Hunting Season: Sea Hunt Triton 188 & XP19

Boat Review: Sea Hunt Triton 188 & XP19

Buyers of sportfishing boats are now spoilt for choice with many brands offering a host of models and variations. MICK FLETORIDIS reports on a newcomer to our shores.

IF you’re MD of one of the country’s largest tackle distributors and you want to promote your company’s brands as you travel the country, what better way to do so than via the flanks of a head-turning boat – or two? In the case of Pure Fishing, responsible for such well known tackle names as Berkley, ABU Garcia, Owner, Pflueger and Cultiva a couple of smick boats have provided the perfect canvas for such mobile promotion.

Phillip Coles, head honcho of Pure Fishing, was thinking along such lines when it came time to fork out for a new company boat. As it happened, Mark “Mango” Mangold, one of Coles’s sponsored tournament anglers and a regular on the national bass/bream trail, was also looking to upgrade. Having previously owned a procession of specialised bass boats – five in total – Mango was out for something less low slung to give him more versatility, and a spot more comfort on days out with family and friends.

After much research and deliberation, Coles and Mangold decided to get serious and put cash down on a pair of imported Sea Hunt fibreglass rigs. A new brand to Australia, via Sydney’s Neken Marine, the US-built Sea Hunts originate in South Carolina where production began in 1995.

What you see here are basically two boats built around a common hull design.  According to Sea Hunt literature its range features hulls sporting a progressive Vee through the bottom, starting at the transom where deadrise angle varies between 15 and 21 degrees – depending on model – and progressing through to a sharp 50 to 60 degrees entry. The boats featured, the XP19 and Triton 188, respectively feature 15 and 16 degree deadrise at the transom, the hull angle progressing through to 20 degrees around midships and up to 50 degrees where bow meets water. While a variable deadrise design is nothing new – some of Australia’s most respected fibreglass manufacturers have been producing similar hull designs for many years – it is a proven feature that offers a good compromise between stability at rest and fast out-of-the hole performance and chop-cutting attitude. 

The two models appear very similar at first glance – especially so with matching colourful wraps courtesy of Richard Potter of X-factor signs – but are quite different in purpose. While still stylishly sleek and close to the waterline, Mango’s XP19 is more “Bay” than “Bass” and he says that’s just what he was after. So far he’s managed to mix it up on the new rig by using it for chasing his usual suspects of bream and bass as well as a successful outing off Sydney to mess with a bunch of big kings. Mango was impressed with the boat’s performance offshore in the type of water that can quickly show up the limits of a hull with limited freeboard.

“We were chasing these kings all over the place, backing up on them. We had no problems with any water coming on board,” Mango told Boat Fishing. The Sea Hunt hulls feature a self-draining design to help alleviate any problems if water does find its way onto the deck.

It could be said that Sea Hunts are a typically American design, in no small part due to their Carolina style bow flare and internal fit-out.

On the water
Boat Fishing jumped on board the Sea Hunts at Lake Macquarie on the NSW Central Coast. The day was the first time the Triton 188 – the first in Oz – had hit the water. Unfortunately, we were 30kms from the sea and had to be content with running the boats around the southern hemisphere’s largest saltwater lake. 

The Sea Hunt pair were fitted with Evinrude E-TEC DI two-stroke outboards. The XP19, a standard model 150hp V4, the Triton 188 the “hot rod” HO (High Output) version, which features stronger gearcase, gears and engine mounts amongst its up-specced features. After being on board with Phillip Coles at the helm of the Triton 188 it’s no surprise he opted for the HO. No slouch on the throttle, Coles was quick to jump his boat out in front of Mango’s each time we attempted to get the photo of the boats running side by side as seen on this issue’s Boat Fishing cover.

After getting behind the wheel of both boats the difference in performance, from my perspective, was minimal with both very impressive from the get-go. It should be said though that the Triton did seem to have more initial “oomph” on take-off – which could be explained by prop variance. Both props were Viper stainless models, the Triton’s 150 HO spun a 14 3/4″ x 17″ prop, the XP19 a 14 3/4″ x 18″. The speed figures below for the XP19, taken directly from the iCommand instruments, give a rough indication of the performance and fuel usage you could possibly expect from either boat.

Speed figures (XP 19):
3000rpm @ 20.33kts 19.6lph
3500rpm @ 24.51kts 23.3lph
4000rpm @ 29.55kts 31.8lph
4500rpm @ 33.19kts 52.2lph
5150rpm @ 38.2kts 59.05lph
5550rpm @ 41.2kts 62.4lph

One noticeable on-water aspect both boats displayed was a rapid drop off the plane as the throttle gets backed off. Almost like applying brakes, this characteristic is more noticeable on these boats than any I can recall. Not an issue, but interesting all the same and a characteristic I soon found myself preparing for after a few high speed runs.  

The handling of both boats was impressive with each having the tendency for easy directional changes and straight tracking. Throwing them around in fast corners and hitting wakes was a lot of fun. Each featured hydraulic steering, and while some steering effort was still required off plane, at speed the steering was noticeably nice and light.

Jumping from one boat to the other highlighted the main difference – freeboard. While the XP19 is marginally higher off the water than your typical US bass boat it feels a bit like a go-kart in comparison to the higher-sided Triton 188. This was more noticeable as both boats negotiated some building chop on the lake, late morning. The XP19 easily negotiated the wind chop right up to WOT registering 48mph (41.7 knots) @ 5500rpm/78 per cent trim – the Triton even moreso, with its hull seemingly flying over any broken water and flattening out the bumps with minimal fuss.

Horses for courses
If I had a choice between the two boats for a week’s fishing up on the Northern NSW coast, say around Coffs Harbour, I’d opt for the Triton. While you can no doubt fish for snapper and kings offshore in the right conditions on the XP19, there’s nothing like a little bit more freeboard for extra peace of mind. If there was more estuary or impoundment work on the cards, Mango’s boat would be the choice, hands down. For mine it would be hard to beat as an inshore sportfishing machine which offers great stability and loads of fishing space.  

An advantage of both Sea Hunts is their shallow 300mm (12″) draft, which can see you negotiating some fairly skinny water in estuaries or rivers. With both boats fitted with the latest in Minn-Kota bow-mount electrics, flats fishing won’t be a problem in these hulls. And on the subject of cool gadgets, the boats carry the latest in Lowrance HDS sounders, the Triton a HDS-8 on the console, the XP19 spolt for riches with a HDS-10 at the helm and a HDS-8 supplying the underwater pictures at the bow.    

Both cockpits feature what could reasonably called typical US-style fit-outs. There’s the large ice box/helm seat with pivoting lean-to, a system I quite like as it’s both functional and comfortable. While the padding of the seat is good you’ll probably find yourself assuming a standing driving position most of the time. Which is fine, as the boats are easier to drive this way if you’re looking for working fish, as you have better wheel control and all-round vision. You’ll find yourself stooping to get any wind protection from the windscreens on these boats though, but that’s to be expected of most centre consoles. They make up for it with extra fishing space. In that regard I preferred the set-up on Mango’s boat which features a full rear deck with a neat fold-away seating arrangement that doesn’t impinge on space. Rod lockers too run up under the gunwales either side of the XP19 and allow the storage of rods of up to 7-foot long with the rods running through tubing into space below decks. The Triton too had the same under gunwale rod storage set-up as on the XP19, although interestingly, due to foam-fill inside the hull they don’t run right through – an external rod rack has been fitted to accommodate full length rods. Both boats have upright rod storage available at the consoles.

Coles’s Triton features comfy squab seats aft with storage below (starboard houses dual batteries). These seats are divided dead centre by a massive live well in the full height transom, with a neat clear oval lid for easy viewing of baits or point scorers. Mango’s boat too carries a live well, in the rear deck, and the seat/ice box in front of the centre console is also plumbed for dual duty as a live well.

Both boats had anchor wells – a feature often absent on American boats – which while compact had enough space for a sand anchor and rode.  

Mango too had installed removable carpet on his boat’s deck, which can be easily removed if the boat needs a hose out or any under-floor maintenance. No doubt with the amount of use Mango’s new boat has already had, such little refinements make a difference at the end of his regular long fishing days. 

Phillip Coles too reckons his boat too will be getting plenty of use. “It won’t be sitting in the shed, put it that way,” he told Boat Fishing, with future plans for the Triton 188 set to see it a regular at fishing tournaments and promotional events around the country. This bright pairing are sure to be up for plenty of attention when they hit the water. Keep an eye out for them, they’ll be hard to miss.

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