The Dolphin Boat brand has been a staple of shallow water fisherman from south Florida to exotic Caribbean outposts for over 50 years and throughout the development and evolution of the flats fishing industry there has always been one somewhere in the picture. The Super Skiff and 18 Back Country Pro have remained a wildly popular platform for Florida Keys guides along the way and for good reason; this is a design tailor made with the need to run shallow while still offering a comfortable ride across large open stretches of water in mind.
The 18 Back Country Pro represents a smart alliance between the traditional flats boat concept and a deeper deadrise bottom with enough freeboard to make big water crossings dry and comfortable. Additionally, a larger deck design provides enough breathing room for 3 anglers to stretch out and a 4th to ride along comfortably seated at the forward console insulated cooler seat. At 17’-10” by 7’-7” in size with a dry weight of 950-pounds the Back Country Pro is substantial yet still surprisingly quiet on the pole and her modest 10-inch draft allowed us to get into some true clear water flats scenarios without alarming everything on the bar. In a pinch I see no issues with the need to sneak up on a tailing fish on this boat but the time where she’ll really shine is when you need to sit on the deeper flats waiting for pass shots at fish in a 2-3’ swell/chop. The quiet roll and high sided stability necessary to keep your shoes dry are much more important in this scenario and the extra effort needed to pole a boat this substantial is a worthy trade-off.
Dolphin Boats has utilized all available deck space smartly for both dry storage and live bait wells from stem to stern. Beneath the foredeck, are an anchor locker along with a large dry storage compartment. Under the forward cockpit deck is another storage area for cast nets at the feet of an incredibly well insulated drink cooler/console seat. The triple width bench seat behind the helm offers a spacious dry storage compartment. Battery storage and all of your switching is located within the dry confines of the center console out of the elements. The wide bench features a removable full width backrest, behind which are three separate compartments. To starboard, a corner storage space hides a 5-gallon bucket easily and at center and to port, are a pair of live wells totaling 39-gallons.
Having seen many of these boats over the years as working guide skiffs and lodge boats, I was considerably impressed with the level of finish work on the 18 Back Country. The highest quality detail work was evident at every corner from the molded-in nonskid deck pattern and recessed stainless hardware and hinges, to the watertight gasket fitted gutter molded hatches and gas shocks. This boat features a finish to rival any skiff on the market today. Our test model was powered by a 115-horsepower Yamaha SHO which ran the Dolphin effortlessly into the 40’s and with a maximum horsepower rating of 150, this boat is capable of hauling a load of gear, passengers, fuel and live bait at a high rate of speed.
Despite the fact that the Dolphin brand has changed hands several times over the 56 years since its inception, as hard as it has tried to ride off into the sunset, consumer demand won’t let it happen. The long and short of this story is that when a design as popular and effective, that performs as soundly as this brand has for so many years exists, there will always be someone willing to keep building them for the demanding faithful and in the case of the 18 Back Country Pro, this is a good thing.
Dolphin 18 Back Country Pro Specifications
Length: 17-feet 10-inches
Beam: 7-feet 7-inches