Can’t decide whether to get a bay boat or an offshore boat? Get both.
In most coastal regions, the hot fishing spot changes daily. To stay on the bite, anglers need to go with the flow. One day the action might be inshore, the next day offshore. Few boats can do both without serious compromise in at least one of the two arenas. But NauticStar’s new flagship bay boat is a definition-buster that is both an “innie” and an “outie.”
Nauticstar 265 XTS Boat Test Video
My first impression of the 265 XTS? It’s a bay boat on steroids. At 26 feet, 2 inches long and 9 feet across the beam, it’s a beast, but it can do many things smaller, more traditional bay boats can do, such as float in 14 inches of water and get out of the hole in skinny water with ease. But its extra acreage means owners can take all their buddies fishing without being elbow to elbow. The foredeck and the aft casting deck have very low gunwales that won’t impede the kind of creative casting anglers employ to fire a lure low under branches along a shoreline. Low gunwales make landing a fish without a net or gaff simpler too, which is easier on to-be-released fish.
A couple of features that set the 265 XTS apart from other boats are its standard T-top and center console. The T-top features powder-coated supports whose stout D-tubes are integrated into the console rather than round ones that are rooted in the walkway. The 265’s extra six inches of beam might legally require owners to jump through a couple of extra towing regulation hoops, but the benefit is the ease with which people can walk past the console without having to turn sideways. So if a fish takes an angler for a few laps around the boat, he won’t be impeded.
One of the problems a tall windshield can have during offshore outings occurs when the seas kick up: spray splatters on it, right in the line of sight, so spotting birds or reading the bottom while running can be difficult. NauticStar solved that on its Lexan windshield with a flip-down top section. It secures to the lower section with strong magnets, improving visibility and delivering fresh air. An owner can remove the entire windshield without tools.
NauticStar offers two engine options: a Yamaha V-6 F300 or a V-8 F350. It does, however, offer a boat-only option ($75,808), for buyers who must have a different engine brand. We tested the 265 XTS with the big daddy option, which costs $7,167 more than the F300 but comes with a five-year warranty instead three years, like on all other Yamaha models. The price for a well-loaded boat with the F350 is $118,852. There is a 201-pound weight penalty for having two more cylinders and 50 more horses, which adds up to 763 pounds altogether. But despite being pretty heavy, the 265 handled the weight beautifully, especially out of the hole.
I wondered if having the equivalent of two extra-large sumo wrestlers sitting on the transom would translate to excessive stern squatting, which usually translates to bowrise when launching, but we found little evidence of either, thanks in part to the aft planing pods, which generate lots of lift. When I jammed the drive-by-wire throttle, the boat took off very levelly as it reached plane in just 2.9 seconds. Its time to 30 mph was 7.6 seconds, and it reached a top speed of 57 mph once we got the engine height adjusted correctly on the standard Atlas six-inch hydraulic jackplate, which helps it scoot across shallow areas.
According to Yamaha performance tests, which we’ve found to be very accurate, the F300 is no slouch and delivers better fuel economy. A comparison of mileage at a severe econo-cruise rpm of 3000 netted the F350 a speed of 23.1 mph while getting 2.6 mpg. The F300 at 3000 rpm went 22.3 mph but got 3.42 mpg. At higher speeds, the mileage was closer. For instance, at 4500 rpm the F350 reached 42.1 mph (41.8 mph on test day) and got 2.39 mpg, while the F300 hit 40.8 mph and got 2.6 mpg. The top speed difference, according to Yamaha, was 52.6 mph vs. 57.5 mph, 300 vs. 350. With an F350, I would like to see more than a 74-gallon fuel tank, for more range.
The 265 XTS features a modified V-hull that greets oncoming waves with a sharp 40-degree entry that tapers to a moderate 16 degrees at the stern, giving it the ability to be smooth in the chop and get on plane quickly with help from its “air-assisted” chine. Its vented hull design introduces air under the hull for better performance and reduces surface tension. The design helps it turn really well, with a moderate amount of lean-in during hard cornering, so snaking through a twisting river is child’s play.
Its moderate V-hull and extra-wide 9-foot beam translate into good side-to-side stability at trolling speeds or when the key is off. That’s a good thing for offshore excursions, because if it were a heavy roller, anglers might constantly be banging their knees against the low gunwales. For going slow, it comes rigged to accept a trolling motor and includes receptacles for fore and aft pedestal fishing chairs ($415 apiece). For a better pull at anchor, it really needs a bow cleat, which can be added easily.
The XTS in the boat model’s name stands for Xtreme Tournament Series, and it is well designed for serious anglers. Three recirculating livewells with a total capacity of 76 gallons — 42 gallons in the rear deck, 13 gallons under the bow jumpseat, 21 gallons behind the leaning post — ensure anglers will always have a live one handy, and they all reside on the centerline, to prevent listing. The five-gallon bucket under the portside stern jumpseat can hold a cast net. A 43-gallon insulated fishbox with a pumpout is up front, and to make it easier on anglers’ legs, there is an intermediate step-up to the bow casting platform.
Rod storage is everywhere on this boat — up to 28 rods — starting with eight rocket launcher holders on the T-top and leaning post. Then there’s under-gunwale storage on both sides of the boat, twin lockable rod lockers in the bow and four rod holders set into the gunwale. Twin compartments under the center and starboard-side stern jumpseats hold Plano-style boxes, and there’s more dedicated tackle storage under the leaning post.
The 265 XTS comes loaded with premium standard features such as a Yeti cooler and a Liebroc leaning post that has sculpted bolsters to lock standing passengers into place. The bolster can also be flipped down to provide a comfortable seat with a backrest. The center console has deep wells at the top for holding items such as phones, sunblock and often-used tackle. The dash has room for twin 12-inch displays; NauticStar offers dual Simrad NSS12 displays for $12,450. The storage space within the console is surprisingly large, because it drops down to the hull and can even accommodate an aftermarket head. Curiously, the stainless steel prop is an option on the boat, for $679, and buyers will definitely want the acrylic swim platform with a boarding ladder, for $808.
For entertainment, an Infinity Bluetooth stereo with four JBL speakers is standard. I would have liked to see a cushion package option for the bow section, for cruising-with-friends mode, but owners can certainly buy some outdoor furniture cushions that will work nicely. Add courtesy lighting for $258 and underwater lighting for $808, for a little extra pop that might help draw fish at night. NauticStar offers seven half-hull color choices at no cost, and full colors and reverse colors are $715. Buyers can even have the underside of the T-top painted in any of the seven colors for an additional $558, such as on our test boat.