Historically, an express style boat is defined as a “cabin-style boat” with a full cabin with a helm on the same level as the cockpit, with maybe the addition of a step up to the bridge deck. Express style boats sometimes have a marlin tower (a second station where you stand on a common hard top) and a “tuna tower” where the standing position at the second helm is another story up. An express style boat differs from a “flybridge” style boat where you have a full deck level cabin and the only helm is up top above the cabin. An express style boat is far more popular than a flybridge style boat as it is difficult to run the boat on the second station and also be an angler. As I touched on above with large center consoles, modern large-style outboards have changed the game. In terms of express style boats, many models that would have been only available with inboard diesels as recently as 10 years ago are now only available today with large style outboards. The combination of less day-to-day maintenance, allowance for an aft cabin where engines once were and increased speed is responsible for their increased popularity.
- Comfort: You have the ability to take rests while on a long trip. Cook food, take a shower to refresh and simply just get out of the sun for a break
- Weather Protection: You’ll get less tired from running inside and out of the weather.
- Seating: Often express style boats have seating for up to 5 people on the bridge deck which is a nice feature when running long distances to the tuna grounds.
- Width: Express style boats tend to be significantly wider than a center console. You’ll have a much larger cockpit to work in.
- Storage: Storage is ample with extra hatches and lockers in the cabin
- Stability: Due to the extra surface area from a wider profile and heavier weight express style boats are very stable. Modified Vs are more stable than deep v versions, especially those with towers.
- Limited Bow Casting Access: Accessing a bow on an express style boat is very difficult. There is not a designated pathway forward. Although people do it, an excess style boat is primarily a cockpit fishing platform.
- Speed: With the onset of 300hp engines over the past few years, modern express style boats have what I would consider to be medium speed which is not where they lose points, as I would call them “average speed.” An express style boat loses points on speed with the “hole shot” which means how quickly it will come on plane. A boat slow to come on plane can be a challenge running and gunning for tuna.
- Visibility: By running from the enclosure you are slightly removed from a situation. You can change an express style boat’s weakness to a strength by adding a tower where you have unlimited visibility and superiority over any boat without one.
- Nimbleness: You will be far less nimble than a center console as you have the added windage of the canvas around the bridge deck, almost serving as a sail. It may be difficult at times to reposition the boat to accommodate for a bluefin’s change in plans boatside. It can be more difficult to swing than much canvas into the wind with outboards, regardless of engine size.
- Obstructions: Similar to the big outboard center consoles with giant outboards hanging on a bracket or extended from an integrated transom can become problematic when landing a fish as they can extend as much as 5’ from the back of the boat. The problem is compounded on a cuddy cabin because the helmsman if 6 or 8’ forward, often a step up from the angler which makes it difficult for the helmsman to double duty as mate when landing fish and it is also more difficult to see what is going on around the outboards
- Outboard Noise: You’ll have the same issues as a large center console
With the introduction of large outboards over the last 10 years, the game has changed with cabin style boats for tuna fishing. An express with outboards can now cruise close to 30kts giving you some flexibility of what spots you can reach in a day trip. From a pure angling perspective, an express substantially limits the casting you can do for tuna. Casting on the fore deck on an express can be done, but is not ideal. It is hard to stand, fish and land a tuna from the bow. That said, the cabin will give you more relief from the weather and the ability for naps on a day trip, helping your crew to stay sharp, not to mention the ability to bunk out on an overnight trip which is highly uncomfortable on a center console.
An express style boat is a trolling and jigging machine. Express style boats tend to be very wide and stable, both obviously positive attributes when considering multiple people fishing at the same time at slow to no speeds.. Casting can be a little bit of a challenge as it can be difficult to access the bow of an express style boat. You need to be careful of others and overhead obstructions such as tops, outriggers, antennas etc when casting in the cockpit.
While you can do it, probably not the most ideal albie boat. Similarly to a large center console, you’ll throw a big wake and be very disruptive to the fleet and the fish if you run and gun in a big wide boat like an express. That said, you can do just fine on days where you can make long drifts.
Express style boats are ground fish machines. Assuming you don’t have one with too much deep V for it’s length, drifts will be long and stable.