Longtime readers of boat tests will remember when deep-V hulls were the norm and too many evalu-ations included the phrase "cut through the water like a hot knife through butter." Today computer-aided design and lighter, stronger materials have significantly changed boater expectations. Overall performance and fishability top the most desired characteristics among the serious angling set. And you certainly don't hear mention of a boat cleaving the brine like warm cutlery through dairy spread, at least not around the marinas I frequent.
That's why Pro-Line Boats decided to change things a bit. After 40 years, the company had earned a reputation for building solid, fishing-friendly craft. But they were also kind of like your dad's Buick. Slow, safe and dependable, but not flashy. Times have changed, however: Pro-Line's new 35 Super Sport center console is pure performance and eye candy. Goodbye bland, hello zip!
"This model is based on the double-stepped hull first developed by Donzi, our sister company," says Nick Miller, Pro-Line's vice president of sales and marketing, as we idled along Florida's Crystal River to the open Gulf of Mexico. "We wanted to add that rough-water performance capability to our lineup for tournament anglers. But the running surface is the only similarity. We designed a whole new deck to cater to serious anglers. That's where Pro-Line's focus has always been, and it definitely continues with this new center console."
A confused chop greeted us once we cleared the no-wake zone, providing ideal test conditions. We throttled up the twin 300 hp Mercury Verados and quickly got on top of the waves. The stepped hull ventilates the running surface to reduce drag and friction and increase speed. During our runs, I recorded a top GPS reading of nearly 60 mph. Unlike conventional hulls, however, stepped hulls require finesse to achieve optimum performance - think of a Corvette compared to a lumbering Buick. But once you do dial in that sweet spot of tab, trim and throttle adjustment, it's all exhilaration. Miller told me they had nudged into the low 60-mph range during extended factory tests. He added that Evinrude E-TEC or Suzuki four-stroke power packages can be ordered in place of the Verados. If you're really into speed, triple outboards are another option.
Despite being a thoroughbred, the 35 responds well to various real-world conditions. In sharp turns, it tracked favorably without squatting or the stern getting loose. We stayed dry running in quartering, windblown chop. Stability was a nonissue when drifting in beam-to seas, even with the aggressive 22-degree transom deadrise.