The Ultimate Multitasker
Versatility rules with center consoles. That’s why I’ve owned nothing but center consoles for as long as I can remember. My current boat, a Mako 284 CC, is geared primarily for offshore fishing in South Florida and the Bahamas, but it frequently ships out of state for TV shoots. And whenever I get out on the water, my boat is set up to take advantage of any opportunity that may arise, be it inshore, nearshore or offshore.
Weaponry at Hand
Center Console Rod Storage Ideas
A center console, even one considerably smaller than my 28-footer, can be set up to offer an immense amount of rod storage. For instance, my T-top and seating module rack a total of 11 rods. Add my under-gunwale rod storage and the number of outfits within easy access rises to 19. And that doesn’t include the 14 gunwale-mounted rod holders.
When my main goal is local offshore trolling, I’ll have a set of Penn International 30s and 50s ready for action. If Bahamas bound, it’ll be International 50s and 70s. Yet, I always bring a range of light- to heavy-spinning outfits rigged with a mix of lead-head jigs, topwater plugs and single hooks, both circle and J style, with wire and fluorocarbon leaders, as well as conventional bottom-fishing tackle with flutter jigs and different bottom rigs. I also bring along a 50-pound-class setup with 300-pound-test leader and a large hook in case we’re into dolphin and a marlin shows up. Some may think having all that gear on board is overkill, but I know from experience that it pays to be prepared.
Center Console Storage Ideas
With properly labeled and organized tackle trays and gear bags, replacing any terminal gear is as easy as reaching for the appropriate storage container. I have trays designated for circle and J hooks, both further categorized by light and heavy wire, and for offshore trolling. I also have rigging trays for big-game trolling filled with crimpers, sleeves, waxed thread, sewing needles and copper wraps; trays with trolling and barrel swivels; trays with spoons and casting lures; trays for swimming plugs, for flutter jigs, for bucktails and deep jigs; and daytime swordfish clips, lights, sinkers. All of that in addition to the storage trays full of terminal tackle kept within my boat’s seating module and the various lure bags I bring along, packed with trolling lures for specific target species.
Tips for Maximum Efficiency
Important Center Console Boat Accessories
Certain key center console boat upgrades greatly improve a fishing boat’s versatility. For offshore trolling, I have a pair of 16-foot Lee Sidewinder outriggers and a 12-foot center rigger on my T-top. Each of the three poles is set up to troll two baits. Mounted underneath the T-top, I have a pair of Elec-Tra-Mate TR-300 teaser reels to enhance our chances for success by adding hookless lures, daisy chains or spreader bars to our trolling spread.
For kite-fishing, bow and stern power outlets provide the juice for electric kite reels. And a full array of Shadow-Caster Marine LED lights brighten things up when fishing at night or in low-light conditions. Of course, every multifaceted fishing boat should have a baitwell. Since live-baiting is big for us, my Mako has a 50-gallon livewell supported by a main 1,650-gph pump and a 1,100 backup, in addition to oversized drains with level-adjustment valves. If your boat did not come with a built-in well, there are many portable ones available in a wide array of sizes and configurations that fit in any boat. A quality livewell is a vital center console boat accessory.
At the Helm
Center Console Navigation Electronics
When it comes to navigation, fish-finding and safety, marine electronics are worth their weight in gold. For precision bottom viewing, and bait and fish locating, I rely on the new Simrad 24-inch and 9-inch touch-screen units and Airmar through-hull transducer, which allows frequencies to be fine-tuned according to the conditions. My fish locating is also aided largely by high-res Structure-Scan and Simrad radar with a 4-foot open array antenna for spotting birds. An ACR EPIRB, the most important safety item, resides just inside the console door. And to get to and from the fishing grounds quickly and reliably, my Mako 284 is powered by a pair of Mercury Verado 300-horsepower outboards, with Joystick Piloting for easy docking and Skyhook Digital Anchoring to hold the boat over a spot while targeting fish around submerged structure, hanging in the current.
Tips for Maximum Efficiency
Based on your fishing plans, pack the respective tackle trays into three or four soft-sided tackle bags and find a suitable spot for them. In addition, have trays containing the items you are most likely to need close at hand in TackleWebs or a similar organizing system.
Gaffs Are Important Center Console Accessories
There’s no time to waste when boating a fish, so gaffs and landing nets should be readily accessible. I keep a few gaffs in varying sizes in one of my aft in-deck boxes, where they remain safely stashed out of the way but can be called into action within seconds. When a fish comes home for dinner, it goes into one of my in-deck fish boxes. Packed with ice, I’ll often add a bucket of salt water from the ocean to create a near-freezing brine. A boated fish is then immersed in this slush to preserve its meat. What’s more, the fish will be easier to clean back at the dock. And, yes, you guessed it, I keep fillet knives, a honing stone and freezer bags in a plastic box in my console.