Unlike most fads, which are popular for a while and then fizzle, bay boats have proven their staying power. But somewhere along the way, the design lines blurred, and boats initially intended to fish bay waters morphed into hybrids that allow anglers to fish not only inshore, but also nearshore and even offshore on occasion.
Yellowfin Yachts, however, believes a bay boat should primarily do what the name implies: negotiate bay waters — open and deep or protected and shallow — better than any other type of craft. With that in mind, the boatbuilder improved on its 24 Bay, coming up with a newer model that is lighter, stronger and faster: the new Yellowfin 24 Bay Carbon Elite.
The 24 Bay CE is built entirely with carbon fiber, including its single-step hull, the decks and the console. Beneath the gelcoat lies a carbon-fiber weave specifically engineered for the Carbon Elite hull, utilizing a fabric used in aviation. Combining it with 100 percent vinylester resin in Yellowfin’s infusion process, the Florida builder came up with a boat 20 percent lighter and 17 percent stronger than its predecessor, which translates into shallower draft, better fuel efficiency and faster top-end speed.
Yellowfin also changed the deck layout. The Carbon Elite incorporates a forward 5-inch step for easier access to the front casting deck. Below that step hides a giant 290-quart fish box that drains overboard to the rear and can be rigged with a macerator pump. In addition, three compartments provide ample room for organized storage of gear and safety equipment.
The CE also dons a slimmer console with its fore-aft footprint reduced by 5 inches for increased cockpit space and more comfortable aft seating. The console boasts an integrated footrest, and the dash accepts two 12-inch displays, or a 15- and a 9-inch, leaving enough real estate for smart gauges, a switch panel, stereo and more. A forward seat with backrest is anchored to a forward door that rises on gas shocks to access batteries and wiring, or to stash personal effects out of the elements.
Rod racks on both sides of the console keep 10 rigged rods close at hand, while twin rod lockers store four fly outfits (or spinning outfits, after minor customizing) with some spare room for additional gear. The standard leaning post seats two at the helm, stores 10 large tackle trays in back, and adds two more rod holders (up to six with optional rocket launcher) to the mix.
Astern, a full-width bench seat easily accommodates three crew members. And fans of tournament fishing or live-baiting will love the livewell space: two cavernous chambers (one pressurized) with a combined 150-gallon capacity.
The 24 Bay CE carries 72 gallons of fuel and a maximum power rating of 400 hp. An 8-foot Power-Pole anchoring system and hydraulic jack plate come standard. Available options include a bow-mount trolling motor, Lenco trim tabs, a Garmin electronics package and a hardtop or a tower with a second helm station.
Drafting a mere 11 to 12 inches, depending on the load and motor selected, the 24 Bay CE floats as shallow as many flats skiffs, an attribute Yellowfin considers essential. With 15-inch gunwales and a bow lower than most competing boat models, the Carbon Elite presents a low profile that is less visible to fish and minimizes the potential for cavitation and wind-induced deviation when running a trolling motor.
We timed our test drive between squalls in Sarasota Bay. Two-foot waves and strong gusts presented the gnarly conditions to really put a bay boat through its paces, and the Yellowfin didn’t disappoint.
Powered by the new Mercury Verado 400R, we jumped on plane in 5.5 seconds against the wind. Lag was minimal, and I sensed no bow rise whatsoever. At high speed, the 24 Bay CE rode atop the waves, jumping from crest to crest. It remained nimble and responsive through a range of speeds, with no sign of bow steering even when turning into a quartering sea.
Our top speed came at 6,600 rpm, where we hit 69.1 mph despite the wind-resistant tower, which robbed us of 3 or 4 mph, I guess. Considering the extreme conditions and the way the test boat was rigged, both the speed and the handling were impressive.
Everything on this boat is well thought out. The ergonomic design is clean and pleasing. Storage for tackle and fish is extensive. And the fit and finish are second to none. I came away with the impression that the 24 Bay Carbon Elite can take a licking and keep on ticking, so anglers venturing a few miles offshore won’t cringe if they meet with inclement weather. And those who stay inshore are sure to reap the benefits of a top performer designed specifically with bay fishing in mind.