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September 21, 2007

Contender 25 Open Fish

Contender has kept the best of the past and added lots of new features to the latest version of this popular center console.

Older versions of the Contender 25 are icons among serious fishermen in South Florida. The boat has been offered in several different versions over the years, including notched-transom designs and a more recent model with a bracket. It has long been rumored, however, that a redesign was underway, and the finished product is now available. The new 25 offers substantially improved amenities and performance, along with the company's popular Euro-transom layout, but retains the sleek lines and no-nonsense fishing look that have graced Contenders from the beginning.

Like the previous Contender 25s, the new boat excels as an open-water performer. Running fast in rough water is what Contenders do best, and even though we didn't have any truly choppy water for our test, we found enough to convince us that this boat will do fine in the sloppy stuff. Our test boat was powered by twin 200-hp Yamaha HPDI outboards, which produced a brisk 41.3 mph cruise at 4000 rpm. At a wide-open 5300 rpm, the boat flew along at 54.5 mph.

Contender 25 Open FishAll Contenders have a deep, 24.5-degree transom deadrise for slicing through waves, and the 25 handled the short chop we encountered with ease. But it also exhibited a high degree of stability at low speeds and while drifting, most likely due to the wide reverse chines, which also help to deflect spray. Contender uses high-tech construction methods, including a hand-laid fiberglass stringer system that's cored with PVC, chromed bronze or stainless-steel hardware throughout the boat, and fuel tanks that are both glassed and foamed into place.

The 25 is designed for maximum fishing efficiency, with an impressive amount of uncluttered room. The bow area, for example, is wide open forward of the console, and features a low-profile stainless bow rail and pop-up hardware to minimize snags. There's a 400-quart in-deck fishbox running fore and aft, and you can also order an optional above-deck "coffin box." Three more storage boxes are located aft of the fishbox: a centerline storage compartment and two wing boxes that extend forward beneath the deck. All of these boxes are insulated.

A door on the front of the console affords access to the storage space below, where we found easy access to everything. The oil tanks and batteries are down here, and it's no problem getting to all of the wiring if you need to. The console stores four rods vertically per side, and contains a large surface for electronics that is protected by double acrylic doors that lock. It's a very workable setup for electronics, one that we have come to prefer among the various options on the market.

Contender 25 Open FishA conventional rocket launcher at the forward end of the cockpit houses four rod holders, and there's room for a 72-quart Igloo cooler below. The cockpit itself offers plentiful fishing room, with a 38-gallon, above-deck live well in the transom bulkhead and two more fishboxes, each with a 225-quart capacity, beneath the deck. A transom gate to starboard lets you access the engine platform, which features several swim-ladder options. Lastly, a large lazarette on the centerline provides easy access to the bilge pumps and other items in the inner hull.

Our test boat exhibited an excellent level of fit-and-finish, and, like all Contenders, the new 25 is self-bailing and comes with foam flotation. It's built using proven hand-laid fiberglass layup, and Contender even offers several choices of gelcoat colors at no extra charge. And because Contender is a semi-custom builder, it can also work with you to meet your precise fishing needs. A close look will show you why Contender has become the boat of choice for a growing number of serious fishermen.

Contender Boats, Homestead, FL; (305) 230-1600; www.contender.com

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SPECIFICATIONS

Length: 28'
Beam: 8' 10"
Dry hull weight: 3,000 lbs.
Draft: 18"
Transom deadrise: 24.5 ¿
Fuel in gallons: 185 std.
240 opt.
Max. hp: 500