Brand spanking new from McLay is their mighty Fisherman Hardtop, 6.7m of fishing excellence. Hailing from New Zealand and designed to handle that country’s very tough fishing conditions, McLay boats are now sold through selected Australian retailers.
From stem to stern this big plate alloy craft is set up for serious fishing. With its 800mm freeboard and virtually half of the internal area devoted to cockpit space for the angling team aboard (its rated for 7 persons) there’s a lot to like about this big Kiwi rig.
The overall internal fit-out and external finish was absolutely top shelf – upholstery of the very highest standard, and externally all welds were full and smoothed to perfection. Attention to detail was evident.
For instance, the tread plate cockpit floor had a prominent lip right up front, obviously designed to keep any water back in the cockpit proper and not up front where it might be a nuisance around the bunk.
And although its a fully credentialed offshore craft I saw the big McLay as a very versatile boat. Thanks to paired bunks within the 671 Fisherman Hardtop’s fully lined and double shelf equipped cabin, you could enjoy a very comfortable overnight stay. With the handy infill provided, the bunks could also be converted to a large single bed.
However, most serious anglers would be likely to store their best tackle, extra gear or maybe clothing or tucker bags within the cuddy’s shelter when heading offshore to fish (there is also under-bunk storage.
The reviewed 671 Fisherman Hardtop was provided by Reef Marine of Mackay. The opportunity to review the craft came late on a balmy afternoon, and the winter ambience on the Pioneer River was equally as enjoyable as my time aboard the big plate alloy rig with its powerful 175 Suzuki on the pod astern. There was plenty of river traffic with trawlers heading seawards and other large craft also moving about, so there was plenty of wash and pressure waves to test the ride of the McLay.
Boarding the big McLay via the wide swim platform aft was made easy thanks to rugged tread plate flooring on the aft steps leading into the cockpit. With the craft’s twin boarding ladders in an upright position, two ‘cages’ are formed astern (in conjunction with the aft rails). These are designed to make it easy for a diver to don or remove equipment, and reflect the importance our neighbours across the ditch place on diving. The cages are also handy for anglers to fish from.
The craft’s live bait tank with Perspex front was located under the port step, a wide lid permitting easy access to the tank. Immediately inboard of the engine splash well was a 2-person bench seat which could be lowered to allow easy use of the craft’s centrally located bait station.
Paired hatches below the bait station provided easy access to the engine and house batteries plus an expansion chamber for the fuel tank.
The Hardtop’s cockpit work area with its 1080mm high sides was equipped with a fully-welded 4mm thick tread plate floor to provide sure footing, while additional features such a powerful deck wash, carpet-lined 2m long side pockets, plus paired rod holders each side atop 330mm wide decks were designed to make fishing as easy and enjoyable as possible.
Moving forward to the helm area, it was great to enjoy the ambience created by the luxurious grey carpet-like hull liner within the cabin and across the wide dash area. I was impressed with the liner’s snug fit around hand rails, the front passenger’s shelf, the main dash area, window surrounds and lips, the instruments and recessed navigation aids.
A two piece armoured glass windscreen plus large sliding windows each side of the McLay’s cabin afforded full visibility for the skipper, whether seated or standing. The forward seating was impressive: both the skipper and mate are treated to strong, very well padded yet highly supportive high-backed seats on pedestal-style storage boxes.
Instruments within the test craft consisted of paired Lowrance HDS9 and HDS7 units recessed uppermost, with trim tab and anchor winch controls close by. To port of the steering wheel, and a little lower, were switches to operate items such as the deck wash, bait tank and the like, while to starboard of the 6-spoke, sports-style wheel was another array of switches for various lights and other items. A USB port was also featured, while the craft’s marine radio was tucked up high within the cabin out of the weather’s influence.
With forward controls for the Suzuki DF175 side mounted and within easy reach, I found that driving the 671 Fisherman Hardtop was, put simply, fun! Underway the shelter provided by the lined cabin with its rocket launcher style 8-station rod rack at the rear was very good, with virtually no slipstream breezes intruding on our downriver runs.
The 671 Fisherman’s anchor well can be accessed via a wide cabin hatch which sports hand rails atop the cabin for safety while tending ground tackle. However, I’m sure most McLay owners will tick the anchor winch option when placing an order.
Performance and handling will be just as strong a selling point as the top shelf finish of these well constructed craft. Although the 671 Fisherman Hardtop sports a very solid hull at 950kg dry weight, and a beam of 2.35m matching its 6.75m length, the rig planed remarkably easily. The 175 Suzuki pushed it onto the plane at a mere 22km/h. Cruising sweetly at 37.4km/h, the Suzuki astern could hardly be heard, but it did get a bit louder when approaching wide open throttle at a speed of 64.8km/h. Engine revs were temporarily unavailable during test runs.
Recommended outboards are from 135-200hp, which made the 175 Suzuki mid-range power. In my view it was quite adequate for a fishing-oriented craft and more than enough power, unless you plan to regularly take half a dozen anglers out fishing. In that scenario more power might be necessary, but for 2 or 3 people the potent 4-cylinder Suzuki should fulfil all requirements.
With its solid weight, large reversed outer spray chine and generous beam linked to an 18 degree V aft, the McLay handled all wash and larger pressure waves encountered in the Pioneer River with a total lack of fuss. Even at near maximum speed the hull could not be made to pound or jar, which says a lot about its outstanding design. New Zealanders have some nasty sea conditions and build their craft to handle them.
The McLay’s 4mm plate hull is a dry one. With its well-designed entry and easy capability to throw displaced water well away, the 671 Fisherman’s ride remained totally dry and would be very likely to do so in most conditions.
There’s little doubt that this craft is purpose designed for offshore work. Nearly every feature centres around this pursuit, and with a fuel capacity of 250L you could go a long, long, way out thanks to the frugal Suzuki 4-stroke and the McLay’s easy riding hull. Rated for 7 people, I reckon 5 anglers (possibly even 6) could fish with ease in the Fisherman’s large cockpit. A removable icebox for the catch is all that would be necessary to have a great day on the water.
The test craft was provided by Reef Marine of Mackay and would come home on a well set-up Tinka tandem trailer for $83,500. If you’d like more info you can check out www.reefmarine.net or contact Reef Marine on (07) 4957 3521.
Length hull: 6.750m
Length on trailer: 8.230m
Height on trailer: 3.10m
Hull weight: 950kg
Hull deadrise: 18 degrees
Engine fitted: 175 Suzuki 4-stroke
Towing: Family 6 wagon or 4x4