Beside matters of increased efficiency, running three almost identical Pro-Line boats in one day proved out some interesting design theories. Pro-Line's built a trio of new wide-bodies - center-console, express and walkaround - all on the same hull. Each performed noticeably differently from the others. We chose to feature the express in this profile, but expect comparison comments on its siblings.
The morning started gently inshore with a moderate 1-foot chop. The farther offshore we went, the larger the seas became until we ran through 4-footers about 15 miles out. Twin 225-hp Mercury OptiMax outboards pushed the express to 50 mph. The lighter center-console went slightly faster, though, with not as smooth a ride, and the somewhat heavier walkaround went a tad slower but with a slightly smoother ride. This test of three boats in one day proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that a smooth ride directly correlates to weight (among other things). All three boats nicely deflected spray down and out for a dry ride. But remember that - as in everything in life - there are compromises.
Run a Pro-Line 30 Super Sport Cuddy into a 3-foot headsea, then the Pro-Line 30 Express. The difference you'll notice stems from the design. The 30 Express weighs almost twice as much, is almost 2 feet wider, has 3 degrees less deadrise at the transom and is actually almost
3 feet longer. The next time you go swimming (or take a bath), try this experiment that shows why the 30 Express doesn't have as smooth a ride in a sea as the Super Sport. Slap your hand palm down on the surface of the water. Then do the same thing with the side of your hand as if it was an ax chopping wood. One displays a slap and the other slices into the water, and so it is with narrow, deep-V performance boats and wider, more stable utility boats. The Pro-Line 30 Express exhibits measurably more stability in a beam sea while offering tons more room than the performance boats. As a buyer, you need to determine where and how you plan to use your boat.
While we enjoyed an ideal day for testing a boat's mettle, it proved to be a most unfortunate day for fishing. We tried bait fishing inshore and managed to gather a smattering of cigar minnows. We tried most promising edges and a scattered weed line or two, but nothing came up interested in what we had to offer. Finally, we tried the Islamorada "Hump" where a modest fleet of boats hunted blackfin tuna. These tuna don't usually start their bite until mid- to late afternoon, but even being there at the right time didn't help us.
What I did discover nonetheless was that in a beam sea, the wide beam really does provide an extremely stable platform for bottom or drift fishing. The beam also means exceptional room in the cockpit. The wide walkways forward also allow easy access with a rod in one hand while the added stability affords more comfortable fishing or anchor handling from the bow.
Other 30-footers require only a single step to any fishing amenity in the cockpit. The Pro-Line 30 Express offers more room than that. Large twin in-deck fish boxes with macerator pumps will easily handle even a good-size yellowfin. The baitwell holds plenty of bait for a day (assuming you can find enough to fill it). The exceptionally wide caprail on the gunwale does a terrific job of keeping your center of gravity inboard when leaning overboard to gaff or revive a fish. It also provides a very secure feeling having something substantial to lean on. In addition, the gunwale pads hit my legs just below mid-thigh. You never feel as though you're about to be flipped over the rail.
Design and Construction
Pro-Line engaged in extensive market research among its owners and determined that in addition to fishing, many of them like to entertain guests aboard their boats. That's why the company created the express model. It provides plenty of room, loads of