Sterling's parent company, American Marine Sports, earned its bones building the Gambler - the turbo Bentley of freshwater bass boats - for the likes of NASCAR legends Dale Earnhardt and Davey Allison. That pedigree is evident in the company's new introduction to the technical-poling-skiff market.
Running and Fishing
I had the chance to run and pole this 17-foot tunnel hull on a bluebird spring day in Central Florida. Our test boat was rigged with a 60-horsepower Mercury four-stroke engine bolted to a hydraulic jack plate from Bob's Machine Shop. The prop is fed by a unique tunnel design that runs the entire length of the boat - nearly from the stem all the way to the transom.
This unique design does several things: First, it acts as a keel when the boat is turning at high speeds, much better than most traditional tunnel boats which utilize a small pocket. Second, it provides a ready supply of clean water, allowing the boat and engine to run at speed through nearly ankle-deep water. With the help of the jack plate, the operator may trim the engine above the bottom of the hull, which lets the skiff run in extremely shallow water without damaging precious sea grass or sand flats. But just because the boat will run that shallow doesn't mean you should. Anglers should always use common sense when navigating shallow .
The tunnel also provides advantages when poling, but we'll get to that in
With the 60-horsepower Mercury, the TR7 cruises at 24 mph at 4,500 rpms, with a top end of 30 mph. In 2008, anglers may opt to power the skiff with a 90-horsepower Yamaha, bumping the speed up to 40 mph.
The TR7 poles exceedingly well, tracking nearly dead straight and requiring little if any correction. It is very light and responsive and should be a good boat to pole into the tide and wind when chasing the big three. A no-slap hull similar to that on other top-end technical poling skiffs turns the boat into a dead-quiet, stealthy fishing platform.
Design and Construction
Like all Sterling models, the TR7 is built using a proprietary, three-piece construction process whereby the outer hull and inner liner are bonded together, injected with foam flotation under high pressure and then chemically bonded together with the cap, forming one solid piece. Remaining true to its high-tech poling-skiff roots, the boat is made entirely of carbon fiber and Kevlar, delivering a hull weight of just over 500 pounds.
While many manufacturers today are opting for vacuum bagging their boats, Sterling continues to utilize talented artisans to hand lay-up every hull.
One of the most impressive things about the TR7 is the attention to detail in rigging and finish work. The batteries are located under the center console, with a breaker panel and Perko battery switch that are among the easiest to access I've ever seen. All of the skiff's accessories are plug-and-play, allowing anglers to switch bilge or livewell pumps and other items on the fly.
The standard boat comes loaded, including the poling platform, Lenco electric-trim tabs, hydraulic jack plate, a 10-gallon baitwell and 25-gallon release well, removable backrest, LED running and courtesy lights and a custom-matched Ameritrail aluminum trailer. For the suggested retail price of $35,000, the only options you might really need would be a trolling motor and fish finder.
BEAM.....7 ft. 4 in.
WEIGHT.....575 lbs. (w/o power)
MAX HP.....90-hp OB
MSRP.....$35,000 (w/60-hp 4-stroke)
American Marine Sports / Groveland, Florida / 352-429-8989 / www.americanmarinesports.com