by Dom Wiseman

Sea Fox has been building boats for over 20 years with a focus on hand-crafted saltwater capable fishing boats offering durability, dependability and affordability. Close to ten years ago, there were multiple companies bringing in Sea Fox boats and they lacked direction in the Australian market as a result. The finishes weren’t up to standard and the after sales support almost non-existent.
Recently that all changed for the better with the Australian and New Zealand importation rights of these American built boats going to JSW Powersports. Already awarded the 2015 International dealer Of The Year, they have spent considerable time and investment in taking the Sea Fox boats to a new level with not only superb customer service and support for the brand, but also in taking the time to speak with the factory to have Australian tastes catered for with anchor wells and fittings suitable for our harsh environment.
The Sea Fox 186 Commander is built, like all Sea Fox boats in Moncks Corner, South Carolina using a sealed stringer system built with closed cell foam as opposed to timber. In fact there is no wood used at all in the construction of these boats. This 18 foot package is the perfect size for one to two anglers and is capable of being used as an inshore competition platform using an electric motor, or an offshore pocket game boat.Sea Fox 186 Commander 8

Sea Fox 186 Commander 2WHAT YOU GET
There is no doubt for me that centre consoles make the most usable fishing packages due to the 360 degree fishability on offer. Storage is somewhat compromised but if you’re serious about your lure fishing you will find it hard to beat this type of set up. The 186 Commander console is wider than some Australian equivalents and therefore offers more protection and storage than similar length boats. And a porta potti. Underneath the console is a deep well that accommodates two cranking/electronics batteries and two deep cycle batteries for the optional electric engine. The rest of the space had the owners’ gear, which would be ideally stored in lidded boxes for convenience. There is a forward facing seat with icebox/additional bait tank at the front of the console.
The stainless grab rail over the top of the windscreen runs down either side of the console offering a great place to hang on when running. The seats this owner chose were an upgraded single pedestal style, one for the driver and one for the passenger. There is a footrest moulded into the console. I felt that while comfortable, the deeper nature of these seats reduce the usable space at the rear of the boat and were positioned too close to the console to stand while driving. It is a compromise between comfort and space and if this were my boat, I’d opt for a lean to or the standard bench seat with backrest which would offer more space and the ability to stand.
The dashboard layout on this boat lacks engine gauges, instead running twin NSS12 Simrad touch screens that are connected to the engines and therefore show all the information you need. It’s a clean layout and includes all the bells and whistles including 3D StructureScan and SideScan as well as the standard Fishfinder and Chartplotter screens you would expect. The switch panel sits to the right of the dash while on the left of the stainless steering wheel are the controls for the Volvo trim tabs. There is a radio mounted below on the face of the console.
Sea Fox 186 Commander 4
Sea Fox 186 Commander 5The rear of the self draining cockpit has two jump seats with storage underneath that fold flat to create a small casting platform. The live bait tank sits between the seats and includes spring 316 Stainless hinges. The wide gunwale at the stern has padded coamings on the inside for fishing comfort while two rod-holders are located either side. I noted the lack of additional rod storage around the boat. The owner has bolted on 4 additional rod holders on the grab bar over the windscreen. I would also consider adding a row of rod holders at the back of the bench seat backrest or add additional upright holders on the side of the console on the starboard side.
Upfront, the bow area is all casting platform with kill tank underneath. There are also upholstered backrests moulded into the bow and an infill that can be added turning this area into a seat. The bow area flares out at an angle that creates an awkward angle to lean against inside the boat. You could add additional padded coamings here to bring the side of the boat closer to your position. There is an anchor locker in the bow and, on the Australian boats, a bow roller is standard.
After a tough day out on the water, it’s easy to clean the boat using the onboard fresh water tank.

POWER
An Evinrude 150hp H.O (High Output) model sits at on the stern of the Sea Fox 186 Commander providing power to this well equipped fishing package. It is the maximum horsepower allowed on this unit and while the acceleration with the 150 on the back is very good (read quick) I expect a 135 hp would offer adequate performance and reduce the price slightly.Sea Fox 186 Commander 10
Sea Fox 186 Commander 1The 150 H.O weighs in at 190 kgs (one of the lightest in class) and is a Loop Charged V6 2.6 litre platform. On this package it offered a cruising speed (just on the plane) of 23 knots (43km/h) using 21 litres per hour at 3500rpm and a top speed of approximately 38 knots (70km/h) using 60 litres per hour at 5400rpm.
This engine also has a massive 133A alternator, which means there is plenty of power to run all the electronics .

ON THE WATER
I could not find anything bad to say about the 186 Commander hull. It slices through chop, thanks to the deep 19 degree entry, and glides along, almost as if you are floating on a cloud. The bow features a large Carolina flare that keeps water down and away in rough conditions. The 2.4 metre beam provides plenty of space.
On the day we were on the water conditions were hardly testing for a boat capable of much more but you could feel the liveliness of the hull and the stability underway. The trim tabs help even out the load. Turning is precise and controlled at speed with the ability to power on mid turn without any uncomfortable bouncing. When we did find some choppy water it sliced rather than pushed through waves. At slower speeds the flared bow rises over swell and comes down smoothly on the other side. A few times as we approached some wakes delivered by the seemingly endless cavalcade of cruisers running down the Broadwater I braced for a hard landing only to find my tensed muscles and strong grip on the grab rail were completely unnecessary.
Considering most centre consoles offer visibility, but are regarded as wet with no windscreen to hide behind the Sea Fox 186 Commander is surprisingly dry. The steering wheel is set to port with the throttle control in the centre of the console with both easily accessible from either a standing or seated position.

ON THE TRAILER
JSW lists the boats without trailers, although the 186 Commander can easily be trailered with a beam of 2.4m. Fully loaded it would come in at about 1.8 tonne putting you in the medium SUV market for a tow vehicle should you not already own one.
Sea Fox 186 Commander 12
OVERVIEW
Centre consoles are hot property at the moment with dozens of American brands flooding this market in recent times. The Sea Fox brand has delivered impressive value for money with the perfect cross over boat. You can fish the Commander 186 inshore in comfort but with the feel of something bigger that can tackle the tough offshore conditions we often encounter in Australia.

POSITIVESSea Fox 186 Commander 3
Exceptional ride
Fishability
Value

NEGATIVES
Lack of standard rod storage

NUMBERS THAT MATTER
Price: (Starting from) $58,990 excl trailer w 115hp, (as tested) $80,000
Construction: Fibreglass
Length Overall: 5.60m
Beam: 2.40m
Draft: 0.35m
Weight on trailer: (approx.) 1350kgs
Max HP: 150
Engine fitted: Evinrude 150hp HO
Fuel Capacity: 189 litres
Water: 45 litres

 

 

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