Tribute Custom Boats has an enviable reputation for building some of the finest custom sport-fishers on the water, from 37 to 86 feet, based on the underlying principles of performance, pedigree, and fit-and-finish. Rich Scheffer Sr.—Tribute’s founder in 1992—has partnered with his son, Rich Scheffer Jr., who grew up in the same sawdust-and-resin environment that drove his father’s career over the years. Now the third generation—Tristen and Grant Scheffer—are learning the business from their grandfather and father. John Gazza joined the family business in 2017, bringing his patented cross-step bottom and refined designs; Gazza is equally fueled by a passion for building truly custom boats that are stronger, faster, more nimble, and even more beautiful than ever before.
To meet the needs of today’s center-console owners, Tribute is building a 37-footer that is fast, efficient, and offers an unparalleled ride. They brought Hull No. 1 to the Custom Shootout in the Bahamas in 2019, where it caught the eye of Randy and Paula Ringhaver and their captain, Kyle Liane. In 2020, Tribute joined the fleet as a tender to Bree, the Ringhaver’s 86-foot Merritt. Tribute can perform a variety of duties, and do so with a custom-boat flourish.
The build utilizes a blend of fiberglass, Kevlar and carbon Corecell M-foam epoxy-infused construction throughout for the optimal ratio of strength to weight. The bottom, co-created with Stephen Matthews of Ocean Yacht Design, features a patented, longitudinally vented transverse step, which minimizes drag and provides ventilation from two directions—the key to delivering superior performance and an excellent rough-water ride. According to Liane, the performance with triple 400 hp Mercury outboards is eye-opening. While the fully loaded top end in the mid- to upper-60 mph range is fun, the boat’s sweet spot is a 45 mph cruise at better than 1 mile per gallon, the result of a hydrodynamically efficient hull design. The boat planes at just 12 to 15 mph, and there is no sliding or chatter when turning the helm hard over at speed. With a fuel capacity of 400 gallons and the boat’s aforementioned efficiency, Liane doubts he will ever need to carry additional fuel.
When I asked why they elected to go with this particular builder, Liane says that they enjoy the custom-build process and also wanted to bring more custom elements to a center-console. “Rich and his team were open to the ideas we had, from doing a faux-teak toe rail to having mezzanine seating and easy accessibility to all the systems,” he says. One example: the boat’s incredible fit-and-finish. Open any hatch or reach under any compartment in the boat: It’s all faired, finished, and painted with Awlcraft 2000—with nary a rough patch to be found. Some big-boat features include a teak drink box in the cockpit, as well as a teak step in the bow for easy access while boarding guests off the beach or grabbing the anchor. Simplicity is another strong point—all systems are easily accessible without seeming cluttered.
Tribute’s clean outline is beautifully accented by a PipeWelders marlin tower, Gemlux outriggers, and a C-Worthy clear enclosure to keep things comfortable behind the helm. The livewell system is fed by a four-pump sea chest (three primaries, one backup) to supply a steady flow of salt water to the 60-gallon transom well and a removable 60-gallon Wicked Wells livewell forward. Situated along the gunwales are built-in storage boxes for cleaning supplies on one side and gaffs and deep-drop weights on the other, as well as six electric reel outlets—three per side—for Krystal deep-drop electric reels. A Seakeeper 3 gyro resides in the lazarette for additional stability on the troll, drift or anchor.
At the helm, a full suite of Garmin electronics—including radar, autopilot and a pair of 8600-series plotters—keeps everything within arm’s reach; an Airmar high/low chirp transducer reads well even at speed, and there’s a secondary Garmin 7600 in the tower.
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And while Liane says that they are still figuring out how Tribute best fits in their overall program, there’s no doubt she’s fully prepared to take on nearly any challenge. “If we decide to troll for marlin, we have the Gemlux outriggers and teaser setups in the tower,” he says. “If we want to run to Hole in the Wall and live-bait for tuna, we can do that. If we just want to take it easy and bottomfish or deep-drop, we can do that too. The boat is set up for just about anything.”
Rich Scheffer Sr. adds: “We understand the science of boating and fishing, not just the nuances or components. We look at all the idiosyncrasies of other boats that people seem to accept, even though they tend to dampen the overall experience, then we design those annoying factors out of our boats.” Coming from a highly experienced builder, that’s an appropriate tribute to Tribute.
This article originally appeared in the March 2022 issue of Marlin.