Those of you who know Starcraft as the builder of high-quality aluminum boats may do a double-take when you see its latest model. The 2280 is not only made of fiberglass, it also happens to be one smartly designed fishing boat. Starcraft has jammed a number of innovative features into a mere 22 feet, and the results are impressive.
Start with the cockpit, which is surprisingly large for a 22-footer, thanks in part to the notched transom. To keep water out, the designers built a sturdy, fold-down transom gate with a coaming pad running along the top. Coaming pads run all the way around the boat and are placed at an optimum height. Stainless-steel toe rails provide sure footing, and there are two full-sized racks beneath each gunwale, providing ample rod storage.
Two storage compartments, one in each transom corner, are just the right size for holding an Igloo six-pack cooler, so you can store bait, drinks or both in the cockpit. The boat's pumps are mounted beneath the cooler compartments, making them easy to service when necessary. All of the hatches on the 2280 have rubber gaskets, and the hinges are through-bolted.
The helm-seat area makes clever use of space as well, housing the washdown pump, hose and a live well. The helm chairs are reversible and feature locking mechanisms to hold them in whatever position you choose.
The 21-gallon insulated live well gets the prize for the most innovative touch, however. The round well has a built-in grate with numerous holes drilled in it that fits snugly into the bottom of the well. A rod with a knob on top is fastened to the grate. By lifting the grate, the contents of the well are brought to the top while the water passes through the holes. Starcraft calls it the Bait Lifter, and it brings an end to the days of frantically chasing the last two or three baits with a dip net. It's an ingenious setup.
The compact console has a flip-down footrest and storage below for
the boat's dual batteries and the engine oil tank. A shelf above the batteries provides lots of room for dry storage. Forward of the console, a 72-quart Igloo cooler holds drinks and serves as a passenger seat. Starcraft's attention to detail even includes a molded-in recess for the cooler to sit in, and a dedicated scupper to help drain it.
A raised deck in the bow provides an excellent casting platform and houses several storage compartments. There's a large inner-hull storage box, plus an anchor locker with a built-in chain gutter that leads to the roller in the bow pulpit - another well thought-out system. Aft of the casting deck is a transverse fishbox with a drain and an insulated lid.
Starcraft throws in quality features all over the boat, things like chromed-bronze through-hull fittings with reinforced hoses; a standard anchor tensioner on the pulpit; a one-inch, welded, stainless bow rail; and a built-in PVC chart tube in the console. The high-tech construction includes a composite-cored transom, foam-filled fiberglass stringers and end-grain balsa coring in the decks.
The boat performs well too, cruising at 35 mph at 4000 rpm with a single 250-hp Mercury EFI outboard, and hitting 47.2 mph wide-open at 5400 rpm. We ran the boat in a short chop off Sebastian Inlet on Florida's east coast, and the ride was soft and dry at all times. In short, it was an outstanding performance. It's just part of an impressive package, one that deserves serious consideration if you're in the market for a 22-foot center console.
Starcraft, Topeka, IN; (219) 593-2880; www.starcraftmarine.com.