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TOUGH UNDERNEATH THE NICE TOUCHES

This boat can handle the rigors of tournament fishing. So enjoy the tunes during your runs.

Fishermen know what they want in a boat: a dry ride, a livewell that keeps bait frisky and a hull that doesn't sound like it is cracking every time it hits a wake.

"I grew up fishing these waters, and over the years, I have worked on every kind of boat imaginable," said Robin Stach, the creative force behind Egmont Boatworks. "Fishermen always come in looking for the same thing. With the Egmont 23, we listened, and gave them what they wanted."

With fuel prices going through the roof, many anglers are downsizing, getting rid of their gas-hungry offshore rigs and buying small, lightweight boats that can do a little of everything.

Not your average bay boat

Every major manufacturer makes a bay boat these days, but many models come straight off an assembly line without much thought to style or craftsmanship. This is not the case with this 23-footer. "We paid attention to detail," Stach said. "We thought everything out, from the bow entry to the livewell."

It shows. The Egmont, named after one of the better-known fishing spots on the west coast of Florida, is a work of art. Little things, such as recessed speakers in the T-top and underwater halogen lights, make it a beauty to behold.

The Egmont 23 seems almost too nice to take out and splatter with fish blood and bait scales.

"It's pretty, but it is also tough," said Jason Gell, a well-known St. Petersburg kingfish and tarpon angler who tested the boat in a tournament last spring. "I've had it out on rough days where every time you land, you keep waiting for a 'Crack!' Not with this boat."

Structural integrity

The key, Stach said, is a solid design and no skimping on materials. He ought to know. For nearly 40 years, the St. Petersburg native has worked for the biggest names in local boat building - Gulfstar Yachts (now Lazzara) and Morgan and Irwin.

Although he has made everything from large racing sailboats to 18-foot trailerable trimarans, Stach's heart lies with powerboats. His Bulldog 20 has been popular for years. The Egmont 23, built in Tampa and rigged in St. Petersburg, carries on that Bulldog design, with a few extra frills.

"I think the boat's greatest asset is the swim platform/bracket system," he said.

On most boats, the bracket to hold the engine is usually bolted through the transom. But the Egmont 23 has an integrated swim platform, bracket and motor mount system that is all one piece.

"You started drilling holes in a boat to mount the engine, you weaken the structural integrity of the hull and you give water a place to come in," Stach said. "Our swim platform is part of the hull."

Inshore or offshore?

There was a time when an angler might consider having two boats; one for the flats and another for deep water. But with fuel prices on the rise, many anglers are looking for a more fuel-efficient craft that can fulfill a variety of needs.

The Egmont 23 is capable of floating in 12 inches of water and, once up on plane, running in 8.

"You don't have to worry about tearing off your lower unit in this boat," Stach said. "Your bow will hit the bottom before the engine does."

Many shallow-running bay boats deliver an uncomfortable, wet ride. Stach and his crew tried to give big boat features to this relatively small, light craft. A sharp bow entry and a 17 degree dead rise help the boat handle well in rough water.

"The design came from the fishermen," he said. "These guys come in and tell you what they think works and what they think doesn't work. You take the best ideas from all of them and you get the Egmont 23."

Fishability

Most fishermen don't care about how pretty their boat looks.

"For me, it is all about fishability," said Dane Karcher of Madeira Beach, who has ordered two 25-foot Egmonts (to be released later this year) for his charter service. "You get four guys fishing at the same time, you don't want them running into each other. You have to be able to move around to check baits, untangle lines. You can do that on this boat."

Gell, who competes on several kingfish circuits, said he looks for little things that will make life easier during a tournament.

"There is a big fish box right in the middle of the deck," he said. "You catch a fish you want to keep, it goes right in. It is real convenient."

Stach spent four months tweaking his 90-gallon livewell (45 gallons below deck/45 gallons above), adding lights and a pressurized system.

"We painted the inside aqua blue so the bait thinks it is still swimming in the ocean," he said. "I am no fish psychologist, but I think that a happy bait is a good bait."

Karcher has another favorite thing about the Egmont.

"On most boats, you can't hear your music while you are running," he said. "But with the speakers in the hard top, you can hear your tunes. Slow trolling to (Jimmy) Buffett ... man it doesn't get any better than that."

Egmont Boatworks 23

Price: $60,000

Length: 23 feet 10 inches

Beam: 7 feet 6 inches

Draft at rest: 12 inches

Draft, running: 8 inches

Dry weight: 1,740 pounds

Fuel capacity: 81 gallons

Fresh water: 11 gallons

Dead rise: 17 degrees

Max horsepower: 250

Recommended motor: Yamaha 200 horsepower four-stroke

For more information, go to www.egmontboatworks.com.

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