The Sea Chaser 26 LX by Carolina Skiff is the latest addition to the LX series and also the largest to date. Combining a lengthy list of fishing-related features and comforts, the all-around capabilities of this 26-footer make it easy to enlist friends and family for a day on the water.
Matched with a Mercury Verado 350, the 26-footer also has the speed and the range to fish tournaments or cash in on a hot bite, be it near or far.
The spacious raised decks offer ample fishing room fore and aft. On the front deck, a small hatch just inboard of the anchor locker hides a pair of tackle trays to keep essentials, and twin hatches to port and starboard open to storage compartments with rod racks inside to cradle a pair of outfits in each. Another storage compartment sits between them, and the bottom is recessed to fit the always-handy 5-gallon bucket. A fifth hatch covers a 25-gallon livewell that keeps bait within easy reach of anglers fishing forward.
A second livewell sits under the cushion of the forward console seat.A starboard-side door on the console enables entry to a step-down head compartment inside. A quick-disconnect windshield deflects wind from the helm and keeps rain and spray from the dash, which is wide enough to accommodate a pair of multifunction displays plus a digital gauge, switch panel with 12-volt power plug, and more. Just below, the throttle and the stainless tilt steering wheel with power grip leave enough room for trim-tab switches and a stereo.
For helm seating, the Sea Chaser includes a leaning post with a bench-style seat, complete with a backrest, fold-down footrest, four-rod rocket launcher, two drink holders, a sizable cooler and storage netting. On our test boat, a matching fiberglass T-top with powder-coated frame — one of the available upgrades — provided welcome shade, along with an electronics box, LED lighting, and a second rocket launcher to hold four additional rigged rods. Horizontal racks in the covering boards stash six more outfits, and four flush-mount rod holders on each gunwale bring rod storage capability to a total of 24.
Jump seats — a double and a single — afford seating at the stern. The first lifts completely at the center for easy access to the bilge. The cushion of the other lifts to reveal a small storage hatch. The backrests of both seats lie flat to extend the rear casting deck. Meanwhile, a third livewell sits to port. It’s rigged with a Max-Air aerator and has a clear lid for keeping an eye on your catch when fishing a release tournament. By the way, all livewells come with LED lighting for nighttime forays.
Cavernous compartments behind the stern seats fit batteries and extra gear. A 24/36-volt trolling-motor panel with power-source plug at the bow, recessed grab rails fore and aft, coaming pads, swim platform with telescoping ladder astern, underwater lights and courtesy lighting round out the standard features.
Top options include electric trim tabs; freshwater shower; flip-up console with changing curtains and Porta-Potty; electric head with 9-gallon holding tank; stereo with Bluetooth, USB port, and iPod and Aux plugs; two kinds of T-tops; canvas Bimini top; removable swivel seats and more rod holders.
After meticulous inspection at the dock, it came time to crank up the Verado and run the 26 LX. It took eight seconds to plane with minimal squatting at takeoff and topped out a smidge under 58 mph, remaining stable and limber all the while. Aided by Mercury power steering and the push of 350 horses, the new center console proved responsive and maneuverable throughout a wide range of speeds and tracked well on the turns.
Throttling down to 3,500 rpm, the Sea Chaser cruised at a comfortable 30 mph while burning just 8 gph and yielding a range of 3.8 mpg. Spray was negligible at that speed, and by the time we’d again climbed to 5,500 rpm, it had moved back beyond the console where it wouldn’t affect the crew, even in a stiff crosswind. With near-calm sea conditions during the test, we repeatedly took on wakes from passing boats to simulate a light chop. Not surprisingly (the builder’s motto is “let the ride decide”), the boat always felt solid and safe.
Bottom line: The 26 LX offers a lot for the money. If your plans for a new boat include snorkeling or cruising, as well as fishing inshore and nearshore or offshore when the weather permits, be sure the new Sea Chaser makes your short list. Then schedule a test drive and take members of your crew along. They’re bound to fall in love with all the amenities and make your final decision an easy one.
For more coverage of the new boat, watch our test ride of the Sea Chaser 26 LX below.