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November 12, 2008

SeaFox 286 CC

For overall performance and value, the SeaFox 286 CC is a very sweet ride.

One of the occupational hazards of boat testing is fantasizing about the ultimate dream boat. You know the one - every option imaginable, runs like a scared ballyhoo, flattens waves and catches more fish than an illegal gill net. Did I mention the best part? It doesn't require a withdrawl from Fort Knox to own and operate.

In reality, other discretionary-income demands often take priority. In that case, price-point models are a viable option for getting on the water. South Carolina-based SeaFox specializes in this market segment, and with its new Pro Series the company has taken quality and performance to a higher level. I got the chance to experience the improvements first-hand aboard a 286 Center Console recently off Charleston. Ryan Balderson and Tess Hughes of SeaFox were my hosts. Joining us was Russ Balderson, Ryan's brother and fishing partner on the Southern Kingfish Association tournament trail.

Heading 55 miles offshore to the edge of the Gulf Stream, we were met by an unexpected, steady breeze and tight swells. I braced for a long, jarring ride that never materialized. Instead, Ryan lowered the bow using the recessed trim tabs, and we continued cruising along effortlessly. The beamy hull straddled the waves with ease and kept us dry despite the wind. With its sharp bow entry and 21-degree deadrise, it's certainly capable of handling even bigger water. Our test boat was powered by twin 250-horsepower Suzuki direct-injected four-strokes for an economical blend of power and efficiency. Making 34.0 mph at 4,000 rpm, our fuel burn was only 18.1 gph. At top speed, we pushed just over 54 mph while using 39.8 gph.

Once we reached blue water and put out our spread, I had the opportunity to check out the 286's standard features between dolphin strikes. The list is extensive. A 45-gallon livewell is located directly behind the helm, close to the action. Twin insulated fish boxes with independent macerators are in the deck. Stainless-steel toe rails, cockpit coaming pads and a recessed bow rail enhance safety in rough conditions. One of the more unique features is the in-deck storage compartment forward of the console. It has a molded rack that holds two included 5-gallon buckets so they don't slide all over. Buckets are required gear on any fish boat.

The heavy-duty Ultima hard top is pre-rigged with a seven-rod rocket launcher, which supplements the other nine in the transom rack and covering boards. The two outboard tubes are angled for trolling duty, but an outrigger package can be added. The top comes with flush-mount white and red LED lighting, spreader lights and integrated stereo speakers. For those muggy summer days, a Climate Cool system with four stainless-steel misters will provide welcome relief.