Mako 234 Centre Console Boat Test

The US-built Mako 234 makes an excellent trailerable gamefishing rig, punching well above its weight in the 7m centre-console fishing boat class. With a level of ride comfort, seaworthiness and performance that would do larger boats proud, this middle-range Mako is superbly appointed, beautifully finished and well-priced.

Mako 234 Centre Console Boat Test

Boat Test Mako 234 Centre Console: SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHT
Author and photography: Jeff Webster

This boat test ran in ISSUE 118 of BlueWater magazine – JULY-AUG 2016

For the complete feature, including all photos and information captions, you can purchase back-issues here

The US-manufactured Mako fibreglass boat range has a deservedly good reputation among offshore anglers. For decades, anglers all around the world have been putting to sea in craft bearing the Mako name. Although the brand has changed ownership a few times over the years, their boats continue to be highly regarded for their sea-keeping abilities, high equipment levels and angler-friendly interior layouts.

Mako boats are now owned by the giant Tracker Marine Group and built out of Missouri, USA alongside a range of other Tracker-owned brands. These include Tracker, Sun Tracker, Nitro, Tahoe, Regency and Ascend boats. All are distributed in Australia by Fishing and Leisure boats on the Gold Coast.

The 2016 Mako range encompasses more than a dozen models – all centre-consoles. The boats include inshore skiff-style craft for bay, lake and flats fishing, along with a series of offshore boats, comprised of the 204CC, 214CC, 234CC, 284CC and reaching to the new 334CC. In issue 116 we tested what was then the flagship Mako model, the 284CC. For this issue we review what is arguably the most versatile of the range – the 234 Centre Console. While the 284CC is at the upper reaches of trailerability, the 234 can be comfortably towed behind a three-tonne-rated 4WD vehicle, making it ideal as a home storage, travelling gamefishing platform.

Refined Design

The Mako 234 could be considered a scaled-down version of the 284 we tested previously. At 2.59m, the smaller model is not as wide across the beam or as long, with a hull length of 7.1m, although the interior layout is virtually the same. Both boats have a spacious forward deck area with moulded side seats, a two-person-width centre-console helm station and an elaborate helm/seat storage box set-up.

The similarities between the two models are intentional. The larger 284CC was the first of the two to be built and was considered either too big or too expensive by many anglers. Mako quickly realised there was significant demand for a smaller boat with three-quarters of the capabilities of the larger model, but at a significantly lower price.

And so the 234CC was born. Since its introduction, the 234CC has proven to be one of Mako’s best-selling models. It is priced within reach of most gamefishermen and is ideal for anglers who appreciate the mobility to chase a hot bite. While the 234CC does not have quite the interior space of the larger boat, it will comfortably fish six anglers and is rated to carry 11 people onboard.

Forward Deck

As noted, forward of the helm console is a spacious deck area with moulded side seats with vinyl-upholstered clip-on cushions and storage lockers underneath. The lockers have gas-strut-supported hatch lids to keep them open when required. The lids are manufactured using the closed-moulded process for a smooth finish on both sides and for greater strength and durability.

The Mako is equally well built in other areas. The 21-degree deadrise vee hull is made from composite fibreglass (no timber) and the hull cavity is foam-filled for safety and noise suppression. The hull is stiffened underfloor with a one-piece fibreglass stringer grid, while the deck is chemically bonded and sealed to the hull. It has then been further secured with stainless-steel fasteners placed at 15cm intervals.

In addition to the moulded side seats/lockers, the forward deck area has a large, 375L in-floor storage locker, a 68L removable icebox/seat in front of the helm console, as well as an impressively large anchor well that will easily cater for the appropriate-sized anchoring set-up. The test rig was optioned with the factory-fitted anchor roller, electric winch and anchor rode.

Other foredeck features included wide side coamings, cushioned side-seat backrests, white powder-coated hand rails, marine-grade, stainless-steel fixtures and fittings and dual bow cleats with alloy-reinforcing backing plates.

Console, Helm And Head

The console unit in the Mako 234 is wide enough to shelter two people at the helm, which enables a buddy to sit alongside the skipper for the run out to the fishing grounds. There is 495mm between the console and the side coamings, providing more than enough space to walk comfortably between the bow and stern, or to stand against the padded coaming bolsters while battling a fish over the side of the boat.

The console has a large toilet/head compartment underneath – with full standing headroom. A door on the starboard side of the console opens to reveal steps leading down into the toilet compartment in the hull. Climbing down into the recess is a bit fiddly, but there is ample move-about space once you get in there, along with excellent access to the dual batteries, wiring and electrics should they require maintenance.

Externally, the helm console has provision for bracket-mounted electronics and a compass on the dash, which is located under a small, vertical, safety-glass windscreen. There is also a large instrument panel and fascia for flush-fitting electronics displays and engine instruments.

The test rig was fitted with a Lowrance HDS12 fish finder/GPS, Lowrance Link5 VHF radio, Fusion MS-RA205 stereo, along with Mercury Smart Craft engine gauges, switch panel, tilt-adjust alloy steering wheel, binnacle-mount throttle box, two cupholders, a full-width footrest, 12-volt power outlet and a lockable glovebox for keys and mobile phones.

In place of the standard soft top, the test boat was optioned with a fibreglass T-top with a powder-coated alloy frame complete with built-in grab rails. There was also a radio box under the T-top, a four-rod rocket launcher and spreader lights to illuminate the cockpit at night.

The elaborate helm seat/multi-function storage box works a treat in the Mako 234. It consumes a fair amount of space in the rear cockpit, but it is not just a seat box. The unit incorporates a superbly designed 117L pressurised livebait tank, a very sturdy four-rod storage and trolling rack, port and starboard side terminal tackle cupboards, a chart/magazine compartment beneath the cushioned helm seat and a large storage and plumbing access locker.

Cockpit And Fishing Features

During our test run we had one interested observer comment that the rear cockpit was not all that big –and this is true. Behind the big helm/storage box there is only 800mm of deck space back to the rear transom wall.

You could swap out the big seat box for a small lean-seat to increase the amount of rear deck space. However, I don’t think this is warranted given you can fish all down the sides of the boat and up in the bow. Further, the big seat box contains that awesome pressurised livebait/fish well – and I don’t think that’s worth sacrificing for a bit more rear cockpit room.

As you would expect from a boat of this calibre, the cockpit is self-draining with scuppers/drains in the floor with removable screens and non-return transom valves. Forward of the cockpit drains, on each side of the helm-seat box, is a large sub-floor fishbox with gravity drains and diaphragm pump. These fish lockers will easily hold a big mackerel/wahoo or even a tuna to around 30kg.

In addition to the vertical rod racks on the trailing edge of the hardtop and the helm console seat box, the Mako has horizontal, under-gunnel rod storage for six rods up to 2.1m long. These racks are best suited to casting outfits as there is not sufficient room to accommodate larger overhead game reels.

Across the transom the Mako has a fold-down, padded bench seat, which can also be completely removed as required. That said, you probably wouldn’t bother taking it out as you can stand comfortably up against the padded bolstered transom wall with the seat in the stored position. You can also wedge your feet under the bottom of the seat for support.

A hatch cover behind the rear bench seat can be removed for excellent access to the bilge area beneath the transom, and to service the multitude of pumps, valves, filters and associated plumbing contained within.

Other features in and around the cockpit and transom area include four in-deck stainless-steel rodholders, 180mm wide coamings, freshwater shower with pull-out spray head, knife/utility rack, a portside transom door and a large bait storage box with nylon cutting-board lid located in the starboard corner.

Performance

This was the second Mako 234 I have tested in the past 12 months. The first was fitted with twin Mercury 150hp 4-stroke outboards. This latest test rig has a single 300hp super-charged, ultra-longshaft 76cmMercury Verado 4-stroke.

The comparison between the two boats is interesting. While the twin-engined Mako 234 rig achieved a top speed of 40.3 knots, this latest, single-engined package was only marginally quicker. At a wide-open throttle of 6000rpm, the current test rig achieved a top speed of 41.2 knots – only a single knot quicker.

This result is a little unusual in that normally a twin outboard rig will be a good three to four knots slower than an identical boat with equivalent power from a single outboard engine due to the increased drag from two drive legs. Nevertheless, anything over 40 knots is more than adequate for a seagoing craft and the big Mercury Verado felt very strong from idle all the way through to full speed.

The boat/engine combination was most economical when running at 4000rpm, at which point the big Mercury was burning 40.1 litres per hour for a boat speed of 24.7 knots. This equates to 0.616 nautical miles per litre of fuel consumed and a maximum range on the standard 515-litre fuel tank (less 5% for line losses) of around 300 nautical miles.

A range of other Mercury outboard engine options are available in addition to the dual 150hp Mercury 4-stroke set-up. You can also order the boat with a single 225 or 250hp Mercury Verado 4-stroke, as well as a single 250hp Mercury Pro XS Optimax DFI 2-stroke outboard.

However, after now testing both the single and dual outboard-powered Makos, I would recommend the dual set-up with twin Mercury 150hp 4-strokes. While there is nothing wrong with the single 300hp rig, the package price difference is negligible. With the twin rig you also get better low-speed manoeuvrability and the added reliability of having two engines to get you home safely after a day fishing the continental shelf drop-off.

Handling And Ride

The Mako 234 is the complete package as far as trailerable gamefishing boats go. It is wonderfully finished, superbly appointed and designed. However, what makes this boat really stand out from the crowd is its handling, ride and performance in rough water.

I was blown away by the handling and ride of the Mako when I first tested it, and I feel no differently the second time around. This boat’s ride through choppy water is remarkably soft, stable and sure-footed. It feels solid and secure, yet nimble and quick at the same time. This is thanks in no small part to the incredibility smooth hydraulic steering.

The recessed, built-in hull trim tabs are simple to use, so you can trim the bow well down to present the knife-like entry shape into the chop. They also allow you to trim it back out again to run comfortably, economically and safely downwind.

Despite the aggressive 21-degree transom vee, the Mako is very stable and dry underway and rock-solid at rest. You can fish three big men over one side easily or lean over the side to revive a tagged billfish without upsetting the boat or crew.

Above all, the Mako 234 is great fun to drive – whether in smooth or rough water. Gun the throttle and the boat hurtles forward with surprising agility, leaping from wave crest to crest and slicing through the waves as only a super deep-vee hull can.

Once you’ve had your fun and it’s time to settle down for the long run to the fishing grounds, you can simply throttle back to a comfortable 3500rpm, adjust the tabs for perfect lateral balance and then sit back and enjoy the ride.

The Real Deal

For trailerable, offshore gamefishing the Mako 234 Centre Console stands virtually alone in its class. Although there are other centre-consoles in the 6.5 to 7.5m size range, few score as highly in all areas. The Mako is solidly built, well designed, safe, seaworthy, immaculately finished and close to the perfect size for trailerboat gamefishing.

It is an excellent boat and a very capable fishing rig, whether packaged with a single 300hp Mercury Verado outboard or with a pair of Mercury’s popular 150hp 4-strokes. The pricing is also quite attractive. As tested, you will get little change from $170,000, but entry models start from $125,000 with soft-top, tandem-axle trailer and power from a 250hp Mercury Optimax DFI 2-stroke outboard.

Highlights

  • Class-leading ride comfort.
  • Excellent performance.
  • Stacked with fishing features.
  • Toilet compartment with standing headroom.
  • Recessed trim tabs. 
  • Great finish and fit-out.

Capacities

  • Maximum power: 300hp
  • Maximum load: 1530kg
  • Fuel capacity: 515 litres
  • Freshwater: 22.7 litres
  • Livebait tank: 117 litres
  • People: 11

General

  • Type: Monohull centre console
  • Material: Fibreglass and fibreglass/composite
  • Length: 7.1m
  • Beam: 2.59m
  • Deadrise: 21 degrees
  • Hull weight: 1860kg (dry)
  • Weight on trailer: 3000kg (approx)

Engines

  • Make/model: Mercury Verado 300hp
  • Type: In-line 6-cylinder, 24-valve DOHC EFI 4-stroke outboard
  • Rated hp: 300
  • Displacement: 2.6 litres (supercharged)
  • No. cylinders: 6
  • Weight: 288kg (lightest model)
  • Shaft length: 76cm ultra-longshaft
  • Gearbox ratio: 1.85:1

SPECIFICATIONS: Mako 234 Centre Console
Options fitted: Mercury Verado 300hp extra-longshaft 76cm 4-stroke outboard, tandem-axle aluminium trailer with electric/hydraulic break-away brakes, two-tone paint fibreglass T-top with clears package, Taco outriggers, spreader lights, tilt hydraulic steering, anchor roller, windlass and rode, removable folding rear bench seat, bow cushions, 360-degree padded coaming bolster, electric pump-out toilet, Fusion iPod stereo system with speakers among others. (Deduct trailer to save $7000.)  

Mako 234 Centre Console Boat Test

Boat Test Mako 234 Centre Console: SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHT
Author and photography: Jeff Webster
Supplied by: Fishing and Leisure Boats

This boat test ran in ISSUE 118 of BlueWater magazine – JULY-AUG 2016

For the complete feature, including all photos and information captions, you can purchase back-issues here