Boat Buying Guide: Small – Medium Size Center Consoles

There is something romantically charming to me with the simplicity associated with fishing on a small center console for stripers. The “mental overhead” of hopping on with a few rods and a small tackle bag for a short trip is often all I can afford with a busy schedule associated with owning a small business, being a husband on land and an involved dad.  For starters, (keeping the money factor out of the equation) they are easy to manage, you can tow a small center with a small SUV or truck, and they are easy to clean. 

But what I like most about small centers is the places that they can take you that a big rig cannot. A small center console nimbly maneuvers around rocks, draws little water in the shallows and makes very little noise that might spook a big fish cruising. A small center can pretty much do it all here on Cape Cod if you pick your days right and more times than not will give you an advantage if the weather agrees.


  • Easy to hop in and use. Less preparation and less clean up. I often say, they smaller the boat, the more it seems to get uses.
  • Very nimble and easily maneuverable. Handy when boating fish. Great size for first boat to learn.
  • Quiet, easy to sneak up on finicky fish. You likely have just one engine and not much hull slapping the water. I had a Pathfinder 23dv years ago and my favorite part about fishing on that boat was how easy it was to tip-to up to the school.
  • Easy To Cast: With open bows, you have very few obstructions when trying to cast 
  • Size: The smaller size makes it easy to trailer with everyday SUVs and Half-Ton pickup trucks, making you nimble if the bite is going off in a far away place. Easy road trip!


  • Size: A small center’s advantage becomes a disadvantage when the fish move offshore or in marginally windy weather. You’ll have to cancel days when larger style center consoles can still make it out. The small size also becomes problematic when the weather changes and you may find yourself in an uncomfortable and possibly unsafe ride home. You are also limited to 2 possibly 3 anglers.
  • Storage: Limited amount of space to store extra gear, ice, coolers, food, drinks.
  • Stability: A small center console is obviously going to be rockier than a larger boat. This is exponentially true on an extreme deep V version without the added length, width and weight of a larger center.

Striper Perspective

I bet more 50lb striped bass are caught on small center consoles than all the other boats mentioned below. Small centers are great fro getting into the rocks, shallow water flats and estuaries to stealthily target stripers. This boat is small and manageable for just one person to operate while fishing. Small centers are great for trolling contour lines; they are very nimble and offer super slow idle speed.

Albie Perspective


A small center is the king of the albie fleet: nimble, quick and quiet. A small center is the least disturbing of all the boats in the fleet and will spook Albies far less than the other boats.

Tuna Perspective

It’s awesome how many anglers can target 300lb+ fish in center consoles as small as 21’. A small center can give you a stealth advantage to sneaking up on nearby Bluefin tuna or the ability to trailer with ease to strategic boat ramps that are close to the fish or a far away region to extend your season. Even though Bluefin can come in close, you are still in big ocean and even marginal weather will cancel many trips for you.

Ground Fish Perspective

black sea bass

Small centers are great for very near shore ground fishing which is fantastic in Cape Waters. You will easily find big Tautog, sea bass and Scup for most of the season.

Capt. Mike’s Notes From Years of Boating on the Cape

16 Maritime Skiff

Great for very inshore fishing. It was magical in how stable it was for it’s size. Could get anywhere I wanted in the rocks. Was amazing how big it was for a 16’ boat. Ideally, a two-angler boat. Burned nothing for fuel and cruised perfectly with a 50 4stroke Suzuki. Very simple and rugged boat. 

18 Maritime Skiff

 The ride on the 18 was similar to the 16, which was remarkably stable for it’s size. The extra 2’ greatly increase fish ability of more than 2 anglers and handled heavy seas much better. Mine was powered with a 90 Suzuki 4stroke and cruised much faster than the 16. Maybe about 25kts? It’s been a while; I can’t quite remember actual details. I trailered this boat everywhere and caught more 50lb stripers on this boat than all the others I have owned or run combined. I took this boat Bluefin tuna fishing a few times on bluebird days in Cape Cod Bay. This boat sipped fuel and had the range, but watch the weather, it’s relatively flat bottom will pound you in afternoon chop.

23 Sea Craft

I have a few good buddies with a 23 sea craft. Every time I am on one, I remark to myself how much I love this hull. The boat refuses to pound due to it’s deep vee paired with massive amounts of fiberglass, making it a very heavy boat for it’s size. You might get a glittle wet at medium speeds but this boat will get you through some gnarly seas. A vintage Sea Craft is a very simple and badass boat.

23 Parker

Although I have never owned a parker, I have put many hours on the 23’ version over the years. The Parkers I fished on were Modified V versions and were notably stable and fuel efficient but pounded a little in a chop. These boats are built well, easy to clean and hold their resale value. Great inshore boat.

23 Pathfinder

Man, I loved this boat, which is discontinued. They called it a “23” but as it was laid out compared more to a big 21’ Center Console. Starting at the boat, the boat had oversized capes on the gunnels, which allowed you to lean on the gunnel all the way around the bow, which was a huge benefit for a caster or someone fighting a large fish. The boat had a deep V but a flat integrated transom. This resulted in a nice ride bit was far less tippy than a typical center console in it’s size class. The boat was light and easily powered with a single 250 Yamaha but once you got the hang of running it, could handle some big seas. I even had this boat in the shipping lanes a couple of times. The console was huge; I could even hold a bagged 6man life raft in it.

24 Everglades

I ran a 24 Everglades with a single 300hp Yamaha the summer of 2018. The boat was magical. It weighed 5000lb and had a sharp entry, deep V and a flatter transom which made the boat a beast running and at drift. It reminded me of the 23 Pathfinder DV but with an extra 1500lbs. Magical. The boat had “lower” gunnels, not no as low as a bay boat. I thought it was going to take a while to get used to them but fell in love with the height instantly. The gunnels where high enough to make them safe in rough conditions but low enough for interactive fishing. You can see the review here:

25 Mako

My Dad bought a 1979 Mako when I was a kid. It was underpowered by today’s standards with a single 200hp 2 stroke Johnson but that boat took us everywhere. I have awesome memories of fishing with my dad on this boat. It defined “simple” with only a depth finder and a compass. My dad was busy like I am now and I am sure if that boat was any more complicated than it was, we would have gone fishing a fraction of the time that we did.

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