Victoria’s coastline boasts countless estuaries and inlets that provide top-shelf light tackle sportfishing. From Nelson in the west to Mallacoota in the east, anglers have ample opportunity to tackle shallow water species such as bream, flathead, Aussie salmon, mulloway, tailor and trevally – you’ve only got to flick through the pages of this magazine to see proof of that. Being a keen estuary angler myself, I jumped at the chance to take a new Jabiru Pro for a spin with Simon Wakefield and David Garcia from Warragul Marine.
The popular Jabiru Pro series of small punt-style aluminium boats is from Savage, of course, which gives them a big tick right from the start. The well-known company has been designing and manufacturing quality boats in Australia since 1898, and their products have forged a solid reputation as being both durable and practical.
The test boat was a Jabiru Pro 415, but this proven favourite comes in a number of other lengths, being the 385, 435, 455 and 485. They are all just perfect for sheltered-water estuary fishing, as many readers have no doubt already discovered. Sitting on the trailer in the yard, the boat we had our hands on was a striking sight, painted black with white trim and gold and grey stripes – but other colours are available, as well as unpainted versions.
As David and I drove towards our nearest estuary system – Anderson Inlet at Inverloch – to give the Jabiru Pro a run, the weather showed few signs of improving beyond the overcast and drizzling day on hand. We decided to press on, though, because a bit of chop would provide ideal conditions for boat testing, even if it was less than ideal for photography. When we arrived at the somewhat rudimentary ramp at Mahers Landing, our suspicions were confirmed: the inlet had been churned into a frothy, brown mess.
Undaunted, we launched the boat with little fuss and climbed aboard.
The first thing I noticed was that, yes, the Jabiru Pro 415 is a small boat… but it doesn’t feel like one. Every inch of the fully-carpeted deck space is available for fishing. There is an extensive casting deck built above the forward section of the boat, below which is a huge storage area that is accessible via several large hatches. An underfloor anchor well and tray for an auxiliary battery can also be found ‘below decks’ up front, while a bow-eye for the anchor rope and a steel plate for mounting an electric motor on the bow completes the forward set-up. Simon had fitted the steel plate, by the way, with the impressive Minn Kota Riptide i-Pilot electric motor system.
In the mid-section of the boat the floor is lower and accommodates the two fold-up, swivelling pedestal seats that can be deployed in different positions. On the test boat, the driving area was covered by a bimini, which comes as an option and sure was handy for keeping the drizzle off on the day we were out on the water. There are short handrails on the gunwale adjacent to the seating positions that provide something to grab onto if things get rough. Simon had also fitted the boat with a Humminbird 798 HD Side Imaging sonar and GPS combo, which provided some reassurance when negotiating the shallow water of Anderson Inlet.
At the back of the vessel there is another raised platform that houses an under-floor battery compartment and can be fitted with a live bait tank as an option. It could also be used as an extra fishing platform if you get back-boated by your crew and need some extra space.
Right at the back there are rod holders as well as handles on the back of the transom to help with manoeuvring the boat when launching and retrieving. There is also a plate for mounting a depth sounder transducer on the lower outer transom.
Simon and Dave had fitted the test boat with a Mercury 40hp 4-stroke EFI Big Tiller outboard. As its name suggests, this outboard is a tiller steer engine, but the 415 comes with the option of a side console with steering wheel (as do all three larger models).
For the record, 40 ponies is the maximum recommended for the 415, but this increases to 75 for the largest model in the range, the 485.
The Big Tiller outboard has the gear shift and tilt and trim controls in the tiller handle, so all the controls are right there at your fingertips. The engine has electronic fuel injection for quick starting and, like most 4-strokes, it is clean, quiet and fuel efficient.
To cap off a great donk, the Big Tiller was fitted with a Spitfire 4 blade propeller. This prop has greater surface area than a standard 3-blader, with a better grip on the water and a corresponding increase in thrust. Like all new Mercury outboards, this motor is covered by their fully transferrable, non-declining 3+2 year warranty.
Out on the water Simon and I put the Jabiru Pro 415 through its paces. The Mercury popped it up and onto the plane with ease and, once there, it certainly handled well. Its shallow V-bottom cut through the short chop easily for a comfortable ride, while the wide 1.98m beam helps provide the Jabiru Pro with its renowned stability.
Cornering was a breeze, with the running strakes getting a good grip on the water, while the reverse chines were effective at kicking water away from the boat and keeping us dry in the cockpit. Incidentally, the hull is constructed from 3.0mm aluminium plate all over, so it’s definitely made to last.
Back at the ramp, the Jabiru was easily nestled back on to the trailer, even in the 20 knot side wind. Being a trailer made by Savage themselves, it had the advantage of fitting the boat perfectly, as opposed to many aftermarket trailers. This makes good sense, not only for launching and retrieving but also for transport; ill-fitting trailers will ultimately wear holes in your boat.
One other thing I really liked was the walkway from the front to the back of the trailer – a clever feature that would surely save you from wet feet on many occasions. The trailer also featured alloy wheels that incorporated bearing buddies.
The price of the Jabiru Pro 415 as tested, complete with the Minn Kota Riptide i-Pilot electric motor system and Humminbird 798 HD side imaging sonar and GPS combo, including registration and safety pack, is $24,999. However, packages for more basic Jabiru Pro set ups start at as little as $12,999 (with a 30hp 2-stroke Mercury).
If you’re into your estuary fishing, with perhaps a little calm-day bay fishing thrown in, the Jabiru Pro will provide you with a stylish, functional, durable and affordable option.
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 Jabiru Pro range go to www.savageboats.com.au
Jabiru Pro 415
Beam: 1.98 m
Depth: 0.83 m
Length on trailer: 5.50m
Height on trailer: 1.35m
Bottom sides: 3mm
Top sides: 3mm
Transom material: 3mm
Weight (boat only): 311kg
Max. people: 5
Max load: 480kg