Offshore fishing is a true adventure, a chance to venture into ocean waters in search of species that will not only test your fish-finding skills but promise to put up a spirited fight once they take the hook. But whether your intended quarry is found just a mile or two off the beach, or well out of sight of land, there are many factors to consider when choosing a boat that can take you there—not only to increase your odds of landing that prized catch but also return safely to shore.
Start with construction. The offshore environment can dish out a lot of abuse, including from the sea conditions you’ll inevitably encounter as well as the harshness of the saltwater climate. Look for fiberglass/composite, rot-free construction, particularly in areas such as the stringer grid and transom. Components should be tabbed (or joints overlapped with fiberglass cloth and resin) to make them a strong, integral, waterproof part of the construction. On metal components like railings and hardware, insist on 316-grade stainless steel to best resist rust and corrosion. A self-draining cockpit ensures any water that gets aboard is quickly funneled overboard via large scuppers and/or drains, not just sent to the bilge. In the bilge, look for easily accessed seacocks on any and all through-hull fittings, so they can be quickly closed in the event of trouble. Double-clamped hoses are yet another sign the builder paid attention to detail.
Design also comes into play. A deep-V hull will knife through waves and provide a softer, less jarring ride in larger waves. A higher freeboard provides added security and prevents an ill-timed wave from washing into the cockpit. Generous fuel capacity also ensures that you have the necessary range to both get to the fishing grounds and make it home without worry.
While there’s no one-boat-fits-all solution for every angler, the versatile outboard-powered center-console comes close. Sea Chaser’s 30 HFC is a classic example. Its design allows anglers unrestricted access to the boat’s entire perimeter. High-capacity baitwells have good water flow to keep bait fresh and are placed where they can be conveniently accessed (one forward and one at the leaning post). Multiple wells allow for a choice of bait. Keep sardines in one and blue runners in the other. A big, insulated fish locker is ready for the keepers brought aboard. Rod holders? In general. the more the merrier, but Sea Chaser keeps them convenient, offering multiple choices along the gunwales and at the leaning post. Tackle trays are also readily accessible.
Most offshore boats will also do double duty as a family cruiser on occasion, so don’t forget those features that also double as passenger-friendly amenities. Removable seat cushions can be added for passengers or removed when you desire a high-traction, easy-to-clean cockpit. Flip-up seats and benches add seating that is easily stowed. An overhead T-top offers shade for long days in the sun. Inward-opening dive doors offer convenient access for passengers, as well as make it easier to haul aboard that tuna that’s too heavy to haul over the transom.
Outboard-powered center-consoles also have the advantage of being able to trim up in shallow water, making it possible to gather bait in skinnier waters or nose into shore when friends or family want to gather at the sandbar.