Starcraft 178 Starcaster

Bass and crappie anglers who don't need all the bells and whistles, nor the hefty price tag, found on high-end fiberglass boats will want to buy this boat...

What we think: Up until now about all that was missing from Starcraft's line of affordable aluminum boats was a bass boat. That has been remedied for 2008 with the introduction of three new 17-foot models. The new Starcaster series features the entry-level 1789, midrange 178 and top-end 179 Pro V, the only welded boats in Starcraft's aluminum line.

Of all the things Starcraft does, building aluminum boats is probably the company's forte. The engineers and quality-control guys spend lots of time on Lake Erie and Lake Michigan, both of which can be gnarly. So the boats reflect a ruggedness, all the way down to the smaller models. We tested the 178 and think it will be a hit not only with bass fishermen but muskie and crappie fishermen as well because of the way it's designed for changing conditions.

Built into the port wall is a bracket for three rods, but each slot could easily hold another rod. Muskie anglers will like the 50-inch livewell — big for a 17-foot boat — and crappie anglers will like side-by-side mounts for twin pedestal seats in the bow, great for fan-mounted casting rod setups.

We like the high-mounted, in-your-face gauges on the roto-molded console, and the bench seat in the bow provides a firm yet comfortable ride. Just don't be in a hurry. As equipped with a Mercury 2-stroke outboard, our test boat topped out at 32 mph. On the flip side, we slipped under footbridges and through narrow channels to explore some very skinny water that was inaccessible to other boats in our test fleet.

Who should buy it: Bass and crappie anglers who don't need all the bells and whistles, nor the hefty price tag, found on high-end fiberglass boats.

Vital Stats * Length Overall: 17'10" * Beam: 6'9" * Dry Weight: 925 lb. * Seating/Weight Capacity: 4/850 lb. * Fuel Capacity: 21 gal. * Max HP: 75 * MSRP: (test boat w/ 50 hp Mercury and trailer): $11,495 * NMMA certified: Yes

Power Picks
* Yamaha 50 hp two-stroke -- $12,233
* Mercury 60 hp ELPT four-stroke -- 13,789
* Evinrude E-Tec 75 hp DPLSC -- $14,986

Also Consider ...
STX 2050
Length: 20'
Beam: 8'4"
Max HP: 250
The STX is for anglers who want a little more depth and protection, and a few more feet in overall floor space.

Starfish 176 SC
Length: 17'8"
Beam: 7'8"
Max HP: 150
Two livewells, two rod lockers, easy access to the casting deck and a solid hull make the 176 SC a popular choice.

Notable Features * 50-inch livewell * Full-length bench seat with storage underneath * Lowrance x50 fish finder * MotorGuide 46-pound-thrust trolling motor in bow * Full bow storage bin

Test Drive * Test Engine: Mercury 50 hp two-stroke * Test Prop: 10.375 x 13 aluminum * Test Load: People (180 b.); Fuel (4 gal.) * Top Speed: 32.8 mph @ 5,500 rpm * Time to Plane: 4 sec. * Time to 20 mph: 5 sec. * Time to 30 mph: 11 sec. * Minimum Planing Speed: 16 mph