It's always fun to do fishboat reviews, but although this day was sunny and the winds were calm, like so many beautiful Saturday afternoons in the mouth of the Patapsco River the water was still a washing-machine chop thanks to countless boat wakes going in every direction. Normally I’d find this a bit aggravating, but when you’re out on the water for a boat test a little bit of roughness is a good thing. It lets you get a real-world feel for just how bumpy and wet a boat will be. Since I’d never been on an Avenger 26 before, we started off things easy. At a mellow 3500 rpm we were already running at 32 MPH, but the hull still felt solid underfoot, my achy old back wasn’t yet aching, and zero spray was flying. So I goosed the throttle, and then goosed it again. I can’t say exactly what top-end is for this boat because when we broke 50 mph and started going airborne, a bottle of suntan lotion flew past my head and then someone’s hat flew off. Enough is enough. But I can tell you one thing for sure – not one single drop of spray ever hit us, and the Avenger felt solid as a rock underfoot at all times. But don't take my word for it, see for yourself:
Our test boat had a Suzuki DF350 (which we reviewed in Hot New Gear August 2017) on the transom, but the Avenger can accommodate up to 400 horses. This is a bit of a surprise for a boat of this size and nature since the weight of outboards this big can cause the stern of a small boat to squat on take-off, and the transom to over-wash when you slow down too quickly. This boat displayed neither problem, however, thanks to a set-back that’s integrated into the stern to boost aft buoyancy. And as earlier noted, we couldn’t get up to max speed thanks to the conditions. But with 300 horses – 50 fewer than our test boat – Suzuki recorded a 56.4 mph top end. On a calmer day with a lighter load (we had four aboard) you can bet on breaking 60 with the DF350.
Some history: Avenger is built in South Carolina, alongside the Pioneer and Bulls Bay boat lines, all of which are owned by Carolina Composites. We’ve seen these other brands but we haven’t seen much of the Avengers up here in Chesapeake country because these models are dyed-in-the-wool bay boats, with the low-slung gunwales and semi-V bottoms long favored by southern anglers. But bay boats are starting to catch on up here as light tackle angling – which they’re ideal for – has become more and more popular in the area.
Why are these boats so dang good for slinging topwater in the shallows, tossing jigs to pilings and rip-rap, and fly-casting to stripers? Start with draft. The Avenger needs a foot and two inches to float, and rigged with a bow-mount electric motor you’ll be able to creep into every winding cut in the Tangier marshes, slide over the bars that prevent other boats from entering tidal ponds, and work every inch of the Susquehanna Flats - or any of the other top hotspots for shallow water striper fishing on the Bay. Then consider the fact that the boat has extensive fore and aft casting decks, with room for two to cast (or one fly caster, unless you need a new nose piercing) at either end of the boat. Live bait anglers will groove on the triple livewells, at 27 gallons each in the stern and 12 gallons in the bow, all finished with baby-blue interiors to keep your peanut bunker and spot calm and happy. And no matter how you like to fish you’ll like the five T-top rocket launchers plus four more across the leaning post, and the locking rodboxes integrated into the bow casting deck.
Down-sides? The only one I spotted was the obvious: people with small kids may be scared off by the low gunwales. Aside from that the Avenger gets a big thumbs-up – and a bone-dry thumbs-up, at that.
Avenger 26 Bay Boat Specifications:
LOA – 26’2”
Beam – 8’6”
Displacement – 3,100 lbs.
Draft (hull) – 1’2”
Transom Deadrise – 15 degrees
Fuel Capacity – 89 gal.
Area Dealers – Pasadena Boatworks, Pasadena MD, (443) 858-2400 or Pasadena Boatworks.