I met Mike DeFrancesco from Yacht Works, the Florida Keys Regulator dealer, and factory rep Bob Bissinger in Tavernier, Florida, for a tour of the new boat and some fishing with Capt. Tim Arce of Native Conch Charters. First impressions are lasting, and the 26XO did not disappoint. It’s a beautiful boat, and even with the low freeboard and front and rear casting platforms, it’s immediately recognizable as a Regulator.
Over two days, I had the opportunity to fish the boat outside and in the backcountry, and the XO lived up to its crossover name. The Lou Codega-designed hull captures the famous Regulator ride, yet it draws only 14 inches of water (engine up) and has 17 degrees of deadrise, compared with 24 on its offshore siblings.
We ran the boat from Snake Creek in Islamorada to Davis Reef, directly into 3- to 4-foot swells with some chop thrown in, which the XO handled beautifully, cruising between 27 and 32 mph at a yield of 1.7 to 2 mpg. Though we crested several larger waves, the boat’s sharp entry always provided a smooth re-entry. Despite the moderate chop, the ride was also quite dry. What little spray made it over the gunwales was intercepted by the three-sided glass console enclosure.
After chumming for yellowtail and mangrove snapper, and catching a few nice ones, I ran the boat back with the seas astern and quartering. Bringing it up to 40 mph at times, the hull easily climbed on top of the chop, keeping the ride comfortable. Turning into hard corners proved effortless, and so did navigating the twisting channel as we approached the cut at the southern end of Plantation Key.
On day two, we headed to the backcountry accompanied by Arce and his neighbor Lexi. Once we topped off the fuel tank, we went Gulf-side and crossed many miles of Florida Bay shallows to fish for a mixed bag of jacks, Spanish mackerel and snapper.
The standard Yamaha F300 provided a good combination of speed and fuel economy, and proved a fine matchup for the hull for comfortably eating up the miles. We reached a top-end speed of 45 mph then cruised at 4,500 rpm, maintaining a quick clip of 35 mph while burning about 16 gph. I should point out, however, that the 26XO I tested was the very first hull built, and Regulator was still in the process of tweaking it to achieve maximum performance.
Once we arrived at our first stop in the backcountry, we switched to electric power, using the optional Minn Kota Ulterra — powered by three deep-cycle batteries stored beneath the forward casting deck — to hold our position. The trolling motor handled the load adequately, moving the boat from point to point at a fast pace, even into a 10-plus-knot breeze.
The Power-Pole, another top option, also performed well. It kept us staked out in water as deep as 10 feet. Meanwhile, the hull proved a stable fishing platform. With all three people on board standing on one side, leaning was minimal.
Paying special attention to the boat’s handling characteristics on the ride back, I noticed the power steering is responsive with positive feedback, and the standard SeaStar jack plate and engine trim make it easy to traverse skinny water by raising the motor.
As on every Regulator model, the list of features is long. The large hardtop provides plenty of shade, and there is comfortable seating for up to seven when running, and for even more at rest. The deck layout is excellent. It incorporates an expansive forward casting platform, and a rear platform with three fold-down jump seats and two large storage compartments below. There’s a 32-gallon livewell and tackle center in the twin helm-seat base, a drink box under the forward console seats, a 280-quart in-deck fish box, and plenty of stowage forward, including two locking compartments that hold rods up to 7 feet in length. And I can’t forget the pop-up seat backs, which provide lounge seating on the bow.
Regulator designed and built the 26XO in response to requests from its owner base for a shallow-water platform. In my estimation, the builder hit a home run. The new crossover covers all the bases, and is sure to garner serious interest from potential owners who want to partake of fishing inside and out.
Deadrise: 17 degrees
Fuel: 107 gal.
Fresh Water: 20 gal.
Weight: 5,900 lb. w/power
Max HP: 300
Price: $134,995 w/ Yamaha F300
Regulator Marine: regulatormarine.com
Location: Tavernier, Florida
Wind: East 10 knots
Sea State: Backcountry, mild chop; ocean, 2 to 4 feet
Test Load: Two adults, 50 gallons of fuel, 20 gallons of water