The past decade has been something of a golden age for the offshore center console. In recent years advances in outboard engine technology has allowed manufacturers to produce larger vessels that offer more performance and features than ever before. Far from slowing down, the advancement, innovation, performance and size of these boats are increasing each and every year.
The relative complexity of the center console market (there are more sizes, models and features than ever before) makes it a great time to buy. After all, you can find a high-performance center console that can deliver on most any fishing or lifestyle application you’re after.
The same variables that make it exciting can also make navigating the center console market a daunting proposition. Kusler Yachts is here to help. What follows is our take on finding the right large center console for you.
Benefits of Owning a Center Console
Before getting into specifics of the market, first some background. Center console fundamentals:
- Compared to sportfishers and yachts, they are more portable (easier to take out of the water and transport overland) and easier to maintain.
- Because center consoles feature fewer complex systems than sportfishers, they cost less to operate and maintain.
- Center consoles are faster than sportfishers. This allows center consoles to cover more ground, faster than larger inboard vessels. This offers advantages for certain types of fishing and boating applications.
Their basic attributes—speed, walkaround design, and maneuverability– make them really good for fishing. When outfitted with high performance features, they can compete in with any boat on the water. Center consoles can be stabilized, outfitted with a sonar and equipped with gap towers.
Tournament guys use their speed for maximum effect. Being able to run 80-miles an hour allows you to get to spots faster and to expand the fishable area, when compared to sportfishers. Center consoles on the Gulf Coast used these attributes to first win wahoo categories, before contending in blue marlin divisions too.
It works the same way on the West Coast. A center console’s ability to run and gun—and to position anglers for casting from the bow—make them deadly for fishing tailing striped marlin or tuna fishing on pods of porpoise.
Finding the Right Center Console for You
At Kusler Yachts, we’ve been selling center consoles ranging from 23-60’ for more than 20 years. Michael Kusler himself has owned at least 6 center consoles over the years…
The experience that we bring to the table includes practical on the water knowledge and perspective on the market for new and used center consoles. We specialize in helping clients from a variety of backgrounds, experience levels and boating budgets navigate the ins and outs of the new and pre-owned center console market. Check out our current line up of center console listings here.
Finding the Right Boat for You
There are no perfect boats, but finding the one that’s right for involves considering a few fundamental questions:
What’s the right power plant for you?
In many circumstances choosing between Mercury and Yamaha can depend where in the world you live. You’ll want to align the power package you choose with the services and technicians that are available in the region.
If you keep your boat in San Diego, New England or South Florida, you likely have access to technicians who can service whatever type of equipment that you use. If you plan to keep your boat in a remote pocket of the Baja, however, your service options might be a bit more limited.
Mercury is really stepping up these days. Some new Mercury models have service access ports in the cowlings that allow you to perform many maintenance operations without needing to take off the cowling. The lower units of the new 600s are independent.
That said, Yamaha is really solid too..
Where do you plan to keep the boat?
It sounds like common sense, but you’ll also want to make sure that your new center console can fit where you plan to keep it. In this context, you’ll want to consider length and weight (if you’re going to keep it on a lift behind your house) but also height and width. If you go too high or too wide, you might not be able to pull the boat on a trailer. If you plan to keep it in a dry stack, check the facility’s accommodations.
How do you plan to use the boat?
The hardcore, high performance fishing center console will be outfitted differently than a boat used for weekend trips with the family. If you plan to tournament fish in your center console, you might consider a gap tower, an Omni or side-scan sonar, a tuna door and carbon fiber riggers. Should you opt for a step hull? This will give you a bit more speed, but sacrifice a bit of handling by kicking out on you every now and again and not biting as much into corners.
If you’re going the family route, you’ll want to balance finished seating area with room to fish. Consider also the conditioned sleeping spaces and head areas down below. What about a swim step or a dive door.
Then there is the joystick and stay point options. Should you go this route?
Should you get a stabilizer? What size and how many?
The Great Center Console Debate
Pondering these general questions about how plan to use your new boat may well lead you to pondering some philosophical questions about the modern center console landscape. These questions, while perhaps lacking any universal truths, may well elicit some pretty strong opinions on the dock…
Have we gotten too big? At what point does a big, awesome center console turn into something other than a really big, awesome center console?
How many outboards is too many? As you increase in horsepower and number of engines, your boat will not only go faster, but consume more fuel. Is there a point at which an additional outboard means something other than increased speed and performance?
For the real hardcore, fishy guys is there an optimal size? Of course there is. Depending on who you ask, where they fish and the specifics of their operation it will vary. Is that optimal size 27, is it 32, is 43? Is it, gulp, 65?
Have center consoles gotten too expensive? The market will happily pay for increased performance, style, comfort and luxury. But is there a price threshold at which this becomes obnoxious? What is it? Have we reached it?
At which point do you jump into a sportfish? This, perhaps, is the logical conclusion of the philosophical center console exercise. At what point, in terms of budget, in terms of size, in terms of amenity, in terms of systems, does it make sense to abandon the center console for a sportfisher?
There are no right or wrong answers to any of these questions, but the team at Kusler Yachts can help you think through them for yourself.
A Few of Our Favorite Large Center Consoles
When it comes to do-it-all, high performance center consoles there’s an awful lot to like about the Regulator. These boats, made in North Carolina, boast solid construction (the stringers are dropped into the hull and glassed in to make them a single piece) and quality finish work.
Valhalla makes a hell of a center console. Beyond the performance and fishability that are baked into the design, Valhalla benefits from the economies of scale and international service network of Viking Yachts—the company behind this revolution in center consoles.
Freeman boats redefined the catamaran’s place on the sportfishing landscape. Recognized for their speed, ability to handle chop, and wide fishing platforms, there’s a reason the Freemans now dominate many of the best charter destinations in the United States—Islamorada, Venice, Louisiana, among them. In fact, you’ll find Freemans nearly anywhere you find serious offshore fishermen.
HCB bills itself as a custom boat builder. It’s easy to see why. The south Florida outfit’s 39, 42, 53 and 65’ center consoles feature many qualities that you’d normally expect in a yacht. These boats can fish, but their trademark lies in luxury, elegance and size.
From bay boats in the 25’ class to it’s new 670LXS model, Scout makes a boat for every application. The 670, scheduled to splash mid-2024, is a collaboration between Scout Boats and renowned superyacht design studio Harrison Eidsgaard. In the lead up, Scout describes the 670 as “One of the largest outboard-powered sportfishing yachts to be built in the world, this Luxury Sport Model will encompass all of the incredible features of luxury, fishing, cruising and high performance.”
Winter Custom Yachts build sportfishers and center consoles. Their clean lines and iconic designs leave little doubt as to where they’re made—North Carolina. Winter’s center consoles are outboard powered walkarounds that impart the feel and look of a custom Carolina boat. If you’re into that sort of thing (and really who isn’t), the Winter Custom is a classic take on the center console.
Navigating the Landscape of Large Center Consoles
There’s a lot to like about big center consoles these days. There’s also a dizzying array of models, options and features. At Kusler Yachts we specialize in helping clients of a backgrounds and experience levels get the right boat for their situations. We’d love to help you… Contact us today.