Skeeter Boats is credited with building the first production freshwater bass boat in the 1950s, though it bore little resemblance to today’s models. Skeeter’s original “flying coffin” has evolved mightily. You’ll find sleek designs, wide-open fishing decks and ultra-high-performance hulls. You will also find a line dedicated to saltwater fishing.
Skeeter, a Yamaha boat company, first crossed over to the bay-boat market in 1992, and today is a major player, with six inshore models ranging from 20 to 24 feet. This includes Skeeter’s new ZX Bay 22, which we tested recently off Florida’s southwest coast.
Part of Skeeter’s new Saltwater series, the ZX 22 Bay features all-composite construction and a limited lifetime warranty on the hull, as well as a three-year component warranty. There are actually two hull choices available for this 21-foot-10-inch-long center console layout. One is the ZX 22 we tested — a modified-V hull with 15 degrees of transom deadrise. This version will fit most inshore applications and offers a fairly smooth ride for occasional offshore runs. It took nicely to the wind-driven 1- to 2-foot chop on test day.
The other version is the ZX 22 Bay T, with a tunnel hull for anglers who regularly venture into extremely shallow water. Equipped with a hydraulic jack plate, this hull allows you to trim the lower unit higher when motoring across shallow flats in pursuit of species like redfish.
Our ZX 22 was powered by a Yamaha 250 VMax SHO four-stroke outboard mounted on the standard 8-inch T-H Marine Atlas hydraulic jack plate. A height-indicator gauge and a Teleflex Pro Trim control allowed us to easily optimize engine height and performance.
By nature, center consoles on bay boats are relatively small. Yet the dash on the ZX 22 Bay’s podlike console was packed with features like hydraulic steering with a tilt-and-lock helm, a stainless-steel steering wheel with a turning knob, a control pad for a set of optional Minn Kota trim tabs, a panel with 12 rocker switches, twin Yamaha multifunction digital gauges and an optional Humminbird 998c GPS/chart-plotter/fish-finder display, as well as the throttle and shift lever.
The ZX 22 Bay has a removable clear acrylic windshield surrounded by a stainless-steel grab rail. The windshield provides a modicum of protection from wind and spray, but it’s really too narrow and short to be effective. The center console also includes a set of four vertical rod holders on each side. With the leaning-post seat, you get vertical storage for another quartet of sticks.
Horizontal storage for rods, gaffs and boat hooks can be found in a pair of forward lockers flanking the bow deck. And there is additional dry storage in a locker below the middle portion of the forward deck, as well as in drop-in storage boxes in the rear deck.
Positioning is everything when it comes to inshore fishing, and to help with getting on fish, our test model was equipped with an optional Minn Kota 101 saltwater trolling motor on the bow and optional twin Power-Poles on the transom, one each on either side of the outboard. There is also an anchor locker in the bow for those times when you want to anchor up in a conventional manner.
With an 8-foot-2-inch maximum beam, Skeeter’s ZX 22 Bay has spacious casting decks in the bow and stern. An aggressive nonskid sole throughout provides sure footing, including on the lids of the storage lockers and livewells, all of which feature 2-inch spray-shedding gutters. The deck is self-bailing, with scuppers that can drain the cockpit quickly if you take a green one over the low-slung bow.
The forward portion of the rear casting deck features a pair of flip-up jump seats. These fully upholstered seats are great for allowing the crew to rest securely when you’re running from spot to spot, and they quickly fold down to restore deck space on the rear casting deck.
For keeping live bait in good condition, there is a 40-gallon rear livewell, and bilge and rigging access is via a hatch just forward of the splashwell. Forward of the console is a cast-net storage compartment with room for a 3-gallon bucket.
Skeeter’s bass-boat heritage was evident in the performance department. In our testing with two adults aboard and a half a tank (30 gallons) of gasoline and spinning a 1412-by-21-inch three-blade stainless-steel prop through a 1.75:1 gear ratio, the boat accelerated from zero to 30 mph in 512 seconds and hit a top speed of 59.2 mph at 6,050 rpm.
Best cruising speed was 3,500 rpm and 33 mph, at which the ZX 22 burned 7.8 gallons per hour, achieving 4.2 mpg. That equates to a fishing range of about 227 miles, based on 90 percent capacity of the 60-gallon fuel tank. Cornering was outstanding, so much so that you need to hang on in high-speed maneuvers. The boat turns very tightly, without sliding or tripping a bit.
The Skeeter ZX 22 Bay comes standard with an aluminum tandem-axle trailer. With no options and the Yamaha 250 VMax SHO, base MSRP is $54,995. The price as tested was $62,995. If you’re looking for a boat to chase inshore species such as cobia, bluefish, redfish, striped bass or snook, with occasional blasts farther out in pursuit of dolphin or tuna, the Skeeter ZX 22 Bay may be your boat. While it hails from a background of freshwater bass fishing, this boat has successfully crossed over to the salt.
Skeeter ZX 22 Bay
Fuel: 60 gals.
Max hp: 250
Base price: $54,995 with Yamaha 250 VMax SHO and trailer
Skeeter Boats / 903-984-0541 / www.skeetersaltwater.com_