April 10, 2014
For three weeks in the summer, Florida Sportsman staff ran a Pro-Lite 18 Flats on the Indian River Lagoon, minutes from our office in Stuart. In late August, we spent a few days visiting with manufacturer Pro-Line in Homosassa, near the builder's factory in Crystal River.
What follows are some of our photos and impressions of these boats.
For specifications and standards for all six Pro-Lite models, ranging from 17 to 22 feet in length, check out www.proliteboats.com
or visit a Pro-Line dealer near you (800-344-1281).
Here's a look at the Pro-Lite 18 Flats, built by Pro-Line in Crystal River, Florida. This is one of six models under the Pro-Lite marque, a new series of rolled-edge coastal fishing boats introduced this year by the 40-year-old Pro-Line company.
This 18 features a 90-horsepower Suzuki 4-stroke; Evinrude E-tec and power up to 115 is also available. The boat shown here is outfitted with several options, including poling platform, windshield and additional rod holders. The base boat, with power, minus trailer, is listed at $15,995.
The 18's middle sibling, the 20 Flats, is well-suited for these four anglers fishing off Homosassa. A 22 is also available. All three are very stable platforms, with 8 feet or more beam and 13 degrees of deadrise.
The Pro Lites also include three open-water center consoles with greater freeboard and 19-degree deadrise. This one is the largest of the bunch, a 22-footer. The otherwise spartan hull—reminiscent of a panga--is here handsomely appointed with optional T top and light blue gelcoat.
Standup console on the 18 Flats, we're told, is the same found on the 20 and 22, with upright rodholders and dash-space for basic electronics. Windshield is a good option.
Gross trailer weight of the 18 Flats as indicated by the manufacturer is 2,365 pounds, an easy load for this 1500-series Suburban.
Keep in mind the rolled-edge construction—one-piece fiberglass hull and sides with no cap--does not necessarily mean weight savings over a full inner-liner boat of similar size. And certainly these boats are not designed to compete with the high-tech carbon-Kevlar skiffs currently on the market. The construction does, however, mean cost savings and overall simplicity for the owner.
Our impression is Pro-Line will be building these as utilitarian fishing boats designed to last, with the company's legacy, a broad dealer network, and a 10-year structural hull warranty at stake.
Transom view of the 18 Flats.
The 18 Flats hull cut through 1-foot chop with ease, but a bit of pounding was noticed when the breeze kicked up further, nothing you wouldn't expect from a boat this size. Our instinct is the heavier, longer 20 Flats or 22 Flats may be best for large bays. A trip aboard the 20 Flats off Homosassa a few weeks later proved this to be the case.
A true “firehose” boat: Wash-down is a cinch.
Cooler tie-down in front of the console; I've always liked a removable cooler—you can wash it completely, and pack drinks and lunches in the garage before loading. The console door accesses batteries and wiring—and provides space for a large soft-sided tackle bag, snorkel gear and other items.
Stability, again, is a big selling point. There are three persons on this 18 Flats: the man in the bow, the man holding a trout, and the man holding the camera. This boat barely tipped to port with a three-man load near 600 pounds.
And of course poling wasn't a problem for the 18 Flats—but here again, don't expect the kind of performance you'd find in a dedicated technical poling skiff.
Another angle, poling.
Hatches are pretty basic—room for an anchor, and behind that, life jackets, tackle boxes and other items.
All the Pro-Lites feature aft baitwells standard; this one on the 18 Flats is 7 gallons—suitable for shrimp, pinfish and crabs.
For more aggressive livebait fishing, it would be a cinch adding a larger round or oval baitwell on deck, either aft or foreward of the console.
These boats seem tailor-made for customization
Horizontal rod racks along the gunnel. Handy, but a bit hazardous to the $600 flyrod on the top rack. Remind your passengers to step carefully.
The 18 with 90-horse Suzuki had no trouble planing with three men on board.
Here's a look at the 20 Center Console, a good open-water performer.
The 20 CC features a bit more freeboard and security on the forward deck.
Joe Bertine, a test engineer with Pro-Line, holds up a seatrout caught four miles off Homosassa aboard the 20 Flats.
The 20 Flats is a good boat for drift-fishing open bays and near-coastal waters.
Aft view of the 20CC.
Standard hatches on the Pro-Lite lineup.
Fuel fill on the 20 CC.
Anchor hatch on the 20 CC.
Bow hand-rail on the 20 CC.
Wiring inside the console is finished to ABYC standards.
Back of switch panel, wheel and instruments, inside console.
Bilge pump, livewell pump and auto-float switch for bilge pump.
The 20 CC, with greater freeboard and vee than the Flats models.