Wylie Nagler has combined his experience racing boats with his tournament fishing experience to build one big, fast hunk of a center-console sportfisherman, the Yellowfin 36. I grabbed at the chance to take a test run with the founder and president of Yellowfin Yachts, based in Sarasota, Florida, while at the recent Miami boat show. I found Wylie and his crew waiting for me at a boat ramp on Watson Island on Biscayne Bay. The sleek black hull was quite a sight, from the triple 225-hp Mercury four-stroke outboards, along the sheerline that gently sweeps up amidships to the high, flared, Carolina bow.
A high-performance background
Nagler raced in the Super Boat International and American Power Boat Association Offshore competitions in the stock class, running 30-foot twin outboard custom-built catamarans up to 110 mind-numbing miles per hour. ''I don't race anymore now that I've got kids,'' he noted. But that high-performance background comes through clearly in the Yellowfin 36 that he and his team have developed. It's the latest and largest of four Yellowfin models from 23 feet on up.
A true Light Tackle Center Console
''We wanted a true light-tackle center console that has the fishablilty"that a lot of the other performance boats don't have," he explained. ''You can take a race boat with a narrow beam and stick a center-console on it, but it doesn't fish that well.'' The concept started with a deep-V fishing hull with 22 degrees of deadrise, but they built it with a wider, 10-foot beam, added a Carolina flare to the bow, and used the latest and greatest in technology with 100 percent composite construction to keep it strong but relatively light. ''The speed is a combination of elements, including balance,'' he added. Like classic high-performance hulls, there are two steps in the bottom of the 36, the first one at about 9 feet, the other about 15 feet coming up from the back of the boat. ''The steps introduce air onto the bottom of the boat, reducing the wetted surface to gain speed and fuel economy,'' he explained.
The first outboard ever to win
''We do a lot of tournament fishing but also sponsor two tournaments. One of our boats, a 31 Yellowfin, won Southern Kingfish Association Pro Division Angler of the Year. The 36 won the 2004 Bahamas Wahoo Championship, the first outboard-powered boat ever to win. The guys on all the big flybridge sportfishermen couldn't believe we got out there and back before they did,'' he recalled with a sly grin. ''When you're tournament fishing, you want to be the first guy to the hole and that's what it's designed to do. This has the speed and the rough-water capability to do that.''
Designed around the triple-engine configuration
While the third outboard engine does add some weight, about 600 pounds, the 36 was designed around the triple-engine configuration, compensating for the extra weight on the back with the placement of the fuel tanks to balance that out, he explained. 'If you're in a tournament and you break a propeller or blow an engine, you can still get up on a plane and run forty miles per hour and still get back and weigh your fish if you need to,' he added.
As you take a closer look at the boat's details, you notice the amenities that add to the Yellowfin's 'fishability.' Starting up front, there are the recessed stainless steel bow rails and the premium Gemlux flush-mounted pop-up cleats , even the stainless bow light pops down flush with the deck when not in use. There are other lights mounted under the gunwales for working after dark. This model was equipped with an optional 'coffin box,' an above-deck fishbox, that tilts over to one side to reveal a 530-quart macerated fishbox built into the sole.
The Center Console
The console has a dash protected by a Plexiglas screen that lifts up and tucks out of the way. The helm features Teleflex hydraulic steering and a custom lighted switch panel, plus a recessed toehold and plenty of handholds. The fiberglass leaning post has a 25-gallon bait well in the back and there's another 60-gallon bait well centered on the transom. Both are serviced by 1,100 gallon-per-hour Shurflo baitwell pumps and both have clear Plexiglas lids. There's plenty of rod storage under the gunwales and padding all around the coaming. There are four rod holders built into the transom plus 9-foot rod boxes.
We're always out front
''You discover a lot about Ft. fishability'' when you're fishing the tournaments,'' Nagler commented. ''We're always out front, so we figure we've got a pretty good hull design. You run the hull harder than you normally would if you're a weekend-warrior type of guy. It's the same test bed as boat racing. You gather information on the boat and the design and you improve it as you need to.''
A light easterly breeze
There was a light easterly breeze coming in off the ocean when Nagler brought the three Mercury 225-hp four-stroke outboards purring to life. Loaded with 400 gallons of fuel and four of us onboard, the boat ran a solid 39 knots at 3900 rpm and got us up to 52.2 knots wide open at 6000 rpm. I've used the word, ''exhilarating'' too often but it certainly is appropriate to describe the ride of this boat. With the ocean as flat as it was, we could have cruised to Bimini in a couple of hours, had cracked conch and a couple of those great Bahamian beers and still have been back in time to see more boats before the show closed. It was very tempting, but our stoic work ethic and demanding schedules took hold of us and we headed back to Watson Island.