When Pavati Marine burst upon the drift boat scene a few years back, it was quickly apparent that they were a company that enjoyed taking an outside-the-box approach to boat building. The man behind Pavati, Chuck Gros, is like a mad scientist…cool new ideas flowing out of his noggin almost faster than his guys could build ’em.
Chief among his concepts was putting doors on a drift boat — but he didn’t stop there. Now, Pavatis feature all sorts of Gucci extras that you won’t find on other production boats, but the big question that’s been on everybody’s minds and on their message boards: How do these things row? Well, we aimed to find out…
But first, let’s take a look at some of the features that make Pavatis unique…
The list has to begin with the doors, and you can order a boat in a 1, 2, 3 or 4-door model. This one is a 2-door “Coupe”
The doors are stout with car door-style latches that have the release tab housed in such a way that you can’t accidentally release them. Though people have a tendency to slam the doors shut, the latches require a gentle pull and you can hear the two-stage click lock. On this boat the port side latch is smooth as silk, but the starboard one has gotten a little sticky over time. The doors are waterproofed with burly rubber seals…and the bottoms ride well above the waterline, so there’s no worries about taking on water anyway.
All the skeptics who have gotten into the boat have quickly turned into door aficionados. As it turns out, the doors are not gimmicky at all…not only do they make it a whole heck of a lot easier for folks to hop in and out of the boat without wracking their shins (or worse) on the gunwale, they also make it much more simple for anglers to reach down to the water to wash hands. You can also hop in the boat from deep water with waders on and I can get in and out of the boat while it’s sitting on the trailer as well without the usual trailer wheel hop.
When you’re bow-in to the beach and letting folks in and out, just be sure to pay attention to where the rocks are…when somebody gets in and weighs down one side of the boat, there’s a chance you can scrape the bottom of your door on the shore (ask me how I know!). Perhaps a better system would be to order one with a rear door, since it’s often easier to pull up to shore aft first…
2Another one of Pavati’s intriguing features is the “plug & play” floor. First off, all floors are level so getting around on the inside is a snap…no benches to trip over and no angled floor up front to throw you off balance. Additionally, the floors are raised about 6 inches above the bottom of the boat so your feet and gear is never soaking in water from rain or rapids.
Computer cut notches in the floors allow you to move you seats, foot braces, fly fishing stands, tackle storage and rod holders anywhere you want. You can run two or three seats in a straight line across the front for plug pulling or do them all inline down the centerline for side-drifting…I’ve even taken the rower’s seat completely out and made a mini-sled out of the boat in some cases. It’s kind like playing with Legos!
The only downside to this non-bench style of seating is you don’t have as much infinite adjustment control of the weight balance up front. With a couple seats on sliders, you can have guys slide one way or the other an inch at a time to get you centered, but here the increments are more like 6 inches. To me it was worth having a little less control of my load’s balance to gain the walk-around room. Plus, Gross says he is currently working on a way to make the seating even more adjustable.
Another nifty little feature of the floors is they are easily removed. The floors come in three sections and are all held in by some crazy NASA grade Velcro-type stuff. Simply pull ’em up and lift them out. The heaviest section only weighs maybe 15 pounds, so it’s an easy 1-person job.
Initially, I was skeptical about Velcroed-in floors, but these things are in there solid – there’s no way they are coming out and it is so damn cool to be able to pull them out occasionally hose out the inside of the boat.
There are many other cool things that come with the Warrior…Bentley seats, tackle trays, 7 cupholders (which are great for sinkers, scents, pliers, etc) and a whole lot of other stuff. While the twin “The Truth” rulers embedded into the side trays may be a bit optimistic at 60 inches in length, they certainly are handy anytime you’re fishing in an area with slot limits. Just be careful, we nearly had a keeper king hop right off and back into the river as we were measuring it!
The Warrior’s anchor nest is a simple thing of beauty. Not only does it feature a diamond plate back to keep your pyramid from scratching your interior, but also has a super cool latch system that holds the anchor in place while you travel and a couple drain plug holders. We’ve all forgotten to lash down our anchors at the end of the day at least once and the results are often very damaging. And, yee-haaaw, no more searching around in the dark for lost plugs. This may be the coolest thing on the boat!
Of course, with everything inside of the boat being so adjustable, it stands to reason that you need some room to shift your oarlocks around and that’s certainly the case here as you have 8 positions for the stainless and extremely strong oarlocks that come with the boat.
You can get all the normal anchor systems put on a Warrior, but I tried out their slick stomp pedal system. While pedal style anchor releases are nothing new in the driftboat world, this one’s unique in that the pedal is offset off to the right of the rower’s seat and then the line travels under the floor, where it’s largely out of the way.
A pulley system comes with the anchor and makes it infinitely easier to pull up your pyramid. Suddenly pulling 35# of lead up from the depths is a 1-arm show. But, I have to admit, I cut the sucker off after just two days of fishing. While the easy-up part of the deal was sweet, you also have to realize that to make the system work with a pulley, you have to let out twice the amount of line…it seemed like it took forever to pull the pick and I quickly started dreading dropping anchor in anything deeper than about 5 feet. It’s probably not a bad way to go, though, if you’re getting a little up there in age and don’t want to lift so much weight.
You can get all sorts of other crazy stuff on a Warrior. Heated seats and stereos are available and more practical items like a tackle station next to the rower’s seat with room for three big plastic organizer boxes; a sliding fish box, bait boxes, leader rollers, twin heaters, rain tops and a lot more…Basically, if you can dream it up, Gross and crew can probably make it happen.
On the outside, the Warrior shows very nicely. When I first rolled into salmon camp, one of the fellas called it a “work of art” and I’ve also had clients describe it as “the Lexus of drift boats” and “way too nice to slime with fish blood.” Pavati has some pretty handy airbrush painters who can do up any design you like, but I opted for a the cleaner look of basic white. What’s cool about the paintjob is that it is powercoated and very durable. The paint’s extremely resistant to dings and scrapes and is also really easy to clean. The inside is also powdercoated and is far superior to the ol’ Zolatone and Clearcoat that’s been standard on boats for so long.
The downside is it’s the first aluminum boat I’ve had with paint (and not bare aluminum) below the waterline and little scrapes and scratches start to show over time.
Speaking of out-doing the old technology like Coat-It and Gluvit, the Warrior can be outfitted with a UHMW bottom that’s epoxied and vacuum-adhered. What you basically get is all the advantages of fiberglass — a quiet and very slippery ride over rocks. The stuff’s so slick that I found during pit stops ashore that somebody would have to hold the boat to keep it from slipping off the gravel bar — a slickness that comes in very handy for running rocky rivers — or when you happen to take a wrong side channel like we did one day and had to drag the boat about 25 yards quite literally over dry ground, which was actually pretty easy.
The transom and chines are also unique on the Pavati’s. Beginning with the chines, the Warrior has sorta a “reverse” chine in that it has no extrusions like other aluminum boats. Chines protect the area where the boat’s sides and bottom meet and most metal drifters have the extruded variety…kinda a bumper of sorts. Gross & company decided to put the reinforcements on the inside of the boat, leaving the Warrior with a “hard” chine. It definitely gives the boat a cleaner look, but there’s also some function to the form as well.
I found that the boat spins on a dime, which is really handy when you’re picking your way through a rock garden. Pavati also claims that their boats track better without extruded chines, which I would say is generally true though in super boily water, I did get pushed around somewhat (though I’m not so sure that there’s any boat that wouldn’t have in those spots). Where I really found that it shines was as you’re descending a fast riffle and there’s and eddy fence on one side. These babies have a tendency to grab hold of an extruded chine and spin the boat alarmingly quickly if you’re not careful. The Pavati chine was super resistant to this “grabbiness,” which is a really nice safety feature.
While I haven’t been concerned with the structural integrity of the hard chine (I whacked it on a rock in a fast and steep Class III pretty seriously and it barely left a ping pong ball-sized dent), normal rock scratches and gravel grinds do show more than they do on a boat with an extrude chine (especially since the boat is painted all the way down.
The radius transom is pretty slick — rather than having a flat area in back that the water can push on, this baby is rounded, so the current simply slips under, and even lifts, the Warrior. It’s actually pretty amazing…pulling plugs or ferrying laterally across a fast chute or riffle, you almost feel like you’re floating above the water in a hovercraft. The transom design is also super handy when running a kicker and/or another angler behind the rowing seat. It also means I have a heck of a lot more room in the back of the boat, which a really nice bonus. I can stand back there with a kicker, jerry jug of gas and a 152-quart cooler and still not feel cramped.
It’s really hard for me to say if the dimpled bottom actually helps. I mean, the concept is solid – folks like Clackacraft, surfboard manufacturers and golf ball companies all certainly buy into the science behind it – with dimples you get less friction and if that means the water slips more easily under the boat, I’m all for it. It’s just hard to say for sure if I can tell the difference without rowing the same boat without ’em. One thing’s for sure, they can’t hurt!
Obviously, the Warrior sports a laundry list of desirable features. But, the real bottom line is: Do they row? In fact, that’s been quite the subject of much discussion on the various fishing forums across the West and Great Lakes regions. Many folks seemed to have a negative attitude towards them and many said that the boats rowed like shit, yet none of those folks could claim to have had actually been in one. The few guys I talked to who really had rowed one loved ’em. So, it was with great interest I got in one and tried it out.
I immediately was impressed with the boat’s ability to stop in hot water. The 17X60 is a big boat (the 17 feet is measured down the centerline, not around the sides, so it’s basically an 18 footer when measured in the standard driftboat fashion). I could put the brakes on and get her stopped honestly much quicker than any of the other boats I’ve owned. A big plus, when you want to drop some steelie plugs in at the head of the run. It tracked nicely when back trolling and though she’s a big girl, I was able to row back up on spots when wanted to side-drift again without too much trouble.
The bow sits plenty high and provided a really nice dry ride though spots that I’ve taken water over the front in years past. With three anglers across the bow, I’ve had boats that felt as if they were being pulled downstream by someone yanking on my bowline, but that’s not the case with the Warrior. In white water, it was nimble enough to get through some tricky spots and never felt too big or bulky.
From a fishing standpoint, the boat’s a great platform. When we would hook up, the flat floors and walk-around rowing seat were really nice, allowing the angler to follow his fish if necessary. It also provided a nice stable base from which I could lean out and net fish without feeling like we were going to flip.
Generally, the inside of the boat is very snag-free, but I did catch my net’s mesh occasionally on one of the seat latches and, twice, I’ve stored my net on the rear floor pulley for the anchor and sucked the mesh up into it when I’ve pulled the anchor…quite a fiasco the first time as I went to grab the bag with a fish on and it was jammed!
While you can get some Pavati-designed rod holder brackets for the boat, I often prefer to have clients “ground” the rod against the gunwale when pulling plugs. While the powder coated interior has a really nice and smooth finish, the pressure of a plug working against the current causes the rods to grind and scratch on the gunwale…too bad there’s not a way (there probably is) to get a rubber rub rail on there somehow.
Without hesitation, I can say that the Warrior is truly my favorite boat that I’ve owned so far (I’ve have had many — glass and aluminum from 14 to 20 feet in length). It looks sweet, the features are great and it rows very, very well (I also love the back support on the rower’s seat!). The only thing I can even (kinda) bitch about is that Pavati went a little overboard on the branding with this thing. The Pavati and accompanying fish hook logos are everywhere you look…on both sides of the stern, there’s a MASSIVE Pavati sticker, not to mention one on the inside of each door. “Pavati” is etched into the diamond plate floor not once but twice and it also appears on the nose and oar lock regions…not to mention the backs of all the seats. While the fish hook logo is pretty cool, there are 16…count ’em…16 of the things inside the boat and 6 more on the outside.
Granted, 6 of them are cleverly-designed drain holes, but it just feels a touch over-the-top. There is something to say for understated elegance….
The Pavati Warrior is a beautiful piece of working, fishable art and has no problem standing out in a crowd without the “NASCAR” approach to branding. Besides that, I have absolutely nothing but good things to say about it…It truly is a great boat!