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April 03, 2013

Walkaround Versus Express Boats

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

Click through the images in the gallery above.

If you eavesdrop on a typical boating conversation, compromise is invariably mentioned. No single boat style is perfect for every fisherman. Some are more utilitarian than others. But there’s always a certain amount of ­compromise in features and performance. And for serious anglers who also require the shelter of a cabin, ­decisions get even more complicated: Should you go with an express/cuddy cabin model or a walkaround? I ­canvassed several builders to get their perspectives. 

Meaning of Compromise

Grady-White offers its customers options in both express and walkaround styles. ­Express models start with the 305 and go up to the 360, while six walkaround ­models range from 20 feet up to 30. Jim Hardin — a dedicated angler and the ­company’s longtime compliance manager — says each has advantages and ­disadvantages, depending on personal preference.

“You can certainly walk around the bow of all of our express models. But the walkaround style affords more ­confidence and safety, since the recessed forward walkaround keeps you down inside the boat. That makes it easier to pull the anchor, follow a fish or dock. You can focus on the task and not worry about your footing.”

That recessed forward passageway has its drawbacks though. It eats up space. On the 23 Walkaround, ­Hardin says the cutout averages eight inches wide by nine inches deep, with even more leeway at the bow. That ­proportionally reduces the interior cabin space. The squeezing also requires the helm to be located starboard to allow access to the cabin door, and reduces companion helm seating. Conversely, the express models have a ­center helm, which offers better operating visibility and wraparound seating. 

“It all comes down to individual choice,” Hardin says. “Both styles are popular. You gain more safety in a walkaround versus more interior cabin space and design flexibility with the express. Both styles will catch fish though,” he added.

Natural Evolution

South Florida custom builder Release Boatworks currently offers three models: a 34, 43 and 46. All can be ­configured as express or walkarounds according to company owner, Jim Turner.

“I was very apprehensive about building a walkaround because it’s such a niche boat,” he explained. “A lot of ­people fish tournaments down here, with six- or seven-man crews, so you need plenty of seating. It was a real ­design challenge to add comfortable seating, and in the process, I discovered the walkaround is a great family boat too. Once people really look at how they use a boat, they’ll see the walkaround is a great compromise. You give up the floating condo for a better, more-practical style. It’s the evolution of the day boat.”

From a light-tackle-fishing standpoint, Turner appreciates the safety and convenience of the single-level ­forward walkaround deck. Anglers fighting a hot fish can square their hips and run forward without turning. The ­passageway is wide enough that heavy-tackle harnesses don’t bind when moving forward either. The Release center-helm layout also allows the helmsman to keep track of the crew during the fight.