Like big hair and bell-bottoms, catamaran hulls seem to go in and out of vogue. Perhaps thatâ€™s because fishing catamaran differences can seem so obvious: The twin-hull appearance varies so greatly from traditional monohulls.
But anglers who reject convention and actually try catamaran fishing boats often love them for their wide-open spaces and comfortable ride in heavy seas. Make no mistake: Cats must be properly designed to achieve those qualities, but thatâ€™s true of any hull.
Among recent trends, a number of Gulf of Mexico charter captains have gravitated toward large center-console catamarans. Catamaran manufacturers are also piling on the outboards for triple and quad applications, and designing even-larger recreational vessels, such as Insetta’s 45 and Calcutta’s planned express-style 47-footer.
To explore some of the best catamaran fishing boats further, I asked several major catamaran builders to give me some information on their larger models, and to answer three questions about cat advantages, fishing features and performance differences. Boats are listed from shortest to longest LOA.
This feisty 26-footer deserves the â€śBig Catâ€ť label after winning our sister publication Boating magazineâ€™s first Bermuda Challenge in 1996. That early Glacier Bay hull ran 760 miles through open ocean from New York to Bermuda.
Designed specifically not to plane, the 2665 features a knife-sharp forward entry that shoots through the waves for a comfortable ride. â€śCats ride softer than monohulls, especially when headed into the seas, because a catamaranâ€™s two narrow hulls present less surface area,â€ť says Frank Longino, a Glacier Bay spokesman. â€śA cat literally divides the water shock (the water the bow must move) in half. Itâ€™s the difference between a headâ€‘first dive and a belly flop.â€ť
A softer ride translates to faster headway in rough conditions, and since cats stay on plane at lower speeds, anglers save on fuel even in bumpy seas, Longino says.
Cats also carry their entire beam all the way from transom to bow, so with 8 feet, 9 inches of width, the 26 offers a very stable platform. And with their buoyancy along the perimeter of the deck, cats donâ€™t lean much when weight shifts.
Cats often can give up a little speed in exchange for some of their attributes: Glacier Bay says the 2665 reaches a top speed of 43 mph with twin 150 hp outboards. It also achieves 2.3 mpg at a typical cruising speed of 23 mph.
Glacier Bay 2665 Specifications
LOA: 26 ft. 1 in.
BEAM: 8 ft. 9 in.
FUEL: 168 gal.
WEIGHT: 6,200 lb.
MAX POWER: 300 hp
North Carolinaâ€™s Powercat Group makes both the World Cat and Glacier Bay brands. And where Glacier Bay made its first mark in the Bermuda Challenge, World Cat struck the professional kingfish-tournament circuit. Its 320CC offers a 45-gallon livewell, tackle center and generous fish boxes.
â€śCats donâ€™t differ significantly from monohulls in fishing features,â€ť says Longino, who also works with World Cat. â€śLivewells, rod storage, etc., are generally the same.â€ť
However, a few differences mark the cat design as it relates to fishing: higher freeboard, more deck space and a centered transom door. â€śThe deck of a cat will be a few inches farther above that of a monohull,â€ť he says. â€śThatâ€™s because catamarans float slightly higher to provide clearance for a tunnel. So the top edge of the gunwale of a catamaran will be slightly higher above the water, with similar interior gunwale height.â€ť
Additional deck space comes from the wall-to-wall beam. The center transom-door design â€” due to the tunnel â€” lets builders create broad swim platforms that extend to the backs of the engines. Such space lets anglers work fish around the outboards more easily.
Longino does point out that cats handle differently than monohulls. However, adjustments to engine trim or speed can resolve most issues.
â€śA cat turns while maintaining a flat plane, like a sports car â€” which can be disconcerting at first. But it is simply different,â€ť he says. â€śCats also run straight even when they yaw (bow steer) in a beam sea. Many helmsmen will try to correct for yaw when itâ€™s not needed.â€ť
LOA: 32 ft. 2 in.
BEAM: 10 ft. 6 in.
FUEL: 280 gal.
WEIGHT: 9,200 lb.
MAX POWER: 600 hp
Because of the additional deck space of the cat design, Freeman says its new flagship 37-footer is closer in size to most 39-foot monohulls. Freeman also says it has worked hard to overcome any contrary perceptions related to yaw, pitching down-sea, speed and appearance that cat boats have carried.
â€śAt Freeman, we worked tirelessly in-house and with design firms to create very appealing lines for our boats, and break the persona of unattractive cats,â€ť says Scott Cothran, a Freeman spokesman.
â€śWe also took on the speed issue. Our boats are capable of speeds in excess of 70 mph with cruising speeds in the 40s.â€ť
Cothran also says Freemanâ€™s hull design provides forward lift, which minimizes if not eliminates yawing (bow steering).
Freemanâ€™s 33-foot cats began appearing as Gulf of Mexico charter boats several years ago, particularly out of Venice, Louisiana, where long runs to the best fishing grounds are routine. Such captains also demand features for hard-core fishing.
â€śThe increased ride performance of the twin hulls allows us to move the console forward. This creates a huge cockpit to provide anglers room for fighting trophy fish or managing a large trolling spread,â€ť Cothran says. â€śWe offer up to three livewells in our boats, allowing a team to carry more than 200 gallons of bait. Forward boxes in the sponsons can be utilized for rod or insulated storage. The anchor lockers are huge, and the optional insulated coffin box provides excessive options to keep gear or catch dry and preserved.â€ť
LOA: 37 ft. 2 in.
BEAM: 11 ft. 6 in.
FUEL: 540 gal.
WEIGHT: 11,500 lb.
MAX POWER: 1,200 hp
Calcuttaâ€™s expansive 390 differs from the previous big cats in several ways: Itâ€™s a center-console with a broad raised foredeck above a well-appointed cuddy cabin. Power options include an inboard diesel or outboards. And it features an asymmetrical hull design.
The hull angles measure 45 degrees on the outside of the sponsons and 26 degrees inside. â€śThe asymmetrical planing-hull shape differentiates it from many other cats,â€ť says company owner Steve Ellis. â€śThe shape allows it to bank into a turn like a V-hull, and the 26 degree inboard deadrise fights the roll at rest.â€ť
The 14-foot beam of this boat also gives it a spacious cockpit and a solid foundation for a tower or second station. But this isnâ€™t the largest catamaran that Calcutta envisions. The 470, due out late this year, â€świll be powered by superefficient diesel surface drives tucked under the transom for fishability,â€ť Ellis says. â€śThe transom shape will allow it to back down at high speed. The forward cabin will be oversize berths and bathrooms. The helm station will be an air-conditioned living room/dining room, and the cockpit will rival most 60- to 70-foot battlewagons.â€ť
Calcutta 390 Specifications
LOA: 38 ft. 8 in.
BEAM: 14 ft.
FUEL: 400 gal.
WEIGHT: 15,000 lb.
MAX POWER: N/A (multiple power options)
Insettaâ€™s website homepage says this 45-plus-foot, stepped tunnel-hull fills the gap between smaller center-consoles and large sport-fishing yachts. Like the Calcutta, it too features an asymmetrical hull design.
â€śOur cat has an asymmetrical hull that doesnâ€™t turn outboard like the stereotypical cat,â€ť says Jeffrey Spangler, sales manager for Insetta. It also has â€śvery little bow rise and makes for a great trolling platform.â€ť
Insetta is very flexible with its power options, offering twin Seven Marine 557 outboard, quad Mercury 300 outboard and twin 370 hp diesel-inboard configurations. So far, the company has tapped 63 mph at the top end with the outboards, but offers 2 mpg fuel efficiency with the inboards.
The 45 comes with a 29-gallon leaning-post livewell with a clear-acrylic lid and friction hinges, but thereâ€™s an option for a second well. Twenty-eight rod holders line the vessel, and Insetta builds in three tackle-storage units.
Beneath the center console, a full berth, portable marine head, and galley with a sink and microwave offer amenities for a multiday trip. â€śWith its comfortable ride and long range (1,000 miles with diesels), itâ€™s a true overnight fishing machine,â€ť Spangler says. â€śThe dive door and [swim] platform allow you to land huge fish easily too.â€ť
LOA: 47 to 49 ft. 6 in. (depending on the model)
BEAM: 11 ft. 8 in.
FUEL: 450 gal.
WEIGHT: 14,000 lb.
MAX POWER: 1,400 hp
If a catamaran design intrigues you, spend as much time as you can aboard a variety of vessels in different conditions. Try running at all angles to the seas, set up a drift, and fish the boat if you can. You might become a cat convert; you might decide that two hulls are always better than one.