Center consoles come in a variety of flavors, but there are only a few builders who specialize in boats specifically for tournament fishermen — builders like Brad Knight, the creator and owner of Onslow Bay Boats. If you haven’t heard of Onslow, don’t be too hard on yourself. It is a limited-production builder, but its boats are pure magic.
Knight is a second-generation boatbuilder and die-hard competition angler. He started Onslow Bay in 2005 with a very specific goal: to build the best tournament center consoles on the water. His initial entry was the 27 Offshore Edition, designed for the Southern Kingfish Association’s small-boat class. Even though he was building only about 15 boats a year, teams running those boats have won the SKA Nationals every year since 2008.
Knight’s latest creation is a no-holds-barred SKA Open Class center console. The 32 Offshore Edition was sitting on the trailer when I arrived, so I checked out the bottom first. From the side, it boasts a tall bow with a graceful sheer that flows uninterrupted to the engine platform where three 300 hp Mercury Verado outboards reside. It sports a 49-degree entry beneath a Carolina flare to knock down spray with a pair of lifting strakes and a reverse chine. A walk around the stern revealed the running surface extends completely beneath the engine platform, ending in a 24-degree deadrise.
After a short drive to the launch ramp, the boat was offloaded, and Knight went to park the truck while I roamed around the interior, finding a self-bailing, level deck with ample drain channels. The bow is wide open with three hatches that reveal two insulated compartments (500-quart and 280-quart) that can be used as fish boxes or dry storage. There is a 230-quart fish box on either side of the console, and two more compartments aft, with a third deck hatch for access to the bilge, pumps, through-hull fittings and valves. A round 45-gallon livewell is built into the transom, and optional 45- or 60-gallon livewell/helm seats are available. A pair of 800 gph SHURflo pumps feed the wells, but an optional sea chest with multiple high-flow pumps can be ordered.
The console is sized so even someone of modest stature has a good view forward, and it features a recessed compartment to flush-mount a pair of 12-inch LCD monitors. The helm switch panel is mounted there too. Both the console and helm station have recessed toe room — a nice feature. Console access is via a large door on the front, which opens to reveal four batteries, the engine electronics package, custom battery switch and breaker box, and a beautifully executed wiring job. No corners cut, no skimping on quality components. The standard soft T-top is built on heavy-duty pipework, and includes rear-facing LCD spreader lights, seven rod holders, a large electronics box, and vented PFD storage overhead.
We shipped the lines and headed for Topsail Inlet through a maze of small, winding channels that gave me an opportunity to see how the boat handled. From a dead stop accelerating slowly, the boat came on plane at 18 mph. Pulling a hole shot, the bow rises almost imperceptibly as the hull jumps on plane. Knight told me it handles like a sports car, and this was the ideal place to find out. Faster and faster, throwing the boat back and forth through one switchback after another, it tracked nimbly at speeds in excess of 50 mph. The steering was positive, never felt heavy coming out of a steep turn, and there was no cavitation — sports car indeed.
Navigating out through the narrow inlet channel with large tight waves was a breeze, and once outside we had two- to three-foot tight swells. Knight demonstrated a unique characteristic of the hull: the ability to angle the bow up or down with the tabs to achieve any level of attack to match sea conditions. The boat handled the seas coming and going, and remained dry. Pushing it up to well over 50, it would crest a swell and settle back down without pounding. By now I was dying to see just how fast it would run, so we headed back inside for speed and fuel tests. The results speak for themselves: 67.3 mph at full speed, with an optimum cruise sped around 40 at 1.45 mpg. I was impressed with the acceleration, so we tried a standing stop, zero-to-60 run — 15 seconds flat! We also raised the center engine, and the boat climbed on plane in a reasonable time, running to 51.5 mph.
The boat was designed to Knight’s specifications using the latest in robotic technology to build the plugs. The hull is fully foamed for extra rigidity and a firm, quiet ride. Knight went the extra mile from design through execution, and the quality was evident everywhere I looked. If you are a tournament angler or a serious offshore fisherman looking for what could be the ultimate high-performance ride, you might want to get your name on the waiting list for an Onslow Bay 32 Offshore Edition. It’s an amazing boat.
Onslow Bay 32 Offshore Edition
Transom deadrise: 24 degrees
Fuel: 407 gal.
Weight: 7,000 lb.
Max hp: 900
Base price: $167,000 with triple Mercury 300 hp Verados
Onslow Bay Boats: 910-270-3703 • onslowbayboats.com