The back story of the Avenger AV26 hull is a good example of what goes around, comes around. Originally produced in Louisiana, the hull mold changed hands a couple of times and was in limbo before Carolina Composites, the South Carolina parent company of Pioneer and Bulls Bay boats, recently decided it needed another splash. After a few improvements, the Avenger AV26 was reborn. Now the new version is generating a lot of buzz.
Sporting an aggressive entry, 15-degree deadrise at the transom and minimal freeboard, this 26-footer is a born multitasker. I confirmed that during a recent trip with Capt. Mark Wright out of Pass Christian, Mississippi. Although he mainly fishes inshore around the barrier islands and Biloxi Marsh, he also wanted a craft capable of handling the stacked chop of Mississippi Sound and bigger seas during snapper forays. His new ride does all that and more.
After dropping off a couple of kayak anglers to explore on their own, we fished the lee side of Cat Island, one of the state’s four barrier jewels. The Avenger’s beam is officially 8½ feet, but the layout and roominess make it feel much bigger. Three of us were able to cast easily, even with the T-top, and scored several nice seatrout in the process. With the Minn Kota remote-controlled trolling motor (with standard prewiring), we were also able to work way inside a few tidal creeks in search of redfish. The low freeboard made short work of thrashing fish.
There’s tons of storage aboard. Twin locking rod lockers in the forward casting deck rack several complete outfits in designated cradles for extra protection. A 12-gallon livewell underneath the forward console seat is ideal for holding live shrimp or crabs. On the transom corners, dual 27-gallon livewells house more bait or redfish en route to a tourney weigh-in. There’s a 96-quart insulated cooler in the transition step to the bow, which complements the insulated 180-quart in the cockpit sole. There’s also another 260-quart fish box with pump out in the bow. If you fill all these, you’ve had a record day.
The deluxe standard leaning post comes equipped with four rod holders, more in the covering boards, and horizontal racks underneath. Coaming pads are standard as well. A 65-quart Yeti cooler for drinks and sandwiches stows below the leaning post. Other handy standard features include the anchor locker with twin hangers, raw-water washdown, undergunwale blue LED lighting, stainless-steel rub rail, and steering wheel with control knob. In addition to the console seats, the 26 has a folding bench-style seat on the transom centerline that holds the occupants in a comfortable perch during long runs. Easy access to the pumps and bilge lies underneath.
Adding a transom setback and filling it with more foam flotation are a couple of minor tweaks made to the original hull. This allows for higher horsepower options and reduces the squating effect associated with heavier outboards. Our test boat was rigged with a Yamaha F300 four-stroke, and it provided excellent performance with a neck-snapping hole shot and good midrange power. An Atlas jack plate is standard, along with Lenco trim tabs to adjust for the load. Avenger offers a choice of Mercury, Suzuki or Honda power in addition to the Yamaha, with a max rating of 400 horses. Even with the T-top installed, we made just over 50 mph at wide-open throttle, so the trade-off between a little extra speed versus the weight, fuel consumption and cost would be a personal decision.
With standard SeaStar hydraulic steering and the enhanced deadrise, this boat is an absolute blast to drive. You won’t have any surprises — the stern bites and holds, even in sharp turns. The most noteworthy traits are how dry it is and how soft it rides. Running back across the Sound, the east wind had picked up considerably, coming beam-to, and I was on the windward side. Despite solid 2-foot waves and the occasional 3-footer, I stayed comfortably dry.
Available options on the Avenger include choice of hull color, a soft or hard T-top with available second stations and enclosures, spreader lights, stereo system, battery charger, freshwater washdown and underwater LED lights. There is a growing number of big bay boats in this class that offer owners a wide range of fishing potential. And then there are some oldies but goodies that are equally up to the task. The Avenger AV26 may be old in heritage, but it’s all new in terms of fishability, style and performance.