Custom Yachts: Sportfishing’s Wave of the Future

January 27, 2021

Custom yachts may well be sportfishing’s wave of the future. Explore the many options available and how to build your very own. 

The modern sportfishing vessel is equal parts technological marvel and work of art. The fit and finish of today’s vessels is matched only by their performance and fishability. While today’s production vessels are incredibly functional and themselves quite beautiful, nothing compares to the built-to-order elegance of the custom yacht.

Kusler Yachts is the West Coast leader in sportfishing yachts. Kusler’s team of experts is well-versed in the Custom Sportfisher Universe—experienced in leading clients through the build process and with the many benefits that come with owning a custom yacht.

What follows is not only a break down of where the yacht landscape is headed, but some benefits of working with Kusler Yachts on the purchase of your next custom sportfisher.

four sportfishing yachts running offshore

Find out how Kusler Yachts has been setting the industry standard for customer service for more than a decade.

Custom Yachts: No Restraints

Buying a custom boat involves a completely different process than selecting a used or production vessel. These differences are fundamental. They involve not only how the boat is made, but what it ultimately becomes.

Zach Zorn is a sales professional with Kusler Yachts. In addition to an extensive tournament resume, Zorn is an expert in the field of custom sportfishers. He also shares his knowledge generously.

zach zorn with tournament check

Zach Zorn posing with evidence of his tournament success.

“Custom builders are able to offer a level of finish and craftsmanship that take ‘customization’ to another level. Custom builders tailor the experience to exactly what the buyer is looking for,” Zorn describes. “The end result is not only a work of art, but is unmatched in terms of fishability.”

“The build quality of a custom boat is incredible. This is evidenced all over the boat—from the caulk lines and joinery to the exacting attention for details,” Zach describes. “When you start to build a custom boat there is no mold. There are no constraints on anything.”

Custom boats are defined by the experience that a buyer wants from a boat—not what features are normally included with a specific model. The differences between what goes into building a custom boat are as a dramatic as the differences in quality of the product.

tackle storage room on Spencer Yacht

Tackle storage on a custom Spencer Yacht, the Centurion.
Photo by Scott Kerrigan.

Consider the starting point of purchasing a production boat and that of a custom.


Purchasing a production vessel involves picking options from a preset menu. While you may be able to choose from between a set number arrangements, the parameters of these choices are defined for you.

Would you like the vessel in 72 or 84-feet? Do you like the three-stateroom set up or two staterooms and an expanded tackle room. Choose from these three propulsion options, here is a list of finishes available for the interior.


Building a custom yacht involves determining what you would like from a vessel and incorporating the options that best serve this vision. The verb here is not “picking options,” so much as it is “envisioning the boat you want” and including the features that best make it happen.

When it comes to the boat you will ultimately own, these differences make a tremendous difference. They are reflected in the following benefits that come with owning a custom sportfisher.

Scarcity and An Asset that Holds Value

As custom sportfishers are produced one at a time—each the product of thousands and thousands of man hours. The limited number of custom builders that produce a limited number of boats each year makes for a scarcity of custom boats on the market.

This scarcity not only makes them noteworthy when you see one, but protects their value through time. Custom boats do not match the description of the typical depreciating asset– something pumped off of a production 100 at a time—depreciating as soon as it leaves the showroom floor.

Your Yacht as a Form of Self-Expression

For many people, investing several million dollars in a sportfishing vessel is a form of self-expression. A yacht, after all, can represent much more than a fishing or travel platform.

Cockpit of the Centurion, a custom Spencer Yacht

Every inch of a custom yacht, like this Spencer, is an expression of beauty. Photo by Scott Kerrigan.

“The style and finish options available from custom builders turn heads when you pull into a marina—even from non-boat guys,” Zorn describes. Custom boats provide all of the incredible exotic wood and stone combinations that you would expect from high end custom home builders.

Custom builders can not only lay the boat out to your exact specification, but include one-off items and custom fixtures anywhere you would like them. From cabinet pulls and faucet hardware in the interior to built-to-order freezer and refrigeration systems, it is the buyer (rather than an option sheet) who determines how the boat is appointed.

Captain Devin Silas provides a behind the scenes look at the beauty and function in a Spencer Yacht.

Every custom boat is one of a kind, each is built to the exact specification of its owner and his or her situation. The ability for the yacht to reflect the desires and tastes of its owner is reserved to the custom arena. “It can be hard to express yourself when there are five other 72’ production boats in your same marina,” explains Zorn.

Custom Yacht Performance

Many custom boats trace their origins to charter captains. The story of Spencer Yachts provides context.

Captain Paul Spencer was a charter captain operating in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. When Spencer needed a boat, he set out to build one for himself with the intention to run charters from it.

paul spencer

Captain Paul Spencer. Photo by Scott Kerrigan.

Those around him liked the way the boat looked and performed and bought it from him. He then built another… and sold that one.  That was more than 100-hulls ago.

Spencer Yachts is now the leading name in the Custom Yachts universe. Just as each of their yachts is tailored to the exact specifications of its owner, each also reflects its heritage—borne of the needs of a North Carolina waterman.

This heritage is present in each of the hulls that Spencer builds and extends to a partnership between Spencer Yachts and Ablemarle. The Albemarle 54’ Carolina Spencer Yachts edition debuts later this year and combines the benefits of working with a custom builder with a production boat’s build time. For more on this exciting new boat, contact [email protected]

How do you measure the performance of a custom boat? It is reflected in the boat’s ride, speed and handling. This all starts with the way the boat is built.

Smooth Rides

On the whole custom boats are cold molded— featuring composite materials built around a wooden frame. This foundation makes for a more comfortable ride compared to vessels made entirely of resin-infused fiber glass. This construction also makes a custom boat lighter than a comparable production vessel.

Want to build Your Custom?

The combination of a smoother riding, lighter vessel imparts a level of handling and maneuverability that is unmatched. These attributes are most often expressed using the term “fishability.” Performance, however, can different things to different people.

For the Tournament Operation

“These days the MTU16V200 M96L available in 10, 12 or 16V is the pinnacle of horsepower. Custom builders now incorporate these engines whenever possible,” Zorn explains. The combination of top-of-the-line power alongside lighter construction techniques makes custom boats fast… super-fast, even.

engine room of the centurion

The engine room of the Centurion, a custom Spencer Yacht. Photo by Scott Kerrigan.

This speed translates directly into tournament success. “Custom boats have the speed to get to the bait grounds first. I’ve seen this win tournaments,” says Zorn.

The tournament victories that Zorn references are firsthand experience in some of the biggest tournaments in sportfishing. Zorn has been a member of teams that finished second and fifth in the Bisbee’s Black and Blue.

Kusler Yacht clients won the 2018 Bisbee’s Black and Blue. Working with Captain Evan Salvay, Zorn helped put together the tournament program for the owner whose operation took home upwards of three million dollars. What did the owner do with the proceeds? Purchase a custom boat– a 61’ Blackwell.

first place check in the 2018 bisbees

Kusler Yachts’ clients receiving first place at the Bisbee’s Black and Blue.

“Whether tournament fishing or not, there is a trend of guys wanting to get to the fish fast and get home fast. When you’re cruising 38 knots (in your custom boat), you cover ground quickly,” Zorn says.

For the Non-Tournament Operation

You don’t have to burn up the tournament circuit to benefit from the custom boat ownership experience. Does your vision of boat ownership include long range expeditions in remote areas?

“Custom builders can adapt fuel capacity and range limits for exactly what you want to do. These modifications make extended trips—like fishing Mag Bay for 10 days—and remote journeys now possible,” Zorn states.

Working With Kusler Yachts to Build Your Custom Sportfisher

The team at Kusler Yachts has a great deal of experience guiding clients through the process of buying a custom sportfisher. This experience benefits the client before, during and after the build.

61 blackwell custom sportfisher

A beautiful, custom 61 Blackwell

“We understand the West Coast fishery and tournaments on the West Coast,” Michael Kusler, president of Kusler Yachts, explains. “We can help make the process smoother, while incorporating West Coast modifications into the build. Our team has worked with clients who have captains and those who don’t. We provide oversight during the build process and bring quite a bit of tournament knowledge and experience to the table.”

Kusler Yachts’ tournament experience and knowledge of what it takes to be successful adds a valuable dimension to the build and design process. The team can not only recommend all of the features and equipment necessary for West Coast boating applications, but provide industry best practices to make sure that your new boat can do everything that you’d like it to do.

Kusler Yachts can also help steer you to which custom builder might best serve your needs and help you structure ownership in such a way as to benefit you come tax time.

Once the boat is complete and you take ownership, Kusler’s team helps the West Coast owners resolve warranty claims and other maintenance items through time. “Most of the custom builders are located on the East Coast. Kusler Yachts not only helps West Coast buyers with warranty matters—they can come to us instead of tracking down manufacturers, but we can also provide oversight and recommendations on West Coast yards and technicians to perform the work,” Zorn describes.

For more on custom yachts or to begin start building your own, contact:

Michael Kusler
[email protected] 

Zach Zorn
[email protected]