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Savage Piranha: small boat, big bite
  |  First Published: October 2013



You don’t have to know too much about boating to know the name Savage.

The company has been designing, manufacturing and selling quality boats in Australia since 1898. That makes it one of the oldest brands of boat in the country. I have a Savage boat myself, so I jumped at the chance to take one of the new Piranha range for a spin with Simon Wakefield and David Garcia from Warragul Marine.

The model we were to test was the 455 SC. As per convention, the 455 refers to the hull length, 4.55 m, while the SC indicates that the boat is controlled from a side console on the starboard side of the boat. The other Piranha models in the range include the 435 and 485, with the bigger boats available with the option of a centre console instead of the side console.

Sitting on the trailer in the yard, the 455 was an striking sight with its bright red paint job. The boys assured me that red is the fastest colour but if it is too bright for your liking, there are other colours and even unpainted versions available. Hanging off the back of the Piranha, Simon and Dave had fitted the impressive Mercury 60hp EFI 4-stroke Bigfoot outboard – more than adequate for a boat this size. Incidentally, 60 ponies is the maximum recommended for this boat, so you could get away with a smaller engine if that better suited your budget. As Simon points out though, there’s not much difference between the 50 and 60 horsepower engines in terms of size, weight or price, so most people go for maximum power. You don’t have to use it, but it’s nice to have.

As luck would have it, when the test day arrived it dawned overcast and drizzling. By the time we reached Inverloch the combination of a high tide and 20 knot winds had churned the shallow water into a sloppy, brown mess. Nevertheless we pushed on and launched at Mahers Landing, confident that the uninspiring conditions would prove perfect for testing the Piranha, even if they were photographically challenging.

The first thing I noticed when I climbed aboard was the space. There was plenty! The Piranha 455 is a fairly small boat, but it definitely feels much bigger. This has been achieved by building in a large, carpeted casting deck over the forward half of the hull, and a smaller one at the back, so that every square centimetre of the upper surface is useable. When I say useable, read heaps of fishing space! Storage space isn’t compromised though, with lots of stowage under the decks. The front deck, for example, houses a huge underfloor compartment with four separate hatches, along with an anchor well at the bow and a plate for attaching an electric motor. There is also a full-length rod storage compartment along the left hand side of the boat, though you’d probably want to retro fit it with some secure rod holders before stashing your expensive rods in there. Add in a 70 litre in-floor fuel tank, a recess for the battery, and the option for a livebait well, and it’s quite amazing how much is hidden ‘below decks’.

The console itself sits in a sunken area between the two raised decks, and in the test boat was covered by a bimini (an optional extra that definitely came in handy on the day we tested the Piranha). There are two fold up pedestal seats that can be deployed in four different positions, one of which allows the driver to control the vessel while comfortably seated. A small windscreen above the console provides a modicum of protection from any spray, not that there was much of that anyway. The standard dashboard houses a small glove box, drink holder, the Mercury SmartCraft multi-function gauge, fuel gauge and switches for the navigation lights and bilge pump. Although the test boat hadn’t yet been fitted out with all the fruit, such as a sounder, chart plotter, radio and stereo, there is plenty of room to do so.

On the water

That’s all very well, but how did it handle? In a nutshell, extremely well. The ‘Ultra Lift’ hull is designed to give the boat extra lift and stability, and the pronounced V-bottom cut through the short chop with ease, even at top speed. Cornering was no problem with the running strakes and reverse chines, the latter of which were also very effective at deflecting spray away from the boat so that the interior remained dry: something I was very grateful for with $5,000 worth of camera gear sitting on the deck. The ‘dry factor’ was further enhanced by the broad sides of the Piranha, with a substantial slab of aluminium between the chines and the gunwale. With three people on board and a motor that was yet to be run in, our GPS showed the Piranha still popped out of the hole at much less than 20km/h, and reached a top speed of just shy of 50km/h at 5,500rpm. The bottom of the hull is constructed from 3mm aluminium plate while the sides are 2.5mm, so there should be no problems with strength and durability.

The Mercury 60hp EFI 4-stoke Bigfoot engine, by the way, has a taller, more heavy duty gear case than standard outboards, together with larger gears and a shaft that places the propeller deeper into the water. This means it is capable of turning a larger diameter propeller. The test boat was fitted with a Spitfire four-blade prop which, having up to 20% greater surface area, gives greater grip on the water than a standard three-blader and the increase in thrust was noticeable. Like most four-strokes, the Bigfoot was pleasantly quiet, purring away unobtrusively in the background. Like all new Mercury outboards, this motor is covered by their fully transferrable, non-declining 3+2 year warranty.

When we got back to the fairly rudimentary ramp at Mahers Landing, the Piranha was easily nestled back on to the drive-on trailer, even in the 20 knot side wind. Being a trailer made by Savage themselves, it had the advantage of fitting the boat perfectly, which makes good sense not only for launching and retrieving but also for transport: ill-fitting trailers will ultimately wear holes in your boat. One thing I wish I had on my trailer was the walkway from front to back – a clever inclusion that would surely save you from wet feet on many occasions. The trailer also featured brakes and alloy wheels that incorporated bearing buddies.

Though I don’t have the data to prove it at my fingertips, I’d be confident that the popularity of ‘open top’ boats with big casting decks has increased markedly in the deep south since the ‘discovery’ that bream eat lures. The flow on from that discovery has been an increase in the popularity of light tackle sportfishing, plus the establishment of a tournament fishing scene in this state and others. The Savage Piranha range of boats – and don’t those two words go together well – is a boat that should find favour in these types of markets, but especially amongst those anglers that like to mix a little open water bay fishing with their estuary angling. With this Savage/Mercury package (as tested) priced at $26,500, including Victorian inshore safety pack and all registrations, this combination of two quality products is great value for money. If you like to spend time fishing for bream and flatties in the estuaries and snapper and whiting in Port Phillip and Western Port, the Piranha 455 could have your name on it.

For further information or to arrange an inspection, contact Warragul Marine Centre on (03) 5623 6250 or go to www.warragulmarine.com.au. For details on the Piranha range go to www.savageboats.com.au.

Facts

Specifications 455 Piranha SC

Beam:2.05m
Bottom sides:3.00mm
Depth:1.10m
Height on trailer:2.10m
Length maximum:4.55m
Length of hull:4.55m
Length on trailer:6.30m
Max. HP:60hp
Number of people:5
Top sides:2.50mm
Transom material:3.00mm
Transom shaft length:L/S
Weight (boat only):350kg
Price as tested:$26,500

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