My home waters surrounding Pine Island, Florida, are amazing. Almost every major inshore species can be caught within a 30-minute boat ride from my backyard. Huge strings of tarpon run the beaches, and swarms of juveniles roll in the shallows. Redfish tail like crazy during the winter’s negative low tides, and snook blast bait on the beaches all summer. Throw in a steady year-round speckled trout bite and Pine Island has it all.
As a fly-fishing guide I get a lot of anglers who want to chase everything all in one day. For that, they need a boat that can handle the diverse waters. Ironically, I found one just a quick drive up the road. For the last few years, Beavertail Skiffs has been quietly building some of the most capable hulls to hit the salt. Its 18-foot Vengeance amazed me during my first test drive in the Keys when it was introduced back in 2010. I’d never been on a skiff that poled shallow and ran so dry. I wound up buying its BT3 model, which shares the same hull but has fewer livewells and a wider deck, and was convinced.
But Will and Elizabeth Leslie, the owners of Beavertail, don’t sit still for long and this year have introduced the all new 17-foot Strike. The Strike is six inches shorter and 10 inches narrower than the BT3, so with the right trailer it will fit into almost any garage. It’s also a hundred pounds lighter and is capable of more speed with less power.
I first drove the Strike with an E-TEC 60 and was quite impressed with the 30 mph cruising speed it produced as well as the boat’s six-inch draft. I also spent a few days running one around Pine Island with the E-TEC 90 version, which is the maximum power for this hull. Talk about a rocket sled. The acceleration and hole shot were amazing, and with the right prop it will top out in the mid-40 mph range. My personal choice for the Strike is a four-stroke 70 for its great fuel economy, but Beavertail will rig its boats with any outboard the customer wants.
It builds all of its skiffs with vacuum-infused vinylester resin, but for the serious draft-junkies out there, Beavertail just introduced its Elite series, which will make extensive use of carbon fiber and Kevlar as well as some of the most advanced construction techniques in the industry. The Strike Elite is aimed squarely at guides in the Keys and Texas, where long runs and hours of poling are part of the daily grind.
Here on Pine Island, the Strike is the perfect vehicle for me to load up with a pair of fly-anglers with all their gear and run to the beaches off Gasparilla to chase down pods of tarpon as the sun rises. Later in the day we can shoot over to the flats off Cabbage Key and pole the dead low tides for tailing reds. Then we can race home across Charlotte Harbor to beat the afternoon thunderstorms and stay bone-dry the entire time. The Strike is basically the boat I’ve been looking for since I started fishing the flats, and Beavertail has finally delivered it at an incredible price.
- LOA: 17’6”
- Beam: 6’1”
- Draft: Fully rigged w/ E-TEC 60: 6”
- Fuel: 20 gal.
- Max Horsepower: 90 hp
- Weight: 550 lb.
- Top Speed: With 90 hp E-TEC: 45 mph
- Price: Boat w/ E-TEC 60: $26,000
Evinrude E-TEC Options
Beavertail chose the 60 hp Evinrude E-TEC as the standard engine for the 17 Strike, but if you really want some power, the 90 hp version will do just that.