Contender 23 Tournament Review

ALISTAIR MCGLASHAN checks out a hardcore Yankie fishing boat now available in Australia

I love centre consoles and jumped at the opportunity to check out the new-in-Australia Contender 23. Before I go on, I will be up-front and say Contenders are one of my favourite boats. I fished from these boats when I was in America and am familiar with their strengths.

The Yanks regard Contenders as some of the best specialised centre consoles designed for serious fishing; they even have dedicated Contender tournaments. The boats are designed to offer speed and practical layouts for long runs and hard fishing. Sam Wallrock from Wallrock Marine is another Contender fan and after two years of negotiation has secured the Australian and New Zealand distributor rights for the brand.

Our test boat was the popular 23 Tournament, powered by a pair of 150hp Evinrude E-TECs. It’s an impressive machine with slick lines (and no ugly bow rails!) and the most appealing feature is its simplicity.

The 23 Tournament is actually 25ft, but the 23 Open is a true 23ft length. With a 24.5 degree deadrise and a fairly narrow beam of 2.6m, this boat will eat up Australian sea conditions. The E-TECs hummed as the 23 carved through the mild chop in Sydney?I was disappointed we couldn’t have charged out to Browns Mountain to give the boat a real thrashing! Nonetheless, the ride was smooth and dry, thanks to the flared bow.

One benefit in buying a US-made boat such as a Contender is the massive fuel tanks; Yanks are real petrol heads and love lots of fuel storage. This is good news for Aussie anglers with modern economical outboards because it extends the boat’s range, which is great for tournament fishing and creates other options such as overnight trips.

The layout of the 23 Tournament is all about fishing. The gunwales are smooth and the grab-rail is cleverly recessed. There are numerous rod holders positioned along the gunwales for drifting and trolling, and either side of the console also has several rod holders?the canopy even has slits for long rods!

The live well is built into the transom and can easily hold dozens of big slimies. There is also a small transom door for diving, and can also be used for hauling a big fish aboard. There is also a pull out bench seat that tucks away under the live well. And there are more storage hatches below.

Another great feature of this boat is that the deck is a single level throughout. I don’t like raised bow platforms. While they do increase storage capabilities, having a step up limits the area’s use to when it’s calm; casting platforms aren’t much use for serious offshore fishing. The Contender’s layout allows you to walk right to the bow for easy anchoring and fish fighting. I should add that the anchor well has a fibreglass cylinder to be cut to fit your pick so it doesn’t bang about and damage other items.

The 23 Tournament has ample storage space including five insulated fish pits, the biggest of which could fit a 40kg wahoo with ease?it’s massive!

The centre console is well designed, complete with an access door at the front. The test boat had the batteries in there and it still had ample room for a toilet or heaps of gear. The helm is uncluttered with the switch panel cleverly placed under the lip below the throttle and wheel. There is a clear Perspex cabinet for your electronics but you will only fit one decent screen you may have to run a combined sounder/GPS unit.

The T-top was brilliant. The outriggers are ingeniously built into one of the main support posts and are easily positioned by simply turning a handle. The big canopy offers protection from the elements and is high enough to avoid being restrictive. It also has a set of rod holders to keep your gear out of the way.

The skipper’s chair is a basic bench seat or leaning post and can accommodate two people. There are another four rod holders across the back of this.

The 23 Tournament has a self-draining, non-slip diamond deck. This boat is designed for the hard core angler?whether they cast poppers for GTs or run live baits on heavy tackle for marlin. If you’re after the slickest dedicated fishing boat on the market, don’t bypass a Contender.