By Ryan Rindone
First impressions may be everything, and ours was rather humble. The front office for Yellowfin Yachts in Bradenton, Florida is in a mixed use industrial park, but it hardly showcases the production prowess of this hometown boat builder. Known the world over for their top-quality fleet of hand-crafted inshore and offshore vessels, Yellowfin is an international player with a presence in Australia, Japan, Dubai, and the French Riviera. Yet their factory-direct approach to sales allows potential buyers to walk right in the front door and see the process for themselves, talk with fabricators, explore the virtually unlimited options for customization, and become immersed in the team atmosphere. They may be an internationally acclaimed boat builder, but their personalized approach to the building process and customer service has a sincere, down-home feel.
Started in 1998, Yellowfin got its beginnings from founder Wylie Nagler’s desire to hand craft a purpose-built center console fishing platform. At the time, Nagler saw the majority of “center console” fishing boats as little more than go-fast boats with rod holders. Leaning on his powerboat background and passion for fishing, Nagler designed and crafted the Yellowfin 31, and proceeded to put it on tour. Fishing in regional tournaments and taking it to boat shows, it wasn’t long before many excited anglers were asking about the new center console with the Carolina flare, stepped hull, and awesome fishing ability. The company still crafts their prototypes by hand today, lathing wooden mock-ups until perfection in style and functionality is attained. With their philosophy of “One boat at a time; one owner at a time,” Yellowfin has grown into a sprawling complex with over 220 employees, 11 models to choose from, and a new one on the way.
The operation in Bradenton currently produces approximately 70 inshore and 70 to 80 offshore boats per year, with an average customer wait time of roughly one year from when the order is placed to when the customer takes delivery of their new Yellowfin. The purchasing and build process is exceptionally personalized. Future owners can consult with the team to design their ideal fish-hunting machine, with virtually no level of customization considered impossible. Often a specific, or even unusual, customer request does not stay unique for long. Several options available, including the Mitchell box and the South Beach coffin box, were named for the customer(s) who requested them. Team members correspond regularly with customers as their Yellowfin is born, sharing pictures, video, and other updates from the layering of the domestically-sourced fiberglass through the final detailing process prior to the boat going out to the new owner for delivery.
Yellowfin builds 11 models in total, ranging from a 17-foot flats skiff up to the 42-foot offshore model. The storied flagship is the 36 Offshore; however, the 39 Offshore is up and- coming in popularity. Many boat builders have begun offering hybrid models in recent years- several models were recently featured at the Miami International Boat Show, garnering gobs of attention from enthusiasts and competitors alike. Yellowfin boasts two hybrid platforms: the 21 Hybrid, which is a cross between a flats boat and a bay boat; and the 26 Hybrid, which is a cross between a bay boat and an offshore boat. Whichever model a new owner chooses seems destined to serve them well into the future. And speaking of the future, it holds new possibilities for potential owners with the announcement of a new 55 Offshore model. The 55 will be a center console, and the task of crafting such a large and imposing fishing yacht is seen as a welcome challenge to the team in Bradenton. Other than that, details on this newest member to the Yellowfin lineup were exceptionally limited.
When they aren’t constructing the stuff of dreams for their customers, the team at
Yellowfin can be found hosting one of several charity engagements. In March, the Florida Skiff Challenge: a grueling 1,600-mile race between boat manufacturers to see who can make the journey from the Alabama-Florida state line to Cumberland Island, Georgia first. June in Hawk’s Cay in the Florida Keys plays host to the Yellowfin Owner’s Tournament, a family-oriented event which gives kids the opportunity to fish with experienced owners and win prizes. December rounds out the year with the Yellowfin Charity Classic and “Fill the Fin”, which collects toys for needy children- last year, Yellowfin filled a 36 Offshore to the gunwales with donated toys for Toys for Tots and The Children’s Home Network charities.
With impressive build quality, outstanding customer service, and a commitment to giving back to local communities, Yellowfin Yachts is certainly a manufacturer setting itself apart from the field. Check them out at yellowfin.com and follow them on Instagram at @yellowfinyachtsoffshore.