The terms “light tackle” and “skiff” are a natural pairing, so it’s only fitting that Mako, the venerable builder that helped advance the sport in South Florida, is using that combo to designate its newest offering. The 21LTS isn’t quite a flats boat, and it’s not exactly a bay boat, either. But it is well-suited for shallow-water pursuits with dependable performance and some cool features.
I met Capt. Rob Modys, a Bass Pro guide, in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, and I immediately regretted not having my travel rod when several tarpon rolled as we idled into the Gulf. But duty called, and we proceeded with the test. Modys’ boat carried the economical Mercury 150 four-stroke, and it proved to be a sensible match. At wide-open throttle with a 17-pitch propeller, the GPS registered 39.9 mph. Dialing back to 4,500 rpm, we made 33.1 mph. The same boat model, rigged with a Mercury 150 hp Optimax direct-injection engine, produced a top speed of 43.5 mph during factory tests, with a fuel rate of 14 gph.
Modys says he gets four miles to a gallon with his four-stroke. That’s certainly an important consideration for a guide, as well as an attractive benefit for the weekend warrior.
With standard Teleflex hydraulic steering and responsive handling, the boat is fun to drive. The hull design features the Rapid Planing System notched transom, a modified tunnel that provides quick acceleration out of the hole and good performance with less horsepower. The 21 has a beam of more than 8 feet, so it’s stable at rest or underway. The RPS transom also acts as integrated trim tabs to inherently level a shifting load. In tight turns, the boat bit and held, refusing to blow out the prop with the tunnel design. The draft is 12 inches, reasonable for a boat of this size, and a choice of two hydraulic jack plates are available add-ons.
The hand-laid hull and deck are built to last — with fully injected closed-cell foam in the molded fiberglass stringer system, and high-density composite core in the transom. The deck-cap joint is chemically sealed and bonded, then finished with stainless-steel fasteners every 6 inches. Marine-grade tinned wiring with waterproof connectors and stainless-steel hardware is used throughout, along with Marelon corrosion-free seacocks below the waterline. This might be a light-tackle skiff, but it comes with heavy-duty construction and a nice fit and finish.
The most innovative feature of the 21 is the center-console access. Designed with double duty in mind, the starboard rod rack and the twin elevated cupholders act as steps for access to a standing position atop the console. An extra-tall, beefy hand rail serves as a thigh rest. From there, at the same height as a standard poling platform, you command a view of the surrounding water from behind the acrylic windscreen. This catbird seat makes spotting fish and running a remote-controlled trolling motor an easy proposition. Add an optional remote-controlled Minn Kota or Power-Pole shallow-water anchor system and skinny-water versatility increases considerably.
The helm comes with a leaning post with removable 94-quart cooler and a 4-rod rocket launcher. A 72-quart removable cooler seat sits forward of the console. The hinged backrest flips up to reveal a cutout holding two Plano 3600 tackle trays. A dual-battery switch, 12-volt accessory jack and breakered rocker switches are standard. Smartcraft digital gauges and Guest or Dual Pro battery chargers are available upgrades. If you take advantage of the console top for spotting, there’s ample room to flush mount electronics in the beveled dash.
Live-baiting enthusiasts will appreciate the 30-gallon well centered on the aft deck. In addition to lighting and a fish-calming blue interior, it comes with a Pro-Air aeration system to keep shrimp and other crustaceans frisky. Outboard compartments add storage options aft, and you get plenty more in the bow. Twin 90-quart compartments provide rod storage, while a centerline 136-quart bow locker handles anything else. A removable castnet storage tub is standard, and all hatches are fully finished for easy cleaning.
With package deals with trailer starting at under $34,000, the 21LTS is a great value for anglers looking to up their game in skinny water. Just don’t forget the rods for those rolling tarpon.