We’re wave-hopping across the surface of a riled ocean on the Pathfinder 26 HPS Bay Boat, and despite the fact that the boat handles it with ease, after four hours of fishing I’m ready to switch off for my turn on the much larger, beefier Cobia 296. We only have two days to test six boats so we’ll be doing an on-the-water switcheroo, which is always fun when you’re miles from shore and the decks of both boats are rising, dropping, and rocking like the Tilt-A-Whirl ride at the county carnival. I take a short step up onto the Pathfinder’s gunwale, hop over to the Cobia’s gunwale, and take a step down into the cockpit. It has to be three times as far a drop, as it is on the bay boat. And that’s my first lesson about life on the 296: this boat has an extremely deep cockpit, the deck is level from stem to stern, and you’re always ringed on all sides by tall gunwales that keep you securely inside the boat.
As we begin casting I notice those tall gunwales are good for something else, too. They’re at just the right height to lean up against without feeling like you could lose your balance and flip over the side, and they’re lined with cushy bolsters. The down-side to those tall gunwales? More windage, a longer haul when you need to bring the catch in over the side, and you can’t easily reach the water to rinse off your hands.
The extra heft of the larger boat also, naturally, made it more comfortable in the waves. That’s a given—when the waves are rockin’ and rollin’ there’s no substitute for LOA and displacement—but my comfort level on the 296 went up even farther when I heard the call of nature. If you’re sick and tired of box-like center console cabins that make using the head a contorted, cramped chore, just take a look at this boat’s head compartment. Seriously—take a look for yourself. I found it so roomy, I decided to shoot this video so you could lay your eyeballs on it up close and personal:
|Fuel capacity||240 gal.|
Comfort factor be darned, you won’t have much use for a center console if it’s not designed for serious fishing. No worries, on this count. The 296 has a pair of 28-gallon livewells, a pair of tuna-sized fishboxes that are over five feet long, a leaning post tackle and bait-rigging center, a raw water washdown, and under-gunwale rodracks. It also comes with eight flush-mount rodholders, which is twice the norm for standard features on a fishboat. The T-top (with accessories including rocket launchers, outriggers, spreader lights, and electronics box) is considered an option, though I can’t imagine many offshore anglers taking delivery of this boat without it; that’ll push the base price (which is a hair over $126,000 at the time this review was published) up a bit.
The stock boat comes with twin Yamaha F-250 four-stroke outboards, which in all honesty provide more than enough juice for this rig. Top-end breaks 55-mph, and cruise is right around 35-mph while getting close to two miles to the gallon. Not bad at all, for a boat of this size. But if you up the ante to a pair of the F-300 Yamahas our test boat sported, you’ll cruise at 40-mph and top-out right around 60.
|Test conditions: Winds 10-15 knots, 2 POB, 3/4 fuel. Performance figures provided by Yamaha.|
|Power||Twin F-300 Yamaha four-stroke outboards, swinging 15" x 20" stainless-steel props.|
Since the next boat-to-boat swap was onto a much smaller Cobia 201 CC, as the afternoon drew to a close we cruised for the inlet. But even at 45 or 50 mph, wave-hopping was no longer an option—on the 296, it was more like wave-crushing. I’m betting that those in search of boat with the beef and the brawn to serve as a serious bluewater fishing machine will find this one to their liking.
Other Choices: The Pursuit ST310 is a bit larger, a bit fancier, and costs a bit more than the Cobia 296. The Make 284CC, on the other hand, is slightly smaller and features a single 50-gallon livewell, as opposed to a pair of smaller wells.
For more information, visit Cobia Boats.