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21st Century Skiff

With Florida Sport Fishing – Television For The Avid Angler in full production mode, our crew was in desperate need of an inshore skiff. Even though our 37 Strike provides the perfect platform for our offshore adventures, Florida’s numerous shallow water venues are no place for a triple-outboard powered walk-around. So where did we turn and why? With a number of reputable builders manufacturing dependable backcountry boats, for us the first choice was simple. Consult the legendary builder of proven open fisherman and express style sportfishermen, who’s also a leading supporter of our upcoming television series, and present Strike’s design team with an exciting challenge to build a shallow drafting skiff that satisfies the following requirements: stability, storage, square footage and efficiency. With two anglers and potentially just as many cameramen, we needed the right rig that could handle an array of tackle and fragile film equipment.


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With a bare hull and approaching deadline, the team at Shallow Water Customs had their work cut out for them. Photo: FSF Mag

As the design phase of the project progressed, it became apparent that what we were after was a hybrid. Our crew needed an extremely versatile backcountry boat with a quiet hull that could effectively sight fish for bonefish, permit and redfish, yet something exceptionally stable and seaworthy to fish choppy inlets, rivers and open bays across a wide range of venues and for a variety of species. We could be fly fishing for cruising bonefish in glass calm conditions on Biscayne Bay one day, and chasing monster snook during a raging tide in Jupiter Inlet the next.

While we certainly could have went the off-the-shelf route with a turnkey boat/motor/trailer package, there is something to be said about outfitting your own boat, regardless of size or style.

With shallow water skiffs admittedly far from the company’s forte, Strike’s owners took on the challenge without hesitation. They firmly believed they could satisfy all of our requirements with a beamy 19- foot mold that featured plenty of square footage and a surprising volume of storage. They claimed the exciting design, rarely seen before, featured sleek lines for head-turning looks and a stepped hull for maximum efficiency. They also promised the fully loaded boat would float in a foot of water while being able to fly across a choppy bay with little to no spray. Sounded perfect, with a couple of prerequisites. We suggested the manufacturing team incorporate Kevlar into the build for reduced weight and added integrity, and we also demanded maximum livewell capacity as the skiff would serve double duty as a bait-catching support vessel for our offshore platform. Final plans were drawn, and with a firm handshake everything was good to go.

Ultimately, the goal was to marry a unique hull and spacious deck with technologically advanced accessories. With a scheduled unveiling at the Miami International Boat Show just weeks away from hull delivery date, everyone involved kicked into high gear. I should mention that what we were looking for from the manufacturer was only the hull. We had decided at the beginning of the build that the rigging experts at Shallow Water Customs based in Fort Lauderdale would complete the skiff. These guys are serious specialists who never hesitate doing things the right way no matter the extra time or effort involved.

With fuel prices continuing to climb, efficiency continues to be a priority. To fish farther for less, we turned to a compact, yet extremely powerful Suzuki DF90 four-stroke outboard equipped with Lean Burn Control System, which predicts fuel needs according to operating conditions. The incentive was more power on less fuel, which also equals reduced emissions. To maximize on every drop of fuel and increase shallow water performance, we mounted the engine on a jack plate. Ultimately, once the skiff is fully loaded, more stallions may be required to propel the sleek craft into the next stratosphere. That is if 60 mph top-end speed was a priority, but for us it isn’t. We’re going lean and mean and we’re anxious to report on how well she performs.

While we certainly could have went the off-the-shelf route with a turnkey boat/motor/trailer package, there is something to be said about outfitting your own boat, regardless of size or style. Being involved in every phase of the build provides an exciting sense of satisfaction. And while I certainly won’t claim every decision we made was the same decision you would have made, every decision was ours.

Truth be told, the entire process hasn’t been a bowl of cherries without pits. Outfitting a boat never is. Compromises have been made and obstacles have been overcome. Yet, we’re thrilled in the direction we’ve taken. Expect to see plenty of the completed project in coming issues.

While words alone are not enough, we wanted to once again thank everyone who helped make this project a reality.