Back in the day, Mako Marine had a well-deserved reputation for building solidly performing, well-built fishing boats. Indeed, through much of the 1970s and '80s, Mako virtually owned the center console fishing boat market. But as with other companies, Mako eventually changed hands several times, and its luster was worn down by poor designs and a decline in quality. We're happy to report, however, that the Mako of today is once again gaining ground with some innovative, practical and very affordable products, especially the new 18 LTS, which is a very nicely built and well-running boat.
We tested the boat on a beautiful morning in early December out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and got to experience the functionality and practicality of the design. Rigged with a 60 hp Mercury four-stroke outboard, it's no speed demon, but that's not the point of this boat. It's a backwater, bay and estuary boat that can get you where you need to be with its versatility - and its maximum horsepower is 90, so there is plenty more speed available if you feel the need. I was glad to see the economical performance and common-sense power approach as opposed to the mentality of recent years, in which everyone packs as much horsepower on the transom as possible - a waste of money, equipment and function.
The 18 LTS has a casting platform forward large enough for you to throw a good-size cast net on a school of mullet, work a sod-bank shoreline with a plug rod for striped bass, or soak a live bait along the mangroves for snook. The foredeck is accented with a nice toe rail, so you know where you are without feeling like you're going to step off the boat with every cast. There is a place for an optional trolling motor on the foredeck and a large anchor locker fully forward with a double-sided hatch and a gasket to keep water out. Aft of the anchor locker on the casting deck, a large compartment with a gasketed, molded lid keeps things dry.
The console is well thought out, with good access and room for three batteries underneath: one to handle cranking the engine, one to run the livewell and bubbler system, as well as any electronics, and one as a trolling-motor battery when that option is selected. There are three vertical rod holders on each side of the console for quick access and easy storage while fishing, and the cushioned forward console seat houses an 18-gallon aerated livewell. The business side of the console has a panel for flush-mounting electronics, a side-mount binnacle control to save dash space, and a gauge cluster that's easily read in front of the helm. A wraparound windscreen and handrail fit the console and boat nicely. The console seat is a 72-quart cushioned cooler with a flip-flop backrest, so you can sit facing aft when drifting and lean back.
The huge aft deck offers a great work space and houses two large molded storage bins on either side that are easily accessible and are watertight with gasketed, double-sided hatch lids. Again, the toe rail surrounds the aft casting deck and gives you the extra security of knowing where the edge is when throwing a cast net or working a rod. I particularly like the way the rigging does not encroach on the fishing space on the aft deck.
The 18 LTS has what Mako calls a patent-pending Rapid Planing System hull design that provides a nice ride and quick acceleration. The boat turns well and runs shallow with its tunneled hull, sporting a 20-inch shaft-length motor on its 25-inch transom. As I rode along the beach looking for bait schools, we scurried along at 25 mph at 4,650 rpm, and as I slowed down to stand up and get a better look, we cruised effortlessly at 22.7 mph at 4,500 rpm. I felt like any minute I could pull it back and make a few casts to a school of tarpon. In the light chop and when crossing other boat wakes, we took no spray at all, and the boat reacted to the wheel quickly when I turned off to ease our crossing over large boat wakes. Our test boat was rigged with a hydraulic jack plate that helps take advantage of the boat's shallow-water running capabilities.
The 18 LTS is clean, simple and well executed and can do many things well on many different bodies of water. Mako offers some really good standard features and all the options you could possibly need to rig out the boat for most any situation. It also comes complete with a trailer and very attractive package pricing for each of its power options.
Mako 18 LTS
Base Price......$19,495 with a 90 hp Mercury
Mako Marine: 417-873-4555 www.mako-boats.com