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February 20, 2009

Sea Hunt BX 24

Sea Hunt's BX 24 keeps the options open.

The growing popularity of redfish has triggered many changes in our sport in recent years. Tackle manufacturers have developed new rods, reels and lures especially for the market. Builders also responded to the demand for low profile, shallow-draft boats to keep pace on the competitive redfish tours.

But not all companies buy into this latest trend. South Carolina-based Sea Hunt Boats instead decided to build its new BX 24 with a higher freeboard to make it more versatile without sacrificing inshore performance. Based on my recent test on the state's lowcountry tidal waters, I can report that the company has met its goals admirably.

"I absolutely hate getting wet in a boat," Sea Hunt President Vic Roof Jr. told me as we zipped along the Intracoastal Waterway toward one of his favorite redfish holes, "so we designed this boat to handle serious chop and stay dry. The progressive-V design has a sharp, 50-degree entry that decreases to 15 degrees at the transom. It has enough glass to run comfortably offshore, yet it'll also float shallow. We feel it's a perfect blend for those who want an affordable, versatile boat to maximize their fishing options."

True to form, the spray coming off the chines broke just aft of the helm leaning post, keeping us bone dry. Although the water in the "ditch" was calm, we crossed enough rolling wakes to test the BX's mettle. It pierced the swells like sharp hooks penetrate soft jerk baits. Re-entry was soft and sure. Sea Hunt doesn't cut any corners when it comes to the hull lay-up. This 24-footer tips the scales at 2,700 pounds, and it has a solid, dependable feel while underway. I wouldn't hesitate running one several miles offshore to fish when conditions are right. And if it did turn nasty, I'm confident it would get me home safely. Although there's no Kevlar in the hull (and no wood, either, only composite coring), this boat is about as bulletproof as they come. It's backed by a 10-year hull warranty.

The maximum horsepower rating is 250. We made 48 miles per hour with the 225 hp Yamaha four-stroke on the test boat, and it planed quickly and easily. Bumping up another 25 ponies to the F250 will give a top end of nearly 53 miles per hour according to Yamaha's test engineers. Sea Star hydraulic tilt steering comes standard along with a Vision stainless-steel wheel with power knob and Lenco electric trim tabs. The tabs are recessed into built-in pockets so they don't protrude off the transom. That's a welcome feature whenever a green fish is doing donuts around the stern.

Waiting for the tide to drop out and the bite to turn on gave me the chance to inspect the boat, starting at the bow. Every hatch is finished on both sides, and all hardware is heavy-grade stainless steel. The recessed and spacious bow casting deck is divided into several compartments that include a fitted anchor locker and a large storage box on the centerline. The two locking rod boxes forward, each capable of racking six outfits apiece, double as dry storage. A wide single step makes it easy to access the upper deck.

The console is fitted with an 8-gallon baitwell forward, underneath a cushioned seat. A drop-down hatch on the console front provides more dry storage and access to the wiring. Six vertical rod holders and a pair of cup holders sandwich the helm. Standard console features include a Ritchie compass, Yamaha digital gauge package, windshield, grab rail and glove box. The dedicated trolling-motor battery compartment below keeps the weight centered where it needs to be, and the bow is prewired with a trolling motor plug too.

The comfy leaning post is equipped with a four-rod rocket launcher, internal storage and rigging tray. A backrest is an available option, along with a JBL stereo system, choice of tops and a swim platform. More tackle can be stowed in the horizontal racks under the gunwales or in the stainless-steel rod holders.