Boat Test: Bonito 5.6m CC with 115HP Suzuki
  |  First Published: March 2014

A lot of fantastic, Australian-built boats have humble beginnings. Built by passionate and knowledgeable people, there’s been no shortage of local offerings that are tailored to local waterways available to boaties over the last few decades. South East Queensland has always been a hub of boat building activity – from the giants Telwater, Haines and Riviera – right through to the shed-born gems.

Legacy Boats’ Bonito is one of the latter. Legacy Boats is a partnership between boat builders Roger Barnes and Martin Slennett and they run out of a waterside shed near Jacobs Well between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. It’s a typical fibreglass boat builder’s shed – the messiness of building with a sticky, fine material offset by the shininess and brilliance of the inside of the moulds.

It was here that Fishing Monthly met the guys, shot an interview with Roger (see the QR code for the link to the video) and hooked up the Bonito 5.6m model centre console powered by a 115hp Suzuki and took it to the Cabbage Tree Point ramp for some boating at the ‘Pin.

Roger is proud of the heritage of the hull. “It’s got a very sharp entry that enables it to cross very choppy, open waters, which it was designed to do back in New Zealand in 1973. The design of the hull has not changed because it’s been so successful. It’s dry and soft riding – they’re its greatest assets,” he explained.

On the test day, we didn’t encounter water choppy enough to seriously test this hull – like a 25 knot southerly on Moreton Bay might – but it was easy to get the feel of the Bonito’s steep entry while crossing boat wakes and feel the attitude of the craft adjust as we moved people around the console.

Roger’s been making boats for the last 12 years and specifically the Bonito hull for the last 18 months. And his philosophy about boat design and manufacture is reasonably simple.

“I don’t like to build boats that are capable of sinking or that rely on bilge pumps to stay afloat. I prefer a boat that can be tied to a mother ship or anchored at night or left in a storm and you come back in the morning and it’s still sitting there waiting for you. Or if you’re crossing a bar or offshore and a foamy wave comes over the top of you, you want to be able to know that you’ll get home,” Roger continued.

I think that there’s not too many open water boaties that will disagree with his sentiments. Match that with his dislike of the use of wood in boat building and you know that you’ll get a craft that will get you out and back again, but won’t rot away in the driveway between trips.

“There’s no timber [in a Bonito], we use Coosa, which is a composite product, in our transoms and there’s an option of using it in the floor, also. We used double bias in our hull layups, a full fibreglass stringer grid and our layups are basically to survey standard, which is needed for the commercial operators, who we build lots of Bonitos for.”

At the factory there was a Bonito, mid-build, that Brian could display these features. Once the top deck is on, there’s no way to see the work and structures under the floor. The attention to detail was impressive – on both sides of the decks.

If you’re a keen angler, though, the peace-of-mind from a well-built hull is one thing. What we all want to really know is how it suits your applications as an angler.

The Bonito’s first runs on the board come from the list of customers who use Bonito boats. Around 50% of these hulls are destined for tiller steer motors and for commercial use. Commercial fishers spend ridiculous amounts of time in their craft and if the Bonito is the most comfortable and practical choice for them, then there’s a good chance that the ride will get the thumbs up from us recreational guys.

The centre console is a great compromise between size (to store gear in and mount your instruments and electronics) and accessibility (to the front casting deck). In the main cockpit the gunwales are high enough to comfortably fish offshore – complete with toe-room under the shelves.

Move up to the front casting deck and you’ll see that it’s high. Not bass-boat high, reflecting a great compromise between smooth and rough water needs.

A front anchor well with a moulded lid keeps the sports fishing guys happy as there’s less to get your gear tangled in while going to work up for’ard. The test boat has aftermarket deck hatches installed, but subsequent models will have styled and moulded custom lids available. This will only add to the strength and looks of the design.

Down the other end, the stern is similarly organised, with nothing protruding to grab unwary legs or lines.

Ridiculously quiet at idle, the 115 Suzuki roared to life with four on board and the Bonito jumped onto the plane. We’d imagine that with a weekend’s worth of camping gear onboard, it’d plane similarly.

As-is, this boat would have to be one of the best ‘all-rounders’ you can buy nowadays. You could duck offshore, fish the bay, take it to a freshwater lake or fish a tournament in it and it would accomplish all jobs with ease.

Best of all, if you’re interested in the Bonito, you can talk right to the guy that’s going to build it. There’s even a level of customisation available to get the boat ideal for your needs.

Call Roger for more information on 0438 886 813 or drop in and see them at the 2014 Brisbane Tinnie and Tackle Show. They have no website as of yet, so you’ll have to the get the information the old fashioned way.





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