There are boats that can do a lot of things, but there is no perfect boat that does everything. When I see a builder make a new model that is built with purpose and not meant to be “all things to all people,” I take notice. The folks at Yellowfin have stepped up and created a boat that focuses on the serious fishing family with their new 26 Hybrid.
We ran the boat twice, once in a choppy 2- to 4-foot swell in the Gulf of Mexico out of Sarasota, Florida, with company owner Wylie Nagler, a former offshore racer who knows how to run a boat and likes his speed, so it’s interesting to watch him put a boat through its paces at a good clip.
Our second ride on the Yellowfin Hybrid 26, on the Manatee River and out into the opening of Tampa Bay on an evening with a stiff westerly breeze, presented a steep chop that had the potential to jar our knees and loosen our front teeth. But like her siblings, this 26 has a bottom that handles the swells and chop with a soft entry, and it also has more speed than most folks need or want. As we ran up into the sea, she cut through with little effort, displaying her ability to remain stable in a hard turn with speed and keep us dry.
This Yellowfin has a higher shear and freeboard than bay boats, but still lower than center consoles. She has a lot of fishing room, with a clean one-level deck that makes it easy to get around.
A large, open foredeck offers ample casting area with recessed handrail, combing cushions and a large in-deck storage bin. On both sides of the console, the 26 Hybrid has under-gunwale pull-out storage bins amidships; aft of that, storage racks for mop handles and even a few rods.
Her console is tight and well laid out. The front seat lifts up to reveal a nicely finished interior complete with teak and holly floor. Inside, there’s access to the backside of the electronics, the breaker panel and battery switches. On both sides of the front seat are five vertical rod holders, two of which double as drink holders.
The business end of the console is clean and simple, with a compass mounted on top, a flat panel to house up to two 16-inch flat-screen multifunction electronics displays, a slightly offset or center-mounted helm with binnacle to starboard, and a molded-in footrest under the helm for the skipper and companion. Our test boat had a leaning post with backrest, storage underneath with batteries and a stand-up 45-gallon livewell. The cockpit, open and uncluttered, holds two in-deck insulated fish boxes.
As a Hybrid, the 26 sports a raised aft deck that offers an elevated casting platform and aft seating, along with a pair of molded-in insulated boxes that can be plumbed as livewells outboard. You’ll find access to the aft bilge lazarette and its pumps and plumbing on the centerline. She also has three rod holders in the aft bulkhead and two on each gunwale in the cockpit. With her lowered freeboard, it is easy to get in and out at the transom. And thanks to an optional dive ladder, going swimming or getting out to wade is a cinch.
Our test boat had a pair of Yamaha F200s, but the 26 Hybrid can be rigged with single or twin outboards, and it is rated for up to 400 hp. This is a responsive boat that handles like a sports car, tracks evenly and turns without the transom aerating and slipping or busting loose. Her open-water handling is akin to a much bigger boat, yet her shallow-water abilities shouldn’t be overlooked. We drifted over sandbars in under 2 feet of water, so netting bait in the shallows is not an issue.
Running out in the Gulf at 3,500 rpm, we made 33 mph burning 9.2 gph; at 4,500 rpm, we clipped along at 45 mph burning 17.3 gph. Pushing her to 5,500 rpm, she gave us 56 mph and burned 37.3 gph. The top speed was 60.8 mph, with a max fuel burn of 40.5 gph. In my mind, this versatile boat is as well suited for fishing large bays as it is for nearshore wrecks in open water, affording anglers countless jigging, sight-casting and fly-fishing opportunities. Whether blasting out for a couple hours of fishing before dinner or trailer-ing for a weekend somewhere, she’d be perfect for the job.