The Surtees 6.1 Game Fisher inspires a lot of confidence. It has a real sure-footedness about it that gives a terrific feeling of safety and comfort.
Made in New Zealand, these boats are as tough and as competitive as the All Blacks and, like the Kiwi rugby team, won’t take a backward step. Surtees boats are available at Russell Cairns’ boat yard in Warrnambool, Victoria. Russell has made a very astute decision to stock these boats, which suit the offshore and open bay scene all along the Eastern Seaboard extremely well.
As with all the Surtees boats, (I have tested three different models) the 6.1 Game Fisher is all about fishing, comfort, safety and fishing efficiency. The 6.1 Game fisher is a no-nonsense boat that will be perfectly suited to offshore game fishing as well as comfortable bay work, chasing kings, snapper and so on.
The 6.1 Game fisher is a particularly well finished plate boat, meaning all seams are fully welded. The floor is fully welded in and the internal structure is basically bulletproof.
The structural strength of the Surtees is amazing – six fully welded internal stringers see to that. The 5mm bottom and 4mm sides provide the basic strength structure, while six fully welded beams from deck to hull and three full bulkheads with gussets every 400mm make this craft super-strong.
Internally, the finish around the cabin is to be expected, with all edges finished properly and gauges and other electronics properly mounted.
The floor/workspace is perfect for the active angler. This boat would be ideal for chasing tuna offshore. Three or four anglers could all be hooked up and still have room to work. Given that tuna can be frenetic at times, every little bit helps.
The massively wide coamings are also good for the angler. There is heaps of room for rod holders on top, as well as plenty of room to park the backside while waiting for the lures to go off.
The toe-holds all the way around mean no crooked legs and unduly sore backs when playing bigger fish, as well as allowing something to brace against when tackling a tuna in less than ideal circumstances.
All boats are definitely not created equal, and the ride is where Surtees really starts to separate itself from the rest of the pack.
The boat is built with a serious deep vee to cut through chop and deliver a smooth-as-possible ride. Experienced boat operators will know a deep vee means a good ride but not-so-good stability while slow trolling, drifting or at anchor.
Surtees uses an innovative solution. Under the keel is an open section that fills as the boat comes to rest. This helps lower the centre of gravity to hold the boat firmer in the water and make it more stable. With more weight along the keel, the less the boat is inclined to sway and rock unduly.
To make the ride better when under way, a gate can be closed to retain the water in the hull. Simply open the flap and the water comes out as you get up on the plane. This is an excellent feature for rough offshore conditions.
The day we tested the 6.1 Game fisher at Warrnambool, a 2m to 3m swell was working past the end of the breakwall with a small chop on top of that – a typically calmer day for chasing tuna offshore.
The boat moves around all over the swells with no trouble whatsoever. In a following swell at the lowest planing speed it tracked very straight. Ease on some power and the bow cuts through cleanly with no inclination to jump waves – unless you really apply the horses if like that sort of thing.
I’m not a great sailor and I really dislike a rough ride. I love being out in boats but my dodgy knees and less than strong stomach don’t share the same space as my brain.
The Surtees Game fisher 6.1 makes it very easy to enjoy time on the water. Going into the chop at a variety of speeds was as good as you’d find in a plate boat and heading across the swell and chop, we stayed nice and dry.
The excellent stability means that the rocking is reduced as much as possible, and at the slow trolling speeds you’d use while game fishing the boat is excellent. Timid sailors will feel very comfortable in this boat.
Tight turns are executed with no trouble and no cavitation – we even performed a few turns on tops of the swells. The boat was so stable it was actually great fun.
The boat was fitted with a 150hp four-stroke Yamaha, which is the bee’s knees. It is very tractable, providing low-speed planing ability and power in reserve to pop the nose up and go should the situation arise.
The recommended power range is 100hp to 150hp and the 150hp fitted was perfect. I have always been a fan of powering up boats to their maximum rating – the last thing you want 20NM offshore in worsening conditions is insufficient power.
Having a boat powered up to its maximum is important if you want to bring that 100kg SBT home as well. Just remember that there is no substitute for horsepower!
As I said to start with, this boat is a fishing boat. If more creature comforts are required there are options in the range, but this boat is all about the angler. The open cockpit with everything out of the way is perfect for bay and offshore anglers alike, and together with its good stability at rest will suit the keen snapper and ging angler on the bays.
The wide gunnels add to the feeling of safety and in combination with the transom bait board and options such as deck wash and live bait tanks, you will be at right home chasing snapper, cubing yellowfin off Bermagui, enduring the marathon of bluefin off Portland or even the great offshore fishing in Tasmania.
It is the sure-footedness of this boat which will appeal to game fishers – there is nothing worse than being tossed around all over the place while playing fish for extended periods. The ballast system, in concert with the hull design, gives a fantastic platform to do what anglers love best – fighting fish.
The hardtop allows the crew to get in out of the sun or the driving rain while waiting for a strike and also provides a very dry environment on the way home in all the sloppy water we see so often.
The wide open spaces of the helm allow the skipper to be in charge of the vessel and monitor those all-important sounders and plotters.
Under the hardtop there are two 6.1m bunk bases, which could be set up for overnight stays at a pinch but are pretty good for a midday snooze while the fish get back on track.
The trailers these boats ride are exceptionally well designed and built. The roller-style trailer makes launching and retrieving a breeze. With a boat this size you really do need to drive the boat on to the trailer – it is quick and easy with this package.
Towing is also a dream; this trailer follows you around like a puppy!
The Surtees 6.1 Game Fisher is one of the best plate boats I’ve been in. It is stable, comfortable, designed by anglers for anglers and just breathes fishing efficiency.
For the keen offshore angler who wants the flexibility of a serious bay boat, you should contact Russell Cairns marine – I’m sure you will like what you see.
The boat tested was provided by Russell Cairns Marine at Warrnambool, who are the state dealer for Surtees Boats. Russell has other models in stock and can fit Yamaha or Mercury engines to these boats.
Water ballasted hull for superior stability; 6 fully welded stringers; fully welded treadplate floor; sealed underfloor buoyancy; underfloor storage bin; toughened glass screens; Portofino stern; boarding ladder; large shelves side/aft and front (ideal for dive bottle storage); 6 rod holders; rocket launcher; bow, side and stern rails; through transom berley pot; 1.8m bunk bases; side graphics.
Price as tested: $69,995.