Boat Test: Tahoe’s 195 OB

Whether you’re in the market for a ski boat or a family-style fishing boat, it’s nice to find one that fits both bills. With a base price of $20K (throw in $2195 for a matching trailer), Tahoe’s new 195 OB offers boaters a lot of bang for the buck. Just add a wakeboard tower, some diving equipment and a trolling motor, and suddenly you have a fish ’n ski/wakeboard/dive boat that fills all the needs of a boating family at a price that’s easy to swallow.

We had the opportunity to test this sporty new deck boat on Missouri’s Table Rock Lake with a Mercury 115 EFI four-stroke Salt Water engine. And when we say the boat we tested was the base model, we mean it. Although the 115 four-stroke is a $3145 upgrade, it is still the base power for this boat, and only half the horsepower the Tahoe 195 OB is rated for. Aside from the engine, all other features were standard.

Also available in a sterndrive model, Tahoe’s 20-footer comes standard with a four-step bow ladder for entry onto the spacious front deck. The ladder is offset to the starboard side of the anchor locker, so it won’t interfere with the anchor line when boarding — the two raised handholds, however, do represent something of a tripping hazard. The foredeck also contains two base plates for fishing seats, and this area is plenty wide enough to accommodate two anglers comfortably. Of course, all that space makes it well suited for use as a swim platform, as well. Incidentally, a third base plate is located on the aft casting deck (or aft swim step if you prefer).

Tahoe’s 195 OB

FISH-READY FEATURES

The 195 OB comes prewired for an optional MotorGuide 24-volt, 70-pound-thrust trolling motor that comes with a quick-disconnect mounting bracket. When you’re not fishing, you can quickly remove the whole assembly and stow it to free up space on the foredeck.

Positioned perfectly between the forward fishing seats is a 16-gallon aerated live well. How’s that for convenience? Behind the Livewell is a locker/cooler that doubles as a step-up to the “casting deck.” You could stow baits, drinks, snacks or anything else you’ll need while fishing.

There’s stowage aplenty beneath both forward lounge seats, just as there is under the cockpit lounge seat located on the port side. They can be used as either wet or dry lockers, as they have drains that empty into the bilge. They’re ideal for stowing PFDs, dive equipment or other bulky gear. The upholstery used throughout the boat has two protective coatings: The first prevents harmful UV rays from cracking seat cushions; the second keeps the upholstery stain resistant so spilled coffee, guacamole or salsa can be wiped right off without leaving, how should we say, a lasting impression?

AMIDSHIPS AMENITIES

Beneath the cockpit lounge seat is a unique feature you won’t find in many 20-footers: secure storage — not only for the fishing seats but for the pedestals, as well. The system locks all components in place so there’s no jarring or rattling when you’re underway. This is a real convenience, as you don’t have to leave the fishing seats at home or in the tow vehicle if you plan to spend the day skiing or ’boarding. After all, you might want to fish in the morning and ski — or just cruise — in the afternoon.

A flip-up bolster for the captain’s chair gives the driver better vision when docking or loading the boat on the trailer. It comes standard on the 195 OB, as does an Aquatronics AM/FM/CD marine stereo. The dash offers a 12-volt outlet to keep your cell phone batteries from running down, automotive-style fuses, rocker switches and an in-dash Lowrance depth finder with shallow-water alarm. The dash also features full instrumentation, including speedometer, tachometer, voltmeter and fuel and trim gauges, and they’re all protected from spray — and bugs — by a tinted, plexiglass windscreen.

Three horizontal rod holders are positioned along the port gunwale, which not only keeps them stowed neatly out of the way but opens up the large centerline locker for skis, w5w led bulbs, wakeboards, trolling motor, tabletop and paddles. The rod holders can accommodate rods up to 6 feet long, which might be just a tad short for bass anglers. Courtesy lights, which are standard, illuminate the cockpit at night.

Ideal for twilight cruises or when beached or anchored up, the 195 OB’s snack table is located between the cockpit lounge and the captain’s chair — which swivels inward toward the lounger. Drink holders and separate recessed sections of the tabletop keep things from rolling off or rolling into each other. The cockpit area also has a food-preparation area that features ice storage, a sink and a pull-out faucet that’s supplied by a 15-gallon water tank.

Tahoe’s 195 OB

MOVING AFT

A removable cooler beneath the aft L-shaped lounge seat fits securely in a recess in the deck, which is nice, because it doesn’t take up valuable cockpit space. There’s around locker in the aft, starboard corner that can be used as a cooler or for stowing ski lines. Next to it is a step-through transom covered by a gate, which is a nice safety feature for when you have kids along.

Naturally, the aft swim platform has its own swimbladder. But when you drop in the fishing seat and start casting, you’ll be happy to know that right at the angler’s feet is a decent-size locker/cooler for bait, snacks and drinks, which means you won’t have to get up every 10 minutes to borrow another plastic worm.

The Tahoe 195 OB is a well-rounded boat, ready to fish, ski, and dive from, as is. Besides the two fishing seats, a color-matched acrylic Bimini top with boot and a removable ski tow pylon are all standard features deserving honorable mention. And nine cupholders positioned strategically around the boat means you’ll never have to reach far for a drink.

SMOOTH OPERATOR

The wide, low profile of our 195 OB test boat made for a smooth, dry ride. Cornering was crisp and controlled. The ride proved comfortable and dry wherever we sat. We generated a few wakes under otherwise flat-to-light-chop conditions and we’re pleased with the soft landings.

Yet, powered with Mercury’s 115 EFI four-stroke Salt Water series outboard, our test boat was underpowered, incapable of breaking 40 mph and taking nearly 11 seconds to reach 30 mph from a standing start. The Tahoe 195 OB is rated for 225 ponies, and powered as such, we would expect to see a top speed in the neighborhood of 60 mph. The 115 EFI four-stroke Salt Water is a fine engine, but in our opinion, it simply doesn’t have the horsepower you would want for skiing behind this particular boat.

Powered as it was, however, our test platform had a pretty darn impressive range. Cruising at 23 mph while turning 3500 rpm, it gets a whopping 5.1 mpg and has a range of 207 miles based on 90 percent of its 45-gallon fuel capacity. And zipping along at 33 mph turning 4500 rpm, it still boasts 4.5 mpg and has a range of 182 miles. Not too shabby.

Even without going hog wild and stepping up to its maximum 225 hp, upgrading to a Mercury 150 XR6 would actually reduce the price as tested by $245. So, if you are a little strapped for cash and plan to use this boat for skiing or wakeboarding, we’d recommend you at least consider going for the extra power. If you want even more power, but your goal is to stay under $30K, Tahoe can accommodate you.

Tahoe’s 195 OB

WHAT ARE YOUR OPTIONS?

This sporty deck boat is offered with numerous power options. Besides the base Mercury 115 carbureted Salt Water, which prices the
195 at $20,495, the boat is also offered
with Mercury’s 115 OptiMax ($21,480), 115 EFI Four-Stroke Salt Water that we tested ($23,640), 135 OptiMax Salt Water ($25,540), 150 carbureted Salt Water ($23,395), 150 EFI Salt Water ($26,715), 150 OptiMax Salt Water ($27,065), 175 OptiMax Salt Water ($28,885), 200 EFI Salt Water ($27,720), 200 OptiMax Salt Water ($28,640) and the supercharged 200 Verado ($33,160).
The Tahoe 195 OB comes in five color options, which include blue, green, red, black and yellow.

The unique thing about its optional matching trailer (and a feature on which Tracker will hold the patent on for the next two years) is its GalvaShield corrosion protection. Essentially, it’s a galvanized trailer that’s been coated with zinc, and then powder coated. This process enables the paint to stick to the trailer without flaking or chipping. The axle is galvanized and left unpainted. You can look at the axle and envision what the whole trailer looks like beneath the powder coating. A tandem-axle trailer is also available.

And, speaking of options, some of the “little extras” you might want to consider are a factory-installed wakeboard tower; 24-volt trolling motor; snap-in carpet; a spare tire for your trailer; and a cover if you’re going to store the boat outdoors.

The Tahoe 195 OB is a pretty complete boat package, even in its base dress. It fishes, skis and cruises comfortably, and is well laid out and roomy enough to accommodate friends and family. In other words, the Tahoe 195 OB is a practical boat, and when you’re looking for a rig that can do it all, practical matters.

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