After nearly a decade of being on the water in Australia, the American-built Skeeter boats have definitely carved a niche among tournament anglers. A Skeeter bass boat is by far the most popular choice on the ABT BREAM and BASS events – for a tournament application they’re fast and stable for lure casters.
But what about a Skeeter boat for anglers who don’t need to get from A to B in the fastest possible time, but still want the comfort and fishability of these purpose-built fishing craft?
Paul Neilsen, a paramedic on the Gold Coast, is a keen flathead, snapper and barra angler and took a punt, ordering the Skeeter WX1790T from the catalogue. It’s a tiller-steer layout, with much higher sides than a bass boat. Fishing Monthly took the opportunity to catch up with Paul nearly a year down the track and see if the craft had met his expectations.
Skeeter Australia’s business involves shipping the Skeeter hulls to Australia in containers. When they arrive, they’re fitted with locally-made EasyTow trailers and rigged with a locally-bought outboard. The advantages of this are numerous – readily available spare parts for the trailers and full Australian warranties for the engines.
And, as much as I did my research, I was still surprised by how deep this boat was and how much fishing room there was in this 5.33m (17’6”) hull.
But the most insightful observations about this boat are from the man who’s run it for the past 11 months.
“With all of the fishing I do – trolling for barra, casting and trolling for flathead and casting soft plastics to snapper – I really do need an all-rounder for a boat,” Paul said. “And when I saw the 1790 on the Skeeter website, I was immediately interested.
“Josh Batterson (of Skeeter Australia) walked me through the whole process, from dates the boat was leaving the factory and the docks right through to selecting the colours on the on-line colour selection program on the Skeeter website.
“The boat is fitted with an 80lb AutoPilot MinnKota, which is plenty – even for a boat this size in the heavy currents of the Seaway or Jumpinpin. It’s got a motor trim switch next to the power plug for the electric motor, which lets you get the motor up and out of the way without going down the back to do so.”
Because I spend a lot of time on bass boats, I found the amount of freeboard quite surprising – on the casting deck there’s no chance of ever kicking a rod overboard and back in the cockpit you have enough depth to allow you to stand and fish while you’re venturing offshore.
Paul said there’s lots of concealed storage in this boat including three rod lockers that hold 6’-12’ rods, one under the front deck and two more in the port and starboard gunwales. And there’s enough dry, underfloor storage for all the rest of your gear.
Most of this is under the casting deck, as are an insulated cooler and a recirculating live bait tank.
The real livewell, though, is on the port side just below the instrument panel.
“It’ll hold a legal flathead or a decent sized mackerel as a kill box,” Paul said, “and it’s wide enough so that a flathead can actually turn around inside it.”
Controlled with a Flow-Rite system, it’s all run from the driver’s seat while at the tiller.
With a top speed of only 50kmh, the tiller-driven rig is eminently drivable. The gearshift, ignition key and trim switch are all contained in the tiller arm, but the driver can also control trim with a gunwale-mounted switch on the starboard side.
“This means that you don’t have to reach around to trim your boat while at full throttle,” says Paul, who has put plenty of hours on this craft.
For any troubleshooting in the bilge, there are several spin-off style inspection ports that allow access to the bilge and livewell pumps. The cranking battery is conveniently accessed via a small hatch behind the helm seat.
The port-side instrument panel is fitted in the gunwale just forward of the aft mounted sounder/electronics box and houses all of the engine gauges and the switches for navigation lights, bilge pumps and livewells, as well as a stereo system and 12v power outlet.
“I like looking forward at a sounder so this little area isn’t ideal,” said Paul. “My ideal situation is a 900 series side-image Humminbird Ram-mounted to the starboard side. That way I can look at the unit and steer the boat at the same time. At that stage, I’d also move the smaller Lowrance unit up the front to use while I’m lure casting.”
Reflecting Paul’s love of trolling for barra and flathead are the stainless steel rails with Scotty rod holders – all added as options to the rig. With the four rails available, there are lots of configurations achievable.
“For me, tiller drives offer the most direct and least fatiguing way to troll and I’m thrilled with the way this Skeeter has fitted with my way of fishing,” Paul said.
As with all Skeeter boats, the 1790 is fitted on a galvanised EasyTow trailer with skids – a single-axle configuration is just fine for the weight of this rig.
Paul tows his rig with an old Mitsubishi Pajero and says he doesn’t even know it’s there.
The other advantage of a local trailer is spare parts – they’re available from most outlets and you’re unlikely to get stuck in the middle of nowhere. An imported trailer has the potential to do that to you.
“Overall, the experience of buying this boat sight unseen was really positive for me,” Paul said. “Josh from Skeeter was very helpful and not too pushy and locally, the guys at Whitewater Marine fitted the engine and are all lined up to ensure that it keeps on running for years to come. I can’t recommend either of these companies highly enough.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper interview if we didn’t ask Paul what he doesn’t like about his rig.
“I’ve never been a fan of carpet in boats, but it’s growing on me,” Paul said.
“The other thing I was a little worried about in the beginning was the low transom. But in practice, I’ve never had any water come in from there. The stepped transom pops the stern up, even when you come off the throttle from flat-out. I’m totally relaxed about it now.
“The retail price, at the time of placing the order with Skeeter Australia, was $29,433 including the boat as you see it with all import costs included. The rig was delivered on a Fisherman series galvanised EasyTow Trailer. The Suzuki 70hp four-stroke cost an additional $12,223 fitted by White Water Marine at Southport, making this a very affordable rig in my opinion,” said Paul.
Skeeter WX1790 packages start from around $38,000. Call Josh Batterson at Skeeter Australia for more information on 0408 621 426.
To see the full interview with Paul about this rig, visit www.fishing monthly.com.au and follow the links to the six- minute video.
WIN A SKEETER WX1790T/EVINRUDE RIG!
ABT is giving away a Skeeter WX1790T with an Evinrude 75HP E-Tec tiller steer as first prize in the 2012 BREAM Classic Championship on the Gold Coast on November 3-4. It’s the second one landed in the country. Teams from all over Australia will be competing for this prize. To qualify for the event, see www.bream.com.au.
• Cockpit dashboard with instruments
• Bow panel with plug and trim switch
• Radio/CD player
• 3 x seats and pedestals/bases
• Plumbed livewell and live bait well.
• Triple rod lockers (centre and gunwale).