Which of these 22' center console catamarans puts the purr in your personal fishing time?
By The Boating Tech Team
Photos by John Troha
Traditional boaters love to hate catamarans. Cats handle differently than monohulls, generally cost more for the same length, and most damning of all, look strange. But after a few four-foot waves at 40 mph without having their vertebrae compressed, these same boaters often become cat converts, largely due to a power catamaran's ability to run fast in heavy seas without dishing out a beating. In a center console cat, you can go out to cast, jig, and troll when you want to - not when the weather dictates.
Once you've experienced a smooth cat ride, there's a good chance you'll decide to buy a cat, which is when things get tricky. There's only a handful of production powercat builders. And because many dealers primarily depend on the sale of monohulls, they may not know how to properly rig or run a cat. As a result, demo rides are often less than spectacular. Worse, there's a lot of misinformation out there. So how is anyone supposed to choose?
Good question, and exactly why we gathered four 22' center console cats - the Glacier Bay 2260 Canyon Runner, Pro Sports ProKat 2200CC, Sea Cat 22CC and Twin Vee Awesome 22CC - and made them jump through hoops to find out which handles the nicest, rides the softest, is built the strongest, likes anglers the most, and proves to be a bargain. Each had the same engines, props, amount of fuel, and number of crew. You couldn't get a more fair evaluation than this.
GLACIER BAY 2260
These semidisplacement hulls have a reputation for riding more smoothly than their planning cousins. There was absolutely no pounding. The ride was spray free. But semidisplacement cats have a tendency to lean outward in a turn, and this boat heeled the most. Rigging is critical. If the engines aren't cocked out to the sides by four degrees, speed, fuel consumption, and ride are noticeably affected. Not all dealers do this.
This has the longest list of standard fishing features. The only option you'll need is the 30-gallon livewell ($1,761). Fishboxes are insulated and can handle a pair of 100-pound tuna, but they rely on pumps to drain-not the best method. Gutters
and gaskets fit so well that if you kick a gas strut-assisted hatch shut, it will ease itself closed with a whoosh. Half of the bow fishing area is lost to the head compartment. Passengers will love this and the extra seating it provides up forward; die-hard anglers will curse the loss of deck space.
This is the hands-down winner for best finish. Structurally, it's also a winner, with bolts backed by washers, plates, and locking nuts. The hull-to-deck joint is bolted and glassed. Hull bottoms are lined with foam and glassed over for strength; bulkheads are glass-encapsulated, rot-resistant plywood; and all hatches are assisted by a gas strut. Every fitting is a cut above, from the chrome-plated stainless-steel fasteners to the tilt helm.
HIGHS & LOWS
HIGHS: Best-looking feline in the fleet. Comprehensive standard features. Only boat with an enclosed head in a hull, which also creates extra seating in the bow cockpit. Hatches all shush shut and seal well.
LOWS: Costs significantly more. Speeds are a notch behind the rest. Enclosed head compartment eats into fishing space. Outward lean may take getting used to.
$54,962 (w/115-hp outboards). Includes: 8 rodholders; leaning post w/backrest; bow cushions; coaming pads; 74-qt. cooler w/cushion; portable MSD; hydraulic steering w/tilt wheel; 2 fuel/water separators; dual battery switch; raw-water washdown; compass; 12v outlet; bow pulpit w/roller.
This boat also has semidisplacement hulls, although it tends more toward planing. It also took waves with ease and noticeably leaned out-ward. Lateral stability was the best of the bunch; it bobbed, or rode up and down, a bit more than the others when taking a head sea, but this movement was slow and impact free. Water noise was more audible than on the others.
We like the wide-open foredeck and cavernous stowage box below. It has the best live-bait capacity, with twin standard 30-gallon livewells. The transom bracket is easy to walk through so you can work fish around the outboards. Each fishbox can handle several 100-pound--or heavier-fish. But they hold water and drain only when running. There's a large console for the enclosed head, which means the pass-throughs on each side are narrower than on the other boats.
Hulls are reinforced with foam-filled stringers. The finish is good, on a par with the Sea Cat and better than the TWin vee, but not up to the Glacier Bay. The hull-to-deck joint is screwed and sealed with an adhesive. None of the hatches is supported by a strut. The flow-through pickups on the livewells are a plus. Bow cushion snap system lets you fold back the cushions and access the compartment beneath without unsnapping them.
HIGHS & LOWS
HIGHS: The most stowage. Transom walk-through and large motor bracket area make it easy to work fish. The most livewell capacity, and it comes standard. There's a head in the console.
LOWS: Fishboxes must be plugged to Stay dry. Hatches slam shut. More up-and-down motion in seas than planing cats. Hull-to-deck joint isn't bolted or glassed. Outward lean may take some getting used to.
$41,932 (w/115-hp outboards). Includes: 4 gunwale-mounted rodholders; 4 under-gunwale rodracks; leaning post; 2 30-gallon livewells; boarding ladder; hydraulic steering; bow pulpit w/roller; raw-water washdown.
SEA CAT 22CC
Running this boat is just plain fun. The planning hulls remain more or less flat in the turns. It rises up out of the water more than the semidisplacement cats do as you increase speed, climbing onto a cushion of compressed air. This seemed to negate that slow, bobbing motion, and in cresting waves the boat remained flat. We suspect that this may be one of the most comfortable boats for its length in rough water at high speeds.
Between the insulated forward fishbox and a standard 94-quart cooler, there is plenty of fish stowage. The forward and aft cockpits are obstruction free. This is the only boat that doesn't have a transom that's easy to walk through to help fight fish at the stern. The upside to this is a 40-gallon livewell and an extra cooler/fishbox aft. This boat has the best built-in tackleboxes, with two large and two medium Planos that swing out of the side of the console.
Each hull has three full-width fiberglass "boxes" that incorporate the bulkheads. These are glassed in place, filled with foam, and sealed over with fiberglass. Finish is a notch behind the Glacier Bay. All hatches forward of the transom are on gas-assisted struts. There are two spring struts aft that Sea Cat says it will do away with. The hull-to-deck joint is screwed together and sealed with fiberglass putty.
HIGHS & LOWS
HIGHS: Great ride, top-notch handling, high marks for efficiency and being the fastest. Construction gives it a rock-solid feel. Tackle stowage is best of the bunch.
LOWS: Transom is full height, so it will be tough to work a fish. Livewell and fishbox hatches have spring struts, which often break. Nonslip is on the slippery side.
$40,485 (w/115-hp outboards). Includes: 4 gunwale-mounted rodholders; 4 under-gunwale rodracks; hydraulic steering; 2 fuel filter/water separators; raw-water wash-down; 94.qt. cooler w/cushion; cockpit toerails.
This boat's planing hulls rise over the chop and eat it up for breakfast. But it's possible to launch this lightweight out of the water. Although there was some pitch and roll involved in a high reentry, it was slam free. There was no outward lean at all, and the boat was responsive to the wheel.
Hulls are sealed, so there are no fishboxes in the deck. Stowage under the forward casting platform is plentiful but not insulated. Bring a large cooler to chill your catch. Access around the outboards is best on this boat. To get the 32-gallon livewell, you need to opt for the leaning post, which costs $600. In fact, almost every feature is an add-on. The low gunwales facilitate hand washing and landing heavy fish, but without the optional rails, their lack of height will make some people nervous.
The hulls are filled with foam and capped by a rot-resistant, plywood-cored sole. Hatches are plastic and not supported by struts. But they're light, so they don't slam. We like the hose-and-go, speckled interior. We question screwing an aluminum L-bracket to the deck to which the center console is bolted. The gunwale cap is bolted and sealed. 3" PVC tubes, wrapped in fiberglass and bonded to the hulls, act as stringers and rigging tubes.
HIGHS & LOWS
HIGHS: The most efficient boat here. Smoothness of ride and handling are at the top of the heap. Transom is easy to work fish around the props. Speckled interior hides dirt, cuts down on cleaning.
LOWS: Finish is less than perfect. Speckled interior isn't pretty. Screwed-down L-bracket securing the console could lead to problems. No built-in fishbox. Short standards list.
$33,959 (w/115-hp outboards). Includes: hydraulic steering; ss steering wheel; console w/forward seat; accent stripes.
The least expensive boat isn't always a bargain, nor is the most expensive boat necessarily the best. It's all about value-what you get for your dollar.
At $54,962, the Glacier Bay costs a lot more than the others. Meeeee-ouch! But look at that long list of standards. Match the others by adding on their options, and the difference is not as extreme. Still, it's the most costly. Why? Extraordinary attention paid to fit and finish, the use of top-shelf hardware, and high-grade construction techniques. A lot of care goes into building this boat. It shows -- you pay.
The ProKat starts out at about $13,000 less than the Glacier Bay. However, the difference is closer to $10,000 when you add on similar options. That still leaves you with enough money left over for a T-top and electronics. Any way you cut it, the Pro Sports provides a lot of value for its list price.
The Sea Cat is priced at $40,485, just a tick under the ProKat, making it the second least costly fishing machine in the bunch. It's not over-loaded, but it's not stripped, either. The fishing must-haves-rodholders, livewell, insulated fishbox, and wash-down- are all included in this number. Bottom line: Even though it's not the rock-bottom lowest number in the rally, this boat provides the most value per dollar spent.
Twin Vee clearly provides maximum LOA for minimum investment. But at $33,959, this boat is stripped. That number doesn't even include a helm seat or props. Let's add the bare minimum: Twin engine rigging ($779, two batteries and boxes ($172), console windshield and grabrail ($328), twin pedestal seats ($399), four gunwale rodholders ($120), and props ($698). That brings the real-world cost up to $36,451. Now add in the options that bring it even with the Sea Cat and ProKat: fore and aft siderails ($628), a leaning post with livewell ($599), and plumbing for the livewell and raw-water washdown ($299). That pulls up the price to $37,977. It's still a good deal. But not as much as you thought.
King of the Jungle
Although we love its looks and the quality of its build, the Glacier Bay 2260 Canyon Runner's assets don't push it up our list as much as its high cost pulls it down. We liked the ride, handling, and performance. But we liked the ride, handling, and performance of the other cats, too. Considering the fit and finish, as well as the comprehensive list of factory-installed standard features, it's pretty clear that this boat will be the number-one pick for those who want the gold-platter, but not for your average angler.
The Pro Sports ProKat 2200CC fills a great middle-of-the-road niche. It looks good, rides well, fishes nicely, and has a reasonable cost. It's a tough competitor. However, it's not the winner of this rally, as its ride, handling, and performance were a tick behind the planing boats. Plus, we'd like to see a few construction details addressed. The slamming hatches and screwed-on (give us bolts, please) and adhesive hull-to-deck joint should both be improved.
The Twin Vee Awesome 22CC scores big points for costing the least, riding so smoothly, and sporting the most efficient pair of hulls in the contest. But we're bothered by the hidden costs -- figuring out exactly how much this new boat will cost you is confusing. And the no-frills fit and finish, screwed-in console bracing, and lack of integrated stowage, fishboxes, and tackleboxes hold it back from the winner's circle.
The Sea Cat 22CC's full-width integrated transom is a tradeoff for aft accessibility. Some anglers will like it; some won't. What we'd like is to see the oval nonslip replaced with something more grippy, and those spring struts must go. Beyond that, this boat has the sharpest teeth and the fastest claws in this pack of cats. In every category we considered, the Sea Cat scored at or near the top. It rides with the best of them, goes faster than the rest, maintains good efficiency, handles like a sports car, comes ready to fish out of the box, and provides maximum value for the price. Plus, it's a looker. That's why Sea Cat's 22CC wins the kitty.
<Twin Vee Performance Data Click Here>
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