I like testing Jopalo boats because they’re dedicated fishing craft and a test run usually entails a solid fishing session to get a real-world feeling for these plate-alloy vessels from Yamba.
First glimpses of the 6.5 Mr Marlin centre console at the factory showed this big hull is a red-blooded offshore machine, with a fine bow entry and 20° transom deadrise for a soft ride, and flat chines that start at the bow and widen to the transom for stability at rest and lift for planing. It was the deepest vee Jopalo’s George Lousick had built and I was interested to see how it performed.
This was a brand-new boat and the boys at the factory were adding the final touches, such as the rubber seal around the big transom door, as we were loading our fishing gear. It gave me time to admire the spanking new 175hp Honda with 20 minutes on the clock and a 17” Solas prop and to admire the glistening paint job this company has become famous for.
Then local pro fisher Troy Billen (also a Jopalo owner), and Steve Perry of Grafton and I headed off to the nearby ramp to slide the big unit off the Sea Link multi-roller trailer. The massive bow freeboard shears off down around the console but there’s still plenty of boat between the gunwale and the water, giving a great sense of security once you’re in the single-level, self-draining cockpit. Boarding is best done from a jetty or via the transom step, it’s quite a climb over the bow.
Our fishing gear simply disappeared into a plethora of lockers, the camera case slipped into one of the lockable shelves under the console and the rods were stowed in the six-shooter rocket launcher on the T-top, in the long side pockets or into any number of flush gunwale holders – and we were off.
It’s not often you can take on a river bar at 27 knots without slowing down but that’s what happened after we easily planed away without a hint of stern squat. The big Honda purred away easily and it was only the speedo which broke the deception of a leisurely cruise speed.
We sped by frolicking whales and dolphins and rippling bait schools as we headed more than 10 miles offshore, Troy giving the engine occasional blasts at higher and lower revs to comply with run-in protocol. Performance was sparkling and the throttle very responsive, as you’d expect with 175 horses aboard.
It was hard to gauge the sea performance because the ocean was glassy with only about a metre of swell but when we saw a short-faced one coming and applied extra power, we managed to get about 70% of the boat out of the water and simply landed with a swoosh without slowing down.
The big Furuno plotter gave us directions to good bottom and the matching sounder showed fish, so we lowered a few jigs and soon had a legion of rat kings milling about in mid-water. I stood on the gunwale to take a few snaps of a double hook-up and then realised what a solid platform this boat is. Although none of us was a heavyweight, with everyone at the port gunwale the boat had heeled over only about 12° with ample freeboard remaining.
I think we may have taken a few cupfuls of water through the aft scupper when all three of us were gathered in the aft corner landing the fish but that soon ran back out.
In typical Jopalo fashion there was a rod holder within arm’s reach just about anywhere and the transom work station with integrated storage proved ideal for rigging, changing lures and normal angling chores. Even with a couple of fish on, there was no bumping or jostling around the spacious cockpit. Four could fish this boat easily on the drift or trolling, and maybe even at anchor.
In keeping with a big blue-water boat, the 60L livewell would host a horde of slimy mackerel and the below-decks kill tank is huge. The test boat was set up with two pedestal chairs with storage below and the new owner was to add an icebox to the cockpit for chilling the catch and refreshments.
The extended hardtop provides excellent shade and shelter and its supporting struts have a few holes strategically placed to avoid blind spots while at the helm. The hydraulic helm and engine controls fall nicely to hand and all gauges and electronics are clearly visible within arm’s reach, as is the six-gang switch panel.
It was on the way back that Troy discovered ‘the sofa’ – the well-upholstered seat forward of the console. It was so comfy as we rolled along in the balmy conditions that we all had to have a turn, which led to the discovery that the Jopalo 6.5 was certainly not sensitive to lateral or longitudinal trim while under way. We walked around the cockpit, the console and the foredeck and the boat hardly budged, humming along between 20 and 40 knots to keep Mr Honda running in properly.
Rather than fool about with menus on a GPS unit unfamiliar to us, we relied on the speedo on the dash for performance figures. They were lively for a big offshore boat.
4000rpm27 knots (50kmh)
4500rpm32 knots (69kmh)
5000rpm37 knots (80kmh)
5500rpm40 knots (85kmh)
With less than an hour on the big Honda we took it easy and didn’t hold the engine at any revs for long. Another 500rpm will become available when the engine’s processor decides it’s run in and in another 30 or 40 hours when the machine really loosens up, this rig should be a real rocket. The maximum allowed 250hp would just about put this boat into a low orbit.
On the return journey the ebb tide on the bar pushed up a few pressure waves which the big rig sliced through with ease without even a hint of spray on the windscreen.
We had a few issues getting the boat back on the trailer, thanks to the low tide at the rather ordinary ramp. It was a reminder that this is a big, beefy boat that requires proper launch facilities if it is to be driven onto the trailer, or a power winch for less suitable ramps.
|Bottom:||6mm plate alloy|
|Sides, floor:||4mm plate alloy|
|Hull only weight:||750kg|
Equipment as tested: Anchor well; bowsprit and roller; full-length rails; 160L fuel tank; full-width transom pod with auxiliary engine bracket, boarding steps, transducer bracket and berley bucket; sealed, carpeted self-draining cockpit; transom door; wide console with extended hardtop and rocket launchers; LED navigation and cockpit lights; 60L live bait tank; 150L kill tank; pedestal seats on pods with storage lockers; side pockets; bait board with storage and rod holders; upholstered forward seat box with chemical toilet; lockable storage in transom, console, dash and forward bulkhead; flush-mounted gunwale rod holders; custom paint; Furuno sounder and chart plotter, 27MHz radio.
Price as tested with 175hp Honda and Sea Link multi-roller trailer: $84,000.Reads: 2970