It was decades ago, but I can still remember when my knee-high kids were ping-ponging around in the cockpit of my 19’ center console wearing Scooby-Doo life jackets. Sure we tried to catch fish back then, but the bigger concerns were making sure that shoes stayed tied and everyone remained inside the boat. On small fishing boats this isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Low gunwales and a lack of deep seating will set any parental unit’s radar on red alert, and for an angling mom or dad, will likely eliminate many small boats from consideration. One that will make the grade, however, is the Robalo R180 Center Console — this is just about the deepest 18-footer around, and it’ll keep those active ankle-biters where they belong.

robalo r180 center console fishing boat
The Robalo R180 is unusually deep for an 18 foot center console fishing boat.

The R180 is the smallest boat in Robalo’s lineup, and though it isn’t a new model for 2024, it does have a new facet which makes it noteworthy: the price. As we’ve pointed out before, boat pricing changes fast and varies quite a bit and we don’t like printing numbers on these pages because by the time someone reads this they could be inaccurate. But while most boat prices have been going through the roof, Robalo has kept this one in check. In fact, look up the average price of a new car in 2023 then look at the current price of a 2024 R180 on their website, and you’ll see that the boat goes for less. That’s surprising, but what’s even more surprising is that it comes with a standard aluminum trailer with disc brakes. Oh, and a Yamaha F115 that’ll have you and the family cruising at 30 mph and grinning from ear to ear when you break 40 mph at top-end.

The R180 has all the trappings of a serious fishing machine including a 15-gallon lighted livewell, fore and aft coaming bolsters, four rocket launchers on the leaning post, four flush-mount gunwale rodholders, and vertical rocks for six rods on the console. And while the aft jump seats fold flat to provide elevated casting positions, when they’re in use they’re still well below gunwale level (read: safe for the tykes), as is the forward console seat. There’s also a 25-gallon fishbox under the foredeck plus a cooler under the leaning post.

robalo r180 center console head compartment
The Robalo R180 is one of the few center console boats of this size to boast a head inside the console.

Major Bonus Alert: Most 18-footers are too small to house a head compartment, but in this case the front of the console swings open to access a head compartment with a portable MSD. Most relatively low-priced center consoles have plastic rodholders lining the side of the console, but here you’ll find powder-coated rail-mounted holders. Most have plastic drink holders, but this one has stainless-steel. And most will consider helpful items like a battery switch, a compass, a Bluetooth stereo system, removable bow cushions, and a fuel/water separator to be cost-adding options, but on the R180 they’re all stock features.

The bottom line? If you’re looking for a boat that’s small enough to easily maintain and easy to trailer but has the beef to hit the Bay on a regular basis — and you want to be able to pile in the kids without worry — this boat belongs on your short-list.

Robalo R180 Specifications

  • LOA – 18’4”
  • Beam – 8’0”
  • Displacement – 2625 lbs.
  • Draft (hull) – 11”
  • Transom Deadrise – 18 degrees
  • Fuel Capacity – 50 gal.
  • Max. Power – 150 hp
  • Area Dealers – Anchor Boats, North East MD, (800) 773-2628.