It’s not often you truly get to test a boat for its fishability, but that’s just the opportunity I had when Marc Ainsworth offered his boat up for a boat test on the Murray. And if it included me having to fish from the boat for five days to get a true appreciation of the boat – then so be it.
Marc is one of those blokes who reckon they are going to get a new boat or update their old boat and never get around to doing it. This saga has been happening with Marc since early in 1990 when he swore black and blue he was going to update his old Savage super tinny with a clapped out 15hp Johnson Seahorse. I don’t know how old that rig was, but if Noah had life rafts on board, that rig was probably it. That’s not to say it wasn’t great fun to fish from, it was, but 16 years of waiting for him to update gets to you in the end.
After masses of research Marc finally decided on the SeaJay range because of their solid reputation. It was the same reason he chose a Yamaha 4-stroke outboard – too many of his mates had great things to say about their Yammies. The only problem was Marc wanted a boat that did everything. After we finally got it through his skull that you can’t have everything in a boat, he sat down and did a fishing-use matrix – yes he’s that sort of guy! He decided he’d get a sportfishing and lurefishing rig that could comfortably run up and down the Murray, fish the lakes for cod, yellas, bass, redfin and trout, yet still provide enough safety to hit the inshore waters for snapper, flathead, bream and squid.
This all led to the SeaJay Discovery range and the 435 was the ideal compromise between size and functionality. The rig came standard as a tiller steer, with casting decks, bow and rear grab rails and an electric motor bracket. With the addition of a Yamaha 4-stroke 40hp, a Minn Kota 55lb Rip Tide and a Humminbird 727 Sounder/GPS the rig was pretty much ready to hit the water.
Marc bought the rig from the team at Stones Corner Marine in Queensland who fitted everything onto the boat and water-tested the rig before Marc took delivery. For the technically minded it probably would be a bit of an achievement setting up your own boat. Marc is not that sort of guy and appreciated the fact that Stones Corner Marine could fit everything onto the rig properly. The guys in boat shops do it every day and know how and where everything should go, so leaving it up to them is the surest way to have trouble-free time on the water.
Fishing from the SeaJay was a pleasure. The way Marc had set everything up meant that whatever you needed was within easy reach.
For example, he had sourced a very convenient leader holder from Daiwa that just happened to fit perfectly above his spinnerbait box. This meant the tackle box and leader holder were within easy reach and out of the way of the deck.
The other handy idea was the Boga Grip location. Instead of getting a mounting bracket that could stick out and catch a trouser leg or stub a toe, Marc conveniently placed the Boga Grip on the sounder cables. This kept it within easy reach when a fish needed to be landed, yet out of the way while you were fishing.
On the water the rig was a dream to fish from. Like all flat-bottomed, V-nosed punts, the Discovery was very stable and with Ainsy and me up the front and leaning over one side to cast at a productive snag, it was easy to forget we were in a boat at all.
The front deck was spacious enough for two anglers to stand without getting in each other’s way, which was also good because Ainsy and I aren’t very competitive when it comes to fishing! The back deck was large enough to stand on too, however it was not the best spot to fish from, as you had to jiggle around the live well lid and the motor’s tiller. Still, it did provide access when you wanted to make one last long cast at a snag you had just drifted past.
The electric was a foot-controlled Minn Kota and the ability to move the foot control to face whichever direction you were fishing was practical. I like the cable-drive versions myself, but after a few days with the foot control you get very used to not having a big heavy cable attached to the control.
The Humminbird sounder was set up so that it could be easily operated by the driver when under power, yet still be turned around so you could see what depth you were in if you were up the front of the boat. This set-up meant there were no expensive second units on the boat and that it was unnecessary to include double unit head set-ups with switch panels and all sorts of complicated rigging. Although it’s not the best way to do things as you have to turn around to see the screen, it is the most economical.
Driving to and from fishing spots was not a drama. Admittedly, we were in an inland river and there were no big waves to contend with, but the boat scooted along at around 26 knots at wide open throttle, and cruised comfortably at 18 knots. This made getting to distant locations easy and when just cruising along at 18 knots the fuel use was markedly better than when hammering it to a distant snag just before dark to get one last cast in.
The best part of the rig was sneaking around the backwaters. With the motor on tilt and in idle we pushed through some very shallow water to get to some favourite snags. The boat floated in less than a foot of water and when we did get stuck on a shallow sand bank we jumped out, the boat floated a little higher and we pushed through just over six inches of water – now that’s impressive. This shallow draft would make the SeaJay an ideal rig for pushing up some sandy estuaries where bream, flathead, jacks and whiting might be on the cards.
The Yamaha itself was a 2006 model with the new tiller control found on most Yamaha outboards these days. This was the first time I had used this tiller and it was really simple to operate. For the first time I can remember on a tiller steer boat, I could power trim and tilt easily without having to use a second hand. Sensational!
The Yamaha jumped the boat up onto the plane a little slower than I expected, but 4-strokes are well known for their build up of power, unlike the instant power of an old technology 2-stroke. Having said that though, you didn’t have the boat nose up trying to get on the plane at any stage; the SeaJay smoothly made the transition from idle to plane, a bit of trim and away she went.
I really liked the simple layout, non-cluttered decking and the absence of all the trimmings that sportfishing boats seem to require these days. Make no mistake – as a stock boat, this rig does not have all the trimmings such as live wells, rod lockers, immense under floor storage and more.
What it does have is a simple layout that allows you to use the boat in the way you want. The SeaJay would be equally at home sneaking up a mangrove creek to set and retrieve some crab pots as it would be sneaking around the backwaters of the Murray chasing cod.
If you don’t want all the bells and whistles and are looking for a practical fishing boat that will do its job well, take the time to check out the SeaJay 435 Discovery. From $16,700 for a boat, motor and trailer package with the 40hp Yamaha 4-stroke it’s good value for money and will last a fishing lifetime. Add your choice of sounder and electric and you’ve got a rig that will catch you all the fish you could ever want.
Marc’s rig was set up by the team at Stones Corner Marine. You can contact them on (07) 3397 9766 for more information on Yamaha outboards and the entire SeaJay range. Alternatively log onto www.stonescornermarine.com.au for a heap of great information on their entire range.
SeaJay 435 Standard Features
Anchor cavity, battery rack under front hatch, two 38mm bungs, carpeted front and rear cast platform with two hatches at front, electric motor mounted on bow, carpeted plywood floor, under floor flotation, fuel line from front storage rack to transom, gunwhale rubber inserts, rear handles, plastic/plumbed live bait tank, Minn Kota plate on bow, painted from chine up and inside (coloured sides opt), pinstriping, two rod holders, spray chines, storage rack under front cast platform, switch panel plate, tank rack (1⁄2) under rear bulkhead, double towing eye, transducer bracket, wide side decks, bow rails with short/nav light plates, rear rails, two part upholstered pedestal seats, four seat sockets.