How does a builder come to design and construct boats that can not only plane in reverse but also account for hundreds of world-record saltwater catches, particularly in the light-tackle-angling field? Well, start with a mid-life crisis, naturally. At least that’s how Buddy Gentry, half of the team that is Freeport, Florida’s G&S Boats, did it. (Steve Sauer, Gentry’s partner and an engineer by trade, is the other half.)
Gentry started off as a charter boat captain out of Destin, Florida, but sometime in the early 1970’s he had an epiphany of sorts. He thought it would be great to earn a living by building boats. So he took a job with a local company constructing fiberglass 38-footers during the winter. “I worked for minimum wage to learn,” Gentry says.
By 1973, the fisherman-turned-part-time boatbuilder decided to give this new business a full-time effort. He and Sauer started by building molds for a 30-footer. Gentry admits that while the experience helped the duo hone their skills, they didn’t get a lot of satisfaction out of building production boats.
So the two men decided that one-off custom-sportfisherman construction was the way they wanted to go. In the last 35 or so years, G&S has built around 50 vessels ranging up to 72 feet, all of which are still plying the waters from South Florida to New Zealand to Costa Rica to Africa and beyond.
When I spoke with Gentry in January, he had an older G&S in the shop for a repower and a 50-footer under construction. Building a boat at G&S is for the patient owner, kind of like waiting for that world-record fish to show up. Average construction time exceeds a year, and its latest, a 66-footer, took almost 22 months to complete. “Everything we build is custom; we don’t have molds,” Gentry says. Jigs are thrown away after each boat, and the build process is highly labor-intensive.
But that’s true of most any custom-built battlewagon, so what makes this one so popular among avid big-game anglers? It’s that a G&S boat can spin with vertigo-inducing speed—it literally lifts up and out of the water while retaining perfect steerage in reverse, a trait desired by top-notch, light-tackle, world-record-chasing angling professionals. Gary Carter and Enrico Capozzi, both of whom hold multiple big-fish records, each own a G&S. Carter, who took delivery of his 45-footer Silver-Rod-O in 2006, has nabbed about ten records since then, including a 252.8-pound Pacific blue marlin on six-pound tackle, a 249-pound blue marlin on eight-pound tackle, and a 357-pound Atlantic blue marlin on eight-pound, too. He’s even captured a 58.2-pound dolphin on nearly invisible two-pound test-line. That’s a lot of backing down.
“Buddy and Steve are great engineers who know how to build a no-nonsense fishing boat that has the necessary performance characteristics to be effective in capturing the ocean’s most spectacular game fish on hair-thin line,” says Carter.
For example, G&S evolved from a standard linear-shape transom with right angles to what is now their trademark: a rounded stern that helps the vessels rise up and fly in reverse. Gentry explains how that happened: “Back in the 1990’s, we had a client that wanted a little game boat, a 40-footer,” noting it was “nothing special.” But the customer did specify that the boat had to be able back down on fish quickly. To fulfill that request G&S played with the stern’s shape and weight placement. One experiment involved putting three crewmembers on the bow and then putting one engine in hard reverse and the other in forward. As the side in forward started to lift, it would also get thrown in hard reverse. This resulted in the boat lifting at the stern and leaping back. “She’d jump 30, 40 feet,” Gentry says laughingly. It was almost too much as the rudders were out of the water.
This article originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.