Pioneer 222 Sportfish

This South Carolina company builds a quality model at an affordable price.

It’s always a pleasant surprise when expectations are met. After hearing good things about Pioneer Boats but never ­actually running one, I finally got the chance earlier this year when I tested the 222 Sportfish. My conclusion? This is a well-built model with a practical design and excellent angling capability. Plus it can also handle double duty with the family without skipping a beat.

With help from Bluewater Yacht Sales in Mobile, Alabama, we picked a perfect day for a real-life boat test. An approaching cold front, a strong north wind and a full-moon tide dropped the water level and blew what remained into a respectable chop. Regardless, we were able to skirt the shallows and zip into nearby Perdido Bay. With its aggressive entry paired with a 20-degree deadrise at the transom, the 22-footer devoured the chop like it was a king cake at Mardi Gras. We stayed dry at every heading, and the boat’s heft ably punched through the building waves. At rest, even in a beam sea, the boat remained stable despite shifting loads. A ­knee-high cockpit coaming pad and stainless-steel toe rails add to the security.

The 222 is rated for up to 300 hp and factory tests with that power produced a top speed of nearly 55 mph. Our test boat was rigged with a ­Yamaha 200 four-stroke and that combo proved to be ­equally impressive. We reached a top-end of 44.2 mph at 6,000 rpm. That was with a hardtop in ­gusting winds. The boat popped on plane and the bow settled quickly, giving the operator an ­unrestricted view. With Sea Star hydraulic steering, which comes ­standard, handling the wheel was a breeze. The boat responded well to quick ­maneuvers and trim-tab ­adjustments with no surprises. The standard leaning post ­offered a comfortable perch with twin footrests and easy access to the controls and system switches.

Serious anglers will ­appreciate the 222’s ample storage for both tackle and the day’s catch. The twin fish boxes in the forward casting deck are big enough to box trophy wahoo, while the gigantic deck box ­accommodates ­anything else, including anchor balls, buckets and other odd shapes. In addition to rod ­holders in the leaning post and hardtop, the racks under the gunwales hold six more with the tips protected. The livewell draws its water through a sea chest to ensure a steady flow, and the rear jump seats fold out of the way when the action heats up. The recessed bow rail also ­enhances safety without ­getting in the way.

With its swept sheer and clean profile, the 222 looks good sitting in the water. Our test boat sported the Abaco green hull, one of six color choices. In addition to the hardtop, Bimini or T-tops with custom canvas are available add-ons, along with spray shields and gull-wing ­curtains. Raw and freshwater ­washdowns, a stereo system, swim platform and trolling-motor package are among other available options.

Besides a seaworthy design and thoughtful standard features, Pioneer really excels at quality construction. The glasswork rivals that of custom blue-water yachts. Hatches fit snugly without chafing, and all lids are fully finished for a neat appearance and easy ­maintenance, as is the bilge compartment. ­Quality ­components and ­materials — including LED running and courtesy lights, marine-grade tinned, copper wiring, laser-etched switch-cover labels, chrome-over-stainless ­fasteners, resins and gelcoats — are used throughout.

The 222 has a full-length stringer system with more than twice the required ­closed-cell foam flotation ­required by the U.S. Coast Guard and the ­transom is all composite and hand-finished. All ­coring material is ­composite as well. Pioneer backs their work with a lifetime structural hull ­warranty.

If you’re in the market for a family-fishing boat that handles trolling a weed line as easily as a beach picnic, be sure to give the Pioneer 222 Sportfish a long and careful look. It might not cost as much as some other, pricier boats, but it certainly looks and performs like one.

Location: Perdido Bay, Alabama | Wind: Northwest, 12 to 15 knots | Sea State: Moderate chop | Test Load: Two adults, 50 gallons of fuelCourtesy of Pioneer
Length: 22'1", Beam: 8'7",Draft: 1'2", Fuel: 96 gal., Transom deadrise: 20 degrees, Max hp: 300 Weight: 2,400 lb., Base price: $56,612 w/ Yamaha F200XB
With twin insulated fish boxes and a massive deck box in the bow, this 22-footer has impressive storage capacity.Courtesy of Pioneer
A tackle center with pull-out drawers and storage trays keeps lures and terminal tackle neat, dry and close at hand.Courtesy of Pioneer
The standard leaning post is equipped with a 32-gallon livewell, tackle drawers and flush-mount rod holders.Courtesy of Pioneer
The optional fiberglass hardtop comes with rock-solid construction, plus a rocket launcher, radio box and spreader lights.Courtesy of Pioneer
PEP APLENTY: The Yamaha F200 in back of the test boat provided more than adequate power, but those with the need for speed can opt for as much as 300 hp and push the Pioneer 222 Sportfish to the mid-50s.Courtesy of Yamaha