2023 Boat Buyers Guide: Dual Consoles
Dual-console boats were once more popular for cruising than serious fishing. Then manufacturers introduced new models with more rod holders, extra storage, insulated fish boxes, advanced electronics and full offshore rigging—everything the serious angler needs—with the comfort of a closeable cockpit and spacious forward seating. And they’re getting bigger and more powerful than ever before. There is a family-friendly, hardcore-fishing dually that can take you fishing anywhere.
Like the name says, dual-console boats have two consoles: one on the starboard side and one on the port. The starboard console holds the steering wheel and captain’s station, and the port console shelters the passenger and provides storage space and interior access.
Joe Pegg, regional sales director for Robalo, says, “Dual-consoles typically have integrated bow lounge seating, a full-beam windshield, cruising features, livewells, rod holders, fish boxes, and a sea-taming deep-V hull ahead of outboard power.”
“Dual-consoles are popular for enabling everyone to be together with more protection from the elements,” adds Alan Lang, director of sales and marketing at Scout Boats.
Dual-consoles offer more cockpit space than center-consoles of similar size, which is an attractive feature for serious anglers. Pursuit Boats director of brand management Mark Taiclet says that a deep-V hull is designed for rough seas while maintaining stability. “In most cases, a dual-console is heavier than a center-console, with the center of gravity farther forward,” he says. This quality makes the boat slightly slower than a similar-size center-console, but the weight placement improves comfort.
Dual-consoles’ full windshield and hardtop or Bimini top offer protection from the elements. “Many consumers like the extra shade as well as the protection from cold, wind and rain,” says Pegg at Robalo Boats. That combination of comfort and function means you can take the family out fishing, and if weather conditions deteriorate, you can gather everyone under the top and get home warm, dry, and happy.
Tip: Dual-consoles aren’t all fishing business—these boats like to party. Lounge seating in the cockpit doubles as storage for fishing gear. A wet bar makes a convenient rigging station. Rod holders are accompanied by cup holders.
Having two consoles not only provides more space for storage and rigging, but on the driver’s side, the captain’s station also features a full electronics layout, including flush-mount display, VHF and stereo. On the passenger side, the console offers protection from the elements. Inside the consoles, designers incorporated extra storage, access to wiring, a head, and even a berth. Each console is complemented with comfortable seating.
Tip: “Seating offers space to add coolers, a grill, iceboxes, refrigerator, tackle storage or rod holders, and different appointments,” Lang says. “The latest trends in larger DCs include a multifunction display to control boat functions from the cockpit,” he continues. “Plug in your phone, and the display becomes an entertainment center.”
Bow seating is one of the defining features of a dual-console boat. A small door and open window between the consoles provide access. This open area in the bow is great for hanging out and catching rays. For anglers, the bow is great for catching fish. Taiclet shares a story of catching mahi from Pursuit’s DC 325. “We were able to comfortably cast and maneuver around the aft cockpit while our friends cast from the bow,” he shares.
Tip: To make the most of valuable space, make sure hinges and latches on bow-seat tops open easily and provide convenient access to the compartments’ interiors.
Bigger and Better
With models over 30 feet long, the latest generation of dual-consoles has more space for fishing and cruising. Lang explains, “Dual-console owners love the layout, and they want to move up to a bigger boat.” For some people, a dual-console is an entry-level boat, and owners want to graduate to more features and possibilities without giving up the comfort and convenience.
Rig for Fishing
Outriggers, downriggers and extra rod holders are commonly added as optional equipment on dual-console boats. Look for access below deck and flat spaces on the gunwales and hardtop to customize the boat with extra rod storage, outriggers and downrigger bases.
The dual-console’s open bow offers the perfect place to add a GPS-guided saltwater trolling motor with features like Minn Kota’s Spot-Lock for maintaining the boat’s position over a productive fishing spot such as a wreck. Choose an electric motor with remote control to operate the motor from any point on the boat, or stand in the open bow to maneuver around structure while fishing for snapper or grouper, or creep in close to shallow water for redfish and tarpon.
While anglers in the family might have a center-console fishing machine in mind when it comes to boat shopping, nonangling family members might lean toward a sportboat for cruising, watersports and snorkeling. Families facing such impasses is the major reason for the popularity of dual-console boats. They let you to do some serious fishing on Saturday, then entertain nonanglers on Sunday.
Stan Watts runs a Pursuit DC 295 out of Barnegat Bay, New Jersey. He is a longtime dual-console owner who recently moved up to a larger model. “I knew that I wanted to stay with a dual-console, but I wanted something larger for safety when fishing offshore,” he explains.
Watts has heavily modified his 295 for fishing. “I added radar, a spotlight, outriggers, additional rod holders on the hardtop and transom, autopilot, a full rear enclosure, 30-amp power for an electric reel, and a swivel rod holder.”
The list of features allowed him to start out targeting dolphin and work his way up to tuna. “I was determined to catch a swordfish,” he says. On a trip this past summer, Watts and friends prepped baits and rigged gear for deep-dropping. “On the first drift, we caught our first swordfish,” he says. A few minutes later, Watts’ team scored a 73-pound yellowfin tuna. “The dual-console is the SUV of boats,” he says.
Editor Says: If your fishing day starts in the blue water and ends at the sandbar, a dual-console boat combines fishability with comfort. The open layout and bow access provide more space for fishing with the whole gang. Extensive padded seating, tables, food-prep areas, and a large swim platform are perfect for hanging out with family and friends. The combination of comfort and fishing features allows the crew to go farther and enjoy the water. -Ric Burnley, Freelance Writer, Fishing Group