Review: Contender 23 Open

By: Jack Murphy, Photography by: Jack Murphy

Contender 23 Open boat With a deadrise of 24.5 degrees, the deep-vee hull with trim tabs carves up the slop and rides silky soft. Contender 23 Open boat
Twin E TEC outboard motors on Contender 23 Twin 200hp E-TEC outboard motors. Talk about a rocketship! Twin E TEC outboard motors on Contender 23
Contender 23 Open underway The sharp lines and flared bow are clearly visible. Contender 23 Open underway
Dash on Contender 23 Open There's $30,000 of marine electronics onboard. Dash on Contender 23 Open
Storage on Contender 23 Open Lots of clever (and inexpensive) storage ideas. Storage on Contender 23 Open
Releasing Kingfish from Contender 23 Open Says it all. Releasing Kingfish from Contender 23 Open
Electronics on Contender boat This is how you power $30,000 of marine electronics. Electronics on Contender boat

Our boat reviewer heads to Coffs Harbour to fulfil a childhood dream: fishing from a Contender 23 open fishing boat.

I’ve always had a serious love affair with Contender fishing boats. There used to be one moored near my house on Pittwater  and as a kid I remember heading out fishing in my little yellow dingy, with a 3hp Yamaha two-stroke outboard motor on the back – I’d drool as I drove past the neglected Contender every time.

Since then, they’ve remained my favourite looking rigs on the water, but I’ve never fished in one, let alone been aboard one! So when Laura and Riley Tolmay invited me out fishing on their Contender 23 Open, I played it cool and said, "Yeah, I suppose I could come along…"


Contender boats for sale



Contender 23 Open

As far as fishing boats go, it’d be hard to top this 23 Open from Contender Boats. With 15kts of breeze and a sloppy sea awaiting us, the conditions weren’t ideal for fishing, but they were perfect for putting the Contender 23 Open through its paces.

The plan was to run wide and go fishing on some canyons located on the Coffs Harbour continental shelf. Usually in conditions like these, you’d be battening down the hatches and donning a steamer wetsuit when aboard a centre console boat. However, as we peeled out of the heads and pointed eastbound to the fishing grounds, we stayed dry and comfortable. With a deadrise of 24.5 degrees, the deep-vee hull with trim tabs carves up the slop and rides silky soft without any excessive bone-jarring banging. The console positioning and layout also works well, making driving a pleasure.



Fishing from a Contender 23 Open

On arrival at the shelf the Simrad sounder was fully lit with electric green fish arches suspended in layers.

On the first drop we hooked an awesome little yellowfin tuna and the day continued with a plethora of other species being boated too, including, nannygai, mack tuna, kingfish, amberjack and even a donkey of a snapper that snaffled a vertical jig!

After this vigorous testing it was clear that the 23 Open’s fishability factor was through the roof.

For a deep-vee boat she’s incredibly stable at rest – the ideal fishing platform. The interior is also really well thought out, especially the rod storage. There are eight rodholders atop the gunwales, four in the rocket launchers above the T-top, four behind the helm seat, six under the forward coaming, and (take a breath) spots for another six around the console.

You may be wondering how you stow rods vertically around the console when there’s a T-top fitted? Well, this is one of my favourite innovations; the Contender T-top has removable fabric flaps for your rod tips to slide through – a small, yet neat little feature.



T-top storage bag on Contender 23 boat

Laura and Riley have done a great job accessorising this boat with inexpensive additional storage options, some of which include mesh Black Pete tackle bags, Edgewater storage lockers mounted in the gunwales and an awesome product that I’d never seen before called the T-Bag. These bags are a great idea as they utilise the wasted space underneath the T-top and turn it into extra storage. You may struggle to find them in Australia though, as Riley picked his up in a Bass Pro Shop in Los Angeles, USA.

When it comes to the cockpit layout there is a great uncluttered work space with a foldaway bench seat running across three-quarters of the transom; it is comfortable, super sturdy and when folded down doesn’t eat away any fishing space.

In the middle of the cockpit you’ll find the extra-large 113lt in-deck live baitwell, although personally I’m not too fond of in-deck baitwells. Having the tank in the floor means you’ve got to get down on your knees every time you need a fresh livey. Safety is also a concern with these deep in-deck baitwells – if the hatch is left open in a bit of swell you run the risk of slipping and joining the fun in the salty, scaly Jacuzzi, just like I did during the day’s fishing.



Simrad display in Contender 23Open

There’s more than $30,000 worth of fish-finding goodness onboard. Flush-mounted in the dash was a 16in NSO evo2 multi-touch monitor but since testing, it has actually been replaced with a whopping 24in unit – which I’m told takes up the entire dash and would put most small family TVs to shame! Hooked up to that are in-hull CHIRP and StructureScan transducers. Also fully integrated is the 4G broadband radar and autopilot.

There’s also a 12in NSS Touchscreen mounted on the forward bulkhead, for … just, well, because!

Additionally, both of these displays are connected to Simrad’s GoFree wireless system that allows you to view and even take control of your chartplotter from anywhere onboard with your tablet or smartphone – pretty handy, huh? In the beats department you’ve got the Fusion system with a head unit mounted on the dash and a secondary control unit hooked up on the forward bulkhead. For crystal clear sound, there’s an amp, two 250W speakers and a subwoofer for when it comes to getting your groove on during a heated jigging session.



Twin 200hp E-TEC outboard motors

The Contender 23 Open has two juicy 200hp Evinrude E-TEC direct-injection outboard motors on the transom. These 2.6lt small-block power machines ensure the 23 Open is an absolute rocketship on the water, planing quickly and easily. E-TEC technology utilises the benefits of two-stroke torque while still remaining fuel-efficient.

Having this responsive two-stroke grunt throughout all the rev bands means you’ve got power right at your finger tips for when you need it – especially handy when you need to navigate in a big swell. Twin outboards are also a great safety feature for long range fishing boats like the 23 Open with its huge 567lt fuel tank. In the unlikely event that one engine packs it up you’ve still got the other to get you home.



Launching a Contender 23 Open at boat ramp

The Contender 23 Open has the looks, the hardware and the horsepower to back it all up. But would I own one of these boats? If it wasn’t for the price tag, yes, in a heartbeat.

Although the manufacturer may disagree with me, they’re not weekend cruisers or even versatile family fishers – they’re hardcore fishing boats for serious anglers and that’s what I love about them. The Contender 23 Open certainly lived up to all my childhood expectations and I’ll definitely keep drooling every time I see one on the water.


See the full version of this review in Trade-A-Boat #456, August / September 20104. Why not subscribe today?



• Awesome helm and T-top design

• Soft riding and dry

• Flawlessly integrated Simrad electronics system

• Super stable for a deep-vee boat



• Bait tank in the floor

• Lack of storage

• People fishing from the bow can change the music on you!




Contender 23 Open price: $150,000



TYPE Monohull


LENGTH 7.09m

BEAM 2.49m

DRAFT 45.72cm

WEIGHT 1270kg (dry)





REC. HP 300


FUEL 567lt



MAKE/MODEL 2 x Evinrude E-TEC E200DPX outboard motors

TYPE Two-stroke petrol outboard motor

RATED HP 200 (each)

DISPLACEMENT 2589cc (each)

WEIGHT 196kg (each)




5/8 Marina Close,

Mt Kuring-gai, NSW, 2080

PHONE 0432 736 500





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