Center-console fish boats have always made sense to me. I owned and fished a 25-footer in the 1980s, and she proved more than a match for many boats twice her size. The breed has matured along with outboard technology, so it's no surprise Fountain Powerboats—which made its name in offshore racing—has carved a niche in today's center-console fish boat market. The new Fountain 38 Tournament Edition is an excellent example of the company's ability to meld performance and fishing.
There is no mistaking the 38's pedigree; her clipper-like stem has become the Fountain trademark. No less subtle are the accent stripes and color-coordinated upholstery that have trickled down from the race boat market. She definitely makes an impression, but as with other Fountain products, she is more than eye candy. Her hull form is an adaptation of the hulls Fountain has campaigned successfully since boat racer-turned-entrepreneur Reggie Fountain founded the company in 1979. He is still at the helm, though the company is now public. Its performance, cruising and fishing boats are produced in a 300,000-square-foot production facility that occupies 100 acres of a former tobacco field in Washington, North Carolina.
The 38 is the largest of 11 models that share Fountain's vision as it applies to angling. While she has the fishy features other boats in the market tout, her performance distinguishes her. Our test boat, fitted with three Mercury 225 hp OptiMax engines, delivered a top speed of 57.3 knots. This is fast, but perhaps the greatest credit I can offer the design is that the speed does not seem so, at least when you're behind the protection of the console.
From the wheel, the 38 is steady and stable. Her power steering is sensitive, but not overly so. She banks and cuts turns predictably. Ease her race-bred Gaffrig controls forward, and she rises quickly and evenly, planing at 18 knots (2500 rpm). She cruises comfortably at 3500 rpm, or a bit more than 32 knots. For a bit more of a thrill, the 38 can be rigged with three 250 hp outboards Fountain says will deliver a top speed around 60 knots.
Fountain's own aluminum trim tabs and analog position indicators are fitted, and I found them necessary only for fine-tuning. The 38's helm is packed with a full complement of analog gauges, as well as digital tach and fuel management gauges.
The 38's hull incorporates what Fountain calls a Super Ventilated Positive Lift running surface. This translates into a multi-stepped bottom with notched vents at the chine. Deadrise of the multiple lifting surfaces is a constant 22.5 degrees. A notched transom and keel pad add lift and improve the flow of water to the propellers. Fountain is serious about performance, and each boat's bottom surface angles are checked before sea trials at the factory prior to delivery.
Fountain's hearty, race-bred construction has evolved with the benefit of lessons learned in competition. The 38 is laminated by hand in female tooling with a blend of stitched, multi-directional reinforcements and custom-blended vinylester resin. Foam coring stiffens the hull sides and decks, as well as some bottom areas. Stringers are marine plywood encapsulated with fiberglass. The transom is a fiberglass/marine plywood composite supported by heavy, laminated knees integrated with the stringer system. The hull-deck joint is bonded with adhesive, mechanically fastened and glassed from the inside. The 38's aluminum work also appears stocky. Everything from fuel tanks to T-tops is built in-house, and the quality of the metalwork appears excellent.
The 38's layout is consistent with her mission as a day fisherman. She is fitted with the essentials, including a 50-gallon live well and a bait prep area with freshwater sink. Four in-sole fishboxes are plumbed with a macerator and drain overboard. There is plenty of stowage. Accommodations for electronics are good in the console and in the overhead electronics box built into the factory T-top.
Creature comforts include a fiberglass-lined head/shower compartment within the console that has an electric head and a sink. The forward cuddy is small and Spartan, but the V-berth arrangement would serve in a pinch. Rod stowage is beneath the berths.
As is the case with center consoles, the 38 is best suited for stand-up fishing. She has been a popular competitor on the kingfish circuit.
In tournament terms, the 38 is far from a traditional ride. However, if you're looking for a large center console with a bias toward performance, she is worthy of consideration.
Contact: Fountain Powerboats, (252) 975-2000; fax (252) 975-6793; www.fountainpowerboats.com.