August 28, 2012
Big “O” Boats
, out of Okeechobee, prides its latest Elite Series
20-footer as a legitimate saltwater and freshwater tournament boat. Big O Boats has been around for 20 years building fiberglass fishing boats, including airboat hulls, a 16-foot flats skiff, and now their flagship 20-foot bass/flats hybrid. Base price for the Elite begin at $24,900 without power.
The 20-foot, 1-inch boat comes in 4 different styles—single, twin, center and flats. All four styles feature an 86-inch beam. The major difference between the styles is the cockpit configuration. The front and rear decks remain unchanged as far as cooler, storage and livewell placement—only console cockpit and seating arrangements differ. The single and twin both use side consoles, designed to appeal to bigmouth bass traditionalists. The flats-style console is shortened and put into the center of the cockpit. A bench seating area is raised to allow the operator a less obstructive view of the surrounding waters.
Options like carpet, side console, three livewells, two rod lockers and power to pass 60 mph have the bass tournament side covered. On the saltwater front, available 40-gallon release well, no-slip surface, poling platform, baitwells, stainless steel hardware, and a jack plate for whatever size engine should make most redfish anglers giddy.
Who better to put this boat through its paces than Bryan Watts? Brothers Greg and Bryan Watts grew up fishing in bass tournaments, but of late have garnered plenty of attention for their heavyweight redfish on tournament trails like the Redfish Cup, FLW Outdoors and XBS Redfish Series. Bryan Watts met up with Florida Sportsman
magazine to show off his bass and redfish tournament rig. Check out Florida Sportsman's
November issue for extended coverage of the Big O boats 20-foot Elite.
Big “O” Boats
1000 NW 9th St.
Okeechobee, FL 34974
Length: 20' 1”
Beam: 8' 3”
Dry weight: 1,300 lbs. without power
Draft: 8 to 10 inches
Recommended max horsepower: 250
Fuel capacity: 40 gallons, upgradeable to 55 gallons
Cockpit area: 51 inches by 18 inches
At first glance, notice the carpeted deck (no-skid is an option) and the two seats (instead of an available bench seat). “This is a pure tournament boat,” says Bryan Watts. “My tournament partner and I are the main two fishing from this boat. We only need two seats.” Carpet is a personal preference for Watts. He says it has a bit more give for his knees, and he can literally “blow dry” the carpet clean at a drive-through car wash. (Pictured is Stuart guide George Gozdz.)
At the bow, livewell pump and trim switches are easy to access. At left, four-prong trolling motor plug-in.
A close-up of watertight, 4-prong trolling motor male plug, common on bass boats.
One of two 25-gallon, rounded livewells with “restricting” rectangular hatch to prevent tournament fish from jumping out of the wells. Livewells are located in both fore and aft sections of the 21-footer, convenient for two bass tournament anglers who want to separate their catches. This boat comes standard with two 750 gph livewell fill pumps and two 750 gph livewell re-circulating pumps.
Standard rectangular 28-gallon release well sits up front. Watts upgraded his well to nearly 40 gallons. A well this size is ideal for redfish tournament anglers that must keep two upper-slot bronze-backs alive for weigh-in. Leave that lid closed, you might fall in.
Custom battery storage on this boat—located directly at left of side console—easily fits a bar of three batteries. On top sits the master power switch and some extra bubble power for the livewells.
Bass-style side console features all the switches in one place, circuit breaker, stainless wheel, gauges, and options for electronics packages.
Side of console has room for extra rod holders and stick-on storage for items like loose tackle, pliers and sunblock.
Lowrance satellite antenna, with additional Sirius Marine Radio, sits square on the console—a handy item to have when anglers have to run outside the squall line to get back to the ramp.
Full-size port and starboard rod lockers come standard.
Bryan Watts, left, chats with George Gozdz before a test run. Watts chose a white finish, but other custom gelcoat colors are available. Twin Power-Pole PROs stop Watts from spinning in circles anchored in heavy current.
Seats fold toward the cockpit to reveal underneath water-resistant storage.
Watts claims this is the driest storage in the boat. Four other lockable storage compartments also come standard.
One of three stern compartments dedicated to batteries, electrical wiring, pumps and shutoff valves.
One of two compartments, classified as coolers. The compartments can just as easily be used for even more storage!
Frontal view of the 21-footer. Watts decelerates and cruises toward the docks to pick up the cameraman.
Bryan Watts had his boat mounted with an Atlas hydraulic jack plate from T-H Marine. Jack plates don't come standard.
Screens protect three pickups for the two livewells and release well. This boat comes standard with two 750 GPH livewell fill pumps and two 750 GPH livewell re-circulating pumps. Also pictured, two drainage holes and 1-inch plug. (Water is only pumped into the wells when the boat's at rest, as the intakes are below the waterline. High-speed pickup is an available option.)
Notice the lack of trim tabs? Trim tabs are an available option, but not a necessity. After riding in this boat with two other people, one teetering on the bow platform, the boat planed quickly and reached 40-plus mph—in a chop—with no hiccups.
This boat popped on plane in less than a burst of five frames from my camera. George Gozdz hangs on as Bryan Watts hammers down the throttle. Watts claims he can cruise at 60-plus mph during tournaments.
Watts figures he gets close to 130 miles on a single tank of gas. Standard, the boat comes with a 40-gallon aluminum tank. Watts upgraded to an available 55-gallon.
Each boat comes standard with an Ameratrail, dual-axle aluminum trailer.