Team NauticStar – The 227 Extreme Tournament Series in Action

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A collage of an aftermarket-rigged 227XTS NauticStar Boat with Jeffrey Hattaway showing his prize Crappie fish

Pro Crappie Fisherman, Jeffrey Hattaway, Explains Why a NauticStar is His Vessel of Choice

by Jennifer Chesak

“A lot of people look at me like, ‘Why would you need a boat this big for a panfish?’” says Jeffrey Hattaway, of Vernon, Alabama. He’s talking about his new 2020 NauticStar 227 Extreme Tournament Series Bay Boat. “Well, a bay boat like NauticStar’s is perfect for spider rigging,” he continues, “because it’s a heavy boat. If you’ve got a small boat, the wind will blow the rear around because it’s so light. But with this boat, it will stay stable.” 

Grenada Lake, Hattaway’s favorite place to fish, is home to some of the largest crappie in the country. But it’s also one of the largest bodies of water in Mississippi. It can get a bit hairy, depending on the weather. “My number one reason to find that boat was for the Grenada Lake conditions,” Hattaway said. “A 5 mph wind on Grenada could have waves as tall as 1 to 2 feet.” Before Hattaway owned the 227 XTS, a breezy day meant he just didn’t go fishing. And despite its size, the boat has some serious get up and go, thanks to NauticStar’s unique air-assist chines and what Hattaway calls his dream engine option, a Yamaha 250-hp V6 V MAX SHO®. “The boat will plane out faster than any 20-foot aluminum boat I’ve ever had,” he says. 

Hattaway, now a tournament fisherman, grew up catching crappie with his grandfather, now a 103-year-old veteran. He taught Hattaway to fish with a cane pole, a cork, a hook and a minnow. “Things have really changed,” Hattaway says with a laugh. “And it kind of blows my mind.” Nowadays, Hattaway spider rigs with eight rods off the bow, all targeting different depths with the help of Garmin’s real-time scanning sonar, Panoptix Livescope™*. “On hot days like now,” he says, “with old-style fishing, you probably wouldn’t have much luck. But with spider rigging and Livescope, you can actually cover more ground and fish in deeper waters where fish are submerged.” Or Hattaway might pull crankbaits in the rear, with up to four rods per person, targeting 13- to 20-foot depths. 

Whether spider rigging or pulling crankbaits, crappie fishing these days involves a lot of rod management. In addition to recessed rod storage, Hattaway’s 227 XTS features six built-in stainless-steel rod holders on the center console with four additional rocket launchers off the seat. “If you’re fishing, and you say, ‘Hey, I want to pick up and run down the lake five minutes,’” Hattaway says, “you can just set ’em up and run. Then you just pick ’em right back up and go right back to fishing. I love that part.”

The forward fishing deck is one of the most stable platforms Hattaway says he’s ever fished on, and it’s wide enough to accommodate two pedestal seats. “If I move or get up, it’s very crucial that my rods don’t bounce,” Hattaway says. “If my movement bounces my fishing partner’s rods, he may think he has a fish—or that may scare the fish,” adds. “The bow of that boat does not move at all. And I can say it’s got plenty of room for two men to stand up there and fish and have their bait and their tackle and run the trolling motor.” 

For trolling, Hattaway added a Minn Kota Ultrex™ with 112-pound thrust and the Spot-Lock feature. With the ability to switch from foot to hand control automatically, he says, “It’s definitely a game-changer.” His 227 XTS has a 9-inch Garmin at the helm in addition to the 12-incher mounted in the bow. “I’ve got them networked together,” he says. “if I’m in the rear of the boat, I can see what’s going on on both.”Hattaway also added a 10-foot Power-Pole Blade with Power-Pole drift paddles for slowing the aft down during spider-rigging when there’s a feisty breeze. 

Three fold-down jump seats form the aft fishing deck, which features two pedestal seat bases, something Hattaway says was essential. “Two men can sit in the back pulling cranks,” he explains. “You’re running your Ultrex with your remote hand, and you don’t even have to go to the front of the boat to do anything.” 

Those jump seats, a swim platform and the add-on swim ladder also come in handy when Hattaway brings his wife, Michelle, and kids along for a day on the lake. His stepsons, Dalton (20) and Houston (18), and daughter, Presley (10), all like tubing. “This boat is an outstanding family boat,” Hattaway says. “I just can’t explain how good this boat handles.” Michelle, new to driving a boat, has been getting her turn at the helm, too—that is when Hattaway is willing to share his new toy. “I don’t even let her drive my lawnmower,” he says with a laugh. We’ve run out of room to write about just how much Hattaway loves his NauticStar 227 XTS and its features, but he assures us, “I can go on and on…”

*Certain options and accessories in Mr. Hattaway’s boat are custom-fitted and do not come standard