Stratos 186XT

Clean and open decks characterize the best fishing boats. We could have skated aboard this 18-footer had the carpet turned to ice. Plainly impressive. This new Stratos, big brother to the popular 176 XT, takes its mission to heart: Deliver performance with the right options for anglers at the right price.

What we think: Clean and open decks characterize the best fishing boats. We could have skated aboard this 18-footer had the carpet turned to ice. Plainly impressive. This new Stratos, big brother to the popular 176 XT, takes its mission to heart: Deliver performance with the right options for anglers at the right price.

Starting at its streamlined bow, the 186 features a 40-pound thrust trolling motor with a basic foot pedal and a standard fishing chair. Bow storage includes a center box that lifts on gas pistons and holds 12 rods. In the cockpit area, two fixed bucket seats and a middle bench give secure seating plus ample leg room. Aft, the Stratos offers an aerated, recirculating livewell with a center removable divider.

Motoring onto the lake, the Yamaha 115 hp two-stroke was nearly able to reach 50 mph — not tournament speed, but not bad for a modest two-stroke. The same summary applies to acceleration out of the hole. However, that's not the only power option available. Buyers will save money with the no-feedback cable steering, which takes driver attention, but our effort produced quick, sharp responses.

Stratos clearly knows what recreational and buddy-tournament anglers really need, and what they really don't. The 186XT doesn't pretend to be a boat for those who fish pro tournaments on big lakes. On behalf of the majority of the anglers out there, Stratos has put that knowledge into this no-nonsense fish boat, which will save smart buyers a bundle.

Who should buy it: Cost-conscious anglers of all ages who prefer fiberglass construction to aluminum, and tournament anglers who don't want to scrimp on fishing room or necessities yet prefer a smaller boat that can still keep them in competition.

Vital Stats * Length Overall: 18'9" * Beam: 7'5" * Dry Weight: 1,450 lb. * Weight Capacity: 1,320 lb. * Fuel Capacity: 23 gal. * Max HP: 115 * MSRP: (test boat w/ Yamaha two-stroke 115, including trailer): $18,995 * NMMA certified: Yes

Power Picks
Yamaha two-stroke 90 (including trailer): $16,995
Mercury two-stroke 90 (including trailer): $17,295

Also Consider...
176XT
Length: 17'6" Beam: 7'0"
Max HP: 75
A slightly more compact option, the 176 still features plenty of deck space, livewells and storage.

476SF
Length: 17'6" Beam: 7'9"
Max HP: 115
For those who might prefer a fish-and-ski option, the 476SF represents choice and value, priced at under $20,000.

Test Drive * Test Engine: Yamaha 115 two-stroke * Test Prop: 23 Yamaha three-blade, aluminum * Test Load: People (295 lb.); Fuel (23 gal.) * Top Speed: 49.3 MPH @ 5,800 RPM * Time to Plane: 3.5 sec. * Time to 30 MPH: 7.7 sec.