Scout 281 XSS: Lightning Strike

For countless coastal anglers bay boats and similar hybrid bay boat models are the fishing machine of choice. But bay boats are usually little more than relatively small center console boats with lower gunwales, elevated casting decks, and a bunch of fishing features. Few are built with the latest construction methods nor cutting-edge technologies. Enter, the Scout 281 XSS. Introduced at last fall’s Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, the 281 XSS sets out to set a new bar for bay boats. Several new bars, actually.

scout 281 xss bay boat
The Scout 281 XSS is unique among bay boats. Photo via Scout Boats.

Scout 281 XSS High Tech Features

Most bay boats are built with traditional hand-laid fiberglass construction. A few are vacuum-infused. And fewer still are laid up with epoxy. The Scout 281 is epoxy infused carbon fiber and e-glass, a cutting-edge construction method rarely seen on boats under the 30-foot mark and almost never seen in the world of bay boats. It results in a structure that’s up to 30-percent lighter than traditional hand-laid glass yet is far stiffer, and parts only have a two or three percent weight variation from one to another. Compare that to boats built with older techniques, which can vary by 10 percent or even more from one hull to the next. The downside is cost, which is why few small boats are built this way and why the 281 XSS is in the top-tier pricing level for bay boats.

Another tech-boost comes from the way this boat is wired and controlled. It’s a digital switching system with an interface via a touchscreen Garmin 943XS. That means you can turn on the lights or fire up the livewel pump with a tap on the screen. And yes, there are tactile backups just in case any digital gremlins might arise.

scout 281 xss hull
Even the hull on the Scout 281 XSS is cutting edge. Photo via Scout Boats.

Finally, the hull design is also as advanced as it gets. This is a twin-stepped hull bottom incorporating 15.5 degrees of deadrise at the transom. And combined with the relatively lightweight construction, that translates into efficiencies well over two mpg at speeds of over 40 mph.

Scout 281 XSS Fishing Features

Like most bay boats, the Scout 281 XSS has elevated casting decks both at the bow and in the stern. Forward there are two levels that can be used for casting positions, with the lower level integrating wrap-around U-shaped seating. Leave the cushions at home when you’re on a serious fishing trip to maximize the casting space.

The aft casting deck houses a pair of fishboxes or livewells, as you choose, on either side with a double-wide fold-up seat in the middle. Flip up the seat bottom and there are dedicated spots for two five-gallon buckets. In an interesting move that’s certainly a first for a bay boat, two hatches aft of the seat flip up to expose four vertical tubes. Scout calls them fender stowage compartments, but the diehard anglers among us are wondering why they didn’t put tuna tubes in there, instead — until they start offering the option, we’ll just have to get those fender holders plumbed and converted at a custom shop.

scout 281 xss center console fishing boat
Ready to fish right out of the box, the Scout 281 XSS has just about all the angling accouterments you could want. Photo via Scout Boats.

Tackle stowage is a highlight, as it has significantly more than most other bay boats. There are bulk stowage drawers on one side of the leaning post and a brace of four slide-out Plano boxes on the other side, plus two additional slide-out drawers in the steps up to the aft deck. There’s a slide-out cooler under the post, which also sports four flush-mount rodholders on the seatback plus fresh and raw water washdowns on either side of yet another livewell, this one with a clear viewing port.

Scout 281 XSS Family Features

Tied in with the fishing features we’ve already noted a number of items that will be enjoyed for their comfort-factor, like all that fore and aft seating. Add a doublewide forward console lounger (with a coffin box underneath) with fold-down arm rests. There’s a head compartment in the console, an integrated windlass in the bow, and synthetic foam decking on both bow and stern decks. Tunes come courtesy of a Fusion Bluetooth stereo with seven JL Audio speakers. If your family likes to jam as you cruise, you can up the ante with an optional upgrade including a subwoofer and a pair of amps.

Scout 281 XS Performance

An LOA of 28’ is a lot to push with one motor and this is the breakover point at which many builders switch to twins, but thanks to the relatively light weight resulting from Scout’s construction methods and the twin-stepped hull design, the 281 XSS is designed to run with a single engine, only. But don’t worry for one second that you’ll be disappointed by the results.

scout 281 xss running
With a single Mercury 450 horse outboard on the transom, the 281 XSS out-performs some twin-engine boats the same size. Photo via Scout Boats.

With a single 450-hp Mercury Marine 450R outboard, the 281 XSS gets on plane and reaches 20 mph in a under six seconds. Bring RPM up to 4500 rpm and you’ll be cruising in the low 40s. Nail the throttle, and the boat can top 62 mph. Check out the performance of those twin-engine 28-footers, and you’ll find that some of them can’t beat those kinds of speeds even with two outboards instead of one.

Scout 281 XS Specifications

Length Overall: 28’1”

Beam: 9’4”

Weight: 5,457 lbs.

Draft: 1’2”

Max HP: 450

Transom Deadrise: 15.5 degrees

Fuel Capacity: 126 gal.

Water Capacity: 13 gal.

If you’re looking for a bay boat that’s bigger than most, faster than most, and enjoys the latest and greatest tech in the world of fishing boats, the Scout 281 XSS is one you’ll want to check out. Quite clearly, this boat sets a new bar. Bars, actually.

See Scout 281 XSS boats for sale on Boat Trader.

Written by: Lenny Rudow

With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to publications including YachtWorld, boats.com, Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and he has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.

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