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Boat Test: TABS Bullshark 430
  |  First Published: June 2014



In last month’s issue I outlined our reasons for moving to a slightly larger TABS Bullshark powered by a 40 Evinrude E-Tec. This would replace the very handy 4.2 Bullshark/25 E-Tec combination that had given us great fishing everywhere from waters around Coolangatta to those of the Cape.

This was a big upgrade in many respects. True, the hull was only 100mm longer but the engine upgrade was very significant as we anticipated having up to four people aboard from time to time. Engine ratings for the 430 Bullshark are 25-50hp so the 40 seemed the logical choice.

A sounder upgrade was a no brainer. I’d had a great run with the Lowrance unit in the previous rig so I opted for Lowrance again. This time it was the HDS7 to be mounted on the RAM bracket attached to the Bullshark’s mini console.

Other items of significance were the Minn Kota 65 Riptide i-Pilot with its very useful Spot Lock and other features, a set of Korr internal lights plus a six LED Korr spotlight mounted under the electric motor bracket for confident boating in Borumba and other dams at night. GPS systems are good but I’ve got a fixation about actually seeing what’s there as well.

It was a big upgrade but time on the water has proven it was the right choice. I believe wholeheartedly that the hull, despite only the 100mm difference in length, is softer riding than its predecessor. Of course, there is a 17kg difference in engine weight on the transom which doubtlessly contributes to ride quality.

40hp Evinrude E-Tec

The 40hp E-Tec has amazed me with both its smoothness and sheer grunt. Starting first revolution of the engine once the key is turned, the 863cc twin (the 50 and 60 E-Tecs share the same block) planes the rig at 12.6km/h with two aboard. Three aboard still sees the rig planing at the same speed; it seems there’s no replacement for displacement!

Speed runs also proved the worth of the big block engine. With two people aboard with a combined weight of 160kg, the HDS7 recorded 54.8km/h. With an extra passenger (a big bloke) aboard, combined passenger weight was 290kg but the GPS still recorded 49.6km/h.

Another satisfactory facet of the 40 E-Tec is the seeming lack of expensive XD100 oil consumption. At the modest speeds I prefer it just doesn’t consume the stuff. Fuel use is also very favourable so long as I don’t opt to go flat chat everywhere; 45km/h is a great cruising speed.

Lowrance HDS7

The Lowrance HDS7 Gen2 Touch Screen unit is one of the best investments in fishing pleasure I’ve ever made. Tutored by Tech Fishing’s Nick Whyte I quickly grasped the features that make it so different from my previous Lowrance units where I relied solely on sonar imaging to find features and fish. Structure Scan side imaging does take some practice and time on the water to become accustomed to, but once you’ve mastered the system and have become familiar with identifying fish, it’s an awesome fishing tool.

The HDS7 also provides the option of total sonar imaging if you require it. Screens can be customised. I’ve utilised a Lowrance screen option to set up one half of the screen to sonar scan, the other to Structure Scan. I also have the same set up with the addition of a GPS track in a top corner so if I see something that warrants investigation by means of fly, lure or plastic it’s dead simple to whip back to the spot and see what’s doing. Fishing the Brisbane River lately has seen the Structure Scan in use virtually all the time, with some pretty satisfying results on threadies, snapper and mulloway.

Lowrance Sonic Hub

Topping the HDS7 cake is some delicious icing: a Lowrance Sonic Hub unit. I can listen to any of 200 of my favourite songs via a USB connection. With its many options for sound, including good old-fashioned radio or iPod, the Sonic Hub is a very versatile option for some light entertainment when fishing.

iPilot, iLove

The Minn Kota iPilot with its hand control unit has also been a big winner for us. In situations where it’s necessary to keep the boat steady on a given spot, or to maintain a predetermined but slow course – perhaps to keep us above a school of fish when there’s wind or current at play – the iPilot has been a huge asset.

q I also purchased an additional foot control for times when it’s vital to keep both hands and mind on the rod when a fish is playing up. I’ve seen some really frustrated anglers who lost fish through concentrating on a hand control unit instead of their line.

PROS AND CONS

Those are the big pluses in the package but, because all boats have compromises you need to be happy to live with, there must be some minuses as well. In truth, about the only thing that tended to annoy me (at least at first) was the 40’s longer tiller arm in comparison to that of the 25. It extends a lot further beside my seat. Realistically though, the 40 E-Tec has a lot of torque and it’s necessary to have a longer tiller arm for proper control.

Nor is there any fault with the seat: it’s a well padded Relaxyn job with a strong back rest. It’s also in the correct position to both maximise cockpit space and be ideally placed to cater for longer, or shorter, tiller arms. However, in order to turn sharply to port I need to lift the 40’s tiller arm vertically upwards (which it does easily enough) and the somewhat reduced leverage makes it harder to turn. At any rate I’m accustomed to it so these days it’s no biggie.

In all, the new Bullshark has proven a very satisfactory package for our style of fishing whether it’s fly, lure or bait.

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