Longtime readers of boat tests will remember when deep-V hulls were the norm and too many evalu-ations included the phrase “cut through the water like a hot knife through butter.” Today computer-aided design and lighter, stronger materials have significantly changed boater expectations. Overall performance and fishability top the most desired characteristics among the serious angling set. And you certainly don’t hear mention of a boat cleaving the brine like warm cutlery through dairy spread, at least not around the marinas I frequent.
That’s why Pro-Line Boats decided to change things a bit. After 40 years, the company had earned a reputation for building solid, fishing-friendly craft. But they were also kind of like your dad’s Buick. Slow, safe and dependable, but not flashy. Times have changed, however: Pro-Line’s new 35 Super Sport center console is pure performance and eye candy. Goodbye bland, hello zip!
“This model is based on the double-stepped hull first developed by Donzi, our sister company,” says Nick Miller, Pro-Line’s vice president of sales and marketing, as we idled along Florida’s Crystal River to the open Gulf of Mexico. “We wanted to add that rough-water performance capability to our lineup for tournament anglers. But the running surface is the only similarity. We designed a whole new deck to cater to serious anglers. That’s where Pro-Line’s focus has always been, and it definitely continues with this new center console.”
A confused chop greeted us once we cleared the no-wake zone, providing ideal test conditions. We throttled up the twin 300 hp Mercury Verados and quickly got on top of the waves. The stepped hull ventilates the running surface to reduce drag and friction and increase speed. During our runs, I recorded a top GPS reading of nearly 60 mph. Unlike conventional hulls, however, stepped hulls require finesse to achieve optimum performance - think of a Corvette compared to a lumbering Buick. But once you do dial in that sweet spot of tab, trim and throttle adjustment, it’s all exhilaration. Miller told me they had nudged into the low 60-mph range during extended factory tests. He added that Evinrude E-TEC or Suzuki four-stroke power packages can be ordered in place of the Verados. If you’re really into speed, triple outboards are another option.
Despite being a thoroughbred, the 35 responds well to various real-world conditions. In sharp turns, it tracked favorably without squatting or the stern getting loose. We stayed dry running in quartering, windblown chop. Stability was a nonissue when drifting in beam-to seas, even with the aggressive 22-degree transom deadrise.
The 35 also features impressive construction and workmanship. The integrated pan system stringers come filled with foam and get glassed in by hand. The vacuum-bagged transom provides additional strength and offers integrated powder-coated brackets to handle the weight of the bigger outboards and the rigors of offshore operation. The insulated fish boxes all drain overboard. The hatches have collapsible hinges that won’t bind or crack. Heat-shrink wiring harnesses, 316L stainless-steel hardware and through-bolted backing plates give even more examples of attention to detail and durability.
As you’d expect on a serious fishing machine, the spacious console has good sightlines and plenty of room to mount all the necessary electronics, and a Taylor Made Systems glass windshield comes as standard equipment. Pro-Line offers several factory electronics packages with Garmin and Icom components. A port entry gives access to the finished head compartment with a sink and porta-potty. The helm includes a flip-back, bolster-style leaning post that snugly holds you in place when the going gets rough, and hydraulic tilt steering, trim tabs and a windlass with rope and chain all come standard. A fiberglass T-top with a storage box and rocket launcher is one of those can’t-miss options. Trollers will probably want to add the outrigger package too.
The level cockpit deck and helm give way to the easy to transition raised forward casting deck in the bow. The sole contains three large macerated fish boxes. Just beyond the forward console seat, a shallow deck box provides a perfect spot to stow mooring lines. You can never have enough dedicated storage on a fish boat.
On the transom centerline, a large round livewell underneath the stern seat will hold lots of bait, but serious live-bait enthusiasts can add another well to the leaning post. Pumps are accessible in the service compartment, and both raw-water and freshwater washdowns are within easy reach for cleaning up after rigging or gaffing duties. Horizontal racks below for six rods augment the pair of rod holders in the gunwales. Thick, padded wraparound bolsters give comfort during long fights, while toe rails keep anglers firmly grounded.
It’s great to see an industry stalwart like Pro-Line back, especially with a splash like the 35 Super Sport. If you’re in the market for a sleek ride, take one out for a spin. Trust me, this is no butter knife: It’s a finely honed stiletto.
Pro-Line Boats 35 SS
Pro-Line Boats / 352-795-4111 / www.prolineboats.com