Boat Review by: Jon Blaicher
Tiller boats offer a few advantages over console boats. Their wide-open layouts offer completely unobstructed fishing access to the water. They are lighter, which means you need less power for similar performance to a comparable console boat. And lastly, they are less expensive than their console cousins with similar power. But a tiller doesn’t mean you’re back into a no-frills tin tippy.
This StarCraft Delta 188 T is a well-equipped boat with more than a few pro features. First off, the raised bow casting platform is huge and extends aft down each gunwale to wrap all the way around the boat, allowing instant 360-degree maneuverability when chasing hooks. It has four lockable storage compartments for tons of gear. Hatches are flush with the deck and recessed drains to help keep rainwater away from your gear. A 68 L (18 US gallon) Fresh Catch aerated bow livewell can be found to port. The center rod storage locker opens on two gas struts, providing hands-free access. It is lockable and has room for a dozen rods and some gear. There is a pedestal mount forward if you want to transfer one of the three standard wood-free fishing seats to the bow, and two cup holders will help keep the coffee close and secure. The entire platform and hatches are covered in non-skid carpet that adds a bit of comfort on longer days. The raised trolling motor plane is pre-wired and has room for an anchor and a few Plano boxes below.
More lockable rod storage can be found in the uninterrupted compartment to starboard, under two hatches connected by a flange that allows you to raise both at the same time when lifting the forward hatch. Measuring over 10 feet in length, this is the spot for those longer musky rods. Port side storage consist of two smaller lockable compartments, ideal for tackle and soft gear. Between them we find an 18 L (19 quart) removable Engel live bait cooler, which is standard on the 188. It has a 12-volt aerator for minnows but could also double as a cooler when fishing without live bait. Tow holds can be found under the forward port locker and all along the starboard side.
The aft platform has one cup holder and a storage compartment to starboard, and a huge 106 L (28 US gallon) Fresh Catch Pro aerated livewell. The Pro version is timed and features a recirculating pump to move more water and oxygen into the tank.
Our model featured an optional dash/console to port and housed a basic gauge package with speed, RPM, fuel level, and battery voltage. This small console also provides a convenient spot for the Jensen stereo remote, a USB receptacle, all of the 12-volt rocker switches, a cupholder, deck light, and even includes a small storage drawer for odds and ends.
Vinyl cockpit flooring is both non-skid and easy to clean. Three pedestal mounts for the fishing seats allow seating for three in the cockpit while running and gunning. Each seat folds and swivels with 8-position locks every 45 degrees – something well appreciated from the helm of a tiller powered boat.
This 188 T is powered by Suzuki’s latest 90DFA, one of their new generation four-strokes. This lightweight 1.5 litre 4-cylinder weighs only 346 pounds. Can you say quiet? An offset driveshaft reduces vibration and locates the powerhead as close to the transom as possible. Digital fuel injection means there is no choke to fiddle with. But even better, with Suzuki’s “Easy Start System” you don’t have to hold the key in the start position to fire it up. When you turn the key and release it, the starter stays engaged until the engine starts. A simple enough concept that provides confident starts, I have to wonder why more engine OEMs don’t have this feature.
This is the most powerful tiller-controlled engine I have driven. The shot of torque transmitted through the tiller when it fires, is the first real indication we are not driving Grandpa’s old tinney. I’ll admit I was a bit tentative opening the throttle for the first time in open water. But the Suzuki is very smooth and predictable. The most surprising thing is just how powerful this 90 feels on a 19-foot boat.
Time to plane is only 4.1 seconds! Mind you, that was with only one person on board, a full tank and zero gear. This quick time to plane is due in part to StarCraft’s latest Vertex Performance Strake (VPS) hull, which has large lifting strakes along the outside of the hull and a long triangular pad up the centre. The strakes provide the lift and grip, while the pad helps elevate the hull for a drier ride.
Once on plane, trim is easily managed with the power trim and tilt switch on the end of the throttle grip. Trimmed up, the Delta 188 comes to life. Most noticeable off the bat is just how stable and predictable this VPS hull is. Even trimmed right out running 40 miles per hour in a 6-inch chop, this boat feels secure. Trimmed down and pushed into a hard turn, the outer strakes grab the water and help hold a line. Even with the wide pad at the transom, I could not get the back end to slide or the propeller to vent.
Visibility is of course, outstanding. With no windshield or canvas in the way, the view is completely unobstructed. The downside is zero wind protection. But if you dress for it, even a brisk 45-degree October day is manageable -- as long as it doesn’t rain.
Perhaps the most interesting, even surprising, thing about this Delta 188 T was the ride comfort in choppy conditions. Winds gusting over 20 knots pushed wave heights to over 2-feet in the channel. Some of this comfort can be attributed to the one-piece bottom with heavy .125” gauge aluminum in the VPS hull, but sitting right in the back of the boat seems to reduce pounding by about 90 percent! Seriously, this has to be one of the most comfortable 19-foot fishing boats I have driven in a decent chop. Comfortable and dry. Did I mention this hull rides high and dry?
So, what about the fishing? We don’t usually have time to fish from these boats, but I did bring a rod to try casting in a bit of chop. My first impression of the fishing experience was the freedom. Freedom to cast in any direction at any time or move to any part of the boat without restriction. The second was stability regardless of fishing position, which was somewhat expected with an 8-foot beam. But again, those big strakes along the outside sit low in the water, enhancing stability even when the engine is off. And with StarCraft’s Integrated Gunnel Track System, you can mount downriggers, rod holders, or electronics almost anywhere you want.
If you don’t opt for a forward trolling motor, all Suzuki outboards from 40 HP and up have built-in troll modes. On this tiller model, the separate trolling mode switch is right on the handle. With an LCD tachometer just behind the shifter, you can manage engine speed from idle to 1200 RPM in 50 RPM increments.
If you’re serious about fishing and you want a full-featured boat with an open layout that can help you squeeze into those tight fishing spots without breaking the bank, StarCraft’s Delta 188 T is definitely worth checking out.
|Dry weight:||1,603 lbs||727 kg|
|Fuel Capacity:||38 US gal||144 L|
|Base Engine / Drive:||Suzuki|
|Engine HP:||Max 90|