Best Center Console Boats: Top 6 Must Haves
When you’re drawing up your shortlist of the best center console boats, keep in mind that there are a few traits that the top models all have in common. Similar to your last vehicle purchase, you probably shopped hard and did lots of comparing to get the most value and biggest bang for your hard-earned dollars. Understanding that boat buying should be no different, we’ve compiled this list of 6 must-have features for your new center console.
Large Center Console
Aside from balancing out the load within your boat, a center console gives greater access to the water on all sides. As we’ve written about many times (see: 4 Advantages of Center Console Boats), when working a fish, a side console or some form of obstruction can mean the difference between hauling it in and telling the tale of the one that got away.
Fishing aside, large center consoles offer up room for your own custom electronics, gizmos, and gadgets. One other consideration, a console with enough height means room for lots and lots of storage or even a head. In the end, if you want to stay out while the fish are biting, this basic accommodation will go a long way towards happy passengers.
Bags, cameras, flip flops, tackle boxes, fishing poles, bags of snacks…you get the idea; you’ll want as much storage as possible. This requirement seems like a no-brainer but all too often, buyers under estimate the amount of gear that’s going to routinely go on-board. The reality is that adding a few passengers and their gear not only takes up valuable space, it also adds up quickly to your total weight. Before you buy, be sure to inspect every compartment and potential storage location.
The beauty of the best center console boats is that they are versatile and able to run inside bays and inlets but also offshore during less favorable conditions than that of skiff or bay boat. The reason, center consoles and offshore boats typically have higher sidewalls or freeboard height which grants access to bigger water. When considering your next boat, remember the big trade-off between a higher or lower freeboard is access to the water. For example, the Sea Born SX239 Offshore offers a freeboard of 30” whereas the Sea Born LX22 Center Console measures 25”. The simple reality, the offshore vessel is 2.5 feet away from the water and just over 2’ on the LX22 from the side of the boat.
If you’re interested in inshore and coastal fishing you may find a Sea Born bay boat better suited for your needs. Check out our Bay Boat Shootout or visit our recent post, “Bay Boats vs. Center Consoles – Making the Choice
An often overlooked feature by many is the transom door. A simple hinge and release allowing you to access the rear deck, motor, and swim ladder are a must-have without exception. At some point regardless of your power option, you’ll need to gain access to the stern while on the water. Don’t exclude this feature, you’ll be sorry if you do.
There’s nothing more frightening than hearing, “Man overboard” unless you’re the person in the water trying to get back on-board. For safety’s sake and that of simple recreation purposes, you’ll want to make sure your Center Console has a swim ladder which allows for easier reentry from the water to the boat. Regardless if you are diving, just taking a dip to cool off, or someone has mistakenly gone into the drink, the fastest most convenient way in and out of the water is a built-in platform and swim ladder.
Every boat owner knows that there’s never any shortage of potential passengers for your next run. That said, your friends or family need comfort in the form of stern seating. No matter if it’s a flip-up bench (preferred among most buyers) or some other configuration, rear seating shouldn’t be considered an option but instead a must-have. As a general rule, stern seating is regarded as the “safest” place while at cruise.
Bait Well – Bonus Updated 9/28
You’re buying a boat for many reasons but we feel it’s absolutely fair to assume you’ll want to fish from time to time. (*Winks) As recreational fishing is our business, we also think it’s pretty obvious that you’ll want a baitwell but just in case it’s not, add this to your features list. As for the particulars, be sure the well is large enough for the type of baits your plan to use. Finally, be sure your bait well is aerated with rounded corners to allow the animals inside to move about naturally otherwise, they will quickly die.
Stepped Hull – Bonus Updated 9/28
To avoid gallons per mile type performance, your center console should have a stepped hull. The reason for this is a bit complex but the simplest explanation is less surface friction. A stepped hull reduces the amount of contact against the water and pushes water away for a smoother and drier ride at cruise. The biggest benefit, a stepped hull often uses less fuel with better performance.