- … it’s a great-looking open boat with long-range cruising ability, an easy helming experience and lots of space.
- … the 202 could become one of the most distinctive and desirable compact crossover boats the market has to offer.
Wellcraft Fisherman 202
Alex Smith investigates a high-spec family fisher that looks well set to make its mark on the UK market.
Built in Cadillac, northern Michigan, Wellcraft is a very big name in tough, seagoing sports fishers. But while this famous American brand has been catering for fishing enthusiasts for nearly 60 years, its modern Fisherman line is about much more than just fishing. Yes, it retains the very distinctive ‘reverse hook’ hull styling that helps mark it out as a Wellcraft, and on the face of it, the 202 continues to exhibit all the hallmarks of a serious fishing platform, but these latest models are also now about cruising comfort, about water sports, and about mixed recreation and helming fun. They’re designed not just to give the fisherman his sport, but to furnish his family with their own entertainment when the rods get put away.
Now plainly, the creation of a convincing crossover boat is not altogether that difficult on the larger boats in the fleet, like the 262 and the 302. And with talk of a new cabin-equipped 35ft flagship with the option of triple engines and a second helm on the horizon, the top end of the line looks well set to offer the keen cruiser just as much as the keen angler. However, at little over 20 feet in length, the 202 is the second-smallest boat in the Fisherman line, so it needs to be much more ingenious in its execution of the fishing-cruising crossover trick.
Big, bright and beamy
As I step from the pontoon onto the broad forepeak of the Wellcraft Fisherman 202, it is immediately striking how spacious the bow feels. It makes excellent use of the beam-forward design with deep, angular, U-shaped seating tucked securely within the elevated freeboards. There’s a large under-deck storage space, an impressive bait well beneath the forward seat and easy access to the heads compartment inside the leading edge of the helm console. There’s no storage in the bow’s two side seats, but given how much the bow is being asked to do, it makes sense that these should be reserved for buoyancy rather than weighed down with the baggage of a day trip.
In fact, when you think about the core purpose of these boats, that bow buoyancy makes even more sense. After all, while these Fisherman craft are being styled and marketed as multi-purpose family platforms, their reputation has been built on the basis of their fishing credentials. This boat needs to be capable of crawling along off the plane at trolling speeds, through lively offshore swells, without plunging into the troughs or shipping water, and with its combination of space, depth, bow flair and recreational comfort, everything about the boat’s forward quarters feels tailor-made for the job.
Head aft around the centrally positioned T-top and the space is again striking. The walkways on both sides are vast, and as you emerge into the cockpit it feels like a continuation of the blueprint laid down by the bow. The two-man leaning post at the helm uses a simple reversible seat back, so you can face aft to watch your lines or chat with the other cockpit occupants. And on each side of the transom there is a hinged seat, which can be folded flush or opened up to generate a four-man seating area in addition to the six-man capacity of the bow. In truth, this boat is only rated to carry eight people, but with a beam that is in fact slightly greater than that of the larger 222 model, and a design approach that continues to give the fisherman the working room he needs, the deck space feels fantastically generous.
Step up to the helm and you will find that the dash is equally accommodating. The big steel wheel, with its classical fisherman’s knob, sits over to port, leaving a handy expanse of flat dash for the inclusion of multiple plotters and fish finders. The elevated screen promises plenty of protection and the T-top itself is a beautifully robust piece of work, yielding plenty of grabbing points, as well as useful protection for the skipper and glare protection for the dials.
But however effective this is for the dedicated fisherman, does it really cater as well as it could for the family cruiser? Certainly, the forward bait well makes a great spot for some cold beers, there’s some useful space for a toilet in the console and there’s plenty of seating on offer, but I would like to see that supplemented with some seat back cushions and infills in the bow, plus a forward boarding ladder, a table fitting both fore and aft, and overhead canvases that attach to the T-top so you can shelter each of the boat’s potential dining areas from the sun. Secure and deep-set though the accommodation feels, the only dedicated grabbing points as you move around the boat come in the form of the T-top tubes and the seat-top rails, so I would also investigate the possibility of additional high-level grab handles. With these minor tweaks to the equipment list, this big, robust and beautifully arranged 20ft sports fisher really would make an outstanding platform for large families in pursuit of mixed recreation.
The Offshore model
From 2019 onwards, the Scarab name, made famous by the glamorous, high-performance Miami Vice heritage of the 1980s, is to be dropped from the Fisherman line on the basis that it causes confusion. Instead, the six Wellcraft Fisherman models will be available as ‘Offshore’ variants, encompassing a set of aesthetic tweaks that make each boat in the line look and feel just a bit fresher, more dynamic and more masculine.
Given the relatively modest power of the test boat’s Mercury 150, the behaviour of the 202 comes as quite a surprise. From a standstill, we’re on the plane in just 3.5 seconds, with 28 knots already ticking past on the speedo. Up ahead, the big bow is sliding neatly over the crests and the exaggerated bow flare is flinging all but the worst of the spray well wide of the cockpit. It immediately feels like a very well-sorted powerboat and that sense is substantiated in the turn. Even with a few wakes and swells moving through on the beam, you can heel her over, take your hands off the wheel and throttle, and watch as she settles, steady as a rock, and powers through without fuss. There’s not the slightest hint of tetchiness, and as the engine loads up, we see only a moderate amount of pace washed off. In truth, the engine is a bit noisy underway, to the point where you have to raise your voice to chat to the man next to you at the helm. That might well be a combined consequence of the screen and T-top trapping the sound, but in all other regards, the 202 feels like a very solid and grown-up sea boat with the kind of novice-friendly dynamics that will appeal to the family boater.
The optimum cruising band is equally useful. From a gentle 16-knot plane right through to 25 knots, the range from the big 212-litre fuel tank (keeping 10% in reserve) sits at around 190 nautical miles. Efficiency of around a litre per nautical mile on a boat like this is very respectable – and while you could spec a 115 instead, the benefits of that are pretty negligible. According to Glastron’s own figures, Mercury’s 115 delivers a near identical 22-knot cruise at around 23 litres per hour while chopping the top end down from 37 to around 33 knots.
If, on the other hand, you wanted to explore the higher power bands and spec a 200hp motor, you could easily push the performance well beyond the 40-knot mark, safe in the knowledge that this tough, solid and composed boat would handle it. But for me, having helmed the 150hp test boat to a supremely relaxed 37.2-knot top end, I would suggest that a modern, lightweight 175 is likely to offer the best all-round compromise.
While I’m tempted to describe this boat as a Boston Whaler with better looks and a lower price tag, there’s actually more to be said than that. For fishermen, this is a very capable, solidly built and well-mannered platform, and for the family user, it’s a great-looking open boat with long-range cruising ability, an easy helming experience and lots of space. The options list doesn’t look especially well judged for those in pursuit of true multi-purpose recreation, but with a few carefully chosen aftermarket extras to tailor its breadth of application (and the inclusion of the optional Offshore package to maximise stylistic impact), the 202 could become one of the most distinctive and desirable compact crossover boats the market has to offer.
- Impressive quality of build
- Composed, mature, heavyweight handling
- Extraordinary internal space
- Dry ride
- No seat backs in the bow
- No fore and aft table fittings
- Engine noise
RPM Speed (kn) Fuel flow (l/h) Range (nm @ 90%)
1000 3.6 3.4 202.0
1500 5.1 5.3 183.6
2000 6.4 7.9 154.6
2500 8.6 12.0 136.7
3000 16.2 16.2 190.8
3500 20.5 20.6 189.9
4000 24.8 25.0 189.3
4500 28.4 31.0 174.8
5000 32.0 37.0 165.0
5500 35.9 46.0 148.9
5750 37.2 54.8 129.5
- LOA: 6.2m
- Beam: 2.6m
- Weight: 1202kg
- Fuel capacity: 212 litres
- People capacity: 8
- Power: 115−200 hp
- Test engine: Mercury 150