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The Fading Angler

Ultimate newbie questions: how to shop for a Robalo?

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Howdy folks - I've been lurking and reading here for a few weeks.  I hope you'll indulge the ultimate in newbie questions.  We live in central Minnesota, and we had no knowledge of Robalo nor any desire to own a boat until the wife and I went fishing in the Keys last fall.  While there, a Robalo R207 (with the seafoam stripe) caught her eye.  Then in March, we went back with the teenagers to the Keys to fish over spring break.  This time, my 17 year old son wanted to go look at boats, so we stopped and took a closer look at the R207.  She fell in love with it, but developed a coughing fit at the price. At just north of $48k, she had a hard time swallowing it when compared to the 5th wheel camper we bought for $28k a few years back.

Fast forward to end of summer, my wife and 15 year old daughter are planning to go to a bunch of weekend horse shows next summer.  At that point, I declared that my son and I would be fishing those weekends.  And we'll be getting a boat for it. 

I'm hoping NOT to settle for a 16' Lund for $16k.  I'd rather have something I can take out on Lake Superior for lake trout on occasion, and it looks like an R160 can be had for around $25k instead.  I'd prefer the R180 over the R160, with the head and boarding ladder (I have Parkinson's Disease and have been known to lose my balance and unintentionally go swimming while fishing...)  But the R207 is still the target if I can use the spring tax refund to pay off the wife's horse trailer (the payment would be about the same.)

So, now that I've unnecessarily shared way too much... I've never shopped for boat before.  I have 2 dealers I can visit fairly easily.  Nisswa Marine is about 2 hours away from my house, but they aren't located "on the water."  I'm actually working in Madison, WI during the week right now, so I can visit Racine Riverside fairly easily, too.

Here we go with the questions:

1. Is it normal to expect to be able to "test drive" a boat before you buy it?  There are so many boat dealers around here that aren't located anywhere near one of our "10,000 lakes" and yet folks around here buy new boats left and right.  Do people commonly buy $40+ boats without putting them through their paces?

2. If I had to pick a boat show to attend somewhere in the USA to look over these Robalos and their closest competitors, where would you go?

3. For those who've ordered a Robalo, would you do it again?  I've always hated the idea of ordering a vehicle.  For example, when we bought our RV, there were 4 nearly identical ones on the lot.  We went through all 4 and picked the best one, and some of them had some non-trivial issues.  If I ordered one and it show up with THOSE problems, I'd have been plenty upset.

4. Are the rear factory rod holders strong enough for using downriggers on a rodholder gimball mount?  I want downriggers for lake trout fishing, but want to remove them when they're not needed.

5. Any other thoughts, wisdom,  or experiences about boat shopping you're willing to share?

That's probably enough for now.  Thanks very much in advance.

PS - If you're a Robalo owner in eastern WI and willing to give a guy a ride when it warms up, he'd love it.  :)

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18 hours ago, The Fading Angler said:

1. Is it normal to expect to be able to "test drive" a boat before you buy it?  There are so many boat dealers around here that aren't located anywhere near one of our "10,000 lakes" and yet folks around here buy new boats left and right.  Do people commonly buy $40+ boats without putting them through their paces?

I would not buy a boat before running it.  Yet many do.  

18 hours ago, The Fading Angler said:

2. If I had to pick a boat show to attend somewhere in the USA to look over these Robalos and their closest competitors, where would you go?

3. For those who've ordered a Robalo, would you do it again?  I've always hated the idea of ordering a vehicle.  For example, when we bought our RV, there were 4 nearly identical ones on the lot.  We went through all 4 and picked the best one, and some of them had some non-trivial issues.  If I ordered one and it show up with THOSE problems, I'd have been plenty upset.

My R160 had a handful of issues, most I would chalk up to poor quality control checks.  My dealer has fixed them all.  It's a pain to have to put the boat on a trailer, drive it to the dealer, leave it, and then go pick it up, but they have fixed everything.  If/when I buy another boat, I can tell you that I'll be spending a long time checking it before picking it up, and requiring them to fix things before I sign.  

Initially I was sold on Robalo.  If/when I buy another boat, I will look at other brands because of the QC issues I've had on mine.  

18 hours ago, The Fading Angler said:

4. Are the rear factory rod holders strong enough for using downriggers on a rodholder gimball mount?  I want downriggers for lake trout fishing, but want to remove them when they're not needed.

5. Any other thoughts, wisdom,  or experiences about boat shopping you're willing to share?

It's hard to buy something sitting in a showroom or on a convention floor that you can't go drive and form an opinion on.  Boats have whizbang features designed to lure the unsuspecting buyer.  Ignore things you don't need/want.  

18 hours ago, The Fading Angler said:

That's probably enough for now.  Thanks very much in advance.

PS - If you're a Robalo owner in eastern WI and willing to give a guy a ride when it warms up, he'd love it.  :)

Supposedly, per my dealer, the 2019 R160 loses the stupid step, and has a ladder.  I don't see it on the site when I look.  The step is very, very, very poor design.  If Robalo offers a ladder on the 2019, they better come out with a retro-fit for the older boats.  Don't even consider buying it without a real ladder, unless the boat is beached you need a ladder.

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As a previous R207 owner, I'll try to help a bit.

1. Not all dealers will do this. Part of the issue is the 'new' owner won't want many hours on his boat when purchasing, so I know they tend to limit sea trials to those purchasing the boat. When I sold my R207, it was the same way. Only the guy who bought my boat got the sea trial and that was to allow him to ask for any 'fixes' he thought might be needed (there were none). Before he bought the boat I had compression tests done and documented, etc. so he knew the boat was in good condition.

2. I went to a local (Virginia Beach) boat show, but there are good videos from boattest (https://www.boattest.com/review/robalo/2787_r207 ) and on Robalo's website. You can see where shows will be held at http://www.robalo.com/Content.php?content=boat_shows

3. I didn't order mine, I got it off the showroom floor. If I was ordering it, I'd be sure to get the ski tow and trim tabs.

4. I didn't have downriggers, but I did replace the holders with rod/cup holders. I'd say they could handle downriggers fine. I did use them for planers at fairly high speed and didn't have any issues.

5. With most new boats you have to use the dealer you purchased the boat from for any warranty work. Very important that your dealer has a good reputation.

Good luck with the boat. I really liked my R207 and it's new owner likes it as well. My wife wanted a larger boat, so we sold the R207.

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