Huge tightly wound schools of anchovies had assembled offshore in dense masses known as bait balls. The reason? Escape from predation by thousands of false albacore, the exact fish we hoped to catch. The only thing between us and them was a ride through an inlet stacked up by wind and tide. We would get wet. Brian Horsley, the captain, pointed the bow of his Jones Brothers Cape Fisherman 23 into the swell and throttled up. When there are fish to be caught, you do what you have to do.
The Cape Fisherman 23 is made for anglers of that mindset. In an era where many builders try to make their boats all things to all people (it’s a fishing boat, but hey, here’s a wakeboard tower!) Jones Brothers Marine is refreshing; it makes boats specifically for coastal light tackle anglers and fly fishermen. Every accoutrement not needed to suit their purpose is jettisoned in favor of simplicity.
“We are in the utility business for guys who want to fish,” said company owner Donnie Jones. He added that his employees all fish and that he takes feedback from well-respected guides like Horsley on what works and what could be made better. Case in point, the new for 2011 console design that maximizes storage space underneath, usable space up top for electronics, and walk-around space along the sides.
For a boat with an eight-foot beam, the Cape Fisherman 23 has tremendous walk-around space, which can be partly attributed to the three-piece construction. While many boats are assembled in shoebox fashion, with the deck fitting over the hull, Jones Brothers builds a hull, deck, and cap, which results in a stouter boat with a roomier interior.
That extra wiggle room came in handy after we made it out to those bait balls and hooked into some off-the-charts false albacore that peeled line off our reels and sent us scrambling around the boat to keep up. The boat’s deep freeboard kept us secure on the move, especially in the bow casting area, where the waist-high grab handle was perfectly placed so the angler could hold on while chasing fish and stay at the ready.
The Cape Fisherman 23 has a variable deadrise hull rather than a true deep V, which is better suited for its inshore mission. The forefoot has a sharp 56-degree angle to help the bow knife through chop, but the deadrise tapers back to 12 degrees at the transom. The shallower V helps the boat plane more quickly, keeps the draft shallower—trimmed up it floats in 12 inches—and reduces rock-and-roll at slow speeds. The shallower draft, combined with a relatively light weight of 2,350 pounds, also improves fuel consumption. Paired with a Yamaha F150 four-stroke outboard, the boat tops out over 44 mph. (Max horsepower is 250.) At 4000 rpm the boat maintains a 28 mph cruising speed with a 4.4 mpg fuel burn, for an estimated max range of 360 miles.
As far as fishy features, the boat comes standard with four stainless-steel rodholders in the aft gunwale topsides, and the inwale rod racks can hold fly rods. There’s an option to add a livewell in the leaning post, a tackle locker, console rod holders, and a T-top with a rocket launcher. You can also add a forward casting platform with a fishbox and an aft poling platform for sight fishing.
Despite its hardcore fishing mission, the Cape Fisherman 23 does have family friendly options, such as the casting platform cushions to make bow seating, jump seat cushions, a Bimini top, and a swim ladder. But if your sole goal is to get outside and chase fish all day, the Jones Brothers Cape Fisherman 23 has the game to get it done.
For more information, visit the Jones Brothers Marine website.
Pete McDonald is a contributing editor to Power & Motoryacht. Previously, he spent 11 years on the editorial staff of Boating. He has won multiple writing awards and holds a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.