10 of the best centre consoles

Here are 10 of the best centre console fishing boats.

Nothing says "dedicated fishing boat" quite like a centre console. The all-round 360° fishing space. The wide fishing deck. The total lack of comforts that will ensure your family stays away, with only the most hardened anglers joining your crazy fishing adventures...

Centre console boats are notoriously unfriendly if your interest in boating doesn’t involve fishing, right? Well, that’s what some people think, anyway.

Actually, one of the factors to contribute to the growing popularity of centre console boats is the huge variety of craft on offer. From compact estuary tinnies to big American offshore fibreglass fishing boats, you’d be surprised at how many wonderful examples are available in Australia right now. And — would you believe — many of these new boats are perfectly suitable for family outings. Here are 10 of the best centre console boats available right now through established networks in Australia.


10 of the best centre console boats

Mako 234 Centre Console

Mako 234 Centre Console

Qld-based boat reviewer Kevin Smith said testing the Mako 234 Centre Console was one of his highlights for the year. An imported American boat, he loved the layout, performance and especially the offshore ride of the Mako 234 Centre Console.

Besides being a versatile offshore centre console boat suited to serious pelagic fishing, the Mako 234 CC has numerous creature comforts included to suit family boating as well. Nice seating options, added protection around the console, stereo, toilet/head for the ladies, and a really nice cosmetic finish that looks stylish on and off the water.

The Mako 234 Centre Console is a 23-foot centre console boat loaded with bling and wow factor. The model we tested was priced under $150,000 but lower priced models are also available.


Bar Crusher 490WR

Fishing from a Bar Crusher 490WR centre console

The Bar Crusher 490WR — aka the 490 centre console — is the sister ship to the Bar Crusher 490 Cuddy, the boat that must surely take the title for raising the most eyebrows in 2015 for the sub-5m class. With regulations in most states requiring the use of life jackets at all times in craft 4.8m and under, boats above this size have surged in popularity.

The Trade-a-Boat crew tested two examples on a week-long adventure in a secluded hideaway, eight hours travel from Melbourne. The boats copped a blasting from rough dirt tracks and constant abrasion from mooring on less than ideal pier structure; yet they washed up good as new at the end of the trip.

We found the Bar Crusher 490WR was absolutely terrific in the estuary environment. It’s a true sportsfisher that could compete in top level tournaments, with design and function that make it a breeze to fish from. All of this is accentuated by a surprisingly high level of stability.

Most impressive of all was the price. At the 2015 Melbourne Boat Show, the Bar Crusher 490 range was the bargain of the event, with WR centre console packages going for just $34,890 including a 60hp Suzuki outboard motor. At the time of testing these boats earlier in the year, base price was even lower, at just under $32,000! No wonder so many people are talking about them.


Anglapro Predator 16

Anglapro Predator 16 centre console boat

Anglapro Boats is an Australian success story. Six years ago this boat manufacturer launched an acclaimed range of compact aluminium boats that proved to be highly successful with estuary fishers. Following demand for something bigger and more capable of offshore fishing, Anglapro Boats developed the Predator range, including the Predator 16 centre console.

Like all good centre console boats, the Predator 16 makes the most of the available space without sacrificing too many concessions to cruising comfort. Both bottom and sides are built from 4mm aluminium with reversed chines pressed into in the rear two-thirds of the hull, while the underfloor section is engineered for strength with welded stringers and gussets.

With a 115hp Suzuki outboard motor our reviewer got it to go at 37kts (68kmh) — fast for a 5m boat — while at 30kts it felt light and nimble, where it was confidently thrown around in tight turns.

The review boat was priced at $45,800 with a Suzuki 115 but it starts at $39,000 with a 90hp.


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McLay 521 Fortress Centre Console

McLay 521 Fortress Centre Console

New Zealand is a small landmass located surrounded by the seemingly endless expanse of the world’s largest ocean. So it’s no surprise the Kiwis are known for their excellent aluminium boats. Australian anglers apparently agree, if the number of Kiwi-built fishing boats entering the Australian boat market is anything to go by. Based in Otago, in New Zealand’s South Island, McLay Boats is one of the new players on the market.

The build on the 5m McLay 521 Fortress Centre Console boat is solid and inspires confidence on the water. The layout also gives you the feeling of the space being bigger than its size suggests. When our boat tester took it through sloppy half-metre swell he found the large spray chine and flared bow kept everyone on board completely dry, no matter which direction he ran.

We tested this boat with a 60hp Yamaha four-stroke outboard motor and plenty of optional bling. Minus freight, came to well under $40,000, while a hull-only package came to much less.


Robalo Cayman 206

Robalo Cayman 206 centre console boat

The Cayman was introduced to the Australian market at the 2014 Melbourne Boat Show. It’s a terrific 21ft package for sportsfishing devotees and would make an ideal companion for travelling long distances to bash remote barra strongholds up north. It will also make a succulent squidder, a bountiful bream buster, a trophy trout hunter, a great goodoo gatherer and is quite capable of limited offshore salmon sojourns. 

The Cayman 206 hull is a wonderful mixture of a soft and very quiet 15° ‘Extended Vee-plane’ bottom; it has large, aggressive chines that extend well forward, providing extremely good buoyancy and stability. The boat only draws 10in (25.4cm) for working those highly productive sand flats and crossing shallow bars. She easily carries the weight of an angler, as well as the optional Minn Kota Riptide 70lb SP Saltwater Series 24V electric outboard motor up front.

We tested a very highly specced boat with a 135hp Honda outboard motor. It was priced at $75,000 but other models are available for considerably less.


Key West 239

Key West 239 centre console

Everything is bigger in America right? It sure is, and that includes their centre console boats.

Key West is based out of America but deals directly with overseas customers. This centre console is big, beamy and comfortable, with loads of unrestricted space either side of the console. Sure, although the console and helm area itself is quite compact (but still with enough room inside the console to allow a portable toilet), it’s still capable of a lot more than chasing fish. As a day boat or family fun machine it’s perfect for an extended family to enjoy the harbour and shores beyond.

Performance was admirable when we tested this centre console. At 43.23kts (80kmh) the it was rock steady, and it remained soft even over some really nasty wakes churned up by the local ferries.

This beautifully specced model we tested with a Yamaha F300XCA was available for just under $100,000. You can get one for just under $70,000 with a 200hp Yamaha and fewer options. We’re told the price includes a 10-year structural hull warranty from the factory and a 12-month extendable warranty on the engine.


Sea Jay 5.6 Striker

Sea Jay 5.6 Striker centre console

We came across the Sea Jay 5.6 Striker at the sort-of-recent industry launch of the new 130hp Yamaha outboard motor. At this event, we discovered this centre console boat was the perfect match for the new engine.

The Sea Jay 5.6 Striker is built around the less-is-more concept. It has a raised casting deck in the bow, a few swivel seats, rear-positioned console, sidepockets, livewell, baitboard and rear boarding platform with ladder. This is not a boat loaded with bling, but that’s what would make it perfect for screaming up creeks in the Northern Territory, fishing for barramundi, with the high gunwales keeping the crocs out. Then again, it would be equally suitable for lure fisherman and bait lovers, as long as you don’t mind open air.

The Sea Jay 5.6 Striker feels safe on the water at all speeds and it can easily handle tough conditions both inshore and offshore. As mentioned, it was the perfect match for the newly released 130hp Yamaha outboard motor. The one we tested at the launch came to $53,890 — but there’s plenty of scope to customise it.


Scout 195 Sportfish

Scout 195 Sportfish centre console boat

American-brand Scout has been around for 30 or so years. A very attractive rig, it has that hallmark luxury finish found in premium-grade American boats.

Having said that, it’s not a dedicated hardcore-fishing boat, but that’s precisely what gives this centre console its appeal. This boat will suit families, yet the beautiful design and finish doesn’t obstruct fishing space.

A standout feature is the exceptionally soft ride. Scout hulls have an interesting design and build, with stringers and transoms being composite rather than wood, along with an ‘Air-Assist’ hull which has additional longitudinal buoyancy to increase static floatation and decrease time to plane. This improves handling characteristics and increases fuel economy.

We tested a specced up Scout 195 Sportfish with a Yamaha 150XA outboard motor that came to $70,000, but they’re available for much less.


Haines Signature 543SF Side Console

Haines Signature 543SF Side Console

Ok smartarse, yes it’s a side console, not a centre console. The intriguing and sporty Haines Signature 543SF Side Console is a recent addition to the Haines Group fleet. More than a mere extension to the famous Signature 485SF, the side console version with casting deck is the perfect partner for lure fishermen, be it on flatwater chasing barra, or out in the bays and offshore.

The Signature Variable Deadrise Hull (SVDH) does a wonderful job for stability, while offering a smooth ride and improving economy. Its construction shows all the typical hallmarks of high-quality finish and attention to detail generally found in the fibreglass fishing boats made by the Haines Group.

We reviewed a highly optioned model with a killer marine electronics package, 150hp Suzuki outboard motor and major bling. Price was just over $70,000 but you can also get them for much less.


Formosa Classic Mk4 520 SC

Formosa Classic Mk4 520 side console boat

Yes, another Australian-made side console boat. It wouldn’t be included here if Australian boat builders didn’t make some great no-nonsense, value-for-money aluminium fishing boats.

The Formosa Mk4 520 side console is, like all Formosa boats, easily identifiable from a distance on and off the water with its high sides, graphics and distinct flow of the sheer line standing out. 

The design is characterised by massive freeboard, wide coamings on the gunwales, and a simple but very spacious layout. During a boat test it performed superbly with a 140hp Suzuki four-stroke outboard motor, especially out of the hole where it quickly jumped onto the plane. Through rough conditions, the sharp bow sliced through chop at moderate speeds but when slamming through it still delivered a soft landing.

Value for money and "less-is-more" is the thinking behind these boats and at the time of testing the price came to $40,900.


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