In recent years the US bay boat has come close to achieving the dream of a fishing platform that’s offshore tough yet equally at home in the estuary. But, as ever in life, there are compromises and limits.
Recently I had the chance to take out one of the gems of this style of boat on Sydney Harbour on a perfect day and I discovered the true versatility of the Pioneer 186 Cape Island.
On the water it looks sexy and shiny, with the Carolina flared bow and a sleek deck ready for serious fishing action.
Stepping on board, the first thing one notices is that everything is neatly tucked away. Rods are in lockable racks built into the gunwales, there’s dry storage for tackle and safety gear under the forward and aft decks, the pop-up cleats are pressed down.
Built for lure and fly fishing through the extensive bays, flats and estuaries of the southern US, this vessel is ready for serious sport fishing and Aussie anglers have been kitting out these boats to chase big fish in inshore waters.
Sitting down and driving fishing boats fast is something that takes a bit of getting used to.
The first wave you launch over has some trepidation attached to it. ‘Will I have a spine left once we land?’ In the Cape Island the answer is yes; the hull delivers a very comfortable ride and cushioned landings.
I was impressed. At pace the boat is much more sure-footed than you would expect for only a moderate-vee hull, at 14° transom deadrise. Trimming the boat out to maximise speed did tend to make the bow rise up and jump and dance around.
With the standard adjustable hydraulic helm, the Pioneer can be steered effortlessly and there’s a knob on the wheel for close-quarters manoeuvring.
At rest it’s almost like walking on dry ground.
Getting up on the plane was about the only slow process; once the 150hp Honda did get her up, this rig sure got along.
With a top speed of 40 knots, you can get to your favourite fishing ground fast and if there’s a bit of rough stuff on the way, the flared bow will keep you dry and the soft landings will get you there in comfort.
If you are going to get about at speed in rough conditions, best you do it with only two or maximum three on board; there is a limit to the number of safe seating positions.
As a dedicated fishing platform for relatively calm waters, there is no doubt the Cape Island delivers when it’s time to cast a fly or a lure. There is nothing to get line tangled in or to catch toes or clothing on.
The forward casting deck is big enough for two to fish side by side and the aft platform is also a great spot.
A number of these boats have been customised to include the optional stern poling platform so anglers can sneak up on their quarry silently.
Another worthy addition would be an electric motor, preferably with 80lb-plus of thrust to manoeuvre this large boat in wind and current. Wiring for a 12V or 24V motor is also optional.
The Cape Island isn’t really set up for anchoring; there is a small anchor well but no bow roller.
The well is really suited only for enough rope and a small anchor to get you out of trouble or secure your pride and joy when swimming in the shallows or picnicking on a sandbar.
But if you like slow trolling or downrigging live baits (which will keep happy swimming in the transom livewell) you’ve quite possibly found your mistress.
Due to the low gunwales and the lack of grab rails, if you are keen to venture offshore be sure to pick your weather and don’t go wide if strong winds are on their way.
I see this boat being a massive hit with anglers who want to fish lures or flies for all manner of species that inhabit estuaries, mangrove-lined creeks, inshore reefs, impoundments and large coastal rivers and bays.
The Cape Island can take three rods up to 9’ long in each gunwale rod locker and there’s ample other storage for tackle bags, camera gear and safety equipment under the forward casting deck or under the upholstered seat behind the console.
Any items not afraid of a saltwater swim could be stowed in either of the rear underfloor lockers.
The console has limited space for flush-mounting large electronic screens but sounder and GPS really should be mounted on swivel brackets to allow viewing from almost anywhere in the boat.
The dash has space for gauges, a compass and an eight-gang switch panel with livewell control. A secure stainless grab rail provides a much-needed place to hang on.
Forward of the console a cushioned esky comes as part of the package and is a great place to take a rest.
The cockpit is self-draining and all the storage lockers drain out through the transom. It would be worth fitting a high-pressure deck wash to help keep your baby clean and shiny.
Pioneer Boats, owned and operated by Roy McSwain and Mike Homes, aim to build quality, not quantity. This is evident in the construction of the hulls, attention to detail and planning and layout. All materials, from the 316-grade stainless fittings to high-gloss gelcoats, are built to last a lifetime.
If you’re in the market for a quality boat built for serious inshore angling, contact Mick at the Compleat Angler’s Villawood showroom and organise a test drive. Prices start from $4990 with 150hp Mercury OptiMax engine and Dunbier braked tandem trailer.
For more information visit Compleat Angler at 938 Woodville Road, Villawood, NSW 2163, phone 1300 790 376 or visit www.pioneerboatssydney.com.au
Type –Bay boat centre console
Material – GRP laminates
|Total weight BMT||1650kg|
|Total length BMT||6.2m|
Approx delivery lead time: 8-10 weeks
Hull warranty: 7 years
Standard features: 100L aerated live well with pickup and sea-cock; 500gph auto bilge pump; dash 12V outlet; cooler with cushion; stainless console rail; bench seat and cushion; hydraulic steering; stainless wheel with knob; insulated fish box; 2 stainless rod holders with drain; courtesy lights; flip-up bow light; lockable rod storage.
Price as tested with Lowrance HDS 10 GPS/sounder on Dunbier tandem braked trailer – $56,900.