10 Best Center Console Boats
The waterways of America are filled with center consoles, but these 10 best center console boats stand apart from the crowd.
It’s worth noting that six out of 10 of our picks for the 10 Best Fishing Boats for 2022 were center console models, while no other style of boat scored more than a single slot. Why did the center consoles rank so high? For most people, center console boats are the best choice among the different fishing boat designs on the water today, and many of them come in smaller sizes under 25ft.
These boats have become shockingly popular, so much so that the builders of some speed boats and even day cruisers have shifted to center console layouts. So, which are the best 10 center console boats available right now?
Here are the top picks for best center console boats for 2023:
- Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless
- Chris-Craft Catalina 34
- Caymas 28 HB Twin
- Freeman 43
- Grady-White Canyon 271
- Invincible 33 Catamaran
- Mako Pro Skiff 17 CC
- Regulator 23
- Robalo R230
- Valhalla V-55
1. Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless
The 280 Dauntless is the newest center console in Boston Whaler’s fleet and is the biggest Dauntless yet. Like other Boston Whalers, it’s differentiated from the masses by how it’s built: the hull and liner are molded, the two parts are then put into a mold that gets bolted shut, and the space between them is pumped full of closed cell foam under intense pressure.
The foam expands and solidifies to fill all belowdecks voids while bonding to the fiberglass surfaces. Net result? A glass-foam-glass sandwich that absorbs sound and vibration insulates compartments below deck level and is fully finished on all surfaces. It also results in a completely unsinkable boat — cut a 280 Dauntless into 100 pieces, and each piece will remain buoyant.
- Estimated MSRP: Not publicly available at this time – please contact Boston Whaler directly.
2. Caymas 28 HB
Hybrid bay boats are one of the most popular sub-categories of center consoles, and the king of them all may be the Caymas 28 HB. To call it “roomy” for a bay boat is utterly absurd, as the 27’7” long, 9’4” wide footprint is massive for this type of boat.
It’s one of the few bay boats around that can be rigged with twins, and if you opt for the maximum 600 horsepower, you’ll see hat-stripping speeds in the neighborhood of 70 mph. As far as fishing features go, you won’t have any disappointments (heck, livewell capacity alone is 70 gallons), but the boat’s most interesting characteristic is the hull design.
Called the SVVT and designed by the legendary Michael Peters, it has twin steps that feed a tunnel to provide a speed and efficiency boost of 15% compared to a standard-issue V-hull.
- Estimated MSRP:199,000
3. Chris-Craft Catalina 34
If you want a center console with a dash of panache, the Catalina 34 will be difficult to top. This boat may be a center console, but between the teak, polished stainless steel, and diamond-stitched upholstery, it’s also a work of art — you may want to think twice before swinging a gaff.
The Catalina 34 also has an oversized list of creature comforts, like hot and cold freshwater transom showers, air conditioning at the helm, and a console cabin finished in your choice of walnut, oak, or silver bullet. If you’re looking for a center console that qualifies as eye candy and scores a perfect 10 in the luxury department, you just found it.
- Estimated MSRP:$613,690
4. Freeman 43
Freeman is responsible for causing a big jump in the popularity of high-performance fishing catamaran center consoles. Their 43 takes all the performance, seakeeping ability, and fishability of the company’s other models and injects a heaping helping of luxury.
Running with quadruple 400-hp outboards, this boat can cruise — yes, cruise — at around 45 mph and push well up into the 60s when you mash down the throttles. Unlike its similar sibling, the 42LR, the 43 has second-row seating, so six people can kick back and enjoy the ride behind the helm.
Fishing-wise, the way the boat is equipped is a jaw-dropper: there are 24 flush-mount standard-issue gunwale rod holders, twin 70-gallon pressurized livewells, and twin 127.5-gallon fishboxes in the forward coffin-box alone.
- Estimated MSRP:$1,900,000
5. Grady-White Canyon 271
Grady-White has a well-deserved reputation for building some of the best fishing boats around, and Canyon 271 sits in a sweet spot for anglers who enjoy playing both bay and ocean waters. It’s large and beefy enough to handle any reasonable sea conditions, runs smoothly on the SeaV2 variable-degree deadrise hull, and has a range of well over 200 miles while cruising at speeds of over 40 mph.
Like most Grady-Whites, it’s thoroughly equipped for serious angling from stem to stern, and it also has many creature comforts like a head compartment in the console, seating with flip-up bolsters, and a pull-out freshwater shower in the transom.
- Estimated MSRP:$351,155
6. Invincible 33 Catamaran
Those who want an uber-competent oceanic powercat but don’t want to spend millions of dollars on a huge quad-engine rig will be looking at the Invincible 33 Catamaran. And there must be many such people out there because when Invincible introduced the model in 2020, they immediately sold out a year’s worth of production.
Running on two variable-degree deadrise hulls powered by twin outboards up to 900-hp total, this boat delivers all the performance of the big boys with a cruising speed in the 40s and a top end nicking at the 70-mph mark.
It also delivers crushing fishability, with rod holders ringing the gunwales, multiple livewells fed by a sea chest, options for a folding tower with an upper station, and a coffin box forward of the console.
- Estimated MSRP:$390,000
7. Mako Pro Skiff 17 CC
The Mako Pro Skiff 17 CC may be the smallest boat in this roundup, but its appeal is huge for anglers who want a small, light, easy-to-handle, affordable rig that can probe the shallows and run across a chop better than most boats of its size.
The stand-apart feature here is Mako’s “inverted V” hull, which rides somewhat like a powercat and drafts a mere 8”. With the standard 60-hp outboard, the Pro Skiff 17 CC will run at speeds up to 30 mph, and even when you add a bunch of options like a fishfinder, bow-mount trolling motor, and battery charger, the cost stays below the $30,000 mark.
Whether you’re looking for a primary fishing machine or a small boat to go places your larger center console can’t access, this one’s a winner.
- Estimated MSRP:$26,995
8. Regulator 23
When it comes to boats designed purely for offshore angling, one would be hard-pressed to argue against the Regulator 23 as one of the best center console boats under 25ft that can handle the chore. With a 24-degree deep-V hull and power options, including a single Yamaha F300 or twin F150s, this boat is intended to slice through the rollers at high speeds for hours on end.
Once you get to the offshore grounds, you’ll find it takes a monster catch to fill up over 200 total gallons of insulated fishbox capacity, but features like the 46-gallon transom livewell, 16” Garmin MFD, and 360-degree coaming pads will certainly help make it happen.
- Estimated MSRP: $154,000
9. Robalo R230
Those in search of the best center console boat under 25ft, which is easily trailered, can handle inshore duty but also head offshore on nice days, and — critically — doesn’t break the bank in the process, will be interested in the Robalo R230.
This builder has long delivered a big bang for the buck, and that tradition continues with the R230, which comes equipped with a long list of standard features including big-ticket items many other builders sell as cost-adding options.
The list includes a tandem axel trailer with four-wheel disc brakes and side guides; a leaning post with flip-up bolsters, four rocket launchers, and a 72-quart cooler; digital gauges; tilt-hydraulic steering; and a waterproof wireless charging dock for your phone.
- Estimated MSRP:$98,085
10. Valhalla V-55
Valhalla Boatworks established itself as a builder of top-shelf center consoles right out of the gate, which is no wonder considering that Valhallas are the center console line for Viking Yachts. The newest in their fleet is the recently introduced V-55, a rather extravagant center console yacht with a cabin in the console so huge it has two staterooms, a galley, a stand-up head compartment, and a separate stall shower.
It also has an outdoor settee behind the four-seat helm, a Seakeeper 9 gyroscopic stabilization system, dual 65-gallon livewells, and a pair of 110-gallon refrigerated fishboxes. Oh, and did we mention that it can handle up to 3,000 horsepower?
- MSRP: $2,400,000
You say these boats are so cool, you’re just dying to have all 10? We feel your pain. But while it may be a stretch for most of us to buy 10 boats, at least you can rent a center console whenever the mood strikes!
Editor’s Note: Pricing is accurate as last date of publish, September 30, 2022. Please contact each boat manufacturer or your local boat dealer directly for the most updated pricing.
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With over three decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to dozens of boating and fishing publications and websites ranging from BoatU.S. Magazine to BDOutdoors.com. Rudow is currently the Angler in Chief at Rudow’s FishTalk, he is a past president of Boating Writers International (BWI), a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.