Following in the wake of the 44ST and built from the same hull mold, Contender’s 44FA is made for the angler who knows where they want to go and in record time. With a fish around liner, the boat features a berth with queen-sized bed, enclosed head with shower, galley with sink, refrigerator/freezer, and stovetop to provide all the necessary creature comforts no matter how far you’re going.
SARASOTA, FL: OCT. 26, 2020—The all-new 54-foot center console from Yellowfin will make its public debut this week in Fort Lauderdale. The new queen of the Yellowfin fleet comes with everything discriminating buyers have come to expect from previous Yellowfin models, including top quality fit-and-finish and state-of-the-art construction. It also features exceptional performance and efficiency, which come from Yellowfin’s proprietary stepped-hull design.
By Capt. Adam Peeples
The ability to keep several large live baits swimming is a must for anyone serious about live bait fishing for marlin, big tunas, and a host of other species that require baits that will not survive in a typical live well. Tuna tubes are the most effective way to accomplish this feat. There are a wide variety of options for tuna tube installation and plumbing on center consoles.
From glassed-in, permanent installs that cost in the tens of thousands of dollars to homemade PVC tubes sourced from the local home improvement store, the options are endless. No matter which setup you choose, ensuring the tubes work properly and keep the baits alive is the most important aspect of it all. The correct installation and plumbing of your tuna tubes is paramount for having a live bait system that works as intended.
According to Steve Katz with Steve’s Marine Service Inc., tuna tube water flow should be straight, non-turbulent, and spread across the entire fish’s face. The tuna opens his mouth when he wants to breathe, and the water flow shouldn’t power wash him in the face with unnecessary force. The unique issue with high-performance center consoles, especially stepped hull vessels, is finding the correct place to install the pick-up to draw enough water needed to supply the tubes while underway at high speeds.
Katz has installed a myriad of tuna tubes on everything from large sportfish vessels to high-performance center consoles. He states that finding a location for a high-speed pickup on a stepped hull vessel can be the most difficult part of the process. If the pick-up is not in a location where it can draw constant water at high speeds, the entire system could fail to supply enough clean water to keep the baits alive while underway.
Water Supply Options
From the through-hull pick-up, there are a couple of different options to push the water into the lines that will supply the tubes. Sea chests and pump boxes are the two most effective ways to deliver the water to the tubes, though some captains have had success running the pick-up straight to an inline pump to supply the tubes directly. A simple two tuna tube system would likely be fine running on a single inline pump, but the chance for turbulent water to enter the system or for the pump to get airlocked is much greater than running from a sea chest or pump box.
A sea chest is a sealed box that is connected to the thru-hull and vented above the water line. It is typically designed with multiple outputs that can be connected to pumps to supply tuna tubes, live wells, and even raw water washdowns. The chest ensures that all the pumps have a supply of clean non-turbulent water to satisfy the needs of the system.
A pump box is similar in design but contains the pumps inside the box and submerged in water. The box is typically rigged with the however many 1500/2000 GPH bilge pumps it takes to get the job done. Since the pumps are contained inside of the box, a pump box can save significant room on a center console install where bilge space is at a premium.
Delivering the water from the pumps to the tubes should be straight forward and direct. Avoid 90-degree joints, as these contribute to loss of flow and increase the amount of turbulence and bubbles in the water supply. Katz emphasized the need for flow control devices to moderate the amount of water supplied to the bait. Valves, variable speed pumps, and multiple pumps are all potential solutions to control the flow and keep a variety of baits alive.
Keep in mind that different bait species have varying water flow requirements. Your tuna tube system should have variable flow options to optimize the ability to keep different species and sizes of baits alive. Katz recommends a manifold system so that outgoing seawater can be routed to the necessary live well or tuna tube or combined when additional flow is needed.
It is also worth noting that the shape of the actual tuna tube can affect the longevity of your baits. While a circular tube can keep baits alive, the baits may tend to spin while immersed in a round tube with a high volume of water flow hitting them. Many tuna tube systems now use oval shaped tubes to prevent the bait from spinning, creating a system that can keep baits alive and frisky for extended periods of time.
Ultimately, there is no one size fits all solution for tuna tube systems. Every boat will have unique rigging problems to solve with various solutions to solve them. At the end of the day, the goal is keeping those baits alive and at the ready, and every tuna tube system should be able to accomplish that mission when properly rigged.
Do you have any comments or questions for us? We’d love to hear from you.
By Capt. Adam Peeples
While sportfish captains in the Northern Gulf of Mexico and beyond have using fuel bladders to extend the limits of their range for some time, up until a few years ago it was not a common sight at billfish tournaments to see a center console loaded for bear, packing 200 gallons or more of extra fuel on the deck.
Legendary captain and angler Dr. JJ Tabor and his team shattered all preconceived notions of what a center console can accomplish by winning the 2015 Blue Marlin Grand Championship out of Orange Beach, Alabama. Carrying an extra 150-gallons of fuel in a bladder on the deck, Tabor and his team caught the winning blue marlin while making an 800-mile round trip aboard his 42 Freeman.
Tabor and company hooked the fish on the final morning of the tournament, ultimately putting the winning blue marlin on the deck around 11 a.m. At that point, they were around 300-miles from Orange Beach and had to make the weigh-in no later than 6:30 pm for the fish to count. With the speed that only a high-performance center console can provide, Dr. Tabor and his team were able to make the weigh-in and win the tournament, even with a stop for extra fuel on the way home.
This signature win demonstrated to the tournament scene and everyone watching that center console crews were no longer in these major marlin tournaments just for the wahoo and tuna calcuttas. With the ability to hold extra fuel and the speed of an outboard-powered center console, crews such as Tabor’s may now even hold a slight advantage over the larger, slower sportfish boats given the right conditions.
While rigging a fuel bladder on the deck of a center console may sound simple enough, there are many unique safety precautions that should be adhered to in order to transport and use gasoline safely aboard an open fishing boat. The obvious difference between transporting diesel in a bladder versus gasoline is the extremely volatile nature of gasoline. With a much lower flash point than diesel, gasoline vapors always have a very high chance of ignition with even the smallest of sparks.
A fuel bladder filled with gasoline sitting in the sun on the deck of a center console is a potential fireball waiting to happen. Aside from the obvious rule of no smoking on the boat, care should be taken that there is no exposed wiring or any other potential spark producer on or near the boat while carrying gasoline on the deck. In addition to the fire hazard of gasoline, a 250-gallon bladder weighs in around 1500-pounds.
Securing the Bladders on Deck
This extra weight must be secured properly to ensure it does not slide around on the deck. Care must also be taken to ensure that your vessel is not overloaded with the extra weight of fuel in addition to all the gear and crew on board. A center console at or above load capacity could experience a catastrophic event in moderate or heavy seas if the bladder were to shift hard to one side.
Tabor recommends using a series of 2” nylon ratchet straps to form a cradle for the bladder, thus ensuring it does not shift while underway in rough seas. Dr. Tabor credits the stability and load carrying ability of his Freeman 42LR to safely transport his crew, gear, and 250-gallons of extra fuel to the fishing grounds.
Fuel Transfer Considerations
Transferring fuel from the bladder to the main tank is another step that must be taken with safety in mind. Most crews use a transfer pump to lift the gas from the bladder into the main fuel tanks. Care must be taken to ensure that the transfer pump is designed for gasoline and not for diesel. The internal design of gasoline transfer pumps is different than that of diesel pumps and using an incorrect and/or cheap transfer pump could lead to an accident.
After burning off enough fuel in the tanks to make room for the fuel in the bladder, the transfer pump can then empty the bladder into the main tanks. The empty bladder can then be safely stowed out of the way. In addition, it is recommended to only transport a fuel bladder on the deck when it is full. Although some crews may be tempted to run a direct line from the bladder to their outboard fuel lines and let the motors drain the bladder while underway, a half-empty bladder is much more prone to shifting and sliding on the deck. Unlike the main fuel tanks in center consoles, there are no baffles to prevent the fuel from sloshing around inside the bladder.
The success of Dr. Tabor and other center console crews on the blue marlin tournament circuit has made it clear that high-performance center consoles are fully capable of competing with the sportfishing yacht crews who have traditionally dominated these competitions. Modern center console boats have the capability of making over 1000-mile journeys with the extended range fuel bladders provide. “Going long” is no longer a shortcoming of the center console crew.
This extended range, coupled with the ability to cruise at high speeds for long distances will often give the center console crew more time with baits in the water. They can get to the marlin grounds first and be the last to leave (not to mention the fact that speed and range gives the opportunity to tournament fish in areas that are out of reach to others). These advantages alone will likely lead to more center console tournament wins in the future.
Do you have any comments or questions for us? We’d love to hear from you.