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September 21, 2007

Fountain 34 Sportfish

Fast, sturdy and ready for tournament duty.

Like their fresh water counterparts on the bass-fishing circuit, king mackerel tournament anglers value speed, performance and style. That's why the Fountain 34 Sportfish Open Bow is sure to be a hit with the salt water crowd. It looks like a racy fishboat, and it performs like a racing fishboat. This is one hot-rod machine!

In order to maximize performance, the 34 incorporates several design features originally tested on the company's offshore racing models. The hull includes a notched-transom, twin positive-lift steps for ventilation and a pad keel to minimize drag without sacrificing control. The weight is kept in check by using composite, hand-laid fiberglass with high-density foam coring and vinylester resin. The end result is only 18 inches less bottom-running surface than the 38-foot Tournament Edition, yet the performance characteristics are very similar.

Thanks to Legendary Marine in Destin, Florida, we were able to test the 34 in real-world conditions in choppy Choctawhatchee Bay. The hole shot was quicker than a wahoo chasing a crippled herring, and the high-performance keel cleaved the waves cleanly and effortlessly. Fountain's custom hydraulic steering and high-performance trim tabs made handling and tight turns a snap, while the triple 225-hp Mercury OptiMax outboards provided the company's requisite tear-inducing speed. We zipped along in the mid-50s under the test conditions, but the 34 is capable of running up to 68 mph wide open, according to Fountain's performance data. At a cruising speed of 4000 rpm it lopes along at 47 mph.

The 34's helm also reflects Fountain's racing heritage. The ergonomic leaning post with backrest and molded footrest provides the operator with easy access to the Gaffrig binnacle controls and a clear view of the gauges. The flush-mount electronics locker is nearly as wide as the console itself, while the rugged T-top (which comes standard) houses another electronics/radio box with chart light. Inside the walk-in console you'll find a vacu-flush head, shower and sink. A 25-quart drink cooler is located under the padded forward seat in front of the console.

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SPECIFICATIONS

LOA: 34'
Beam: 9' 6"
Draft: 2' 7"
Weight: 7,950 lbs.
Fuel: 300 gals.
Water: 30 gals.
Base price w/ twin 225-hp
Mercury OptiMax outboards: $171,110

The leaning post will rack several rods, plus there are five 90-degree and twin 45-degree rod holders welded to the T-top. If that's not enough rod storage for you, the 34 has more under the gunwales. Top Gun outriggers are an option, and halogen spreader lights are standard.

The 34's open bow design provides enough fish-fighting room forward and aft for a team of anglers, and the wraparound coaming bolsters offer comfort for extended battles. And as you'd expect, the 34 is equipped with four gargantuan in-deck fishboxes (800-quart total capacity) that are fitted with macerators and drain overboard. All split-lid hatch covers are cored and gasketed to allow easy opening and provide a tight seal. This boat is also self-bailing, with deep deck channels that funnel water quickly to the scuppers.

The transom features a padded seat with handrails, conveniently located between the transom door and bait-prep station. The live well, which can hold enough hardtails or goggle-eyes to last all day, is located underneath. Both salt and fresh water washdowns are standard, and an in-deck cockpit hatch provides access to the bilge and pump systems. There are also plenty of storage compartments to house tackle and other gear.

While the Fountain 34 is built for speed, it's also built to last. The hull, deck and inner liner are laminated with fiberglass, then pop-riveted, glassed, through-bolted, screwed and finally sealed with marine adhesive. The rails are heavy-duty stainless steel and through-bolted, while the 360-gallon, baffled fuel tank is made of welded, heavy aluminum and locked into position three different ways.

Overall, the well-built and well-designed Fountain 34 is more than capable of meeting the demands of offshore sport fishing, tournament or otherwise. Just get ready for plenty of eye-popping stares if you ever decide to slow down. Fountain Powerboats, Washington, NC; (252) 975-2000; www.fountainpowerboats.com.