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Nine Bay Boats You Can Take Offshore

Supersize bay boats take anglers to a variety of fishing grounds.
Courtesy Boston Whaler

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Supersizing: It’s a uniquely American phenomenon. Burgers expand into triple-deckers. TVs stretch into expansive big screens. RVs transform into rolling mansions. And now bay boats—among America’s most iconic fishing craft—are growing to unprecedented sizes.

Need proof? Look at the Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless, Caymas 281 HB, Everglades 273CC, Grady-White 281 CE, Pathfinder 2700 Open, Regulator 30XO, Scout 281 XSS, SeaVee 270Z or Solace 30HCS. All sport center consoles, and some even boast the availability of twin outboards, putting these relatively shallow-draft 27- to 30-footers in competition with many conventional ­offshore center-console fishing boats. 

More than one factor has spurred this supersize trend, including the evolution of bay-boat interiors. Traditionally, bay boats have sported layouts intended for fishing in the protected and shallow waters of bays, harbors and coastal rivers. Spacious, elevated bow and stern casting decks with low gunwales, if any at all, allow anglers to better spot fish and cast to nearshore species such as little tunny, redfish, snook, striped bass and tarpon. 

Yet many anglers also use their bay boats to venture offshore for species such as cobia, grouper, kingfish, mahi, snapper, tuna and sailfish. Over the past decade, bay-boat builders have responded to this trend with new designs that abbreviate, lower or eliminate casting platforms, with the goal of creating greater cockpit depth for security and safety in rougher waters. At the same time, hulls more or less maintained the traditional, less-than-acute transom deadrise (around 15 to 20 degrees versus 20 to 25 degrees for deep-V hulls of this size) to enable shallow-draft designs for fishing inshore waters. Bay boats also possess relatively low exterior freeboard to reduce windage, facilitate the use of bow-mount trolling motors, and enable anglers to lean over the side to more easily boat and release fish. 

The versatile mix of more-open layouts within a bay-boat hull has given rise to a new category known as hybrid bay boats. But the evolution has not stopped there. To help make hybrid bay boats even safer when heading offshore, builders in recent years have, as mentioned, supersized them while also ramping up the power (sometimes with twin outboards) and fuel capacity, and lending models deep-V-like cutwaters and healthy bow flares. Here are nine models in the 27- to 30-foot range that represent this growing trend.

Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless in the ocean
The 280 Dauntless is built to fish a variety of locations.
Courtesy Boston Whaler

Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless

The 280 Dauntless represents the flagship of Boston Whaler’s bay-boat lineup, with a 27-foot-9-inch length overall, 9-foot beam, and transom deadrise of 18 degrees. Whaler claims the 280 can float in 1 1/2 feet of water with the outboard(s) trimmed up. It comes with either a single Mercury V-10 400 DTS or twin 200 to 300 hp Mercs, ranking it among an elite group of big bay boats available with twin outboards. The 280 includes a big bow casting platform that also converts to bow seats and lounges, but there is not an aft casting platform per se, even though you could stand atop the area that houses the foldout transom bench. This big bay boat features a 19-gallon livewell, and a large forward fish box with a pump-out. An outrigger package is also available for days when you decide to head offshore. For more leisurely boating, opt for the swim patio that deploys from the port side of the aft cockpit for convenient access to the water. An optional gyrostabilizer (a rare feature on a bay boat) minimizes roll. The hardtop incorporates a full-height, three-sided glass windshield (with a vent atop the center panel), and the console dash includes Simrad navigation electronics, a JL Audio system and digital switching. The doublewide helm seat has flip-down armrests and flip-up bolsters so you can sit or stand while driving the boat. Even better, it can electrically actuate to convert to a simple leaning post for the captain at the helm while creating two plush aft-facing seats for the crew to sit in the cockpit. For our certified test of the 280 Dauntless, click here.

Boston Whaler 280 Dauntless helm seat
The doublewide helm seat can convert to a leaning post.
Courtesy Boston Whaler

Pricing and Specs

Price: $232,885 (base with 400 V-10 Mercury)
LOA: 27’9”
Beam: 9’0”
Draft: 1’6” (engines up)
Transom Deadrise: 18 degrees
Weight: 5,495 lb. (without power)
Fuel Capacity: 160 gal.
Max Horsepower: 600
Grady-White 281 Coastal Explorer running offshore
The 281 Coastal Explorer serves up a secure and comfortable ride.
Bill Doster

Grady-White 281 CE

Grady-White’s new 281 CE (Coastal Explorer) represents one of the latest big examples of this do-it-all fishboat category designed to serve the needs of inshore and offshore anglers while providing a marvelously comfortable platform when more leisurely outings are the order of the day. The 281 CE is engineered to perform well with either a single Yamaha XTO 450 or twin Yamaha F300 DES outboards. The Yamaha Helm Master EX with the optional Full Maneuverability package is a great addition with the twin-outboard setup. The Grady SeaV2 hull on this boat features 16 degrees of transom deadrise that artfully sharpens at the cutwater. The sheer sweeps gracefully upward and incorporates a classic Carolina flare for a smooth, dry ride. For fishing inshore, the 281 CE drafts 1 foot, 7 inches. The layout includes a wide-open forward casting platform formed by using the forward snack tabletop and a crescent-shaped insert as fillers. Remove both to create unfettered access to the bow between the forward loungers. The aft platform doubles as a comfy bench seat; remove the middle backrest and swing the two outer backrests 90 degrees to serve as elevated coamings while standing. The 281 sports a 38-gallon livewell in the leaning post and an integral hardtop with a wraparound, full-height windshield. The 281 CE is also the only bay boat to feature a fully electric-powered side door. This standard feature is called the Sport Deck, and it pivots downward to serve as a cool swim platform or for hauling a big offshore fish aboard. For our full test and video of the Grady-White 281 CE, click here.

Grady-White 281 CE Sport Deck
The Sport Deck pivots downward to serve as a cool swim platform or for hauling a big offshore fish aboard.
Courtesy Grady-White

Pricing and Specs

Price: $285,635 (with single Yamaha XTO 450 and Helm Master EX Full Maneuverability package)
LOA: 27’7”
Beam: 9’4”
Draft: 1’7” (engines up)
Transom Deadrise: 16 degrees
Weight: 5,650 lb. (without power)
Fuel Capacity: 160 gal.
Max Horsepower: 600
Caymas 281 HB cruising
The 281 HB delivers a smooth ride.
Courtesy Caymas

Caymas 281 HB

The Caymas 281 HB hybrid bay boat strikes a dashing profile with its curvaceous sheer and contoured tumblehome in the stern quarters. But it’s a Michael Peters double SVVT (Stepped-Vee Ventilated Tunnel) hull that delivers speed, a smooth ride in rough water, fuel efficiency, and the ability to skim the shallows in this 27-foot-11-inch fishing machine. With 18.5 degrees of transom deadrise, the 281 HB drafts 1 foot, 4 inches at rest with the outboard(s) tilted up. The interior layout includes traditional roomy bay-boat-style casting decks fore and aft, with a cockpit in between providing 26 inches of interior freeboard. Angling amenities include a pair of 35-gallon livewells and foldout seating under the stern deck. Forward on the 281 HB, you’ll also discover a 45-gallon forward fish box and roomy stowage lockers for tackle and gear. Just abaft the foredeck is wraparound seating, and the forward console offers a seat with a built-in cooler below. A tempered-glass windshield with a powder-coated aluminum frame protects the helm area, which includes a fiberglass leaning post with flip-up bolster seats and a backrest, four rod holders, a pair of stainless-steel drink holders, and a rigging station on the backside. The center console comes with four vertical rod holders on each side. The dash will accommodate a pair of 12-inch multifunction displays. Hardtop options with and without second stations aloft boast powder-coated aluminum pipework. Caymas offers Mercury, Suzuki and Yamaha outboards up to 600 hp total in single or twin configurations to propel the 281 HB, and a 200-gallon fuel capacity results in superb cruising range. 

Caymas 281 HB fishing features
There’s a nice mix of fishing and comfortable boating features.
Courtesy Caymas

Pricing and Specs

Price: $223,000 (with twin Mercury 300 Verados)
LOA: 27’11”
Beam: 9’1”
Draft: 1’4” (engines up)
Transom Deadrise: 18.5 degrees
Weight: 4,300 lb. (without power)
Fuel Capacity: 200 gal.
Max Horsepower: 600
Solace 30HCS running offshore
The twin-stepped, variable-­deadrise ventilated hull verges on the running surface of a true offshore center-console.
Courtesy Solace

Solace 30HCS

Solace Boats has entered the hybrid bay-boat segment of the market with one of the largest and most daring in this category—the 30HCS (Hybrid Center Step). The interior layout does away almost entirely with elevated casting platforms to maintain a consistent cockpit depth throughout. The most captivating feature is an elevated pair of chairs that sit atop the cover of the two 30-gallon transom livewells. The backrest of the cushioned seats pivot to let crewmembers face fore or aft. There are walk-throughs on both sides of the transom to access the swim platform, and you’ll find two 35-gallon in-deck fish boxes flanking the cockpit. The twin Mercury Verado 400 V-10-powered 30HCS boasts vacuum-infused carbon-fiber and epoxy laminate construction. The hull has a twin-stepped, variable-deadrise ventilated hull with a high-density PVC composite transom that offers 21 degrees of deadrise, verging on the running surface of a true offshore center-console. The console features a seamless, integrated three-sided glass windshield with electric rams to fully open the front panel, and a pair of deluxe helm seats cradle the captain and co-pilot. The back of the leaning post has a rigging center with a sink, faucet and cutting boards, and a cooler underneath. The forward console has a lounge, and wraparound seating adorns the bow. The entrance to the console lies to port, and the interior provides more than 6 feet of headroom, a vanity with a Corian countertop, a stainless-steel sink, and an electric-macerated freshwater toilet. An optional stand-through upper station is available. For our review of the Solace 30HCS, click here.

Solace 30HCS seating
Comfortable seating is found throughout the 30HCS.
Courtesy Solace

Pricing and Specs

Price: $445,000 (with twin Mercury V-8 300s)
LOA: 29’10”
Beam: 9’10”
Draft: 1’7” (engines up)
Transom Deadrise: 21 degrees
Weight: 10,000 lb. (with power)
Fuel Capacity: 187 gal.
Max Horsepower: 600
Pathfinder 2700 Open out fishing
The 2700 Open is rigged to fish just about anywhere.
Courtesy Pathfinder

Pathfinder 2700 Open

Pathfinder’s big new 2700 Open features a double-stepped hull with 18 degrees of transom deadrise and an unbroken sheer that lends it the appearance of a pure bay boat from a distance. Yet the interior mimics an offshore fishing machine more than most other models in this category. That’s because Pathfinder—a pioneer of the bay-boat genre—eschews any pretense to the traditional aft casting platform, instead reserving the stern area for an offshore-style 22-gallon transom livewell (with a viewing window) flanked by a pair of optional fold-down jump seats. Adding even more bluewater cred to this hybrid is a second 43-gallon livewell in the seating module abaft the deluxe helm seating for two with a vented high-rise backrest, folding armrests, and individual flip-up bolsters for support while standing at the wheel. There is a big elevated casting platform on the bow, a reminder that the 2700 Open can also serve inshore duty thanks to its 1-foot-5-inch draft. A jack plate on the transom allows anglers to adjust engine height when traversing the shallows. The dash panel is large enough for a pair of 12-inch multifunction displays or one 16-inch display. The optional T-top includes two glove boxes and six rod holders. A fully molded, removable cooler with handles and integral tie-downs serves as the forward console seat, with a backrest cushion attached to the console. Access to the console interior is to starboard; an optional head is available, and there’s also access to the electronics rigging inside. 

Pathfinder 2700 Open livewell
There’s an offshore-style 22-gallon livewell at the transom.
Courtesy Pathfinder

Pricing and Specs

Price: $174,932 (base with single Yamaha XTO 425)
LOA: 27’0”
Beam: 9’4”
Draft: 1’5” (engines up)
Transom Deadrise: 18 degrees
Weight: 4,934 lb. (with power)
Fuel Capacity: 95 gal. (standard); 31 gal. (optional aux. cell)
Max Horsepower: 450
Regulator 30XO running in the ocean
Anglers are sure to love the wealth of fishing features found on the 30XO.
Courtesy Regulator

Regulator 30XO

With a length overall of 30 feet, 7 inches, Regulator’s 30XO stands as the largest of all hybrid bay boats. Key features include twin Yamaha F300 DES outboards, an optional half-tower station, and a convertible tackle and entertainment center. There’s a forward casting platform with deep gunwales for safety. The aft casting platform offers jump seats that fold out from underneath. Anglers will love the combined 341 gallons of fish-box, livewell and storage space, the 10 rocket launchers on the helm station, and optional undergunwale locking rod storage. When it comes time to kick back, the 30XO offers plenty of plush seating, with the option to upgrade to diamond-quilted upholstery and add teak accents for a rich, classic look. The standard forward console settee delivers 218 quarts of cooler space, while the flush-folding rear cockpit seats house integrated dual bucket holders, with custom buckets port and starboard, and a mechanical access center. The dash can accommodate two 16-inch Garmin 8616xsv MFDs. A proprietary user interface called MyHelm provides easy-to-use functions on the touchscreen. The system even has its own key fob for controlling the Power-Poles, jack plate, spreader lights, light bar and deck lights. Yamaha Helm Master EX joystick control is an option. With 15 degrees of transom deadrise and a draft of 1 foot, 9 inches, the 30XO can ply inshore waters, but the hull also has the forward-V and heft to safely head offshore. For our full test of the Regulator 30XO, click here.

Regulator 30XO helm
The dash can accommodate two 16-inch Garmin 8616xsv MFDs.
Courtesy Regulator

Pricing and Specs

Price: $370,995 (base with twin Yamaha F300s)
LOA: 30’7”
Beam: 10’2”
Draft: 1’9” (engines up)
Transom Deadrise: 15 degrees
Weight: 9,525 lb. (with power)
Fuel Capacity: 222 gal.
Max Horsepower: 600
Scout 281 XSS
The 281 XSS combines bluewater angling chops with inshore fishing prowess.
Courtesy Scout

Scout 281 XSS

Scout’s 281 XSS serves as a prime example of a hybrid bay boat with bluewater angling chops and inshore fishing prowess. It features advanced epoxy-infused carbon-fiber and E-glass construction that minimizes weight, ensures durability and maximizes performance. With 15.5 degrees of transom deadrise, the 281 XSS drafts just 1 foot, 2 inches. Yet the double-stepped hull has a sharp entry to slice through choppy seas. Big casting platforms fore and aft give anglers plenty of elevation. It is available with single or twin outboards from Mercury and rated for a maximum of 600 hp. A fuel capacity of 126 gallons offers great fishing range. An 18-gallon livewell integrates into the leaning post, as does a slide-out 65-quart cooler, four rod holders, and lockers for fishing tackle. Under the aft casting deck is a pair of voluminous fish boxes that can be optionally plumbed as livewells. There’s also dedicated fender stowage and a foldout bench seat. A pair of helm chairs cradle the captain and co-pilot, and the helm features a pair of Garmin 10-inch multifunction displays. There’s an additional switch panel in the intricately crafted hardtop, which also includes four Fusion stereo speakers. A three-sided glass windshield shelters the helm area. An inviting forward console lounge features backrests and fold-down armrests. In the bow you’ll find wraparound seating with backrests to create a pair of forward-facing lounges. Classic Scout styling and optional colors add to the pride of ownership. To see our full review of the Scout 281 XSS, click here.

Scout 281 XSS leaning post
The leaning post features ample storage as well as a slide-out 65-quart cooler.
Courtesy Scout

Pricing and Specs

Price: $238,069 (base)
LOA: 28’1”
Beam: 9’4”
Draft: 1’2” (engines up)
Transom Deadrise: 15.5 degrees
Weight: 5,457 lb. (without power)
Fuel Capacity: 126 gal.
Max Horsepower: 600
SeaVee 270Z cruising out to fish
The 270Z offers a smooth ride even in rough sea conditions.
Courtesy SeaVee

SeaVee 270Z

SeaVee Boats led the early charge toward bigger bay boats when it introduced the 270Z Bay in 2015. With a 27-foot length overall and a 9-foot-1-inch beam, the 270Z reflects a traditional bay-boat interior, with spacious forward and aft casting platforms that sit high, 1-inch-high toe kicks all around, and a recessed cockpit amidships. The vacuum resin-infusion process used to build the hull and deck translates into lighter weight and a shallower draft. With 17 degrees of transom deadrise, the double-stepped hull drafts just 1 foot, 3 inches of water at rest. At the same time, multiple lifting bodies of the double-stepped Z-hull optimize the trim angle while underway to help smooth the ride in rough sea conditions. The 270Z is available with single or twin outboards, and can handle up to 600 hp. A 116-gallon fuel tank provides the ability to fish far and wide. Inside, twin insulated 6-foot-long, 75-gallon fish boxes and stowage space for a 5-gallon bucket and eight life jackets are built into the forward casting platform and drain overboard. A 25-gallon livewell is integrated into the forward cockpit, a 30-gallon pressurized livewell resides under the aft deck, and a foldout bench is concealed under the aft deck. The dash has room for a 16-inch MFD. Forward seating integrates a 68-quart cooler underneath. The console can be equipped with a clear acrylic windscreen, tempered glass windshield or polycarbonate enclosure. An optional hardtop is available and engineered to accommodate a second station aloft. For our test of the SeaVee 270Z, click here.

SeaVee 270Z casting platforms
There are spacious forward and aft casting platforms that sit high.
Courtesy SeaVee

Pricing and Specs

Price: $197,500 (base with single Mercury Verado 400 V-10)
LOA: 27’0”
Beam: 9’1”
Draft: 1’3” (engines up)
Transom Deadrise: 17 degrees
Weight: 3,500 lb. (without power)
Fuel Capacity: 116 gal.
Max Horsepower: 600
Everglades 273CC motoring in the river
An optional tower with a second station provides an elevated viewpoint for sight-fishing.
Courtesy Everglades

Everglades 273CC

One of the original big hybrid bay boats, the Everglades 273CC drafts just 1 1/2 feet for stalking inshore waters. But it also possesses the heart of an offshore hunter thanks to a wave-slicing variable-deadrise V-hull that features a healthy 20-degree transom deadrise, generous freeboard and Everglades RAMCAP construction. On deck you’ll find a spacious forward casting platform made possible by a filler placed between the bow seating/lounge modules. Remove the filler for unobstructed access to the bow. Underneath the forward seating, lockable storage incorporates racks capable of cradling as many as eight rods to port and another eight to starboard. The aft platform is abbreviated, but also has a pair of jump seats for crew comfort when moving between fishing spots. A 31-gallon livewell resides in the leaning post abaft the deluxe helm seats, along with a nifty tackle-storage and bait-prep center, and a sink with a pullout freshwater washdown hose. An insulated 82-gallon fish box is below the forward deck. Power arrives in the form of twin Yamaha F300 DES outboards available with the Yamaha Helm Master EX system. The standard hardtop features an aluminum powder-coated frame, LED lighting, an electronics box, four rod holders, and a ski pylon for days when watersports supplant fishing. Always the innovator, Everglades equips the 273CC with a tempered-glass windshield that slides downward at the push of button to usher in a breeze on sultry days. An optional tower with a second station provides an elevated viewpoint for sight-fishing. Everglades offers a variety of optional marine electronics packages from Garmin. 

Everglades 273CC livewell
A 31-gallon livewell resides in the leaning post abaft the deluxe helm seats.
Courtesy Everglades

Pricing and Specs

Price: $319,715 (base)
LOA: 27’3”
Beam: 9’3”
Draft: 1’6” (engines up)
Transom Deadrise: 20 degrees
Weight: 7,500 lb. (with power)
Fuel Capacity: 157 gal.
Max Horsepower: 600

More Choices

A number of other bay boats push the size envelope in this category. Here are some prime examples.

Barker 26

Barker Boatworks offers two 25 1/2-foot bay-boat models based on the same hull. The 26 Calibogue Bay offers a traditional layout with fore and aft casting decks, while the Barker 26 Open eschews casting decks in favor of a big, deep ­cockpit that’s better suited to offshore fishing. Both models display outstanding workmanship and immaculate rigging. They feature 18 degrees of transom deadrise, weigh 4,500 pounds, draft 1 foot, 2 inches, sport a 450 hp rating, and have standard 90-gallon fuel capacities, with 120-gallon fuel-tank options. Both models are available with jack plates to elevate the outboard. 

Pricing for the 26 Calibogue Bay starts at $206,350 with a Mercury 400 Verado V-10; the 26 Open starts at $211,400 with the same motor.

Contender 26 Bay

The 26 Bay features traditional expansive casting decks and a deep cockpit. It also offers U-shaped seating abaft the bow platform with big dry stowage ­lockers underneath. More dry stowage and insulated fish lockers reside forward. A ­40-gallon livewell is positioned between the aft seats, and a 12-gallon well is in the bow. With 15.5 degrees of transom deadrise and a displacement of 4,200 pounds (with power), the 26 Bay drafts 12 inches. It’s rated for 400 hp and offered with a jack plate. Its 100-gallon fuel tank grants great range. 

Pricing is $150,000 for a base boat with a Yamaha F300 to $250,000 when fully tricked out with a second station, luxury seating, dual Power-Poles and more.

Yellowfin 26 Hybrid

With a sweeping sheer, a deep cockpit from transom to bow, and the availability of twin outboards, this highly customized 26-footer epitomizes the trend toward offshore-capable bay boats. Yet this 5,000-pound (with power) hull drafts only 1 1/2 feet, striking a sweet compromise between skinny and blue water. Rated for 500 hp, the 26 Hybrid carries 118 gallons of fuel for long range. Hardtop and tower options let you set up the 26 Hybrid for how you like to fish. You can also opt for forward seating for days when family cruising is on tap, or choose an insulated coffin box to boost onboard cold storage. It also has plenty of dry storage, with inner-hull access under the rear bench seating. An upright livewell sits in the leaning-post module abaft the helm seating. 

With each boat built specifically to the buyer’s specifications, the 26 Hybrid ranges in price from $325,000 to $395,000.

Robalo Cayman 266

This boat features fore and aft casting platforms that convert to seating. The 5,600-pound Cayman 266 boasts a 110-gallon fuel tank. This delivers great range, even with the max 425 hp Yamaha XTO Offshore outboard on the transom. The wide 9-foot beam provides plenty of room for fishing.

Angling accoutrements include four gunwale rod holders, locking rod storage and twin 30-gallon livewells aft, plus a 20-gallon livewell in the bow. The aft livewell/fish boxes are blue gelcoated, insulated, and feature specific livewell pumps, LED lighting, adjustable flow valves and plexiglass divider.

The Robalo Cayman 266 carries a suggested retail price of $171,079 with an F300 Yamaha.