I admit being a big panga fan. I first saw one 20 years ago, 12 miles offshore on Venezuela's La Guaira Bank. The two commercial fishermen aboard were hand-lining snapper, and their little 20-footer surfed those big waves like a cork while I watched from a 46 Bertram trolling nearby. Since then I've fished on several different pangas and tested a few more, the latest being the Mojito 22. Talk about raising the bar. Overbuilt by Rivolta Yachts, Mojito adds a stylish twist to the soft-riding, fuel-efficient and extremely fishable panga design.
I tested the boat in Florida's Sarasota Bay last summer. When I saw the 22 at the dock, it was quickly apparent this was no ordinary no-frills panga. With a higher freeboard and gentle bow, the 22 looks bigger than its actual size. Add the closed transom, outboard porta-bracket and neat, thoughtful layout, and it really looks big. It rides like a much bigger boat too.
A lightweight 175 hp Suzuki four-stroke provided a powerful hole shot that quickly popped the center console on plane. Handling was smooth and responsive, aided by the standard hydraulic steering. It took only two passing boat wakes to appreciate how solidly constructed the Mojito is. Creaks, shudders and the sound of rubbing fiberglass parts were nonexistent. Dryness was another noteworthy attribute. The only moisture encountered was from a windblown mist when we turned hard into a quartering sea.
The original panga design featured a sharp entry, slight belly amidships, flattened stern and narrow beam for fuel efficiency with minimal power. Mojito enhanced that seaworthiness and fishability by adding higher freeboard and more beam without sacrificing performance. We were able to reach a top speed of nearly 42 mph during my test, with a modest fuel burn of 15.8 gph. The extra beam keeps the boat stable, even in a drift. That's a welcome trait when fishing several anglers off one side. The higher freeboard also adds peace of mind with the family aboard. With a transom deadrise of only 12 degrees, the draft of this 22-footer is an impressive 8 inches, making it versatile for duties ranging from drifting a flat or throwing a cast net for bait to running safely offshore to the Gulf Stream.
The Rivolta Yachts heritage is evident throughout the Mojito's construction. Start with the boat's meticulous fit and finish - hatches close snugly without rubbing, hardware is all mounted with appropriate backing plates, and wiring harnesses are neatly organized and well-labeled. High-end components like a dual-position battery switch, LED navigation lights and heavy-duty pop-up stainless-steel cleats are more evidence of attention to detail and quality. The boat's stringer system is a massive grid of ATC coring and fiberglass to give rigidity and strength without adding unnecessary weight.
"I built these boats more solid than they need to be," Mojito's Renzo Rivolta-Barberi told me. "I wanted to reflect the quality of our larger yachts and add styling to make them a truly unique panga. We're also going to offer this same model for commercial applications, so the design and construction has to hold up to everyday use and abuse."
The large console on the 22 offers ample room for flush-mounting the necessary electronics. It also folds back to allow easy access for rigging and maintenance. A comfortable powder-coated leaning post gives the operator good sightlines and plenty of lumbar support. An aft rocket launcher racks four rods. The test boat sported an optional, beefy powder-coated T-top. It comes with a rocket launcher for more rod storage. A tower configuration is available as another optional feature, along with Lenco electric trim tabs.
Two fully molded fish boxes that can hold a day's catch are positioned outboard in the cockpit deck. A 30-gallon livewell on the transom centerline keeps bait fresh, and if more capacity is needed, a second well can be plumbed in the bow. Dual access hatches in the transom corners allow access to the pumps in the bilge. The forward casting deck has a huge storage compartment molded in. Despite the large console, the 22 has plenty of room to maneuver from bow to stern. The wide gunwales and aggressive nonskid provide sure footing even when wet.
After putting the Mojito 22 through its paces, I'm now an even bigger fan of pangas. The next generation of pangas, that is. If you're shopping for a soft-riding, versatile craft that's efficient to operate, you won't regret adding this one to your own shortlist.
Weight: 2,350 lbs.
Fuel: 55 gals.
Max hp: 250
Price: $46,900 with a 175 hp Suzuki four-stroke and trailer
Mojito Boats: 941-345-6131 www.mojitoboats.com