Consistency and familiarity are good things in a boat line. They make it easy for customers not only to move up to larger models but also to move into a particular boat brand. One of the things I’ve always appreciated about Contender Boats is that it stays true to the fishing-boat genre and doesn’t try to be all things to all people. Contender builds fishing boats, and its new 30 ST, for Stepped Tournament, is a fine example of getting the most out of what you need in a fishing boat for its size.
Along with some great new features, the things that make a Contender a Contender are all there. A functional console, plenty of in-deck storage, good livewells with great sump-box feeds, and most importantly, a lot of fishing room. I recently got to test the boat out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with the new Contender dealer for that area, Jim Renfrow from Total Marine, and Les Stewart Jr., Contender’s marketing director.
The 30 ST is an all-new model with a stepped-hull design that supplements both the 27 and 30 Tournament models. The inclusion of steps in the hull gives the 30 ST an impressive 18 percent boost in efficiency over the former models, reports the company. With the increasing market demand for efficiency and fuel savings, Contender designed the 30 ST to be competitive on the fishing grounds and at the fuel dock. The hull maintains a 24-degree deadrise with no running pad at the transom and offers a laterally stable ride with its 9-foot-6-inch beam.
Our test boat came rigged with twin Yamaha F300 four-strokes, and the acceleration was snappy to say the least. We departed Port Everglades skirting the steep outgoing tide swell in the center and slipped out around the southern jetty into a southeast wind of 18 to 20 knots and a close three- to five-foot swell.
Personally, I like to arrive at the fishing grounds dry and without death-grip fatigue. So, as the boat loped along in the slop, I found a very comfortable angle and a 3,500 rpm speed that offered 38 mph while giving us 2.1 miles to the gallon, and the 30 ST kept us dry and got us where we needed to be in fine time. I really liked the Uflex steering, and the boat was agile and responded to the wheel and the throttles quickly, with no banging or slamming as it rode along the tops of the windblown swells at a quartering angle.
If you do like speed, the acceleration from 3,500 to 5,000 rpm is swift and will put you back on your heels, as the boat jumped 10 mph to nearly 58 mph seemingly in the blink of an eye. Coming in the inlet, I pushed the throttles down, and again, with a burst of speed, it reached 67 mph before I had to pull it back for the slow-speed zone.
The 30 ST comes nicely laid out, with wide, walkable gunwales; pull-up cleats and navigation lights; and a recessed handrail forward, giving excellent 360-degree fishability. The anchor locker lies on the forward deck and comes divided into three sections for the various ground tackle requirements, and it features a glassed-in tube to hold an anchor vertically and keep it from slamming around.
On the centerline forward, a 130-gallon fully lined in-deck fish box between the stringers can have an optional on-deck insulated coffin box with electric rams and a backrest above it. Aft of the center fish box and forward of the console, an additional insulated 70-gallon fish box can be plumbed as an additional livewell. Outboard of the stringers on each side, full-length in-deck lockable rod storage helps keep tackle secure.
The console has a forward seat on a lift-up panel, offering walk-in access to the fully lined and finished head compartment. Vertical rod holders and recessed drink holders on both sides of the console provide storage. The 30 ST console features an oversize recessed dash panel with clear plexiglas to protect the boat’s electronics from the elements. There’s easy access to the backside of the panel from inside the console, and the wiring is all combed and labeled for easy tracing and troubleshooting. Yamaha gauges sit on a bevel under the electronics dash, and the helm and binnacle rest on a styled pod, with all equipment switches on a panel under the wheel on the helm-pod face.
Our test boat had a great leaning post with storage, a slide-out Frigid Rigid cooler underneath, tackle storage over the cooler and four rod holders along the backrest. A large lazarette hatch on the deck centerline behind the rocket launcher offers access to the fuel filters, bilge pumps and livewell sump box, which feeds the optional forward well and the twin 40-gallon above-deck livewells on the transom. Outboard of the stringers on each side lie 55-gallon lined and insulated in-deck fish boxes.
The 30 ST comes with four Lee’s Tackle gunwale-mount rod holders, fuel and water fills, and spring cleats with hawsepipes amidships. With some minor, optional customization, the 30 ST can be ready for your fishing needs, whether you fly kites for sailfish off Miami, Florida, or jig for striped bass off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. You won’t need a dually to tow the 30 ST either, and it can keep the family happy with all its storage and versatility.
I liked the clean decks, open fishability, copious storage and large fish-box capacity, as well as the ride and the boat’s ease on the pocket at the fuel pump. Contender has once again created a boat that fits its line and offers fishermen a solid platform to work from.
Contender 30 ST
Fuel: 265 gals.
Max hp: 600
Weight as tested: 7,490 lbs.
Base price: $166,433 with twin 300 hp Yamaha outboards
Contender Boats / 305-230-1600 / www.contenderoffshore.com