Ten Smaller Fishing Boats that Can Run With the Big Boys

December 15, 2016 8:49 am

Plenty of big trailerable boats from 25 to 27 feet have the range and heft for running offshore, but only a few are able to stay very long when the going gets rough. That said, there’s an element of excitement being out there in a small boat in the company of boats much larger than yours. In the right hands, a smaller boat is more maneuverable and responsive than bigger boats, and those with twin outboards are nearly always faster — no small factor when conditions deteriorate and its time to head home.

If you’re looking for a good boat for fishing the canyons, it’s important to keep in mind that not all hulls are a good match for the demands that running offshore can impose on a boat. Simply put, some trailerable boats are built better than others. And then there’s the issue of hull design — while a modified vee hull provides greater stability, a deep vee hull delivers a better ride through the waves. And lastly, range is an obvious consideration. In that case, all of the boats profiled below have sufficient fuel capacity for extended offshore operation.

For the purposes of this article, a trailerable boat is defined as having a beam of nine feet or less. Legally, however, most states define a trailerable boat as having a beam no greater than 8-feet, 6-inches. So if you want to be legal you’ll need an overwide permit to trailer a few of the boats below on the highway as they slightly exceed the legal limit. Something to keep in mind.

The ten boats presented in this article have been selected by the writer for punching above their weight when it comes to offshore performance. Another writer might pick ten completely different boats. In other words, this is a subjective list. There is no attempt to define these ten models as anything other than boats that the author believes to be among the best in this class.

Ed McKnew 
PowerBoat Guide Founder


1. Albemarle 265/26 Express 1993–2010

Albemarle 265

At a Glance:  This pocket battlewagon carries a big reputation with East Coast anglers for solid offshore performance and a unique jackshaft power system. Construction and finish are above average throughout. Features include bait boxes, tackle locker, removable fish box, and a functional cabin with convertible V-berth/dinette, galley, and enclosed head.

Albemarle designers reworked the hull in 2003, reducing the transom deadrise from 24 to 21 degrees, in an effort to introduce greater low-speed stability to the slender hull. Now called the 268 Express, the center engine location keeps the cockpit free of the engine box common to most sterndrive boats.  A single 7.4L Volvo Duo-Prop gas engine will cruise in the mid 20s (30+ knots top). A heavily built boat with great Carolina lines, a 285hp Volvo diesel tops out in the mid 30s.

Price Range: Expect to pay around $35K for a clean older model; $50–65K for newer.


2. Venture 27 Open 2007–13

Venture 27 Open

At a Glance:  The real deal in an offshore center console — drop-dead gorgeous lines, a flawless finish, and a deck layout that splits the difference between fishing and cruising. Deep-V hull is vacuumed bagged and reinforced with Kevlar for added strength. A generous 9-foot beam (overwide permit required) results in a roomy cockpit with everything important close at hand. Although her purpose is fishing, molded bow seating allows the 27 Open to serve as a comfortable day cruiser as well. Two 30-gallon fore and aft in-deck fish boxes feature macerators.

A generous 9-foot beam (overwide permit required) results in a roomy cockpit with everything important close at hand. Although her purpose is fishing, molded bow seating allows the 27 Open to serve as a comfortable day cruiser as well. Two 30-gallon fore and aft in-deck fish boxes feature macerators.

The 45-gallon transom livewell is huge for a boat this size. Walk-in console comes complete with a sink, marine head, and near standing headroom. Fit and finish is second to none. Rated for up to 500 horsepower, twin 200hp Mercury outboards top out at 45 knots.

Price Range: Prices range from $60–65K to over $90K for a newer model with trailer.


3. Carolina Classic 1994–2010

Carolina Classic

At a Glance:  A heavy, no-frills fishing boat with straight inboard or jackshaft power, functional cabin, and all the amenities required to make fishing or cruising an enjoyable experience — that describes the Carolina Classic 25, a pocket sport fishing battlewagon with a big East Coast following.The engine is amidships where the weight adds to the hull’s low center of

The engine is amidships where the weight adds to the hull’s low center of gravity, and connected to the outdrive by a jackshaft. This means no engine box taking up valuable cockpit space—a significant factor in a boat this size. On the downside, there’s no in-deck fish box.

Forward is a full-sized cuddy cabin with V-berth, secure rod storage, a stowable electric head and a storage locker. A single 300hp Volvo gas engine — or 260hp Volvo diesel — delivers a top speed of 28–30 knots. An outboard version was introduced in 2013.

Price Range: Gas models run from $30K up to $80K-plus. Diesels are $10K–$12K more.


4. Contender 27 Open 1995–2007

Contender 27

At a Glance:  Rough water, no problem—this legendary sport fishing machine still sets the standard in every category that counts. Lightweight, fast, with excellent range and a near flawless finish, the 27’s fully cored hull is relatively light compared with other center consoles her size.

The deck layout is completely uncluttered, and wide walkways around the console make it easy to get around. Features include an integrated swim/dive platform, 50-gallon aft livewell, huge 140-gallon forward fish box, 76-gallon aft fish box, leaning post with rod holders, in-floor rod lockers.

The Contender 27’s generous 8’10” beam just slightly exceeds the legal width for trailering in all states. A superb open water performer, 200hp Yamaha outboards top out at 45 knots. (Not designed to handle the weight of today’s four-stroke motors.)

Price Range: Strictly an East Coast boat. Anywhere from $35K to around $80K. 


5. Glacier Bay 260/2665 Canyon Runner 1996–2008

Glacier Bay

At a Glance:  A popular model, this top-tier cat was a popular model for Glacier Bay for many years. One of the smoothest, most comfortable and safest platforms for fishing offshore. Lighter than most any monohull her size. She rides on a pair of sharp, thin displacement hulls that were retooled in 1999 with a finer entry and wider chines.

Standard features include a leaning post with 35 gallon bait tank, console head compartment, fresh/raw-water washdowns, two macerated in-deck fish boxes, bait prep station, and lockable rod storage.

The 260’s deep cockpit is a plus and so is the aggressive nonskid. Her aft deck is ready for action with over 60 square feet of working space. The stability of these boats is legendary. Twin 150hp 4-stroke Yamahas cruise at 25–26 knots at nearly two mpg (low 30s top).

Price Range: Older models can be found in the $25K range. Newer boats go for around $40K.


6. Grady-White 263/273 Chase 1994–2011

Grady White

At a Glance:  One of the best built big center consoles ever. Called the 263 Chase until 2002 when the console was redesigned. The Chase has a conventional deck layout with a 32-gallon transom livewell, transom fish box, two large fish boxes forward (under the bow seats), leaning post with backrest, foldaway stern seat, lockable rod storage, and a transom door. Under the aft seat lid, all batteries, cables, filters and fuel switches are easily accessible.

The pop-up electronics console and helm footrest are useful features, and a fiberglass insert fits between the forward seats to create raised casting deck.†The Chase has a deep-V hull with a sharp entry, cored hullsides, and an integrated motor bracket/swim platform. A good performer with excellent range, Yamaha 225s top out in the neighborhood of 45 knots.

Price Range: These boats are easy to find. Prices run from the low $20Ks to $80K-plus. 


7. Jupiter 26 FS 2010–Current

Jupiter 26

At a Glance:  A beautiful 26-footer with forward seating — Jupiter’s smallest model. This boat drips with quality. While the deck layout is similar to most center consoles this size, the Jupiter’s wide side decks make it especially easy for anglers to get around.

The head compartment (with electric toilet) is small but completely finished. Behind the leaning post is a huge 102-gallon macerated in-deck fish box and a large lazarette for bilge access.

The cushioned forward seats offer fish boxes that drain overboard (no macerator required). Super-wide transom features a rigging station with an oval 35-gallon livewell and freshwater sink. Tackle drawers and bins are built into the leaning post. Large dash can handle twin 15″ displays. The hardtop is mounted to the console so it does not take up deck space. One of a handful of 26-footers are rated for up to 500-hp.

Price Range:  From the low $100K up.


8. Boston Whaler 26 Outrage 1998–2002

Boston Whaler

At a Glance:  With 200 gallons of fuel, Boston Whaler’s reputation for quality construction, and an all-new deep-V hull (replacing the company’s earlier hard-riding hulls), the 26 Outrage combines the range and offshore muscle to go head-to-head with boats a lot bigger than 26 feet.

In spite of her modest (and trailerable) 8’6″ beam, the uncluttered deck layout of the 26 Outrage is ideally suited for 360-degree fishability. Ample interior freeboard and standard stainless steel toe rails help keep passengers secure when gaffing fish or retrieving skis.

With a range of 350–400 nautical miles, the 26 Outrage has the ability to venture far offshore with the added assurance of Boston Whaler’s legendary unsinkable hull. A popular family fisherman with timeless lines. Twin 225hp Mercury outboards deliver a top speed in the mid 40-knot range.

Price Range: These still-popular boats run from $20K to $50K depending on engines & condition. 


9. Regulator 26 1991–Current


At a Glance:  Classic sportfishing boat (over 1,500 sold) with Armstrong outboard bracket offers an exceptional blend of solid construction and serious open-water performance. The spacious deck plan features in-deck storage boxes on either side of the console, two recirculating baitwells, and two transom bait boxes. The leaning post seat comes with a footrest, and a foldaway stern seat frees up cockpit space.

Stand-up head compartment has a marine toilet w/ holding tank. Lenco trim tabs, pop-up cleats, power-assist steering, and fresh and raw-water washdowns are standard. The Regulator’s deep-V hull delivers one of the best rides in the business. Twin 250hp Yamaha engines deliver the top speed of nearly 50 knots. Note that the current Forward Seating model came out in 2006.

Price Range: Nearly always a good selection. Prices run from the mid $30s to $100K-plus.


10. Robalo R260 2004–14


At a Glance:  A tournament-level fishboat with tons of eye appeal — quality like this doesn’t come cheap. Fishing features include an 35-gallon transom livewell, three insulated fish boxes, 4-drawer tackle locker, 2 locking rod lockers, welded toe rails, cockpit bolsters, and bait prep center. Fold-down rear seat frees up cockpit space when needed.

The foredeck features a cushioned seats; remove the cushions and add the filler to make a large casting deck. A removable dinette is standard along with a wraparound grab rail and full backrest support.

Console head compartment contains a VacuFlush toilet, sink, and shower. Note oversized battery and pump compartment in starboard transom. Fit and finish is exceptional. Deep-V hull delivers a terrific open-water ride. Twin Yamaha 225 outboards reach close to 45 knots top.

Price Range: From low $40K to $100K-plus.


Contact Sales@denisonyachting.com or 954.763.3971 to speak with a fishing boat specialist. Also check out @CenterConsoles on Instagram

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