There is no doubt that the range of boats available in Australia has increased dramatically since the mid eighties, and the days of all-purpose boats designed to do everything are pretty much over. Manufacturers now tend to produce boats for specific applications, such as offshore fishing, parties, family use, bass fishing, guiding, tournaments and skiing, to name just a few.
While this specialisation is partly related to import opportunities and increasing wealth in the community, it also has a lot to do with changing fishing attitudes and methods. I remember the days when a good bream boat kept the rain off while you were anchored, and unless you were a troller, trout fishing was done from the shore!
These days however, anglers looking to purchase a boat are far more discerning in their preferences. The boat has to fit their niche in fishing, and if it does a heap of other things as well then so much the better. As a result, boat manufacturers have increased the different models in their ranges, and increased the size ranges available within these models, giving anglers choices like never before.
Tracker boats are a clear example of this diversity. Tracker is an American brand of aluminium boat and it is one of the most popular aluminium boats in the USA. Because Tracker sell a lot of boats, they are able to pump huge amounts of money into hull performance research, which has resulted in a range of boats that ride well in rough water and still have good stability at rest.
The American freshwater bass scene is very similar in water conditions and angling methods to our trout, bream and estuary scene. Grant Garwood at Seaport Marine in Launceston recognised the similarities between the two and decided to start importing this very popular brand of boat into Tasmania and Victoria. The first of the Trackers to hit our shores is the Pro Guide V-16 side console.
The Pro GuideV-16 is a purpose built side console boat that is designed for sportfishers using a wide range of angling techniques. The first thing to recognise with American boats is that they do things differently over there. Small things are different, such as the attachment system for the ball and the winch attachment. The trailer is very simple in construction, with long skids to support the boat rather than rollers. The trailer is fully galvanised and painted, which means that there are no corrosion problems. It tows very well, and with an overall package weight of around 850kg it sits behind most family cars and 4WDs with no trouble at all. It also has a neat swing away trailer bar, which makes the trailer easy to store.
The hull is very impressive. It is a deep Vee design with a 17° dead-rise, which delivers a smooth ride in rough water. The hull is built on a full-length longitudinal stringer system. This means that the hull is supported by a very strong internal framework, delivering strength and dampening noise from rough water. The hull is fully welded and is two piece, which all but eliminates any chance of hull splits. The V-16 also features reverse chines and lifting strakes that help the boat to get on the plane quickly and give great stability at rest and while moving slowly.
It is inside the V-16 that the differences really start to stack up. The level of finish inside this boat is excellent. It is totally carpeted throughout, even in places you wouldn’t expect! It is a very beamy boat with heaps of internal fishing space – it would be quite comfortable with three fly fishers in the boat! The console is very clean and uncluttered, and it actually allows the driver to escape some of the wind while driving the boat. The console and driver’s seat are a lot higher than I am accustomed to, and I see this as a real benefit.
The forward casting deck allows for plenty of fishing room and it has a decent amount of gunwale around it that prevents fly lines from blowing out on windy days. There is a small casting deck at the stern of the boat, but you do need to be mindful of the engine well behind you. Having said that there is plenty of room on the main floor of the boat for all angling methods. Older anglers or those taking their kids fishing will appreciate the high sides to the boat, as they give a high degree of safety.
Storage is a key feature, with a 7ft rod locker on the port side, more long storage on the starboard side and some storage under the casting platform at the bow. A 120L aerated live well in the bow, equipped with timers and pumps, is a key element to recent developments in fishing techniques.
The standard features that the V-16 comes with are also very impressive. Unlike many other boats, it comes complete and ready to go with sounder, electric bow mount (this model features the new MotorGuide wireless bow mount) and batteries. All Trackers have positive buoyancy as standard (this means that the boat won’t sink if swamped) and a 100L underfloor fuel tank.
The Tracker V-16 is powered by a 75hp Mercury Optimax, which suits the boat perfectly. It pops the boat up on the plane effortlessly in all conditions, and pushes the boat along nicely at around 3500 revs. The engine copes perfectly in tight turns, with no sign of prop cavitation or aeration.
The first time I drove the Tracker V-16 was on Tasmania’s Great Lake on a typical summer afternoon. It was blowing pretty hard from the north, and there was a good-sized slop rolling down the lake. Cruising across the lake saw the boat move effortlessly onto the plane, reaching a good cruising speed at 3500 revs. The engine noise is minimal and the helm allows for a very comfortable drive.
Rounding the Beehives and into the waves, I found out just how good the ride is in rough water. The deep Vee sliced through the short chop of about half a metre with the type of performance that I am accustomed to in a fibreglass boat. Tight turns across the slop didn’t result in us getting drenched and the boat tracked perfectly in the following waves as we headed down wind. Some deep Vees tend to wobble a bit heading down wind, but there was no issue with the Tracker. The stringer system that the hull is built on reduces the slap noise remarkably over other alloy boats I have driven – again very similar to a fibreglass boat.
As it became darker we headed back into Swan Bay only to be confronted by a mass of midging trout, so the boat test was abandoned as we chased rising trout until dark! We chased trout all over the bay with the electric, and the boat remained very stable while we changed direction and flung flies at some very busy fish.
This boat has also had a very busy tournament schedule, with champion angler Steve Steer using the Tracker in his win in the St Helens round of the Australian Bream Tournament. It performed flawlessly in the windswept Tasmanian Trout Classic on Arthurs Lake in 30-knot winds and again was used by Steve Steer in the Derwent round of the ABT.
Steve Steer rates this boat highly, and so do I. I have been guiding in alloy boats of one description or another for ten years, and this is without doubt the best riding alloy boat I have been in. Ultimately all boats are a compromise, and good riding boats are often less than stable at rest. The Tracker V-16 however is the best mix of the two I have been in, and if you are after a boat that copes with rough water extremely well and still has very good stability, then a test drive of the Tracker V-16 is highly recommended.
Seaport Marine in Launceston will also have the larger Pro Guide V-17 in stock later this year, which is rated to an impressive 135hp.
|Max people:||5 people|
|Hull material:||5052 Marine Alloy|
|Total length on trailer:||6.45m|