A practical estuary platform
The Ally Craft Shadow Mirage 425 is not going to blast to any speed records or set the tournament fishing world on fire; it can’t.
The reality is, though, there are and always will be manufacturers like Ally Craft that produce a sensible and well-rounded product that caters for the less competitive and more practical buyers.
There is much more than speed to be considered when buying a boat for blokes like you and me. The Shadow would make a great platform on which to build a competitive tournament boat but, on a broader scale, it has all the makings of a hull and layout that will satisfy the entire household.
The open layout with the carpeted decks allows a family of four to venture onto bays and estuaries with confidence and there is enough room for the associated paraphernalia. Towing a slow biscuit loaded with a couple of rug rats is certainly not out of the question with the maximum permissible 40hp. While on the subject of dirt magnets, the depth of the lower floor provides the confidence to allow the buoyancy-controlled ankle biters the freedom to wander and fish over the side with no real danger of a plunge.
The raised forward deck/casting platform also makes an ideal bum platform for the junior crew when the boat is under way.
The cosmetics of the hull’s standard features are not outstanding, which is a good thing. They are all practical inclusions that would be missed if they weren’t there.
The aft and bow grab rails are handy for manhandling (or should that be personhandling?) the boat at the ramp or at your island picnic destination.
The forward rails incorporate a plate for mounting nav lights, which would be the first after-market or package deal I would include. We’ve all been left up a river or back of the lake with the light dimming and the fish going off their nuts. It also keeps the boat legal if you intend to sneak out for a prawn or a fish after the mini-pirates are fed and in bed.
Four rod holders help to stow the rods while travelling or fishing, though I would include a short occy strap lanyard system through a stainless saddle to maintain some security and prevent the rods from bouncing or being pulled out of the rod holder by a big one. Again, the scope to personalise the boat is limited only by the imagination of the guy buying and it is refreshing to know you have the best of the basics to work with.
It is also some indication of the product when the boat dealer owns the boat you are asked to test. Mat Caves, of Boatland Marine in Tuncurry, bought the 4.25 Shadow Mirage and has applied his needs to the basic hull.
Eliminating one of the side pockets allowed Mat to incorporate a rod holder one side, keeping the rods well out of the way. The aft port corner has had a 30-litre live/bait well fitted through the cut, carpeted hatch. The hatch was cut to allow fixing of the livewell and access to the bilge, hull, etc.
While Mat and I were tooling around in the boat we were discussing the various changes to the forward deck, with an extension of the forward platform under the gunwale and making it a more serviceable casting deck.
Lifting the forward hatch reveals a sample of the ribs, welding and finish we have come to expect from the guys at Ally Craft. More importantly the Ally Craft crew are, according to Mat, very receptive to feedback. Sometimes manufacturers lose track of their client base and the importance of quality control and after-sales service – shared with the retailer.
The build finish and construction of the Ally Craft Shadow Mirage is first-class, all stemming from the solid keel system that provides a rigid spine for the hull. The best thing about quality-built boats is that there are often very few warranty issues and that maintains a level of satisfaction from the buyer to the manufacturer.
The ride of the Shadow was pretty good for an aluminium boat and I must admit I was surprised how quiet and soft the run up the river and lake was. The 40hp Yamaha pushed the boat along well and although there wasn’t any rough-water work, I’m confident the depth and form of the hull would handle any enclosed water rough stuff the weather could dish out.
Having been a ‘professional’ non-boater for five years or more in ABT BREAM tournaments and having been in dozens of different boats, I reckon the Ally Craft Shadow Mirage 425 wouldn’t be out of place in the comps and certainly would cater for the family that doesn’t want to spend a fortune.
When you consider that the entire boat, motor, trailer package costs considerably less than what some guys are spending on just their motors, it makes sense to consider all the factors and practical costs involved in boating.
The two comfortably upholstered moulded pedestal can be moved around to four different locations in the boat. The fuel cell is a 25-litre caddy hidden beneath the rear enclosed bulkhead, along with the battery.
You might think a 40hp outboard is fairly pedestrian but, removed from the competitive scene, you have to consider the on-water cost of running a boat and the fact that you can run around for the best part of the day on 25 litres has to be a bonus.
The carpeted floor and deck areas are finished well and add to the comfort of standing or sitting during the day.
As almost a standard after-market fitting for the average lure fisho, Mat has fitted a Minn Kota Riptide 55lb electric with CoPilot wireless control and I must say it looks quite at home on the bow plate.
Off the water, the all galvanised Ally Craft trailer comes with a three-year warranty and, with proper and regular care, shouldn’t be any trouble. The galvanised frame, wheel rims and guards will take the salty dunkings and the boat rolls on and off the trailer smoothly over the standard nylon rollers and skids.
With limited time on the water I couldn’t do a thorough fishing test but moving around as we drifted down the river demonstrated reasonable stability. On the right day, sneaking out into a big bay or snug along the coastal fringe wouldn’t be out of the question.
Considering what is on the small-boat market these days, the Ally Craft Shadow Mirage 425 is a boat I would have a serious look at if I were looking for a good estuary hull. On a competitive tournament basis the Shadow is not peak but for value and running costs it is hard to beat.
When matched with the 40hp Yamaha it is a steady, reliable and serviceable boat that I’m sure will find favour with many anglers.
Weight hull only200kg
Max occupants4 adults
Approx top speed51kmh (32mph)
Basic boat, trailer, motor$14,500
|Standard Features: 2 rowlocks;||anchor gusset;||anchor shelf; back board;||carpeted casting platform with hatch; thwart flotation;||deluxe striping with dolphin;||double bow eye;||enclosed rear bulkhead with battery, fuel tray and splash well;||four fishing rod holders;||four seat positions;||front carpeted casting platform with hatch;||fuel tank tray, carpeted;||full carpeted floor between seats with flotation and extruded side decks;||full carpeted floor with under floor flotation;||internal keel;||low bow rails;||painted inside and out;||2 x 35mm screw-in bungs;||short side rails;||side decks with rounded foredeck; solid transom corners; split bow rail, low;||transducer bracket;||transom strut;||two-part upholstered swivel seats with poles; 2 x rod holders; 2 side pockets; 2 x transom handles;||welded cross thwarts front and rear.|
|Price as tested: including 40hp two-stroke tiller-steer Yamaha outboard, Minn Kota RT55 AP electric motor with wireless remote, Humminbird 323 dual-beam sounder, plumbed livewell, bilge pump, nav lights, battery box, battery switch, etc, on all-galvanised trailer with three-year boat and trailer warranty:||$18,900. Contact Boatland Marine, 1 Palm Street, Tuncurry, phone 02 6554 6399, email --e-mail address hidden-- website: www.boatland.com.au.|