Boat Test: Formosa’s 500 Barra
  |  First Published: June 2014

I love the ingenuity that North Queenslanders display. They have to deal with a lot of interesting situations, not the least being cyclones and rain that will swell rivers in hours. But the crazy anglers up that way still manage to get out fishing more often than not and the team at The Tinnie Shack in Mission Beach is a case in point.

The Tinnie Shack is the north’s only Formosa dealers and when Carla wanted to get a new barra boat, it was no great surprise that she and husband Dean approached Formosa to help them build their ideal barra buggy. But this barra boat needed to have the ability to head offshore to chase mackerel and reefies, as well as sneak around in creeks at low tide without getting stranded. A tall order, but one that Formosa jumped at the opportunity to fill.

The design started with a standard v-nosed punt and it grew from there with extra length added, some internal design changes and whole lot of hull modifications to make this boat ride and handle as Carla and Dean wanted. The boat also had to carry a lot of horsepower, and I mean a lot, and it had to be tiller steer in configuration to leave a heap of fishing room.

A lot of work and development went into this rig and I have to say, after having a fish and a spin in it, the Formosa 500 Barra is a great boat that will meet many, many needs.

Let’s start out with the internal layout and get a feel for why Carla went for the design she did. After all, Dean told me this is Carla’s boat, so I’d better not upset her and get it wrong!


Like many anglers you always take way more fishing gear than needed, so storage solutions were a main priority with the new set up. Rods needed to be stored securely and out of the way while punching out wide or running around the decks trying to stop one of the many North Queensland silver bullets. The rod locker is positioned well, running down the port side. This is large enough to house offshore outfits as well as your spinning and bait casting gear with ease.

There is an 80L under floor fuel tank fitted, so coupled with the power and unbelievable fuel economy of the 90hp Honda, long trips are not an issue. The filler cap has been positioned on the port side and the filler hose is well out of the way and does not intrude into the space of the large locker.

The rear deck has two hatches that are easily removed. The crank battery is secured behind the skipper’s seat, leaving the other for general storage.

The skipper’s seat and location has been well thought out and everything is within close reach. There is a side pocket fitted beside the driver’s seat to store anything that you may need – like sunscreen, leader and tackle trays. Positioned off this pocket on a heavy-duty bracket is an Humminbird 898 CX SI combo. Again, this can be reached while in the normal driving position with ease. Behind the skipper’s seat on the rear bulkhead is the electronic control panel, the Fusion sound system and the fuel gauge. In the centre is the control for the live bait tank and wash down kit.

Being a fisherman I don’t think much has been missed, making this a very smart and easy boat to operate.


The front deck houses a large live bait tank (a well designed system with a removable centre divider), two large hatches – and I mean large – are perfect to store life jackets and gear needed for extended trips. There is a battery tray situated in the hatch for the two, deep-cycle batteries keeping the weight well distributed at speed or rest. An aluminium-carpeted anchor well sits at the front of the deck. The deck is very large and is ideal for casting all day without anything to trip over or catch your line, if flyfishing is your poison.

To finish off the pointy end of this fishing machine is a bracket designed to house the Minn Kota electric motor, an 82lb i-Pilot is perfect match and manoeuvres this rig quietly around the snags with ease.


My first thoughts when putting this rig on the car was, “Look at the size of that motor!” A 90hp 4-stroke tiller steer barra boat and I laughed with joy. Yes, I have speed in my veins, so to say I was excited to take this for a spin was an understatement.

This rig launches out of the water. It has a hole-shot of around 3-4 seconds – trim it out and hold on. But at no point was it scatty or unsafe. I found that running at quarter throttle with a little trim was quiet and very comfortable to drive.

The BF 90hp Honda is a very smooth and quiet motor. Fitted with an alloy prop and having a 5 year warranty, it makes for a stress-free boat to own. A Racor fuel filter prevents any foreign particles from entering the fuel system. The trim and tilt is located on the tiller arm, but I would add a remote trim and tilt switch on the side deck for rough conditions, keeping a firm grip with my right hand.

Ride high

I was impressed by the quality of the ride. The spray chines worked superbly and the re-entry was extremely soft for a barra-style boat. Manoeuvrability was also great; it cornered like it was on rails.

I get to ride in a lot of different boats and I’d have to say the 500 Barra’s hull provided top comfort and performance.

It didn’t take much revving to get onto the plane quickly, and a lot less to keep it there. The Honda gave an impressive 36knots for 5000rpm with a fuel consumption of 13.6L/h at cruising speed.


The hull is rated to a max 115hp, but the 90hp 4-stroke is well and truly quick enough and offers fuel economy and speed. The hull is made well and the welding and craftsmanship is first class. It has a beam of 2.2m so it is stable at rest and really suits any form of fishing.

The hull is 4mm and side sheets are 3mm thick. The hull has an approximate weight of 430kg. Fully welded side decks, raised and reversed spray chines, foam-filled buoyancy, a custom 2-pack paint job with an awesome graphic design really finishes off this well designed outfit.

There are 5 seating positions and two padded, folding seats are supplied, though you can purchase more if needed.

Fitted with navigation lights as well as two LED strip lights for the night fisherman and a fusion stereo system, there is not much that you will have to add to get out on the water.

This package is well designed and fitted out by Dean and the crew and I am pretty confident to say that you could be on the water within half an hour of purchasing this boat and be fishing with without any stress.

Getting to the water is via a Dunbier GP 5.3M14B braked, galvanised trailer. The usual safety gear and registrations are supplied including a digital EPIRB.

The package as tested sits at $37,200, which is great value when you have the electronics and extras added. Give Carla or Dean a call at The Tinnie Shack on (07) 4088 6125 or visit www.thetinnieshack.com.au.


Length on trailer:5.9m
Height on trailer:1.7m
Hull weight:430kg
Maximum persons:4
Towing:Family sedan or 4WD
Reads: 5168

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