One of the occupational hazards of boat testing is fantasizing about the ultimate dream boat. You know the one – every option imaginable, runs like a scared ballyhoo, flattens waves and catches more fish than an illegal gill net. Did I mention the best part? It doesn’t require a withdrawl from Fort Knox to own and operate.
In reality, other discretionary-income demands often take priority. In that case, price-point models are a viable option for getting on the water. South Carolina-based SeaFox specializes in this market segment, and with its new Pro Series the company has taken quality and performance to a higher level. I got the chance to experience the improvements first-hand aboard a 286 Center Console recently off Charleston. Ryan Balderson and Tess Hughes of SeaFox were my hosts. Joining us was Russ Balderson, Ryan’s brother and fishing partner on the Southern Kingfish Association tournament trail.
Heading 55 miles offshore to the edge of the Gulf Stream, we were met by an unexpected, steady breeze and tight swells. I braced for a long, jarring ride that never materialized. Instead, Ryan lowered the bow using the recessed trim tabs, and we continued cruising along effortlessly. The beamy hull straddled the waves with ease and kept us dry despite the wind. With its sharp bow entry and 21-degree deadrise, it’s certainly capable of handling even bigger water. Our test boat was powered by twin 250-horsepower Suzuki direct-injected four-strokes for an economical blend of power and efficiency. Making 34.0 mph at 4,000 rpm, our fuel burn was only 18.1 gph. At top speed, we pushed just over 54 mph while using 39.8 gph.
Once we reached blue water and put out our spread, I had the opportunity to check out the 286’s standard features between dolphin strikes. The list is extensive. A 45-gallon livewell is located directly behind the helm, close to the action. Twin insulated fish boxes with independent macerators are in the deck. Stainless-steel toe rails, cockpit coaming pads and a recessed bow rail enhance safety in rough conditions. One of the more unique features is the in-deck storage compartment forward of the console. It has a molded rack that holds two included 5-gallon buckets so they don’t slide all over. Buckets are required gear on any fish boat.
The heavy-duty Ultima hard top is pre-rigged with a seven-rod rocket launcher, which supplements the other nine in the transom rack and covering boards. The two outboard tubes are angled for trolling duty, but an outrigger package can be added. The top comes with flush-mount white and red LED lighting, spreader lights and integrated stereo speakers. For those muggy summer days, a Climate Cool system with four stainless-steel misters will provide welcome relief.
Our test boat was equipped with the Team Edition package. It includes an 800-gph Rule Tournament Series livewell pump and LED lighting, a cushioned foot mat at the helm and a tackle center with custom bags and tool rack. Raw and freshwater washdowns with hydracoil hoses and pressure heads are included to rinse off fish slime or the tackle at the end of the day. There’s more than enough fresh water to go around, thanks to the ample 27-gallon tank.
The skipper and first mate will be quite comfortable on long runs to the fishing grounds in the 286. As far as that goes, so will the rest of the crew. Helm seating consists of thickly padded captain’s chairs that adjust independently. A flip-back footrest is standard. If you prefer to stand while underway, the chairs easily convert to leaning bolsters. Flip-down seats are nestled in each corner of the transom, and there’s another pair of bucket seats forward of the console. The bow storage compartments come with cushions, too, and a recessed transom bench seat is an available option.
The tall console has a wraparound windshield, compass, tilt hydraulic steering and stainless-steel steering wheel with a power knob for tight maneuvers. A Clarion AM/FM/CD stereo with MP3 adaptor is standard. The electronics panel has plenty of room to flush-mount a pair of large display units. SeaFox offers a choice of three factory-installed Garmin depth finder/chart plotter units.
The console opens on the port side to give access to the portable head and dry storage. An electric head with holding tank is an available add-on, along with an overboard waste-discharge system. An access panel to the instruments and electronic wiring makes servicing easy.
Besides enhancing the overall fishability of the Pro Series, SeaFox raised the bar on its construction standards as well. The 286 plug was cut using a computer-assisted five-axis router to improve fit and finish. Quality components are standard, including stainless-steel through-hull fittings, hardware and rub rail. An aluminum plate glassed into the transom strengthens the engine-mount area. The deck cap is glassed to the foam-filled fiberglass stringer system and closed-cell foam is used for flotation. SeaFox backs each of its hulls with a generous limited- lifetime warranty.
When we returned to the dock with several nice dolphin up to 26 pounds, the fish-raising traits of the 286 were confirmed. I was pleasantly surprised by how well it ran and handled, too. The 286 definitely falls into the category of a great value for the money. First-time buyers or anglers on a budget looking to move up to a bluewater machine should add this one to their list of possibilities.
MAX HP……500 hp
w/twin DF250-hp Suzuki outboards
_SeaFox ? 843.761.6090 ? _www.seafoxboats.com