Contender 44 ST Boat Test

A big center-console that forsakes frills in favor of hardcore offshore fishing.

Contender 44 ST running shot

Greg Poland Photography

LOA: 43'10" | Beam: 12'1" | Draft: 2'3" | Displacement: 19,600 lb. (with power) | Transom Deadrise: 22.7 degrees | Fuel Capacity: 600 gal. | Bridge Clearance: 8'6" (hardtop only) | Max Cabin Headroom: 6'4" | Max Horsepower: 2,000 | Available Power: Triple or quad outboards to 2,000 hp total | More Information: contenderboats.comCourtesy Contender Boats

Big center-console boats—models ranging from 35 to more than 40 feet in length—are ­taking over in warm places such as Florida where cabins seem superfluous. With a larger center-­console comes lots of deck room, and many boatbuilders fill it with cruising amenities such as forward lounges, sun pads, mezzanine seating and more.

Yet the Contender 44 ST resists, instead leaving most of the deck clear for the original purpose of this genre—saltwater fishing.

Comfortable seating forward of the console

Greg Poland Photography

Forward console seating can be extended with a padded lounger.Courtesy Contender Boats

To be fair, you can order the 44 ST with a second row of comfy helm seating, and the forward console seating can be extended with a stowage module/cooler that features an inviting padded lounger on top. A motorized lift tilts up the module to access a cavernous compartment underneath. Each boat is built to the buyer’s specifications. So, depending on how you order it from Contender’s ­Homestead, Florida, factory, the 44 ST might not be so spartan.

But the boat we tested was a tournament-grade offshore-fishing machine that dispensed with most frills. A twin-stepped hull provides remarkable lift and a consistently flat running attitude. Our test boat boasted triple Yamaha 425 XTO outboards for power, but you can also order quad 425 XTOs. Yamaha Helm Master joystick steering helps you easily dock the big center-console.

Large storage compartment under the forward seating
A motorized lift tilts up the module to access a cavernous compartment underneath.Courtesy Contender Boats

The 44 ST rode smooth and comfy in 2- to 3-foot seas. With an integral engine bracket and full transom, the 44 ST backed down with nary a drop of water over the stern. The boat feels rock-solid in the rough stuff, and the fit and finish are second to none.

Contender 44 ST helm

Greg Poland Photography

The 56-inch-wide dash panel accommodates multiple displays.Courtesy Contender Boats

With central steering on the console, the 44 ST boasts a 56-inch-wide dash panel that, on our boat, accommodated a pair of Garmin’s GPSMap 8624 multifunction displays networked with a Garmin GSD 26 chirp sonar and a GMR 1224 xHD2 open-array radar. The dash sits lower than similarly sized center-consoles, allowing the helmsman to easily see over the top. Three-across adjustable Llebroc helm seats offered flip-up bolsters and fold-down armrests. Our test boat also featured an optional anodized aluminum tower with a second station. A Garmin GPSMap 7610 10-inch display aloft is networked with the displays at the main helm. The tower was equipped with a pair of optional Lee carbon-fiber outriggers.

Comfortable helm seating and an easily accessible bait station
Three-across adjustable Llebroc helm seats offered flip-up bolsters and fold-down armrests.Courtesy Contender Boats

The bait-prep/tackle station included a 200-quart Frigid Rigid cooler below that slides in and out at the press of button. A rack of seven rod holders stretched across the top of the station. A pair 55-gallon transom livewells and two deck wells—a ­110-gallon tank in the aft deck and a ­40-gallon well in the foredeck—provide beau coup bait capacity.

Want to compare boats? Grady-White's Canyon 456 ($1.4 million with quad Yamaha 425 XTOs) takes the opposite approach. It is packed with frills, from a Seakeeper gyrostabilizer and posh cabin to mezzanine seating in the cockpit and a bow social center. It's all standard, and this (along with four outboards versus three on the base Contender) accounts for the big price difference.

Rod holders on the Contender 44 ST

Greg Poland Photography

Rod holders abound on the 44 ST.Courtesy Contender Boats

The wide-open bow of the 44 ST extends 16 feet from the front of the console to the anchor locker and is 10 feet across at its widest point. The step-down console interior is accessible via a companionway on the port side. It offers 6 feet, 4 inches of headroom, a flush toilet, vanity and sink, and teak flooring. The aft deck measures over 12 feet wide and 8½ feet long to accommodate a group of anglers. Walkways 31 inches wide aside the console make it easy to follow a hooked fish toward the bow. Padded coaming bolsters encircle the interior to cushion legs. The 28-inch-high gunwales in the stern and bow are the perfect height for reaching the water’s surface to release fish. An optional leaning post in the middle of the cockpit held six fishing rods.

Head compartment on the Contender 44 ST

Greg Poland Photography

The step-down console offers a flush toilet, vanity and sink, and teak flooring.Courtesy Contender Boats

With 1,275 ponies on the transom, the 44 ST accelerated to 30 mph in 12 seconds and achieved a top speed of 65 mph at 6,000 rpm, where the triple Yamaha 425 XTOs burned 110 gph for 0.6 mpg. Throttling back to 4,000 rpm and 37 mph, the triple XTOs consumed 46 gph, resulting in 0.8 mpg. As mentioned earlier, the 44 ST is available with quad 425 XTOs, and according to ­Contender, speed and optimum fuel efficiency improve with that configuration.

If you want a big center-console that’s dedicated to the singular purpose of salt water, the Contender 44 ST is one boat you cannot ­ignore.

Contender 44 ST outboards
The 44 ST can also be equipped with quad 425 XTOs.Courtesy Contender Boats

High Points

  • Massive amount of deck space accommodates a big crew of anglers.
  • Dash panel fits two 24-inch displays, yet is low enough to easily see over.
  • Twin-step hull rides silky-smooth in 2- to 3-foot seas.

Low Points

  • Foldout transom bench-style seat would add crew comfort on long runs.
  • Our boat did not include a footrest at the helm, but Contender can easily add one if you like.

Price: $646,583 (base with triple Yamaha 425 XTO outboards)

Available Power: Outboard

Performance chart for the Contender 44 ST
Contender 44 ST Certified Test ResultsBoating Magazine

How We Tested
Engine: Triple 425 hp Yamaha 425 XTO outboards
Drive/Prop: Outboard/Yamaha XTO OS 17 7/8" x 23" 3-blade stainless steel
Gear Ratio: 1.79:1
Fuel Load: 400 gal.
Crew Weight: 1,000 lb.

Contender Boats - Homestead, Florida; 800-645-2906; contenderboats.com