Shoot Out: Fishing Machines

Showdown of the superpowers.

What's the biggest, baddest fishing machine on the planet? We chose four apex predators and set them against each other to find out. We based our choice on which had the best seakeeping abilities, fishing features, construction, performance, finish, and, of course, looks. The one thing we ignored was price. We figure if you're ready to drop $3 million, a few hundred grand one way or the other isn't likely to sway you. So just this once, we'll throw the checkbook out the window.

BERTRAM 630, www.bertram.com 305-633-8011

****THE BASICS****

LOA: 66'9"

Beam: 18'1"

Draft (max.): 5'3"

Displacement (lbs., approx.): 95,609

Transom deadrise: 16°

Fuel capacity (gal.):

1,849

Water capacity (gal.): 251

Price (approx.; w/twin 2,000-bhp MTU 2000 V-16 diesels) $2,900,000

PERFORMANCE: At 47.4 mph, it's the fastest. But only by 1.5 mph and with 4,000 horses compared to 3,600 for the others. Its sheer mass and steep deadrise mean you barely feel three-footers. That same deadrise means the boat is more likely to roll, but that can be mitigated by an optional Mitsubishi ARG anti-roll system, which cuts the motion by a third.

DETAILS: The interior is opulent: solid cherry cabinetry, a spiral teak staircase, walk-in lockers, and a head with six mirrors. It's also seaworthy with fiddled rails and wiring valences. At 95,609 pounds, there's liberal use of fiberglass and wood. Dockside ego factor is boosted by 1,500-watt through-hull lights, enough to illuminate most marinas.

FISHABILITY As with all of these boats, you choose what goes in the cockpit. This one was huge, with an icemaker to feed the fishboxes and rigging stations with all the stowage you'd want. Best is the roll-reducing Mitsubishi ARG that boosts the pleasure of your fishing experience. It works and no other competitor offers it.

HIGHS & LOWS ****

HIGHS: One of the fastest production sportfishers in this range. Interior is dazzling; check the nearly invisible stovetop seam in the galley counter. Yowza-a spiral staircase and blue bridge deck lighting. ****

LOWS: One of the top fuel burners of production sportfishers in this range. Magnetic door catches may not hold in rough seas. Hope you prefer foam mattresses to innersprings.

HATTERAS 64, www.hatterasyachts.com 252-633-3101

****THE BASICS****

LOA: 63'10"

Beam: 19'6"

Draft (max.): 4'10"

Displacement (lbs., approx.): 100,000

Transom deadrise:

Fuel capacity (gal.):

1,950

Water capacity (gal.): 393

Price (approx.; w/twin 2,000-bhp MTU 2000 V-16 diesels) $3,000,000

PERFORMANCE: Reaching 41.2 mph and a 35.3-mph cruise at 2100 rpm makes it the slowest. It's also the heaviest, squashing three-footers like bugs. Having a mere 2 degrees of deadrise makes it extremely stable in beam seas. Its massive fuel capacity lets you run farther than the competition, and that shallow 4'10" draft opens up new harbors.

DETAILS: Detail and finish work is off the charts for a production vessel. Fiberglass stringers are cored with foam, and composite bulkheads are vacuum bagged. All drawers, cabinets, and even the refrigerators and freezers sport aircraft-grade latches that dog down. Run this boat through hurricane-like conditions, and everything will remain stowed.

FISHABILITY: You can have the cockpit however you like. A giant freezer holds a season's worth of bait. Forward cockpit units double as a cushioned mezzanine. There's enough rodholders to troll a dozen lines, teaser reels integrated into the hardtop, and two 5'5"-long fishboxes. A big plus: freshwater sprayers for the curtain windows.

HIGHS & LOWS ****

HIGHS: Everything dogs down solidly. Construction is seriously heavy duty. Heavy displacement enhances seakeeping, yet draft is minimal. Interior frou-frou factor is off the charts. ****

LOWS: Anchor locker can't be accessed from below decks. Compass is too far from the helm. With thirsty fuel consumption and large tanks, fill-ups cost as much as a new outboard.

SCARBOROUGH 65, www.montereyboats.com 352-528-2628

****THE BASICS****

LOA: 65'0"

Beam: 17'0"

Draft (max.): 4'11"

Displacement (lbs., approx.): 75,000

Transom deadrise:

Fuel capacity (gal.): 1,200

Water capacity (gal.): 225

Price (approx.; w/twin 2,000-bhp MTU 2000 V-16 diesels) $2,500,000

PERFORMANCE: It makes an impressive 45.9 mph while burning 15 gph less than the Bertram. The ride is surprisingly smooth despite its light weight, showing no harsh impacts or vibrations. Handling is sporty, easily outperforming the rest. Prop pockets reduce shaft angles from 11.5 to 8.5 degrees, delivering more direct thrust and shallow draft.

DETAILS: Interior is upscale but doesn't match the Bertram or Hatteras for opulence or the liveaboard-friendliness of the Sculley. Stringers are fir encapsulated in glass with frames bolted to them before epoxy is pumped into crevices. The hull is 1¼" thick. Battleship construction cuts into interior space, but this may be the toughest battlewagon we've tested.

FISHABILITY: Customizable cockpit. There's a bait freezer that can chill 800 horse bally-hoo, 12VDC outlets for teaser or kite rods in the bridge deck, and overhead teaser reels. A pair of 45' PipeWelders outriggers gives a 72' spread. The helm chair's removable back stows to create an awesome bait-watching seat.

HIGHS & LOWS ****

HIGHS: Construction is the best of the best. Sporty performance for a boat this size. Love those oversize outriggers. There's a built-in cockpit grill-bring on the tuna steaks! ****

LOWS: Battleship-like construction means interior volume is lost. Stainless-steel treads on ladders are slippery. Two-year-plus lead time!?

SCULLEY 60, www.sculleyboatbuilders.com 252-473-6855

****THE BASICS****

LOA: 60'0"

Beam: 18'0"

Draft (max.): 5'0"

Displacement (lbs., approx.): 68,000

Transom deadrise: 10°

Fuel capacity (gal.): 1,650

Water capacity (gal.): 250

Price (approx.; w/twin 2,000-bhp MTU 2000 V-16 diesels) $3,000,000

PERFORMANCE: At 45.8 mph, it runs with the Scarborough and a hair behind the Bertram, but a faulty trim tab held it back by 2 to 3 mph during our test. Its 41.9 mph at 2100-rpm cruise should get you to the canyons first. As with other cold-molded designs, it leaps out of the water and shushes across the waves, rather than bullying its way through.

DETAILS: The engine room has 6'5" headroom, finished surfaces, excellent access, a retracting washdown hose, and a wet-dry vacuum system. Cabin finish lies between the functional Scarborough and the cushy Hatteras and Bertram. Designed for extended tournaments: Each crewmember has a private space with entertainment/computer access.

FISHABILITY: Its layout can also be customized. There are lockers for 50 rods and reels. An upper berth hides homes for big-game chuggers, pre-tied rigs, bird rigs, and spoons. Beneath a lower berth live daisy chains, planers, leader spools, knives, pliers, and terminal tackle. The -20°F fishbox holds six 150-pound tuna.

HIGHS & LOWS ****

HIGHS: Takes tackle stowage to a new level. You can do jumping jacks in the engine room. Each berth has an entertainment system. Chilled fishbox is big enough to please Ahab. ****

LOWS: Eight-month build time isn't as bad as Scarborough's, but worse than the others. Oversize bridge deck cushions get in the way when accessing stowage.

The Bottom Line

This is rarified territory, with boats of mythic qualities. It's not that three have problems and don't make the cut. It's that one stands out-slightly. We love the Bertram 630 for its ARG system, speed, and dazzling interior. The Hatteras 64 is built like a bull and scores points for seaworthiness. Sculley's 60 has flawless joinery work, yet looks manly and takes tackle stowage to new heights. But the Scarborough 65 is king. Its construction gives it strength without excess weight, helping it handle tough conditions while running within a couple of mph of the others with 700 fewer ponies. The interior is classy, and fishing features are top notch. Too bad about that 29-month build time.