Contender Boats possesses a storied history in the center-console genre. This longtime Florida boatbuilder has thousands of boats on the water, and it continues to introduce new, refined and well-executed boats that meet the demands of today’s skilled boating anglers. Though Contender has forged its reputation with offshore center-consoles, the company is certainly no stranger to developing fishing machines for nearshore waters, as evidenced by the new Contender 26 Bay.
The 26 Bay evolved from the successful 25 Bay and has features that are sure to impress, including a twin-stepped hull and vacuum-infused fiberglass construction for its hull, deck and small parts.
We tested on a November day with northerly 10- to 15-knot winds on Biscayne Bay, which gave us a great look at the performance in choppy, windblown waters. Our test boat was powered with a single 300 hp Yamaha outboard and loaded with a host of options, including a pair of Power-Pole 8-foot stern anchor blades, a Minn Kota Riptide Ultra 112 60-inch trolling motor with a lithium battery upgrade, underwater lights, and fresh- and raw-water washdown systems.
There were two of us aboard for the test, with 45 gallons of fuel in the tank. The 26 easily ran across the chop. I expected a bit of spray as we turned into the waves but felt none.
As we increased speed, the 26 produced a consistent, stable, easy ride. The sweet spot for best fuel efficiency was 3,000 rpm at 29 mph, burning 6.7 gph, giving us 4.8 mpg. At 4,500 rpm, the 26 achieved 45 mph while consuming 17.8 gph, resulting in 3.7 mpg. With the throttle pegged at 5,600 rpm, the 26 zipped along at 59.5 mph, burning 27 gph for 2.2 mpg—pretty spunky with the 300.
Our 26 Bay was rigged nicely with features such as a fully molded anchor storage locker. Inside the bow casting platform is a 125-gallon dry storage locker with molded-in rings to hold a pair of 5-gallon buckets in place for easy drop in and lift out.
Just aft of the casting platform is recessed, U-shaped, fully cushioned seating with backrest coaming cushions. These side seats house two wing storage bins on each side, with large gasketed hatches that open from the aft end to reveal compartments for life jackets, tackle boxes and other gear. The center section also has a lift-up hatch for more storage. There is a 70-gallon in-deck insulated fish box on the centerline as well.
Under the cushioned seat on the forward console is a custom-made insulated Contender cooler that is completely removable. Its shape allows easy passage to the forward area of the boat.
The front of the console opens up via split upper and lower panels. Manipulating these allows access to the back side of the equipment on the helm, as well as the batteries, breakers, stereo amps, battery distribution switches, and a host of electronic modules to operate the boat. The wiring is neatly loomed and custom-fitted to the boat, with each wire labeled. Looking in this console is akin to looking at fine artwork.
The user side of the console offers the helmsman everything needed within arm’s reach. Our test boat featured a pair of Garmin 7612 multifunction displays on its ample dash, with a push-button switch panel on the centerline, Garmin control box to port, and Fusion stereo control to starboard. The helm is offset to port with a hinged-lid glove-box outboard. The binnacle, Yamaha engine display, start/stop panel, and the Lenco trim-tab controller are all to starboard. There’s also a pair of stainless-steel drink holders just right of the throttles.
Our test boat had the optional hardtop, with polished aluminum piping and a whisper-gray underside to limit glare. The top housed a pair of stereo speakers, LED lights, fore and aft LED spreader lights, and an integrated overhead electronics box. There were four rod holders along the back edge, and an easily accessible fold-down anchor light on top. The leaning-post pipework was polished aluminum, with a fold-down footrest and a cushioned bolster seat with a backrest, four rod holders and two stainless-steel drink holders along the back.
The aft casting deck is well laid out, with neatly concealed cushioned jump seats featuring lift-up backrests on each side, facing forward. In the center is a 40-gallon livewell with a sealed, gasketed lid. Our test boat had an additional optional cushioned seat and removable backrest over the livewell hatch. Just aft of that is a 12-gallon baitwell for shrimp and crabs.
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The 26 has extra length thanks to a new transom bustle. We also discovered outstanding access to the bilge areas all across the back. There is a center hatch to access the bilge pump and through-hulls, and two large hatches to access the outboard bilges. This makes working on everything so much easier.
The folks at Contender are hardcore boating anglers. They have continued to bring new models with evolved designs that improve performance, ease of use, fishability and user-friendliness. The 26 Bay is no exception and a great example of how this company over the years has built one of the most vaunted reputations in the industry.
|Weight:||4,200 lb. (w/ power)|
Contender – contenderboats.com