Since 1984, Contender Boats has been producing some world-class fishing boats from its location in Homestead, Florida, situated between Miami and the Upper Keys. As an avid fisherman, freediver and spearfisherman, Contender founder and president Joe Neber grew up on the water in South Florida and used his extensive knowledge and understanding of those sports to produce a line of high-performance vessels that set the industry standard, with features such as flush decks and enormous livewells. Highly competitive by nature, Neber constantly pushed the envelope in terms of performance, technology and innovation. Today, Contender builds a line of boats ranging from 25 to 44 feet in length in both Homestead and Fort Pierce, Florida.
Neber also has a long history and a true love affair with Costa Rica, having owned two inboard boats that were based in Los Sueños Resort and Marina. So, when it came time to return to Central America—as much for the diving as the fishing this time around—he partnered with longtime friend and frequent dive partner Jon Cooper on a new 39-footer called Tres Amigos.
One notable aspect of this build is that it features twin Yamaha 425s. “David Salazar had built one like this with twins and a tower that we sea-trialed before he took it to Casa Vieja Lodge in Guatemala,” Cooper says. “We liked the setup for fishing, but especially for diving, because you have a lot more room on the platform. Then we took it a step further and included some unique options for the way we fish in Costa Rica.”
The first was eliminating part of the bulkhead as you step down into the console and look forward. This creates a long, open area that is perfect for storing rods, dredge booms, and teaser reels out of sight and out of the weather. Between the stringers in the deck, there are gelcoated and finished cubbyholes to store items such as tools and survival and first-aid gear, while a head, microwave oven and inverter round out the setup below. “Having the inverter with a 110-volt outlet is useful for a lot of things,” Cooper says. “We’ve used it for everything from cellphone and GoPro chargers to espresso machines and panini presses.” Tres Amigos features a full teak package in the console for a nice big-boat touch.
A Seakeeper 3 was another welcome addition. “While it’s almost always calm in Costa Rica, having the gyro makes it even more stable—the riggers don’t swing, and it’s just really comfortable, especially in the tower,” Cooper says. A unique livewell setup is at the heart of the fishing operation, with a Best Marine sea chest, customized manifold setup, and multiple Rule 3,750 gph pumps. The two large transom wells can be quickly and easily switched between tuna tubes and a standard livewell in any configuration needed, with additional pumps for redundancy. The cockpit also features a Blue Water Chairs rocket launcher with custom pitch-bait tubes.
A combination of Gemlux 22-foot outriggers with internal triple-halyard rigging and Gemlux telescoping carbon-fiber dredge booms with Lindgren-Pitman electric reels allows the team to pull a standard spread of teasers, dredges, and hook baits. “Because we normally fish only four ballyhoo, I use the second halyard for the bridge-teaser rings, which gets them swimming nicely in the clean water outside the wake,” Cooper says. “With the LPs on the dredge booms and swivel bases situated right beside the mezzanine, anyone sitting there can just reach over to the left or right, push the button, and get the dredge coming in when we get a bite and need to clear a side.” He fishes the bridge teasers from short bent-butt teaser rods and Shimano Beastmaster electric reels from the Contender-designed and -built tower—it’s a setup that’s fast, clean and reliable.
On the electronics side, the team went with a full Garmin setup, with a pair of 8617s in the console and a second 10-inch display in the tower along with an open-array radar. Llebroc triple seating with outboard armrests and power sliders adds plenty of comfort for those long jaunts to the fishing grounds. For weekend cruises to the beaches and islands around Los Sueños, the boat has a customized anchor chute and windlass setup, as well as padded forward seating and coffin box forward of the console for plenty of additional dry storage.
In terms of performance, Tres Amigos doesn’t disappoint, despite the fact that she’s loaded with plenty of optional equipment, including a gyro and forward seating. With an average load, the twin Yamahas push the boat to a cruising speed of 43 miles per hour at 4,400 rpm, burning one gallon per mile. Push the throttles all the way up, and she hits 60 on the top end. For those who want more performance, triple Yamaha 300- or 425-horsepower engines are always an option.
“We’re fast enough to do seamount trips without having to run in the dark,” Cooper relates. “Once we arrive, we can choose between using lures, teasers and pitch baits, or going with all dead baits or live-baiting, depending on the day and the conditions. Being versatile and ready for anything can be the key to success sometimes.”
Resplendent in her ice-blue hull gelcoat, there’s no doubt that Tres Amigos turns heads and raises fish wherever she ventures, from South Florida to the central Pacific coast.