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Fishability Test: Contender 44FA

A serious fishing boat with liveaboard comfort.

February 23, 2020
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Contender 44FA running shot
The 44FA offers 360-degree rail access for serious offshore fishing. Contender

Powered by triple (or even quad) Yamaha 425 outboards and equipped with a 575-gallon fuel capacity, the new 44-footer is perfect for lengthy runs, island hopping, and spending long weekends at your favorite fishing destination.

Hardcore anglers will be glad to know the 44FA offers a 300-gallon forward fish box, plus a pair of 100-gallon fish lockers under the aft deck. A 130-quart cooler resides under the foot of the forward-console lounge, and there are twin 55-gallon livewells on the transom. The test boat was optioned with an ice maker and insulated ice bin under the aft cockpit, supplied by the boat’s 100-gallon freshwater tank, ideal for icing down the catch during extended trips. The ice bin can be replaced by an 80-gallon livewell, if desired.

Coaming pads encircle the interior, and a recessed, anodized aluminum rail wraps around the bow for added safety. The cavernous anchor locker features an anchor roller and electric windlass to make anchoring easier, whether fishing a wreck or overnighting.

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Contender 44FA forward seating
Total rail access and a level sole throughout define the fish-around design. Contender

Our test boat came with plenty of rod holders, including eight in the backrest of the second-row seat, six across the back of the hardtop, eight on the gunwales, and one on the transom. In addition, horizontal racks hold three more sticks under the covering boards, on both sides of the cockpit. A tackle center abaft the second-row seating module afforded plenty of stowage for leader spools, terminal tackle, lures and rigging tools. A 240-quart Frigid Rigid cooler below slid out at the push of a button, while a handrail across the back of the module offered a convenient steadying hold in rough seas.

Contender 44FA second-row seating
Second-row seating stays protected from the elements under the hardtop Contender

From a distance, the 44FA looks like a large center-console boat, but once behind the helm, the perspective changes. A sliding pocket door occupies the portside helm, providing access to the step-down cabin without limiting space on the dash, which accommodates a pair of Garmin 24-inch multifunction displays, networked with a Garmin CHIRP sonar, xHD2 open-array radar and autopilot. A center control pod that houses the steering wheel, Helm Master throttle and shift control, joystick, two engine-monitoring displays and switch panel extends aft to meet the helmsman. And a wraparound polycarbonate windshield blocks the wind and spray.

A trio of Llebroc seats with flip-up bolsters, foldaway armrests and individual fold-down footrests offers comfortable helm seating. Nearly as comfy, the second-row contoured bench seat includes footrests for bracing in rough conditions and, like the helm seating, remains under the protection of the hardtop.

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Contender 44FA cabin
A full cabin invites overnighting on the fishing grounds. Contender

The 44FA offers a true cabin, with 6 feet, 8 inches of headroom; queen-size V-berth; galley with sink and freshwater faucet, fridge/freezer and electric cooktop; plus an enclosed head with vanity, sink and faucet, electric marine toilet and stand-up shower. Although opening the Bowmar hatch above the V-berth helps cool the cabin, those who plan to overnight in tropical climes should consider the optional 12,000 Btu air-conditioning system, powered by the onboard 5 kW Westerbeke generator or with shore power at a marina.

For entertaining, a transom bench seat can be added. It’s simple to remove when fishing is the priority.

A transom door in the starboard quarter allows access to the integral motor bracket/swim platform, and comes in handy when hauling aboard a big swordfish or tuna.

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Contender 44FA helm
The helm’s horizontal gauge-and-switch panel extends aft for convenience and comfort. Contender

The 44FA uses the same twin-step hull as the Contender 44ST but is about 900 pounds heavier by virtue of its cabin accommodations. Nevertheless, handling during our test proved superb, with the hull carving turns with the agility of a boat half its size. With six adults, 350 gallons of fuel, 100 gallons of fresh water and the livewells full, the triple Yamaha 425 XTOs with 23-by-16 1/8-inch three-blade stainless-steel props got the boat up on plane in 7 seconds, propelled us to 30 mph in 12 seconds, and reached a top speed of 65 mph at 5,500 rpm, where the outboards burned 112.5 gallons per hour for 0.58 mpg. Close-quarter maneuvers and docking were easy thanks to the Yamaha Helm Master joystick control on the test boat.

Contender has an enviable reputation for building durable, dry- and smooth-riding boats that exude fishability, and the 44FA certainly lives up to it, adding plush overnight accommodations to the equation.

Specs

Length: 43′10″

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Beam: 12″

Draft: 27″

Deadrise: 22.7 degrees

Fuel: 575 gal.

Weight: 22,500 lb.

Max HP: 2,000

Price: $665,980 (base with triple Yamaha XTOs)

Contender: contenderboats.com

Test Conditions

Weather: Sunny

Location: Miami

Wind: West 10 to 15 mph

Sea State: 2- to 3-foot chop

Test Load: Six adults, 350 gallons of fuel, 100 gallons of water

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