There's a difference between new-and-improved and new-and-insignificant. Every year, manufacturers work to offer new features on existing craft to make them more appealing to buyers — some do it right, some don't. It's hard to compare a boat that only has a shiny new steering wheel to one that comes with an entirely redesigned helm — some changes make a difference, some don't.
In the case of the 2006 Princecraft Sportfisher 22 LP4S, the key improvements point right to the craft's core function: fishing. In the rear of the boat you'll find a new rotocast section that includes a 12-gallon SportFlo aerated livewell (with post overflow, an anti-spill cover and a thru-hull drain system), storage for gear and tackle, and a 12v outlet. To starboard behind the driver's chair is a new thermoformed plastic lockable rod storage compartment that can accommodate 7-foot rods.
There are also improvements that point to family fun, including a new rear-entry gate to starboard with an anodized four-step boarding ladder that folds up when not in use. Other improvements include a new deck molding with a rubber bumper and full-length skirting, a new graphics package, new upholstery and fencing designs, a new dash panel with woodgrain and brushed aluminum inserts, and quick-release latches for the standard Bimini top. To us, these changes constitute substantial improvements that will enhance your experience out on the water.
However, this doesn't mean the Sportfisher 22 LP4S was lacking much to begin with. In fact, the 22 rests near the top of Princecraft's Sportfisher lineup of five boats, with the 22 and the 24 targeting boaters looking for a mid-level fishing ?toon.
The layout of the 22 offers a pleasant blend of fishing functionality and cruising comfort. In the port and starboard corners of the bow you'll find a fishing chair and a raised corner piece with a cupholder and storage area. There are two more fishing chairs in the rear flanking the livewell in the center.
In the center of the boat you'll find an L-shaped chaise lounge (which explains the "L" in LP4S) to port, which will be great for cruising and lounging — the entire lounge is rotocast with storage under all the seats. Directly aft of the lounge is a good-sized sunpad, which flips up to starboard to reveal a pop-up privacy enclosure (that puts the "P" in LP4S).
The driver's chair is large and comfortable, and the helm is actually quite stylish, especially for a pontoon. There's an integrated cooler and a glove box built into the helm, as well as additional storage underneath.
With four entry gates the 22 is more than accessible regardless of what side you pull up to the dock — and the side gates are wide enough for a wheelchair to pass through. We're glad to see Princecraft took advantage of the fishing layout to add more entryways.
Our test of the Sportfisher 22 took place on Missouri's Table Rock Lake with about 5 mph of cross wind and a small amount of chop on the water's surface. We had two people aboard and three quarters of a tank of fuel (about 25 gallons or 156 pounds). For power we had a four-stroke Mercury 50 EFI BigFoot spinning a 3-blade aluminum prop. BigFoot outboards are designed to handle the extra load and turbulence of pontoons by using larger propellers and beefed-up drivetrains to provide more torque and durability.
With the throttle all the way forward we peaked at 19.2 mph — not bad for a 50 hp motor. You can expect a range of about 124 miles at this speed. Our most efficient cruising speed was 9.2 mph, which would yield a cruising range of about 149 miles. In either case the noise was low with 82 dBa at top speed and a quiet 70 dBa at cruising speed.
In terms of handling the 22 was competent and comfortable. We even hooked up a tube for a twirl, and there was plenty of power for a slow bounce across the water. Those wanting more speed and performance should consider more power; you can go as high as 115 hp with the two-tube setup (the base price with a 115 hp EFI Mercury four-stroke is $22,570). If you're after even more performance, you can drop in an optional third tube down the center and go as high as 175 hp.
The Princecraft Sportfisher 22 LP4S as we tested it would be ideal for those who live on or near a small, calm lake with an abundance of fish to chase. The craft has all the fishing basics covered, and an optional Lowrance X-47 fish finder will give you even more leverage.
We like the fact that Princecraft worked to make the Sportfisher 22 LP4S better for 2006 with improvements that are more than noticeable and will certainly be met with applause from boaters.
We would suggest more power for those who want their boat double as a platform for family fun. With 115 hp and the addition of a tow bar, you'll have everything you need to show the family a great time, and you'll also have more speed to beat the other guys to your favorite fishing holes. But, if you're in no hurry and don't plan on a lot of cruising or watersports, a smaller outboard does the job.
In terms of price, the 22 will work with most budgets, even if you decide to bump up the power a few points. Consider the Sportfisher 22 if you're in the market for a mid-level fishing ?toon with an equal amount of family appeal.
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Manufacturer Contact Information
725 St. Henri St.
Princeville, Quebec Canada G6L 5C2