Wellcraft’s new 202 Fisherman is a big center console masquerading as a 20-footer.
Most boat builders introduce a couple of new models a year, but Wellcraft totally redesigned and consolidated its fleet over a two-and-a-half-year period. Its latest model, the 202 Fisherman, epitomizes the builder’s new direction, which hews toward affordable family fishing fun.
That’s not to say its boats aren’t serious fishing machines; after all, Wellcraft manufactures the Scarab Offshore series, a line of 30-something-footers designed to compete on pro fishing circuits such as the Southern Kingfish Tour (SKA) whose anglers sometimes make daily runs of more than 200 miles in any kind of seas. And Wellcraft has only been building boats for more than 60 years, so its new boats have some pedigree behind them.
Video: Wellcraft 202 Fish – Boat Test
The 202 Fisherman is a tank in the best possible sense. It’s a center console that looks and feels bigger than its 20-foot, 4-inch length, thanks in part to its gunwale height, which enhances passengers’ sense of security when conditions are less than perfect, like what we experienced on Lake Cadillac in Michigan during our test. Lots of center console boats have low gunwales that punish anglers’ knees during a long day of fishing in lumpy water, but even those who are more than 6 feet tall will be thigh-high on the 202’s gunwales, allowing them to feel locked in while hooked up. Additionally, the Marine Mat Package ($700) includes padding that encircles the cockpit and acts as coaming pads and footrest padding at the bow and on the helm’s footrest.
To enhance the bow’s family friendliness, Wellcraft offers a Bow Seating Package ($527) that creates a U-lounge for passengers. Set into the forward deck is a huge livewell with a tinted tempered glass viewing window on one side. It keeps adults apprised of the contents’ well-being and acts as an aquarium for kid entertainment. Filled, its added weight helps the 202 get on plane quickly with less bowrise.
A head compartment is a big deal to most boating families, but few 20-footers have anything more than a five-gallon bucket for this amenity. The front of the 202’s large center console, however, lifts up to reveal an adult-sized compartment that can be outfitted with a pumpout head ($367). It also provides a place to store the bow cushions.
Wellcraft gives owners a choice of Yamaha or Mercury outboard power, from 115 to 200 hp, with a momma bear choice of a 150 thrown in. While the boat with a Yamaha 115 comes at a very attractive $35,115 price point, I can only say, “Don’t do it!” Yamaha’s test of that package showed it could muster a top speed of just 35 mph at 6200 rpm, which lands it squarely in the slow lane, and owners will probably have to drive it at close to its top rpm. Disciplined drivers who run it at 4500 rpm will find it pokes along at 23.4 mph.
We tested it with an F200 and can’t picture this boat with anything less, given its stout hull’s 3,100-pound heft. Of course, going to 200 hp increases the price to $44,805, which is a pretty big bump, but that includes the price of hydraulic steering, which is mandatory for 150 hp and up. The 200 hp Yamaha moves the 202 Fisherman into a different performance echelon, starting with a great holeshot of 3.2 seconds, with modest bowrise. Its time to 30 mph was 7.2 seconds on test day, and it reached a top speed of 44.4 mph, nearly 10 mph faster than with the F115. A comparison of cruise speeds at 4500 rpm, where most modern outboards love to run, shows an increase of 10 mph. Evinrude only becomes a factory option with the 222 Fisherman and larger boats in the lineup.
At the helm, the driver grips a thick stainless steel destroyer-type tilt wheel that has a spinner knob. And for a better ergonomic driving position, the footwell can be fitted with optional matting for comfort and slip-free operation. A Plexiglas windshield offers good protection against the elements and is removable. Seating at the helm consists of a leaning post whose backrest flips fore and aft, giving occupants the option to sit facing rearward when they’re fishing or hanging out. The upholstery has a carbon-fiber look, but I could do without the oversized piping on the seat bottom and backrest, which is purely decorative.
The 202 Fisherman is wide for its length, with a full 8-foot, 6-inch beam, which is six inches wider than its smaller center console cousin, the 182 Fisherman, and is the same as the 242 Fisherman. The beam width delivers side-to-side stability at rest or at trolling speeds and provides extra lift for holeshots. Deadrise is 19 degrees, which gives it a good combination of stability and slicing prowess through the waves, as we discovered on test day, when a white-capped Lake Cadillac dealt with a 25 mph wind. Our boat had the optional Lenco trim tabs ($1,113), which deliver a better holeshot in shallow water, correct any weight distribution imbalances, right any lists in beam seas, and nudge the bow down a little in head seas, so the sharper leading edge of the hull can provide a softer ride.
Although primarily designed as a fishing boat, the 202 Fisherman has a bow U-lounge, twin flip-up jump seats at the stern and a double seat at the helm — enough for its capacity of eight passengers. To increase its entertainment chops, there’s a stereo option for $527 and plenty of room for a cooler under the leaning post.
Wellcraft offers the Scarab Offshore Package ($947), which comes with the leaning post and its flip-flop backrest, Marine Mat padding, additional rod holders and the giant Scarab Offshore hull graphics, to channel the vibe of its tournament fishing boats. Rod storage is available in under-gunwale racks, a pair of rod holders in the gunwales and two on the transom that multitask as cupholders. For casting, there’s a large bow deck, and the area at the bow where the anchor locker is located is flat enough and has enough room for a person to stand and throw a cast net. Just behind the cooler is an extra-deep storage compartment that could double as a cooler or a fishbox.
Wellcraft offers a turnkey package that’s ready to roll with a saltwater-friendly twin-axle galvanized trailer. And there’s no need to go with a boring white hull. For $260 buyers can get one of six solid hull colors or, for the same price, get the same colors in two tone with contrasting white. Buyers who want to make a visual statement can get a black hull accented with fluorescent yellow/green, aka Atomic, Passion Red or white, for $360.
Buyers can get the 202 Fisherman with a Bimini top ($793), but to accentuate its role as a serious fishing boat they should get the T-top option ($2,867), which includes a canvas top, netting for storage underneath, two rocket launcher rod holders and plenty of room to add more. A plug-and-play trolling motor factory pre-rig costs $267.
At the helm is a deep well at the top of the dash for stowing cellphones and often-used fishing gear, and the dash has room for an electronics display up to 14 inches. The biggest no-brainer option is the raw-water washdown ($280), for after-fishing cleanups. For times when the fish aren’t biting, the addition of a ski tow ($267) will put watersports into the mix of actvities.