Mako has built a 17-footer in one form or another for about 30 years, and they are a very common sight on fishing grounds throughout the coastal United States, as well as in other parts of the world. That's because when it comes to all-around versatility, the Mako 17 is right up there with the best. Inshore or offshore, this boat has done it all.
The 17 can be called upon in a great many situations. I have two friends from West Palm Beach who fish the backcountry of Everglades National Park in a pair of elderly 17's that look as if they just left the showroom floor. And South Florida sailfish expert Nick Smith has chased sails in the Gulf Stream for many years aboard his tricked-out Mako 17, sometimes in truly nasty weather.
Given this prestigious fishing heritage, we were eager to see the latest version of this venerable boat. At first glance, it looks much like the older versions, which is good, because the 17 has always had nice lines. The open, simple, fishing-friendly layout has also been maintained, so you hard-cores out there can breathe a sigh of relief that yet another classic hasn't been converted to a glorified party barge.
Fishing is the main mission, as always. The new 171 has a layout similar to the old Standard model, with an open transom design that allows you to walk right up to the engine when fighting a fish. There are two boxes aft and parallel to the hullsides from the transom forward. The port box is an insulated cooler, ideal for holding food and drink or serving as a fishbox. The starboard box contains a small live well that can be used to hold pitch baits, as well as a recess where the fuel filter/water separator resides.
A four-rod rocket launcher/leaning post comes standard, with room for a small cooler below. The console features a unique split design that allows the top half to tilt forward, revealing an impressive amount of storage space that's easily accessed. No more rummaging around on your hands and knees to get something from under the console. There are three vertical rod holders on either side of the console, and the forward console seat contains a large live well.
Forward, the boat is nearly identical to the previous 17-foot Makos, with a large casting deck and the familiar two steps molded into the forward cockpit corners. The compartment beneath the casting deck houses the anchor and rode, and the entire boat is trimmed in low-maintenance StarBoard material. For sure footing, Mako uses an aggressive molded-in, non-skid texture on all deck surfaces.
The 171 hull has a sharp forward entry with a relatively flat deadrise at the transom, an efficient design that helps the boat perform well. Our test boat sported a 90-hp Mercury outboard and cruised at 27.2 mph at 4000 rpm. Wide-open, it hit 37.8 mph. If you need more speed, you can hang up to 135 horses on the transom. The boat is very stable underway or at rest, with predictable handling characteristics. With its flat after-section, it can ride hard in a chop, but the optional trim tabs will help drive the bow down and cut the waves.
Fans of the older Makos will be pleased with the similarities the new version shares with the boats of yesteryear, and the innovative storage and layout features are bound to win the affections of a whole new generation of anglers. It's a simple fishing boat, but one that works extremely well, and there's no question that it has stood the test of time.
Mako Marine Int., Miami, FL; (888) 434-7487; www.mako-boats.com