In the world of boats, the center console reigns supreme. The center console describes a style of sports boat where the driver controls feature a central configuration, as opposed to being more to one side of the vessel like many speed boat designs.
The center console is not itself a type of boat design, like the bowrider or flats boat.
All boat designs featuring a central console fall into the category. For example, you could have a pontoon boat with a center console or a cabin boat with a center console configuration.
Choosing a center console design benefits the driver, giving them a central position over the boat, allowing for 360-degree vision around the vessel. Typically, the center console is the best choice for fishing boats.
The console’s position allows for better movement around the boat, giving you easier access to the front, rear, and sides, allowing fishing from any side. Suppose you’re a dedicated fisherman or a diver. In that case, the center console offers you the best option for increasing your passenger capacity and allowing access to the water from any position on the boat.
- What Is a Center Console Boat?
- Benefits of Center Console Boats
- 360-Degree Captain Visibility
- Plenty of Deck Space
- Speed and Handling
- Plenty of Seating
- Jet, Outboard, or Inboard Motors
- Multiple Sizing Options and Boat Styles
- Disadvantages of Center Console Boats
- Less Weather Protection
- Less Storage
- No Accommodations
- Not all Models Feature Towers
- Types of Center Console Boats
- Top Center Console Models and Brands
- Wrapping Up
What Is a Center Console Boat?
The console describes the “dashboard” of the boat housing the controls and electronics. You’ll find the steering wheel, throttle, GPS, ignition, and compass all on the console within easy reach. Typically, the console offers you a standing setup, allowing for control of the boat from a standing or seated position.
The center console may come with an open design or a windshield around the console. Many models also have sunshades using a T-tower system for support. These shades are positioned above the console to protect the driver from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
The console station often has a cuddy for easy storage of equipment. Center consoles also prefer working with outboard motors, and some models may come with stern-driven or inboard engines. Larger fishing boats above 21-feet usually have a fully functional head inside the center console storage.
However, cabin and cuddy models may not facilitate this option, as you’ll find the head in the V-berth below deck. The center console differs in size and functionality depending on the type of boat and the manufacturing brand.
Benefits of Center Console Boats
The center console design has two primary advantages for fishing and cruising. The center console layout gives the angler the chance to cast or fish from any side of the boat.
Fishing center consoles also are lightweight, easy to drag onto the trailer, and are usually inexpensive. Most center console designs for fishing don’t come with any cabin or accommodation for the anglers. Center console designs in Express boats and convertible boats.
The lightweight nature of fishing center consoles gives them plenty of performance and excellent maneuverability while remaining light on fuel consumption for an extended range when out on the water. Most center console fishing boats require minimal maintenance, and all they need is a quick rinse with fresh water after trailering the vessel.
360-Degree Captain Visibility
The central position of the console allows the captain a 360-degree view of their surroundings, giving them better command and control of the boat, especially when turning.
Since the central position gives you easy access to either side of the boat, they are easy to dock, and it’s easy for one person to dock the boat themselves.
Plenty of Deck Space
The center console design frees up space around the boat. If you’re fishing and get a bite, the fish could swim under the boat, snapping your line. With the center console, the angler can move around the boat’s sides to navigate the line and keep the fish on the hook.
Center consoles also allow for rod positioning on any side of the boat, and you have downriggers and outriggers and downriggers available on some models.
The center console has the largest variety of any boat style. You can pick up a center console design on any boat model, from yachts to dinghies, bay boats, and more. Fishing center consoles come in a variety of lengths and designs to suit your fishing requirements.
The center console boat is also one of the most versatile designs available. It’s ideal for skiing, fishing, or just cruising. We already discussed the benefits for fishing, but you also get benefits for water sports, with the captain getting a wraparound view of the water.
The center console fishing boat is one of the more affordable models for anglers. These boats typically feature minimal features, and they focus on watersports or fishing.
Typically, you’ll pay anything from $10,000 to $50,000 or more when purchasing a center console fishing boat. As mentioned, the center console design is available for all boats, including expensive models like yachts and cabin cruisers.
Speed and Handling
The center console positions the driver in the center of the boat. As a result, they have a near-even distance to the front and rear and even spacing between the vessel’s sides. As a result, the driver has more control over the boat, allowing for easy docking, better maneuverability, and total control over the vessel when docking.
Plenty of Seating
The center console allows for seating around the boat. Fishing boat designs typically have seating in the front and rear of the vessel, and some may offer benches on the side of the boat as well. These boats are spacious, allowing for easy movement around all sides of the watercraft.
Jet, Outboard, or Inboard Motors
The center console fishing boat is available with several motor configurations. Typically, outboard motors are the more popular setup, especially on entry-level models. However, there are center console fishing boats available with inboard and jet propulsion motors as well.
Multiple Sizing Options and Boat Styles
As mentioned, the center console offers anglers, watersports enthusiasts, and cruisers a range of designs, boat styles, and lengths to suit your needs.
Disadvantages of Center Console Boats
The center console fishing boat is lightweight, affordable, and easy to maintain. However, it does come with a few drawbacks.
Less Weather Protection
The open-plan design of the boat means there is nowhere to go below deck to get out of the sun. Many models have sun shades, but these shades usually only cover the driver area.
Smaller models might have less storage space than you expect. The center console may offer you a cabinet, but it’s not usually small, and some models may have a toilet in the console, offering less storage space.
Most fishing center consoles don’t offer a berth or accommodations for staying on the boat overnight. They also have few utilities, such as galleys and fridges found on the larger cabin and cuddy models.
Not all Models Feature Towers
If your fishing boat doesn’t include a tower in the center console, then you’re going to have issues with spotting fish, particularly in bait-and-switch trolling.
Types of Center Console Boats
The center console boat is most commonly a fishing boat design. They have lower sides and seating around the vessel, allowing you to carry more passengers. As a result, they are a popular choice for fishing and diving.
However, the reality is that any boat with a central driver configuration can qualify as a “center console” design. As a result, the center console is the most popular driver option in almost all boat designs.
Here are the most common boat designs featuring a center console setup.
The flats boat is a step up from the polling skiff. This boat usually has an aluminum or fiberglass hull with a flat design. As a result, these boats can maneuver through very shallow water without running aground.
The deck is flush with the casting platform, giving it the “flat” moniker. The Hewes Redfisher 16 is an example of a popular flats boat model using a center console design. The flats boat is the best choice for anglers that enjoy fishing in lakes and shallow estuaries.
The bay boat is another style of boat that commonly features a center console design. This boat has more of a free-board in the hull side height, drawing on more water, with a deep V-shaped hull for additional stability in choppy water when fishing inshore.
These models are anywhere from 15 to 25-feet in length, and they are the fastest-growing segment of the center console market. The boat gets its name from its use for fishing in bays, such as the Chesapeake Bay and Biscayne Bay. A great example of a popular bay boat using the center console design is the KeyWest 210 BR.
The “Blue Water” or offshore center console is ideal for deep-sea fishing, offering you a deep V-hull design and powerful motors. These boats slice through open water, and they handle large swells easily. As a result, anglers can have more confidence in the vessel, allowing them to take it far offshore.
Offshore models are harder to get onto the trailer, and they will also draw more water, making them unsuitable for shallow water use. Offshore boats come in longer lengths, averaging between 20 to 40-feet, and they rely on multiple engine setups for power and speed. A great example of this boat is the Boston Whaler 250 Outrage.
Some models feature a hybrid design, combining the best elements of bowriders, bay boats, and deck boats.
They are typically family-friendly models, offering comfortable seating, extended passenger capacity, a wider beam, amenities, and customization for cruising, entertaining, water sports, and fishing.
Most models feature lengths of between 21 to 26-feet. An excellent example of a hybrid design is the NauticStar 231 Hybrid or the Robalo Explorer 222.
The catamaran fishing boat features two hulls for additional stability on the water, especially at higher speeds. They are the ideal boat for offshore fishing, cutting through large swell and chop with ease. You get a smooth operation and a stable platform for fishing.
Fiberglass boats are the fastest-growing segment for these boats due to their safe and smooth ride, fun feel, and versatile performance.
Top Center Console Models and Brands
There are dozens of manufacturing brands producing center console boat designs. Almost every boat maker offers a center console design in their range. Here are some of our favorite models for the best center console boats.
The Boston Whaler earned itself the reputation as the “unsinkable Legend.” According to details, you could cut this boat in half, and it will still float.
Boston Whaler is a division of the Brunswick Group, and it manufacturers a range of center console fishing boats, including the smaller 15-foot Montauk 150 and the massive 420 Outrage.
Contender is a popular brand with anglers, offering tournament-ready boats featuring center console designs. The smaller “fish around” boat dome in lengths of 15-feet or more, and Contender also builds a 25-foot bay boat for inshore fishing on open water.
You get several seating configurations from the 44ST model featuring dual 55-gallon livewells and the 24S with its forward-bench seating. Contender utilizes outboard motors with outputs ranging from 300-HP to 425-HP XTOs on its larger models.
This manufacturer offers ten center console models in its range, with 235-CC to 435-CC engine capacities. Everglades Boats use a patented RAMCAP design that makes the boat unsinkable, like the Boston Whaler.
You get three bat boat designs on the range, all offering your center console designs. You get seven models for offshore use and three options for bay boats.
The center console is the most popular driver configuration across all boat designs. You get better control of the boat, more freedom to walk around all sides of the vessel, and the widest range of models.
The center console fishing boat is an affordable, lightweight choice, and a great deal for first-time boat buyers, with some models priced as low as $10,000. If you’re looking for a versatile boat, choose a center console.