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Boat Test: Yellowfin 21…


As more and more anglers juggle hardcore fishing and family fun on the water, boatbuilders carry on launching multitalented models with enhancements in design, construction and rigging. Yellowfin’s 21 Bay, a member of the latest crop, offers the coveted trifecta of performance, functionality and comfort.

Yellowfin remains resolute in its commitment to craftsmanship and the quest to address anglers’ needs without sacrificing convenience. The 21 Bay, a perfect example, shines for its ergonomic design, practical and roomy layout, and the builder’s customary top-notch fit and finish. And while the new 21-footer is shorter than the rest of Yellowfin’s bay models, it remains long on fishability.

Storage is substantial for a boat this size, and the spacious foredeck, uncluttered cockpit, and the ride are all reminiscent of a larger craft. Quite stable at anchor, adrift and under power, this boat is equipped with an array of standard fishing features and options perfectly situated for intuitive use. The 21 Bay has what it takes to excel at a number of tasks, from fishing shallow grass flats for redfish and trout to plugging shorelines for snook, live-baiting inlets for stripers or tarpon, and jigging nearshore wrecks for bottomfish. With the optional tower, it’s well-suited to hunting for cobia along the beaches or tripletail around crab-trap floats.

A glance is enough to tell the design and layout involved lots of input from seasoned anglers. At the bow, the tip of the foredeck ­affords just enough space for a trolling-motor mount and cleats to port and starboard. The highest point forward, it seemlessly flows into the toe rails that extend along both casting deck edges and all the way to the rear, a safety feature that, as a bonus, also helps keep fly lines from sliding into the water. Moving aft a few inches, the ample deck offers elbow room for two anglers and houses a dedicated anchor locker plus a large storage compartment, at the bottom of which a second hatch isolates trolling-motor batteries from stored gear and ensures they stay dry.

Farther back, the foredeck’s spacious second tier (a few inches lower) incorporates a sizable insulated fish box designed to also serve as storage and accept a 5-gallon bucket, and as a comfortable step up from the ­cockpit, leaving plenty of real estate for a removable cooler to double as a seat in front of the center console.

A forward-facing door on the console provides access to electronics rigging and houses batteries inside. Integrated vertical racks hold four rods on both sides of the console without hindrance to foot traffic. Meanwhile, the business side boasts a tall dash for flush-mounting electronics large enough to accommodate a single 17-inch multifunction display or a pair of smaller displays. Twin cup holders keep beverages on both sides of the helm, freeing hands to tend to other duties. And SmartCraft gauges, stereo controls, and trim-tab and power-pole switches find suitable spots around the tilt steering wheel.

Leaning-post-style helm seating aboard the 21 Bay includes a pair of rod tubes on the backrest, storage underneath the flip-up bench cushion, and a parking space for a large cooler at the foot of the aluminum frame. The gunwales rise almost to knee height, providing welcome security in the cockpit when fishing in deep, open waters.

A cushion affixed to an access hatch near the rear-deck bulkhead provides comfortable seating for two and lifts to service livewell pumps. Just aft, the raised deck provides enough surface area for a third angler to fish unencumbered, and holds three round livewells to hold a substantial live-bait supply or keep three different bait species separated.

An integrated engine bracket on the transom places the outboard away from the hull for peak performance and a smoother ride. And the hydraulic jack plate, standard issue on the 21 Bay, enables vertical engine adjustments on the fly, especially valuable for skinny-water takeoffs and crossings.

Speaking of takeoffs, the 21 Bay’s are swift. With only myself on board, hole shot was just a tad under whiplash fast, and the 6 seconds it took the test boat (powered by a 200 hp Mercury Verado) to go from zero to 30 mph is more than sufficient speed to jump up in a hole and get out of Dodge when the tide gets too low for comfort. In classic ­Yellowfin fashion, attitude remained flat during acceleration, never squatting or coming remotely close to hindering visibility at the helm due to bow rise.

The 21-footer also proved precise and predictable on both wide and tight turns. Even at high speeds in a 1-foot chop, the hull stayed on course through the curves, tracking perfectly without sliding, another characteristic of Yellowfins. And running at wide-open throttle on the straightaways, the ­Yellowfin exceeded 60 mph. Nevertheless, 3,000 rpm, where the boat cruises at just over 31 mph and burns only 4.5 gph, provides the best range: approximately 350 miles on a full tank of gas.

All told, the 21 Bay passed every test with flying colors. Yellowfin has another winner, and anglers everywhere now have a superb high-performance fishing platform to consider when shopping for a bay boat.


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