Bay boats have become the boat of choice for inshore anglers these days. They provide more space and freeboard than traditional flats boats, and at the same time they can run in far shallower water than true offshore boats. They’re also lighter to tow than deep-Vs, but have just as much family space topside. And one of the most impressive in the field is the NauticStar 2400, an upscale bay rig that comes completely loaded with all the fishing essentials, looks great, and is built to last for decades.
I tested the boat on rock-bound Lewis Smith Lake, southeast of the company’s plant in Amory, Mississippi – a great venue for chasing striped bass, which the boat is ideally suited to do. The first notable fact was the smoking acceleration; thanks to a weight of just 2500 pounds. The hull got on top in under 4 seconds, and hit 30 mph in 6.6 seconds – that’s sportboat performance, especially with a big four-stroke 250 on the transom.
Of course, sometimes a smoking hole shot means less top speed thanks to a lower-than-needed pitch on the prop. But the 15 1/4 x 21-inch Powertech! stainless three-blade pushed the boat to 54.2 mph at 6300 rpm – it won’t take long to get to that distant honey hole in this rig, and it’s rated for 300 horses. It’s probably close to a 60-mph boat with 50 more horses and a higher-pitch wheel.
Fuel economy was very good, peaking at 3.5 mpg at 3500 rpm and 26.7 mph. With an 80-gallon tank, even those wild redfish tourney guys will find the range adequate – 252 miles at cruising speed.
THE FINISH FITS
I’ve run a lot of bay boats over the years, and I’d rank the NauticStar in the upper 10 percent in terms of quality of fit and finish. You get nice touches like RTM hatch lids that look as good on the inside as out. Plus these hatches are light, but very stiff – there’s no flex when you step on them. And all have high-grade locks that will keep your fishing stuff safe. They are also guttered and drained to prevent water build-up inside.
There’s a huge amount of storage in this boat. The dual rod boxes hold 10 rods in racks that will keep them separated – a big plus for those who have dealt with the tangled mess in boxes without racks. There are also six vertical rod racks on the console for your working gear, plus space for 10 more under the gunwales. And the two tackle hatches sunk into the back deck come equipped with ten Plano tackle boxes standing upright – this makes keeping track of all your lures a breeze.
For anglers who use a castnet to capture sardines or finger mullet, the belowdecks storage for a 5-gallon castnet bucket is a great idea, as is the adjacent raw water washdown to clean up the mess after you’ve tossed the net a few times. The rear livewell holds 47 gallons and is fed by both a 500 gph supply pump and an 800 gph aerator pump. It also includes a LED light and a stand-pipe for flow-through bait pampering.
The anchor locker in the bow peak not only has a hanger, but also includes a couple of shank locks that will keep the anchor from jumping around in rough going. Also standard is the bow plug for your trolling motor, plus a tilt control for the outboard in the same panel. An enlarged section of the gunwale is designed to fit the foot of your bow-mount troller. There’s plenty of room up there to add a second fishfinder, too.
There are padded jumpseats in the aft corners of the cockpit, and the backs of these seats fold down flush to add more fishing space for the aft casting deck. Swivel chairs are available for both front and rear fishing.
I like the removable console rail and Plexiglas windshield too; this would allow you to get the boat on a trailer through a low garage door, and it also provides space to stand atop the console to sight fish on the flats, should you so desire.
Belowdecks, the boat is all business, with a fiberglass, foam-filled stringer system, high-density composite transom, and a vinylester barrier coat to prevent blistering. All pumps and hoses are easily accessed through the large hatch next to the aft well.
WIDE OPEN SPACES
Maybe the most notable design element in the 2400 is that it carries the 8 1/2-foot beam well forward, giving a feel almost like Kenner’s venerable SkiBarge, which was sort of the first bay boat, before the term had been invented. You lose a little in top speed by broadening the bow of a performance hull, but you get so much more useful space on the front casting deck that the tradeoff is well worth it. And, more volume up front means more buoyancy there, should you chose to take this boat offshore on occasion.
It’s true that every boat is something of compromise, and this true of the 2400, as well. For example, you can’t pole this big bay boat nearly so easily as you can a flats boat, and most float somewhat deeper than dedicated flyweight flats rigs. The NauticStar, however, does well in this department, with a draft of only 13 inches, drive up.
It takes a bigger trailer and tow vehicle to haul a bay rig than it does to haul a flats boats, and a bigger garage to store it. And compared to a true offshore boat, it’s going to be wetter and rougher riding.
But for a great many anglers, the positives of a utility player at the right price far outweigh these issues. Bay boats are a hot buy these days all along the coasts, and they’re showing up on lots of big freshwater lakes, as well.
If you think this may be your genre, NauticStar may be your boat.
– Frank Sargeant