Pioneer's 197 may be a little boat. but it's built like a big one.
Grade A Beef: Pioneer 197
There’s a problem with most small boats: they’re built like their price tag, with an eye on “cheap”. Boats under 20’ which are built with an excellent fit and finish, heavy-duty construction, and maximized fishability are few and far between. But one I’ve tested which proved its mettle in all of the above categories is Pioneer’s 197.
IMHO this boat has one of the best the best finish and designs of any center console in its size and cost category. While running it through a one-foot Chesapeake chop we blasted off to over 45-mph in comfort, and the boat didn’t vibrate or rattle. Credit Pioneer’s construction methods which include a molded glass stringer grid and foam-filled hull, a beefy 1,900 dry weight, and a 18-degree transom deadrise. The down-side? With this much weight and V this is more of a big water boat then a backwater craft, and with nearly two feet of engine-down draft, it’s not the best for running around shallow flats.
Other touches usually seen on bigger, more expensive boats include hydraulic steering, stainless-steel cupholders, and plushly padded seats. But when it comes to construction quality don’t take my word for it; this company offers a lifetime first-owner/seven year transferable warranty, which is far better then the norm and proves Pioneer’s confidence in their workmanship.
Many boats this size post a low price tag by making everything an “option” and including little to no standard items on the boat. (Shop around—you’ll see some manufacturers that publish a list price without including “options” like a center console, or a helm seat.) But on the 197, a 30-gallon livewell, coaming bolsters, toe rails, aft jump seats, a 72-qt. cooler, courtesy lights, and four gunwale-mounted rodholders all come standard.
We spent part of our test-time fishing for stripers, and if that’s your game, this boat won’t disappoint. The console is relatively svelte, which nixes having a head inside and reduces protected area, but also boosts pass-through space and fishing space. The bowdeck is as wide-open as it gets, and low-profile grabrails keep its profile low and the water easily accessible. You won’t find many 19’s with more fishing room, period. Finally, a little boat that’s little in size, only—and it sure as heck isn’t “cheap”.