A family-focused fish-and-ski boat

By Steven Bull

Most fish-and-ski boats I’ve seen start with an aluminum fish boat and add extra seats and padding to make it more family friendly. The Tahoe 550 TF flips the script and starts with the classic fibreglass, runabout bowrider and cleverly incorporates everything you want for serious fishing.

For me, the coolest features are the full-on fishing seats stored in the transom locker, which, unto itself, is a spacious and very useful. Tucked neatly into the in-floor ski locker you’ll find the seat stands slotted neatly into secure holders. Pop that out and you have bow and stern options to install the seat. Simply slot the stand into the hole, slide the seat into the stand, take off the one-piece cover, fold up the seat back and you’ve got a comfy fishing seat.

There are bow and stern options for the fishing seats, raised for good casting options that avoid line-snaggers. At the bow you’ll find the Minn Kota trolling motor and on the starboard side of the rear bench seat you’ll find a livewell.

Without the fishing seat, the bow is comfy and roomy for a boat under 20-feet long and has the under seat storage you expect in a classic runabout.

Moving back, the portside console has stereo controls and a good-size glove box, perfect for wallets and phones. Opposite, the helm is clean, modern and user friendly for either booting around with the family or taking your buddies to your favourite fishing hole. On both sides you have comfortable bucket seats with partial-wraparound support and stylish two-tone to match the hull.

Bench seating at the stern conceals a storage compartment on the port side, a livewell on the starboard side, and in the middle, room for a full-size cooler. On either side are intuitively placed grab handles along with storage in the coamings for your extra gear or spare lifejackets. Right behind that are removable cushions giving you the option of a cushy sun pad, though you also have a bimini top if shade is what you’re after.

Even with the updated outboard design, this Tahoe fits very functional dual swim platforms – starboard side with a ladder, and port side with storage – though both have cup holders for the water-based loungers of your group.

As tested we had a 150-horsepower Mercury which has plenty of power for watersports or to race across the lake to chase that trophy catch, though the 550 TF is rated for a maximum of 200 hp.

The 550 TF gets on plane quickly, with a holeshot under 5 seconds and once you’re running there’s no stopping you! With two people it easily cracks 51 miles per hour and feels comfortable running at speed. Fully loaded it won’t crack 50 but will still top out in the very high 40s – impressive for a 150 hp engine.

The wider, deeper and longer PowerGlide II hull means you can confidently handle any chop and, when it disappears, you will definitely want to punch the throttle of this Tahoe and enjoy skimming across the top of the water.

At 6-foot-1 windscreens sometimes serve as funnels to direct the wind directly into my eyes, but on the 550 TF it’s high enough to deflect the wind over my head while still looking sporty and stylish…the windshield, not me.

It handles smoothly with the 150 Mercury providing solid power to drive the well-designed hull through confident turns. Even though it’s kitted out as a full-on fishing boat, this is a lot of fun to runabout on.

It’s one of the best executions I’ve tested of a fish-and-ski model designed with the family first. Classic runabout fun with the trolling motor, seats and livewells for the functionality of a fishing boat.

The Tahoe 550 TF tries to be everything to everyone and does a remarkable job of doing just that.

Previous articleTip: Charge Away
Next articlePOWER PROFILE: Bayliner Element XR7
Steven Bull is an Associate Producer and Host of PowerBoat Television. He grew up boating on runabouts and PWCs on the lakes around Huntsville, while his wife grew up on cruisers. It only took months after getting married for Steve to adopt that lifestyle. Together, they purchased a Sea Ray 380 Sundancer they keep at the Toronto Islands. A graduate of the University of Windsor’s business school, Steve worked in the front office of OHL and CFL teams before moving to Europe and working as a Ski Guide in the French Alps. He returned to Canada get a Master of Arts in Journalism from Western University (formerly UWO). Steve’s broadcast experience ranges from the BBC World Service in England, to business reporter with NTV in Kenya, and from 2010-2014 as a multi-platform reporter and host with CBC News. In 2014, Steve combined his passion for boating with his skills as a broadcaster by joining Lifestyle Integrated where he contributes to Boats&Places Magazine, BoatTest.ca, BoaterNews.ca, and of course, PowerBoat Television.