By Dan Armitage
Champion 190 Fishunter: Low and Orderly
Champion's 190 Fishunter the perfect tool for serious walleye anglers
Walleye pro Sam Anderson likes to lay low when angling. He stays close to the water and the fish while competing against the world’s best fishermen. On land, Sam assumes a different stance, maintaining a high profile among his peers on the pro-circuit, flashing a perfect pearly smile while he promotes himself and the products that help him do his job.
Top among those products is his Champion 190 Fishunter, which the 25-year-old treats more like a soul mate than a mere platform from which to go fishing. One look at Anderson’s immaculate 19-footer and it’s apparent that he is obsessed with the boat.
If you happen to give his boat a second glance, you can’t shut him up about it. If you spend a morning fishing aboard the boat, you can’t shut up about the vessel’s design and performance characteristics.
The first thing you notice when you step aboard the 190 Fishunter is a sense of order, a point not lost on Anderson, who is one of the most organized, methodical anglers on the pro-walleye circuit. Even the way the guy dresses is orderly. Anderson always looks as if he has just stepped from the pages of an outdoor apparel catalog, right down to his socks and matching logo-laden shirt.
The neat looks and symmetry of the new Champion is a perfect match for his outlook on walleye angling.
“Everything about this boat is symmetrical,” croons Anderson, “right down to the dual fuel tanks, which are secured back to back and balanced down deep along the boat’s keel. Even the livewells are twins and set just alike in each corner of the cockpit. The rod lockers, consoles — everything’s symmetrical and matched. I like that.
“I also like the way the boat rides so low on the water,” Anderson adds. “The low profile keeps the wind from blowing me around too much.”
In fact, the only shortcoming Anderson shares about his boat is that he thinks the gunwales are too high amidships. We measured them at 21 inches from the floor at the helm, about average for your typical walleye boat, but high when compared to conventional bass craft. “This is no bass boat!” Anderson shot back when I pointed out the latter, as if the issue had been confused in the past. “This is a prime, big-water walleye boat all the way.
“Cutting down that gunwale is the only thing I’d change. But Lord help them if they ever touch the hull,” Anderson answered when asked if there was anything else askew with the Fishunter model. “Ask any of the pros and the dealers, too, for that matter. We all love that hull.”
“That hull” is a variable-deadrise design, which for the first 6 feet from the transom parts the water at a steady 12 degrees before knifing into a sharper angle up to the bow. It gave a surprisingly smooth ride for a sub-20-foot boat atop a deeply wrinkled Lake Erie. The hull itself is constructed of a careful mix of marine-grade plywood, balsa and fiberglass. Champion provides a five-year limited warranty on the hull, stringers and transom. The hull and sides are laid by hand with specially stitched Owens-Corning glass fabric, fitted to chopper-gunned rail.
The guts of the Fishunter include a stringer system of 3/4-inch marine-grade plywood fully encapsulated in fiberglass to thwart rot. There is also generous use of balsa-core on the sides of the hull, pad and even beneath the front casting deck — places where stiffness, as well as strength, are sought by rough-water walleye anglers such as Anderson. Champion Boats’ design engineer Lance Williams pointed out how important something as basic as fuel tank placement is to anglers like Anderson.
“By placing the twin tanks really low and on top of the keel, we keep the boat’s center of gravity way down,” the engineer explained. “So the boat rides the water more like a weighted bobber when drifting or trolling. The angler has more control of the boat beneath him; it’s not being blown or drifting all over the place like an unweighted bobber. The dual tanks are also sort of a built-in back-up fuel system. When one goes dry, there is another in reserve for the ride back to the dock.”
Anderson is more comfort-savvy than safety conscious when it comes to using the twin tanks to his advantage. When facing rough water, Anderson will empty the forward tank — or at least half of it — first, to face the larger waves and swells.
When running in chop, Anderson does the opposite, emptying the rear fuel tank first to allow the weight of the forward 26 gallons to help him keep more of the steeper deadrise section of the hull parting water.
Handling and acceleration aboard the Fishunter was also much better than average, thanks in part to the 190′s “airfoil” transom design.
“The foil directs clean water to the prop,” explains Williams. “At the same time, our airfoil cut-out moves the pad forward so you have a shorter running surface. This allows you to leverage your way to the best running position, sort of a teeter-totter effect.”
Anderson is known to use all 225 of the hull’s maximum horsepower rating to get him between walleye holes. Once there, he will often switch to his 9.9-horsepower, 2-stroke Mercury trolling motor, which is attached to the transom via a special kicker plate designed by Champion for thick-skinned craft.
Measuring a healthy 2.5 inches thick at the splashwell, no factory “kicker” outboard mounts expand wide enough to clamp onto the Fishunter’s transom. Through-bolted to the transom, Williams claims that the pros who use the optional Champion kicker motor bracket come to prefer it over conventional on-transom mounts.
When it is time to move locations and the 225 is fired-up, the Fishunter fairly leaps to plane and achieved a top speed of 63.5 mph in just under 10 seconds on a cool, overcast day on Lake Erie. Underway, the standard Sea Star anti-feedback steering proves a plus when maneuvering among boats on busy walleye waters such as Lake Erie. Speaking of holding power, the Fishunter’s large, twin rod lockers combine to hold up to 30 rods over 7 feet long, but because the stowage areas are located rather far forward, they curve with the shape of the bow. This means that rods longer than 7 feet have to be bent to be stowed there, and may adopt a permanent curve from the experience.
Anderson lashes rods over 7 feet long atop the deck, where the tips are exposed to damage but the rods remain straight. He hopes Champion will accommodate the longer rods being used by trolling walleye anglers by providing holes at deck level in the front of each console for him to safely tuck his tips into.
There is also ample stowage for other gear aboard the 190 Fishunter. A large dry storage compartment is centered beneath the forward deck and a pair of long, 35-inch livewells aft can do double duty as semi-dry stowage space. An optional rear casting deck that can be quickly bolted into place to bridge the two livewells offers additional space for stowing coolers, rain gear and the like. Anderson installs the deck when trolling calm water with in-line planerboards. He puts an extension handle on the kicker and stands atop the elevated platform where he can keep an eye on his boards. The rear battery compartment extends the width of the splashwell and features a Dual-Pro charger as standard equipment. Also standard is a Motorguide 762 DV electric trolling motor with Gator Mount, a Lowrance 1240A in-dash and a Lowrance X65 LCD on the bow.
The new Champion rolls down the highway on a custom LD tube-constructed tandem trailer with a sturdy six-bunk cradle and surge brakes standard. The trailer features aluminum wheels, water-resistant lights, bearing protectors, painted step pads and color-coordinated pinstripes to match a boat that can be custom-ordered in any color under the sun, according to Williams.
There are few negatives about the boat. Live-bait anglers might miss having a baitwell aboard the Fishunter, and I barked my shins a few times on ill-placed hand-holds at the base of the passenger console seat. These are far outweighed by the boat’s many pluses, however. For example, anglers who use downriggers have the (free) option of having wood backing plates installed to reinforce the top of the rear gunwale or corner of the splashwell for mounting plates. Riggers will appreciate the easy access to wiring from bow to stern offered by the open under-gunwales.
Mostly though, after a morning aboard the 190 Fishunter, I saw how important a tool the right boat represents to an angler as organized and focused on his fishing as Anderson seems to be.
|Construction:||Fiberglass and wood|
|Hull Weight:||1500 lbs.|
|Fuel Capacity:||52 gals.|
|Load Capacity:||6 persons/1400 lbs.|
|Max. HP Rating:||225|
|Price as Tested:||$38,049|
|Warranty:||5 years limited on hull, stringers and transom|
|Engine Tested:||Mercury 225 EFI|
|Induction system:||Electronic fuel injection|
|Optimum RPM Range:||5000-5800|
|Propellor:||Trophy 24-pitch 4-blade|
|Setback:||8″ motor in center hole|
|Top Speed(GPS):||63.5 mph|
|0-30 mph/sec:||5.8 seconds|
Major Options: Mercury 9.9 trolling motor, custom color hull, Lowrance Global Map 2000 GPS and LMS 350-A sonar, boat cover, rear casting deck, jackplate, tilt steering wheel, four batteries, swing-away trailer tongue, three-bank battery charger.
Champion Boats, Inc.
1851 Hwy. 201 So. Spur #1
Mountain Home, AR 72653