Boat Review by: Jon Blaicher
Smoker Craft’s Ultima series is meant to provide maximum fishing features with versatility for family watersports, while keeping the price as reasonable as possible. Fish and Ski models tend to compromise casting platforms for bench and bow seats, but the Ultima 182 has a few cool tricks up its sleeve to virtually eliminate such compromise.
From a fishing perspective it shines, with large bow and stern casting platforms, both covered in easy to clean non-skid vinyl. In the bow we find a medium size 12-gallon (45 L) FreshCatch aerated livewell to port and a lockable dry storage compartment to starboard. A trolling motor plug and remote engine trim switch are standard, as is a small clip to hold the forward nav light out of the way when not in use. We also find Smoker’s Integrated Gunnel Track System that wraps around to the transom. This system allows the addition of numerous accessories such as rod holders, risers, tree, and even extra cup holders, without having to drill a single hole in the boat. A second bow storage compartment is hidden in the centre, under a double hinged cover that makes up part of the platform. It isn’t as easy to access as a standard compartment when in platform mode but it does fold away, providing a cutout for additional seating and walk-through access to the bow. Add a set of bow cushions and you have comfortable, easy-access forward seating for the family. This is an interesting way to provide versatility with minimal compromise. The downside is reduced rod storage under the bow platform. But not to worry, the Ultima has plenty of rod storage elsewhere.
A large lockable compartment in the cockpit floor opens on two gas struts with room for 6 rods, or a mix of rods and watersports toys. The gas struts will hold the hatch open, allowing two-handed access for larger or heavier items. Have you ever tried to stow a wet deflated tube while holing a hatch open? I have, and it isn’t all that fun.
Top-loading rod lockers on both sides can accommodate another four rods each. Both are lockable and covered in non-skid EVA foam to assist boarding. Just below these rod lockers are open storage compartments that run forward to the console for longer bulky items like fenders, water skis, or planer boards. The port side has an extra glovebox-style compartment beside the passenger seat that will hold smaller items that you might want to keep dry and secure like a wallet, tablet, or smartphone. The starboard side opening is longer and an ideal spot to stow the nav light pole or optional ski pylon, preventing them from rolling around the cockpit.
The aft casting platform is extra-large, thanks to the 96” beam and flip-down jump seats. It holds three lockable storage compartments, two cup holders, a 5th seat base, and a ski pylon mount. It also contains a 25-gallon (95 L) FreshCatch Pro livewell, with a recirc. pump and automatic timer.
Both the 172 and 182 come with four seat bases in the cockpit floor and three standard folding seats. Unless your family is small, this may not enough seating. Adding a fourth pedestal seat is possible but makes for a cramped cockpit. However, simply flipping up the two aft jump seats converts about 15% of the hard platform into comfortable seating in just a couple of seconds. Now there is room for five adults without the need to stow extra chairs or fiddle with stubborn seat poles. Flip them back down to restore the full platform in two seconds flat!
Ultima models share consoles with Adventurer and Pro Angler models. These premium consoles have shiny black bases with metallic silver covers for the switches, instruments, and glove box. The instrument cluster is raised with an automotive like double-stitched vinyl surround that feels a bit like the helm of a premium tow boat. Lighted rocker switches help identify when lights or pumps are on. A Bluetooth enabled Jensen stereo with four speakers is standard and includes hard wired USB and mini jack inputs along with a 12-volt accessory plug to keep remote devices charged. Just like the Pro Angler, plenty of free space has been left on top of the helm console to mount larger 9 or even 12-inch inch fish finders. The passenger console includes a lockable glove box with a separate plano box compartment above.
Our test boat came equipped with Yamaha’s venerable F150. At 485 pounds dry it may not be the lightest 150, but it is certainly known for its reliability. Performance is remarkable thanks in part to the lift provided by big reverse chines on Smoker’s HydraLift hull. Five longitudinal keels help break up surface tension while the reverse chines keep the bow down for quick holeshots that remained consistently in the 3.5 second range. Those keels and chines also help keep the Ultima planted when turning. Standard power steering takes the effort out of the wheel, which can truly be appreciated when teaching the kids how to waterski or wakeboard.
With a bit deeper 17-degree deadrise compared to the 15-degree VPS hull, the HydraLift handles choppy water quite well, especially with the heavier 1.25” hull plating. Top speed was a solid 48 mph at 5800 rpm, with predictable straight-line tracking, again thank to those keels. Upgrading to a 175 should break the 50 mph mark but will add at least $2,000 to the price tag.
Stepping up from the Ultima 172 to the 182 nets a few other gains beyond max horsepower. Beam goes from 88” to 96” and interior depth from 25” to 27” for a major improvement in cockpit space and casting stability. Hull plating goes from .100” on the 172 to .125” on the 182, and load capacity rises by a hundred pounds. All of this for about $2,800 more assuming the same 150 HP engine. For me, the space alone is worth it.
Some of the nicer options we found on our test boat included the snap-in carpet that is part of an All-Weather Package. Carpet adds significant comfort when the family is tubing or skiing all afternoon, but can be quickly stashed in the truck for dedicated fishing missions. The Family Ski Package which bundles the tall pylon and reboarding ladder is a must for watersports. The Fisherman’s Top (also part of the All-Weather Package) provides protection from the wind and rain, is a must for shoulder season fishing. And the Yarblow Ventilation System that helps keep your gear dry by circulating pressurized fresh air through rod lockers and storage compartments, effectively mitigating mold, mildew, and even slowing corrosion that could be attacking expensive tackle.
If you are hunting for a versatile fishing boat that maximizes platform space but can quickly transform into a family runabout, one that can handle a bit of chop but won’t break the bank like some fibreglass boats, you just might want to put Smoker Craft’s Ultima 182 on your list.
|Dry weight:||1,425 lbs||646 kg|
|Fuel Capacity:||25 US gal||95 L|
|Base Engine / Drive:||Yamaha|
|Engine HP:||Max 175|