Ever dreamed of owing a Rybovich? This 45-foot express sportfisherman from a revered semi-custom Florida builder may be the next best thing.
Pedigree is a word that is much used in the world of sportfishing boats. After all, anyone with the requisite capital can buy a boat and go hunting big fish. And in theory at least, one boat has as good a chance of raising them as another. (The captain and crew are another story altogether.) But at some point a really serious angler will want a boat that makes catching big fish both easier and more rewarding, and at that point attention usually turns to a handful of truly pedigreed sportfishing boats.
Not a lot of boats qualify, but among those that do is Gamefisherman. The story of how these boats came to be and why they are so revered by serious anglers is unique. Gamefisherman was the brainchild of a man who sports a pedigree of his own, one focused on building serious sportfishing boats. Mike Matlack has been in the boat business for a half-century, and in that time he has been president of Bertram Yacht and Rybovich Boat Works, as well as of his own company, Matlack Yacht Builders in Stuart, Florida. But as the Gamefisherman Web site says, “Matlack was a fisherman before he was a boatbuilder so he understands the angler’s needs.”
Matlack dreamed of parlaying his fishing and boatbuilding experience into a line of top-quality, no-compromise, semi-custom sportfishing boats—boats unlike anything that was currently available. But they couldn’t just be capable, they had to turn heads, too. As Matlack told Power & Motoryacht in a 2012 interview, “Beyond being functional, [boats] have to be pretty.”
In 1985, Matlack made his dream come true by forming Gamefisherman, Inc. Never intended to be a high-volume player, the builder, which today is based in Stuart, Florida, immediately found a market, and now the company that started out with a 34-foot center console and a 45-foot express has delivered boats to dedicated anglers all over the world. Those two models have blossomed into three distinct lines, all of which are now cold-molded: Express Cruiser Sportfisherman, Walk-Around Sportfishermen, and the Flybridge Convertible Sportfish. In addition, Gamefisherman offers six Mothership Explorer yachts ranging from 94 to 164 feet, which are designed from the keel up to carry the smaller boats to anywhere an adventurous angler could dream of going. (In May, Gamefisherman delivered a 42 Walk-Around to San Diego, where she was loaded aboard a mothership.)
Of the three lines, the Express Cruiser Sportfisherman is arguably the one that is most single-mindedly dedicated to serious fishing. Available in lengths ranging from 36 to 65 feet, the boats feature large cockpits that blend into open but sheltered bridgedecks and basic but nevertheless luxurious accommodations below. These are indeed beautiful boats; the influence of Matlack’s tenure at Rybovich shows everywhere, from the Palm Beach-style helm to the graceful sheerline.
Being a low-volume builder means that the chances of finding any Gamefisherman—and especially a highly sought-after Express Cruiser Sportfisherman—on the brokerage market are slim at best. But Miami-based Yacht Consulting Group (www.yachtconsultinggroup.com) recently listed a beauty: Rebel, a 2005 45 Express that was built for a knowledgeable Florida-based owner who is a serious angler and has always maintained her with “an open checkbook.” Rebel is powered by a pair of 660-horsepower Cummins QSM11 diesels, which Yacht Consulting Group says gives her a top speed of 33 knots and a cruising speed of 28 knots at 1850 rpm. These 10.8-liter in-line sixes are known for their fuel efficiency, which should give this boat plenty of range from its 637-gallon fuel tankage. And although she’s nine years old, her engines have logged only about 1,400 hours. (The fact that her 9-kilowatt Onan genset has just 1,600 hours on it tells you this boat spent most of her time out on the water chasing fish instead of tied to the dock.)
It’s not surprising then that Rebel was rigged to fish. Her bridge and cockpit decks are teak; her fighting chair and rocket launchers are by Murray Brothers. Beneath, a large L-shaped lazarette provides plenty of stowage for angling equipment, as well as fenders and cleaning gear. The custom Bausch-American tower features a hardtop with cover and full controls. Birdsall Marine Design outriggers, teaser reels, a Rupp center ’rigger, and Murray cockpit freezer complete the angling amenities. There is also a cockpit ice chest.
Rebel’s electronics reflect her serious intent. Two Furuno NavNet multifunction displays and autopilot are supplemented by a Garmin GPS, satellite radio, two Standard Horizon VHFs, and, of course, the Cummins electronic engine display. The tower helm has its own 7-inch NavNet display, Furuno digital depth gauge, and controls for the autopilot, trim tabs, and ACR spotlight.
Although the 45 Express has sleeping accommodations for just two in a forepeak cabin, there are plenty of amenities below, including two Cruisair air-conditioning systems, Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer drawers, another custom-made in-counter freezer, microwave, cooktop, TV with DVD player, and wine rack. The interior woodwork is elegantly traditional with gloss-white cabinets and bulkheads accenting natural wood trim. A small teak table to port provides room for four to dine while seated on a brown leather L-shaped settee that can also double as a single berth; a swing-up pilot berth above provides sleeping for another person. The head is also to port and features an electric MSD and enclosed shower. A single stainless steel sink and expansive countertop work area beneath cabinets with elegant wood tambour doors create an eminently workable galley.
But perhaps Rebel’s signature piece of finery is outside on the bridgedeck, two steps up from the cockpit. Her elegant Palm Beach-style helm is centered on a wooden pedestal flanked by stainless steel single-lever controls. The small instrument cluster contains all the necessary gauges, and seating is provided by a single leather-covered Murray Brothers chair. It’s a classic traditional sportfishing helm that tells you all you need to know about this builder’s intentions.
While Rebel was still available as we went to press, we can’t be responsible if a buyer has realized she’s the boat of his dreams. If you’d like more information contact Andrew Silva, the listing broker, at Yacht Consulting Group, at (305) 775-1282.
Larger Gamefisherman Express boats are rarely for sale, but we found a few smaller models available. Power & Motoryacht spoke to the listing brokers to learn why they’re so attractive. Read what they found out here ▶
Base Price $749,000
LOA 45' 0"
Beam 15' 4"
Draft 3' 9"
Displacement 29,000 lb.
Engine 2/660-hp Cummins QSM11 diesels
Fuel 637 gal.
Water 100 gal.