priced Pro-Line, which manages to balance thrift, quality, and fishability, without giving ground on performance. It’s hit on just the right mix that thousands of boats search for, but few attain.