I’ve been driving and testing boats for a fair while now, I’ve seen some good boats and some truly awesome boats: the Stabicraft 1650 Fisher certainly slots comfortably into the awesome category.
To say that I am very impressed by the rough water capability of this boat is a vast understatement, never have I been in water so rough in a mid-sized boat, never have I felt more comfortable. But more of this later.
The day we had initially planned the test was forecast to be flat calm from northern Tasmania to New Zealand! Great for recreation, not so good for testing out boats. So with the advanced wisdom imparted by Willy Weather we re-scheduled to the following week.
The day before the test it was gale force winds and heavy seas. The day of the test was about the same! Lovely.
The Stabicraft brand are designed and built in New Zealand, a country where rough water is the norm – if you don’t like waves or have a boat that can cope with big seas, well you just don’t go out at all.
At first blush in the Deegan Marine yard the 1650 Fisher looked neat and tidy, a spacious layout that is impeccably designed and welded together. Positioned on a MacKay trailer and with one of Honda’s wonderful 75hp engines bolted to the stern it had all the important aspects covered, so after some explanation from Hadley Deegan about the new design features in the 1650 we headed off to the Leven River at Ulverstone to have a crack at the bar.
As we were backing down the ramp Hadley explained the new transom design which is claimed to give some incredible manoeuvrability, especially in reverse. I can certainly confirm that this is more than true, but again more of this later.
Once in the water I hopped in and instantly you know why they are called Stabicraft. My 120kg standing on the gunwale confirmed that this boat is a very stable platform. Once on the aluminium floor, both of us stood on one side and again the boat hardly moved. This is a great and stable fishing platform.
Interior deck space is good. The pontoon design of the Stabicraft often creates an impression that these boats have too little space for their outside beam. Fifteen years ago I would have agreed, but the new design sees no discernable loss of space inside compared to any other boat with decent gunwale width. Given these pontoons provide an unsinkable design, I for one am not going to worry too much about space.
At the rear of the boat there are two fold up/down seats which make travel comfortable and flip up out of the way when accessing the rear for fishing or pulling cray pots. In between these seats is the bait board which houses the battery in a compartment. This feature I loved – I like the idea of the battery being off the floor and of easy access – it does also improve fishing room, as your feet can get under the board. The 100L underfloor fuel tank is neatly plumbed up to the engine and bilge/drains are neat and functional.
At the pointy end the anchor well is easily accessed via a slit screen that opens to the side. Above the screen is a bimini that thankfully has plenty of head room for a tall person such as I. Incorporated into the bimini is a very strong rocket launcher arrangement with plenty of hand holds. This all folds down for easy storage in the garage or shed.
The helm is as to be expected in a well-designed boat – everything at easy reach and importantly can be driven seated or standing. Between the scratch resistant screen and the bimini is open and clear, which is good for vision when standing, not so good for a face full of water when it blows 25 knots in 2m seas! I’d rather see where I’m going with a wet face than squint through a water-covered screen though.
The seats are to be expected in a boat of this size, and for me at least they wedge in nicely behind my legs when standing up and driving into some pretty rough conditions.
This is where this boat stands out.
Just off the ramp Hadley demonstrated the incredible manoeuvrability of the Fisher 1650. This thing whirls around in tight circles in reverse. I for one have never seen anything like it. If there is a boat that does this better I’d like to see it. This is perfect for a whole range of situations on the water – reversing to pick up cray pots, re-adjusting the course when driving onto the trailer and so many other things. Where many boats aren’t so flash at going backwards, this boat is terrific. Stabicraft call it the ‘Game Chaser Transom’, I’d certainly call it for a game changer.
But it was as we headed out through the bar way on the Leven that this boat showed its true colours. With an outgoing tide and an incoming wind of around 20knots blowing against the tide, the waves were high and they were steep. They were constantly 2m and a couple would have gone close to 3m.
The new design and construction of the ‘Arrow Pontoons’ has eliminated any previous hint of rough landings in the Stabicraft, and with the refining of the chine profile at the front it certainly makes it very much at home in serious conditions.
Negotiating the bar was as always a considered affair – patience and the quick application of power is an apt description. The stability of this boat was proven when Hadley stopped broadside to a couple of big waves. The Fisher 1650 just rode up and over – no tilting, lilting or unsettling movement – just tremendous.
Once out through the bar the Honda 75 was opened up and we squirted around on some big waves – up, down, across and up, across and down. By far the biggest eye opener was coming down and placing the boat in what would in some other boats have led to a serious broach situation. No so in this boat, as it just kept its trim and course and away we went.
While this boat is rated to 100hp, I can see no need to go bigger than a 75hp, maybe a 90hp if a lot of time is spent at altitude or with heavier than normal loads like dive equipment or cray pots. The strength of the Honda 75hp was proven when a breaking 3m wave came from nowhere – a full power situation was warranted and delivered – the boat squirted across the front of the wave and through the gap.
Even though it is a mid-sized boat at 5m overall length, it certainly can pull on tasks that bigger boats would normally do. While I am not suggesting that the complete novice can head straight to the continental shelf, such is the stability and confidence-inspiring handling ability this boat provides I’d suggest that this boat will help less experienced boat operators move to the next level.
I’d certainly be quite comfortable blue water trolling in this boat, and waterways like Port Phillip, Western Port and other large inshore water ways will be this boat’s bread and butter.
The rear deck has heaps of room for a pair of anglers and a boat driver, and the small features like the well-placed rod holders (and at the right angle), the drink cups and sinker holders all make anglers’ lives easier. The bait station is well designed with the added benefit of being interchangeable with a ski pole.
Good toe holds allow a good hook-in angle when tied up to a big fish and the swivel seats in the cabin means comfort between snapper bites.
Storage is ample up front (heaps of room for coolers, tackle bags and other odds and end) and with good planning you can fit it all you need.
It is fair to say that I am extremely impressed with this boat. The rough water performance was incredible and the fishing aspects are great. Combine that with exceptional safety and comfort, a great trailer that just about sucks the boat on when retrieving, a seriously reliable, clean and economical engine and it is hard to go past as a great family and serious angler’s boat.
My weak stomach is well-known, but I do have to say that for the first time that I can remember I didn’t even feel one hint of being queasy. I make no conclusions about that, but I could have stayed out there all day I reckon, and it was seriously rough.
Deegan Marine are having an open day at their yard on August 10-11 and this would be a great opportunity to get some on water exposure to the Fisher 1650.
For more on this great boat, call Hadley Deegan at Deegan Marine in Ulverstone on 03 6425 2238 or climb onto their web site – www.deeganmarine.com.au.
Tow weight: 1100kg (approx.)
Recommended HP: 60hp
Maximum HP: 100hp
Fuel capacity: 100L
Price as Tested: $4…….