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April 03, 2013

Walkaround Versus Express Boats

Which style of boat is right for your type of fishing?

Turner concedes the space sacrifice with the walkaround style. It was a bigger challenge to incorporate batteries, exhaust and other related ­components in the tighter engine spaces, for example. On the 46 express version, three staterooms are standard versus being able to sleep only four in the comparable walkaround version. 

“I’m 100 percent sold on the walkaround concept though,” he says. “If my wife and I take the family to Bimini for the weekend, we’re going to stay in a hotel anyway, not aboard the boat. So for hard-core fishing, especially light tackle, a walkaround is the way to go.”

Pure Fishing

Mike Matlack, president of Gamefisherman, another custom Florida builder, is also a fan of the walkaround style. “It all depends on what you want,” he explains. “If you need an all-purpose family boat to stay aboard with lots of amenities, then the express is the best choice. If you want a pure fishing boat with a tight bunk, good-size head, shower and microwave, go with a walkaround.” 

Besides reduced cabin room and a narrower bridge, Matlack says the biggest difference between the two styles is lining up the drive trains in the tighter engine rooms. Creative placement of compressors, fish boxes and fuel cells is another consideration. With reduced accessibility, engine-room servicing is more difficult on a walkaround than an express model, Matlack adds. 

Proven Hybrid

Contender Boats offers yet another twist — the 32 Fish Around. In production for more than a decade now, this model is an open center console with the convenience of a small cabin.

“It functions well without ­sacrificing 360-degree fishing capability,” says Contender president Joe Neber. “It’s a fishing boat first with some ­creature comforts for the family. It has a nice head and a big V-berth, but limited ­cabin height. 

“By gaining interior space, you lose deck space, yet it’s still very fishable,” Neber adds. “It has big livewells aft, and the walkaround design is a definite advantage when you’re using light tackle to catch multiples like sailfish. You’re down inside, so there’s little chance of falling overboard. That gives you a confident posture to fight the fish when getting from one end to the other.”

So, make up your mind yet? Before you do, carefully consider the boat’s purpose, and be realistic. Will you ­actually stay aboard that often? Or will it be a hard-core weekend-tournament machine? Then, consult with your ­better half. And don’t forget: Every boat is a compromise.