Every now and again, a fishing boat builder gets it right—very right—and such is the case with the Aquasport 17, Mako 23, Albemarle 24, Dyer 29, and Bertram 31. These are classic hulls which have been loved by countless anglers, and many of them are still on the water hunting down fish today. Here’s why.
Aquasport started building fiberglass boats in 1967 and right from the start, their 17’ model was a winner. It went through many changes over the years (Aquasport was purchased by boat-building giant Genmar in the late 80’s), and was known at one point as the Open Fisherman and at another as the Osprey. But one thing remained the same: for its size, the 17 was one of the most seaworthy and competent boats on the water. LOA was an even 17’ 0” and beam was 6’10”. Transom deadrise was a moderate 12-degrees which gave the boat excellent stability, but an aggressive entry split open wave like a much larger boat. Though it was rated for 130 horses most had smaller powerplants, (90’s and 115’s were very popular) which proved more than sufficient.
Some of the 17’s had Biminis and a few can be found with small T-tops, but the majority of the boats out there are fairly bare with little more than a center console and leaning post/flip-back cooler seat. Recently re-powered or late model Aquasport 17’s usually cost in the $10,000 range, but older boats in rougher shape can be found for a few thousand dollars and make an excellent restoration project.
View Aquasport 17 listings.
This model was available in the 70’s in inboard, stern drive, and outboard versions, but eventually was sold only as an outboard-powered boat. It’s the inboard version, however, which merits our attention as a classic. Though inboard have long since fallen from grace in the 20-something fishing boat market, anyone who’s spent extended time aboard one can tell you that they often run smoother through a chop than their outboard-powered counterparts. Putting the powerplant’s weight forward and deep gave this model an excellent center of gravity, enhancing stability as well as the ride. And with the 225-hp gasoline inboard (diesel models were also available), the Mako 23 cruised in the upper 20’s and enjoyed a top-end approaching 40 MPH. This model had a surprisingly svelte beam of 8’0”, and if it has any weakness, it would be the fairly limited (by today’s standards, anyway) 80-gallon fuel supply.
Those interested in finding a Mako 23 should be aware that these boats had a lot of wood, as well as foam flotation, which did commonly retain moisture over the years and may need restoration work. Find a classic 23 inboard, however, and the chances are it’s been restored to some degree already. On the current market prices can vary quite a bit for these boats, considering the amount of restoration that’s been done and whether the boat has been recently re-powered. Mako still builds a 23 today, though it bears little resemblance to the classic 23, runs on a pair of outboards, and lists at $58,995. But this builder (now owned by Tracker) has also proven you can teach an old dog new tricks; in the past few years it’s rolled out new and very innovative models, like the 21 LTS and the Pro Skiff 17.
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Albemarle started production—and made its mark in the world of sportfishing boats—with the 24, its original model. The fist hull hit the water in 1978, and was immediately recognized for its rugged build and rough-water seaworthiness. Another thing this boat is well-known for is the unique jack-shaft power arrangement, mating an inboard in the boat’s belly with a stern-drive outdrive. This eliminated the need for a motor-box in the cockpit, opening up additional fishing space. While the jackshafts do require regular maintenance and occasional replacement, this power system also gives the 24 the interior space of a much larger vessel. As a result, it quickly became known as one of the smallest bluewater-capable boats on the ocean.
The 24 is still in production today, and late models include both cuddy cabin and center console versions available with either a gasoline or diesel engine. LOA is 23’7”, beam is 8’0”, transom deadrise is 24-degrees, and fuel capacity is a whopping 118 gallons. Pricing for older models in good shape starts in the $15, 000 to $20,000 range (rougher boats can be found for less) and modern builds in good shape usually run about $50,000, while the new 24 costs upwards of $75,000.
View Albemarle 24 listings.
This boat is a classic in every sense, and is coveted by both anglers and cruisers. It also happens to represent one of the longest runs in production boat-building, having been introduced in 1955. Through the years there were many changes in design and production, as composites evolved and different models (including hard-top express, traditional northern bass boat, and center console versions) were added to the fleet. On top of that, due to their age many of the Dyer 29’s you encounter have been repowered and often to some degree, rebuilt. As a result, it’s almost impossible to state standard specifications for things like weight and fuel capacity. That said, there are a few commonalities: LOA was 28’6”, beam was 9’6”, and all are single-screw straight-inboards.
The Dyer 29 was a relatively slow boat, topping out (depending on power) at just over 20 knots and usually cruising between 14 and 17 knots. No wonder, since these boats sport a full keel and skeg. Naturally, that also means they enjoy excellent stability and tracking, though handling is bound to be lethargic. Prices range wildly depending on the year and condition of the boat, but usually fall in the $40,000 - $80,000 range.
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The Bertram 31 may well be the king of all classic fishing boats. Bertram built and sold a slew of these hulls in several versions—over 1,000 flybridge models alone—though all were in cabin configurations. The flybridge was the most popular, but the Bahia Mar (with a small cuddy on the bow) also has a dedicated following. In fact, the 31 was such a popular model through the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s that it became something of a cult classic and in the years just prior to the recent recession, many fiberglass shops specialized in purchasing, refurbishing, and re-selling the 31 in like-new condition. And while standard-issue 31’s can go for as little as $20,000 to $30,000, fully refurbished boats can cost well over $100,000. (Commonly you’ll see them listed with two years, the year of their build and the year of their re-build).
The 31 had an LOA of 30’7”, a beam of 11’2”, and was powered by twin inboards. Most were sold with gasoline engines though many have been repowered with small diesels. Depending on power the 31 cruised somewhere between the low and upper 20’s, and although the boat is known for having a somewhat wet ride, it also smooths out the bumps in heavy seas like few other hulls in its size range.
View Bertram 31 listings.
Yes, we agree, this list is incomplete. What about classic hulls like the Sea Craft 23? The original Boston Whaler Montauk? There are many more, but we had to limit our choices to five. Let us know which others you think should be added, in the Comments section below.