A lot has changed since the bay boat first came on the scene. The demand for a jack-of-all-trades craft led boatbuilders to design increasingly bigger, more seaworthy boats with taller gunwales, lots of storage, and seating for the entire family.
Pathfinder, a leader in the bay-boat revolution, has achieved tremendous success embracing such a trend; however, its latest model — the 2500 Hybrid — places more of a premium on hardcore inshore and nearshore fishing, encompassing the essentials that make a bay boat, well, a bay boat.
With its roominess, console seat, leaning post for two, and fold-up jump seats on both transom corners, this Pathfinder still accommodates a crew of four or five, but it’s the purposeful layout and the wealth of fishing features that propel it to the front of the pack.
For starters, the 2500 Hybrid incorporates recessed hardware for snag-free fishing, and it comes pre-rigged for a 36-volt bow-mount trolling motor, a must for any true bay boat. Just aft of the anchor locker, three large, lockable compartments hide under the fore casting deck, providing ample dry storage for gear, and twin racks to cradle a pair of rods to port and another pair to starboard.
A step between the foredeck and the forward cockpit houses a 43-gallon fish box long enough to ice down big kingfish or cobia, and it can be plumbed with a pump and macerator. Between the step and the console, an in-deck locker with drain keeps your cast net handy yet tucked out of the way.
Four flush-mount rod holders on the gunwales come standard, and vertical racks on both sides of the center console hold a combined eight rods ready for action. In the front of the console, a cooler for food and drinks doubles as a seat, and a split door affords access to the nickel-tinned wiring harness inside and a battery compartment with clear plexiglass lid.
While its footprint leaves plenty of space to move around unencumbered, the console has the real estate to accommodate a 12-inch multifunction display, Yamaha Command Link gauge, waterproof switch panel with breakers, trim-tab switches and VHF radio on the dash, plus the standard 12-volt accessory jack, USB charging jack, compass on top and helm footrest down low.
A hydraulic jack plate with blinker-style switch below the steering wheel, horizontal rod racks for two outfits under each gunwale, raw- and freshwater washdowns in opposite corners of the cockpit, and a boarding ladder are also standard issue.
Pathfinder offers two helm seating options, both with tackle storage. One includes premium seats with flip-up bolsters and an expanded tackle center, while the other offers a leaning-post configuration with a bench-style seat, removable backrest, tackle drawer and massive livewell with viewing window.
The test boat had the optional hardtop with electronics box, spreader lights and aft storage locker, but a tower with a second helm station is another alternative.
Other key options include hydraulic or power-assisted steering, trim tabs, an 8- or 10-foot Power-Pole, bubbling and recirculating livewell aeration systems, and vertical racks to carry six extra rods on the hardtop and another four in back of the helm seats.
Our test boat, warned Skip Lyshon of Pathfinder Boats, still needed a little prop tweaking, but despite the propeller robbing the F300 of a few rpm, the Hybrid got on plane inside of 100 feet, a distance we cut nearly in half with the trim tabs down and the jack plate up. The desired acceleration and lift were both there, so leaving a flat when the tide gets a bit too low won’t be an issue.
According to Yamaha performance data, the 2500 tops at over 58 mph (we hit 57 mph without reaching maximum rpm). And running at 3,500 rpm offers the most range — 3.8 mpg — while cruising at a comfortable 35.6 mph. Though sea conditions during the test didn’t push the Pathfinder near its limits, it’s safe to say the new hull is a winner. It proved dry, quick, and maneuverable with an impressive turning radius and a firm hold in tight turns. So bring on those winding bayous and creeks.
In reverse, the boat turned well in both directions. And as expected, it proved stable while adrift and staked out. Having experienced its performance and closely inspected the boat’s fit and finish and many features, I strongly recommend anglers looking for a superlative, no-nonsense bay boat take the 2500 Hybrid for a spin.