Hell’s Bay Estero:
Walking the Walk
Let’s face it, there are numerous bay boat options these days. They come in every shape and color, from all over the country. All lay claim to excellent performance numbers and very few actually perform as advertised. In the case of the Estero, I found the opposite to be true. It exceeded Hell’s Bay Boatworks’ claims and my expectations for storage, stability, ride and overall shallow water performance. The proof here is in the proverbial pudding. This review is based on real world testing over several days, in the most demanding water available, Everglades National Park. I have hundreds of bay boat guided days on this water as a comparable foundation and here is my take.
At nearly 25 feet (24’ 10”), the Estero looks and feels very large out of the water. However, launching from the custom Ramlin trailer was easy and right away, the difference in this boat is evident. It floats unbelievably high in the water column and maintains that height even when loaded down with a heavy load. At rest, the Estero is ‘Cadillac’ comfortable and extremely stable. Maneuvering in the cockpit around the console is possibly the best I’ve experienced and walking the oversized gunnels is easy. The amount of available storage space after loading safety equipment and full gear is impressive. The layout is an obvious result of calculated thought and input from the professional fishing community. Well done.
The boat responds to the throttle like a smaller skiff. The Four Stroke Yamaha 300HP pushes it up to pad in a boat length without dropping the back end. But, that’s demo boat talk… Here is my real world test. With a fishing trip load, full tank of gas, three anglers and full livewell, the Estero jumped up on pad without issue, in a true 2’ of water with the jackplate all the way up and no trim. As if that isn’t impressive enough, when up on pad, the ride is as smooth and dry as it gets. I found an average cruising speed of 48 mph, which produced an efficient 2.4 mpg with that same full load. The trimmed out top end is not a ‘rip your face off’ racing number, but rather a comfortable 56 mph that produces an efficient 1.9 mpg, again with full load. Well done.
The most impressive and underrated component the Estero brings to this game is true shallow water performance. The hull is quiet, like a poling skiff, at rest and at speed. No matter how hard we pushed, it produced no hull slap, rocking or creaking decks, which are killers when it comes to inshore species. The real world proof came at the hands of Tarpon, Snook and Redfish caught feet from us. I pushed the limits of its draft in the interior ponds of Whitewater Bay and around the oyster bars in the rivers North of Flamingo. At one point, we were sight fishing laid up Snook in a foot of water, while only the trolling motor’s thrust touched bottom. The value in having a shallow and quiet hull in a bay boat is immeasurable and priceless… a game changing advantage. Very well done.
When combining all of this with the legendary fit and finish of Hell’s Bay Boatworks, there truly is no other viable Bay Boat option. I certainly dream of putting one in my yard for business and family use one day!