Boat Test: Contender 44ST

The Contender 44ST is a cutting-edge fishing machine that dispenses with frills. <em><a href="http://www.gregpoland.com/" rel="nofollow" title="Greg Poland Photography">Greg Poland Photography</a></em>The Contender 44ST is a cutting-edge fishing machine that dispenses with frills. <em><a href=”http://www.gregpoland.com/” rel=”nofollow” title=”Greg Poland Photography”>Greg Poland Photography</a></em> (Greg Poland / Contender/)

It seems the larger a center-console grows, the more builders feel obliged to build in frills to appeal to customers’ family members who do not share a passion for angling. Not so with the new Contender 44 ST. the expansive self-bailing deck was wide open with little to impede the pursuit of this boat’s mission: catching fish.

A twin-stepped hull design provides remarkable lift for efficiency and speed while maintaining a flat running attitude. Triple Yamaha 425 XTO outboards allow you to reach distant angling destinations quickly with a smooth, comfortable ride, even in dodgy conditions. Top-quality construction results in a boat that’s free of creaks and rattles, with rigging and fit and finish second to none.

Abundant rod storage graces the cockpit.Abundant rod storage graces the cockpit. (Courtesy Contender/)

Our test boat featured a tackle station, which includes an optional rigging tray and a 200-quart Frigid Rigid slide-out cooler below. Seven rod holders stretched across the top of the station.

You can order the 44 ST with a second row of helm seating, but this might not be considered so much a luxury as a means of keeping the crew ­well-rested and ready to fish during long runs to the fishing grounds.

A pair of 55-gallon transom livewells provide excellent onboard quarters for cigar minnows, goggle-eyes, pilchards, Spanish sardines and other live baits. In addition, the 44 ST is equipped with two deck wells: a 110-gallon tank in the aft deck, and a 40-gallon well in the foredeck. Raw-water outlets in the aft quarters allow you to feed portable deck wells too, so no one will ever complain about a dearth of live-bait ­capacity aboard this Contender.

At the helm, a spacious dash holds twin MFDs and a complement of switches and controls.At the helm, a spacious dash holds twin MFDs and a complement of switches and controls. (Courtesy Contender/)

The 44 ST features central steering on the console, with a 56-inch-wide dash panel designed specifically to accommodate the width and height of Garmin’s GPSMap 8624 24-inch touchscreen displays. These were networked with a Garmin GSD 26 chirp sonar to find fish, and a GMR 1224 xHD2 open-array radar for navigating and locating birds. This was in addition to the chart-plotter functionality.

The dash seems to sit lower on the 44 ST than on other similarly sized center-­consoles, allowing the helmsman to easily see over the top. A wraparound clear polycarbonate windshield protects the helm and the three-across adjustable Llebroc helm seats from wind and errant spray.

An optional full tower featuring anodized aluminum construction, and a second station and surrey top adorned our test boat. A Garmin GPSMap 7610 10-inch display aloft was networked with the multifunction displays at the main helm, allowing the skipper to monitor and control the full array of onboard electronics while in the tower.

Three-across helm seating offers the option to sit or stand at the controls.Three-across helm seating offers the option to sit or stand at the controls. (Courtesy Contender/)

Our test boat came with 12-volt power ports on each side, under the coaming pads, for electric reels for kite-fishing or deep-drops. A pair of Lee carbon-fiber outriggers swing out from the hardtop, and a pedestal rocket launcher in the center of the cockpit allows crewmembers to easily tend lines.

The bow of the 44 ST extends 16 feet from the front of the console to the anchor locker and is 10 feet across at its widest point. An abovedecks stowage module on the foredeck features an upholstered pad on top. A motorized lift lets you tilt up the module to access a cavernous compartment underneath. Under the forward area of the deck resides an insulated cooler, with dry-stowage compartments on both sides. A rack of eight vertical rod holders lines the starboard-side of the ­center console. The step-down console interior is accessible via a companionway on the port side. Featuring 6 feet, 4 inches of headroom, the console interior featured a flush toilet, vanity and sink, and teak flooring. There was also a pair of vertical rod holders for electric reels and rods in the console.

To maximize storage, a coffin box is affixed to the hatch of a sizable in-floor compartment.To maximize storage, a coffin box is affixed to the hatch of a sizable in-floor compartment. (Courtesy Contender/)

The 28-inch-high gunwales in the stern and bow are the perfect height for crew ­security and reaching the water to release fish. Aside the console, 31-inch-wide walkways make it easy to follow a hooked fish toward the bow. Padded coaming bolsters encircle the interior to cushion legs. With an integral ­engine bracket and full transom, the 44 ST backed down nicely, taking nary a drop of water over the stern.

With 1,275 ponies on the transom, the 44 ST accelerated to 30 mph in 12 seconds and achieved a top speed of 65 mph at 6,000 rpm, where the triple Yamaha 425 XTOs burned 109 gallons per hour for 0.6 mpg.

Available with triple 425 XTO outboards or quads for improved speed and efficiency.Available with triple 425 XTO outboards or quads for improved speed and efficiency. (Courtesy Yamaha/)

Throttling back to 4,000 rpm and 37 mph, the XTOs consumed 46 gph, resulting in 0.8 mpg. That translates to a range in excess of 430 miles, based on 90 percent of the 600-gallon fuel capacity.

Ultimately, the Contender 44 ST is one of the few large center-­consoles that ­dispense with frilly cruising amenities in favor of the dedicated pursuit of saltwater fish. It’s an uncompromising approach, but who wants to compromise when it comes to fishing success?

Specs

Length: 43’10″Beam: 12’Draft: 26″Fuel: 600 gal.Water: 70 gal.Deadrise: 22.7 degreesWeight: 19,600 lb.Max HP: 2,000Price: $646,583 base with triple Yamaha 425 XTOsContender: contenderboats.com

Test Conditions

Weather: SunnyLocation: Miami Beach, FloridaWind: North 10 to 12 mphSea State: 2-foot chopTest Load: Five adults, 400 gallons of fuel, 110 gallons of water in the livewells

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