Boat Talk: Contender 33 Tournament Center Console Review

Review By Captain Terry Nugent


LOA: 34’10”Contender 33T Review

Fuel: 400

Engine(s): Twin 300hp Mercury Verados

Gunnel Height: ??

MPG @at 4000RPM: 1.4


Cruising speed at:

3500rpm: 28 mph

4000rpm: 32 mph

4500 rpm: 40mph

5000 rpm 45 mph

WOT 6150 rpm 59 mph


About The Vessel:

It’s ready. Whatever you have in mind for this weekend, our 33’ Tournament can handle it. The 33’ Tournament continues to dominate the offshore scene with aggressive lines that tout an elevated level of confidence.

Features include a one piece level deck from bow to stern, twin raised livewells, walk-through transom, self-bailing cockpit, and a walk-in step down console to name a few.

Whether it’s a kingfish tournament off North Carolina or billfish tournament off Miami, this is the boat that can put you in the winner’s circle.


Why did you pick this boat?

In September of 2007 I made the decision to upgrade from my existing 24′ center console to a Contender 33 Tournament Edition Center Console. btThe boat was a new 2006 leftover with a pair of Mercury Verado 300hp supercharged four strokes on the back.

This was not a decision I made lightly. While the Contender 33T is an incredible boat, it comes with an incredible price tag for a charter captain. Since I spend roughly 100 days a year on the water and the rough seas around the Cape were taking a toll on my body, I felt I could justify the expense. My style of fishing would be considered “Run and Gun” and the constant running at speed from one place to another required a boat designed for high speed running in the roughest of conditions. After looking at dozens of “Tournament” style boats I decided on the Contender 33T.

Several factors played into the decision. First and foremost, I still wanted to trailer the boat. Although it requires an over-wide permit to do so, the Contender was trailerable whereas other boats in the same size range were a bit too wide to be permitted. Also, I didn’t want to make the jump to triple engines, but I wanted a boat capable of speeds over 55 mph and a cruise speed of 35-40 mph. Range was another major factor. With a big fast boat, I wanted to be able to day trip to the canyons. I didn’t want to bother with carrying fuel bladders. By having 3 separate fuel tanks totaling 400 gallons, I have the ability to tailor my fuel load to meet my requirements for the day. This gives me options for up to 600 miles of range without refueling. The Mercury Smartcraft Gauges incorporate a digital fuel flow meter so I know exactly how much I have burned and more importantly how much I have left. Lastly and most importantly was fish-ability. This is where the Contender 33T really shines.

Would you purchase this boat again?



Did you make any improvements?

Complete Raymarine Electronics Package Including Twin Hybrid Touch Screens (e165 / e95) CHIRP Sonar, Sirius WX, 12KW Super HD Radar.


Any Dislikes?

RigAs much as I love my 33T, nothing is perfect and there is no one perfect boat for every boater. Here are some of the downsides to the 33T. The first and nearly my last issue with the boat was the front console hatch. This enormous hatch hinges up like a garage door. However it only goes up to about 5′ high. This invites you to smash you head while climbing in and out of the console. While rigging the boat in my driveway I was nearly knocked unconscious as I popped up from inside the console. A few stitches later I vowed never to do it again, until the next two times it happened! Fortunately for others Contender offers a split front door that opens to both sides, I STRONGLY recommend that option to anyone interested in this boat..

Having a big boat is a double edged sword. Being big is also one of the drawbacks to this boat. If you going to tow a boat like this, you had better have at least a 1 Ton diesel truck, and plenty of driving experience pulling a trailer. Since I do trailer, I have to contend with fueling up at gas stations that are not designed for a rig of this size. Once you find a gas station you can get into, be ready to stay there a while. A full 400 gallon fill up on the boat takes well over an hour, and in many cases repeated swipes of your fuel card to combat the $75 automatic shutoff at the pump.


How does the boat ride?

From a performance standpoint the 33T is one of the most capable boats I’ve ever run. The boat has a 24.5 degree dead-rise at the transom and a bow that is a fine as a razor. When you push the electronic throttles forward the boat stays almost flat without a hint of bow rise as it accelerates. The whole boat simply rises up as if it were already on plane. This affords the operator an excellent view even at low speeds without having to look “around” the bow.


How does it handle at cruising speed?

Once up to cruising speed the 33T literally runs over seas that would have had my 24’er barely making headway speed. But this performance is not automatic. This boat requires you to “drive” it more so than any other boat I’ve run. If you drive it correctly the boat will respond by eating up 4-6′ seas at near highway speeds while keeping you dry and comfortable. Let your mind wander while driving in those conditions and the ride becomes significantly less comfortable in a hurry.


Is it Dry/wet?

The boat is “Center Console Dry” No CC is completely dry but this one is as close as you can get to a dry CC.


How does it handle at trolling speed?

Whether your fighting an aggressive fish or maneuvering around the dock on a busy weekend, the boat is surprisingly nimble. The Verado’s have “true” power steering like a car not hydraulic like most boats. Combined with fly by wire throttle controls maneuvering is a breeze. Despite having twin outboards nearly touching each other, by splitting the throttles forward and reverse, you can make the boat spin in circles in its own length with ease.


Handling Drifting:

When you get where your going the boat still has some tricks up its sleeve. While at rest the boat drifts beam to the sea. Most outboard powered boats drift stern too the sea. Drifting beam too the sea provides for allot more fishing space along the 35 feet of gunnel compared to trying to fish over the outboards. It also provides a much safer platform by not letting a rogue wave wash over the transom or the engines. For a boat with as sharp of a hull as the 33T has, it drifts with surprisingly little pitching and rolling. It drifts like a duck, maintaining a flat attitude and simply rising up and down over the waves.



Many factors play into the boat having great fish-ability. We do a tremendous amount of casting for large bluefin tuna. This is often done in less 616255_488425657875126_291551465_othan ideal conditions. The 33T has an enormous flush deck from bow to stern and high padded gunnels that allow multiple anglers to move around and fish confidently in rough seas. Storage on this boat is nothing short of amazing! The boat holds 34 rods rigged and ready to fish and does it without them being in the way. This allows me to gear up for a trolling trip to the canyons, and still bring enough casting gear for all my anglers in the event of surface action. In addition to rod storage the 33T has 3 livewells totaling 134 gallons (with an option for more) When we are bass fishing we routinely carry 6 dozen live pogies comfortably between the 3 livewells. That’s allot of pogies! There is nearly 500 gallons of insulated dry storage under the deck so no fishing space is lost, there is nothing to trip over and there is room for everything you could possibly want to carry. The deck itself is self bailing and has a slight crown to it so any water runs to the sides and into a pair of deep channels that lead back to a pair of enormous scuppers.

The boats layout lends itself to great fishabilty, but it also lends itself to easy maintenance and rigging. The boats design and layout is very simple and clean. It has an almost Spartan feel to it. There is nothing you don’t need, and everything you do need is flushed in or out of the way, right where you want it to be. This makes cleanup on a breeze even on a boat of this size. With fresh and saltwater wash downs, my mates can generally have the boat clean and all the gear rinsed before we are back on the trailer. If you do your own rigging or just like to keep a clean bilge you’ll appreciate the huge hatch in the floor leading to the bilge. You can climb right down into the belly of the beast and handle whatever needs to be done without contorting yourself into knots.

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