Smaller tinnies from 4.5-5m are very popular with anglers for lots of good reasons.
Boats of this size are perfect for many fishing situations, small enough to go into most home garages and can be towed with a big four or six cylinder family sedan – the Savage SL 480 is a perfect example.
This runabout is rated for 5 passengers, will fish three or four with ease and is powered by a Mariner 75hp 2-stroke that is capable of a very nice turn of speed.
But that’s only a small part of the Savage 480 Ranger story. These Australian craft are extremely well finished and manufactured.
Savage take considerable pride in their strong hulls, and manufacturing processes that are designed to enhance a hull’s rigidity with full gusset frames, under floor longitudinal and cross bracing plus continuous seam welding throughout.
Paint jobs are extra strong (automotive standard) with two part polyurethane paint used extensively.
And unlike some manufacturers of aluminium craft Savage aren’t afraid to acknowledge that moulded fibreglass decks and cabins win hands down when it comes to looks.
The buyer gets the best of both worlds as the tough alloy hull won’t require the same amount of care around ramps that glass might, yet the moulded upper section combines function and contemporary styling.
A look at the Ranger reveals that Savage don’t skimp on features either.
It starts at the bow where a prominent bow sprit ensures that the anchor won’t scratch the paint. Tending the anchor involves lifting both the windscreen centre plus a hinged section of fore deck to port, so the deck hand can easily get at the pick.
The pick is stored in a good-sized anchor locker with a lid. It’s a very neat set up indeed. Wide and very solid stainless steel bow rails add to the over all classy finish of the 480 Ranger with its SL (Super Lift) hull.
The passenger and driver sit on solid pedestal bucket seats – each tastefully finished in cream with blue piping – with forward storage areas located ahead of each seat.
Foot rests are standard and serve a dual purpose as small but effective bulkheads for forward storage bins.
I found the Ranger’s windscreen offered plenty of protection from slipstream, with visibility over the screen quite good.
The moulded dash areas offered a side storage space beside the first mate, with Navman radio and 4430 Fish Finder on the mate’s side as well.
The skipper can survey a smooth moulded binnacle neatly set up with engine and other gauges and switches.
The wheel is central, with everything all nice and handy, including the forward controls mounted in a recess on the side, just by the skipper’s arm.
The placement of the Navman fish finder towards the passenger seemed a bit strange but it was still visible from the skipper’s seat.
The Ranger’s carpeted cockpit offered quite a lot of useful fishing room, especially considering that the rear full width two part bench seat could be folded down and out of the way to provide even more work space.
I could see four anglers fishing here without too much trouble but this rig is rated for up to five adults.
The Savage’s side pockets are more than storage places: these are actually long enough to take rods. You could store four or five outfits aboard the craft without much trouble.
Gunwale height was up round the thigh and given that the transom is of equal height I’d see no problems in taking the SL 480 Ranger offshore in the right conditions, such is the craft’s ability.
A Bermuda bait station, stern rails, a boarding ladder, non-skid swim platform, off floor battery shelf and aft cleats and a transducer bracket are all standard features on the 480 Ranger.
A bit of time at the wheel of the Ranger impressed me with the craft’s performance.
The carburetted 75hp Mariner 2-stroke started first turn of the key and even though the engine was quite new and running on double oil mix I didn’t see any exhaust smoke.
The engine certainly wasn’t noisy, either. It snicked into gear without any jarring or bumping and a little throttle saw us planing along at 14.2km/h, the tacho recording just 2,700rpm.
3,000rpm gave the rig a speed of 18.4km/h, 4,000rpm a speed of 38.5km/h and a snappy burst to 4,500rpm recorded 43.6km/h.
As the engine hadn’t being run in I saw no need to push it hard.
I liked the easy cruising at 4,000rpm for 38.5km/h with the engine’s note not at all intrusive.
And yet, even while quite new, the Mariner certainly had plenty of punch. A jab with the throttle gave instant response, even at 4,000rpm.
The Savage’s ride was exceptionally good. Nothing phased the craft while a run-out through some rougher stuff confirmed what I had expected: the 480 could easily double as an offshore craft in the hands of an experienced skipper.
The SL (Super Lift) designated hull has a 19 Vee and with it’s quite fine entry there was no bash or bang when we encountered waves or chop.
I was surprised at the lack of noise from the Ranger’s hull. Most alloy rigs do produce a bit but the Savage design plus under floor foam certainly limited noise. And it’s soft riding as well, another big plus.
Stability at rest was also a strong point. This hull sports strong strakes (plus reversed chines) to grip the water and Savage install their fuel tanks longitudinally to maximise the stabilising effect of the fuel load.
Overall, I see the SL 480 Ranger as being ideally suited to a range of different fishing applications. Impoundments, bay, estuary or even offshore work: this craft is capable and sea worthy.
Versatility is a strong point, that’s for sure. And the best part is that the standard of finish and performance does not come at a premium.
At around the $26,275 mark with trailer, engine, fish finder, radio, bimini (and sock) plus registrations and all safety gear, this craft is great value for money. A look at other similarly equipped craft on the market will confirm this assessment.
All Savage craft come under the Mercury Marine banner these days and carry a 3-year limited warranty.
Length - 4.8m
Beam - 2.1m
Freeboard - 600mm
Weight - 380kg
Fuel - 60L
Rated for - 5 people
Engines - 60-75hp
Price - $26,275