I was immediately excited when asked if I was interested in doing a boat test for Rob and Renee Hooke from Adventure Marine in Batemans Bay on a Stabi-Craft fitted out as a tournament bream/bass style boat.
I recently completed fitting out my own bream boat and I spent a couple of days on board other competition anglers’ boats as a non-boater in the first Clyde River ABT event two years back. I also spend some time fishing from several mates’ tournament boats so I had a reasonable base to compare the new Zealand-built Stabi Craft 389 Frontier test boat.
The current trend in tournaments is towards big boats, big budgets and even bigger horsepower of the kind of boat typified in the US bass scene. Sure, the oversized horsepower on such a boat can be the difference between winning and losing a competition but not many of us can afford such extravagant fishing platforms.
Enter the little Stabi, which is perfect for accessing narrow creeks and tight water between oyster racks – what bream fishing is really all about – yet still with the stability, seaworthiness, virtual unsinkability and soft-riding design that have made the larger Stabi-Craft so popular in their homeland and increasingly in Australia.
I met up with Rob at the Hanging Rock boat ramp just inside the entrance to the Clyde River. A stiff 25-knot nor’-easter was turning the bar into a nasty slop on a lowish tide – perfect conditions to see what this little Stabi was made of.
We donned the lifejackets (now compulsory on all NSW bar crossings) and then Rob applied the power. The boat hit the plane almost instantaneously, thanks to the 40hp Evinrude E-Tec sitting on the transom.
As we launched over the choppy bar waves at pace I instantly understood the affinity offshore boaties have with the larger Stabi-Craft.
If this little boat was anything to go by, they are well designed to take some punishment. The ride proved to be very smooth, with no jarring re-entry whatsoever, and notably dry.
The return trip across the bar was approached only marginally slower and the Stabi did it easily with no threat of digging the bowls into the following sea.
For the angler looking for a tournament boat that has to deal with rough conditions such as those on Sydney Harbour or on big, open impoundments when the weather turns foul, this rig would be well worth considering.
Back in the confines of the estuary on flat water, the boat hit the plane at 12mph and at 5600rpm the gauge on the neat little side console read 35mph at top speed. No hull slip was evident when cornering at higher speeds.
Another feature of the 389 Frontier series (and all Stabi-Craft boats) is stability at rest. Two anglers could lean against the gunwales with no fear of ending up in the drink. That’s always a comforting thought when washing hands or slipping the net under a big one and is a very comforting feature for a tournament boater who may have to accommodate a non-boater with poor sea legs.
Rob received a call on his mobile to assist a boater with engine troubles at the bridge ramp, so this gave me a good opportunity to check out the draft of the boat at the beach.
Due to the positive buoyancy provided by the extruded, welded alloy pontoons that run their full length, all Stabi-Craft boats sit quite high in the water. With the motor trimmed up I couldn’t see any traversing shallow small creeks posing a problem.
This model was a customised prototype that was built on the basic 389 Dinghy. The Stabi-Craft boys had added extra height with raised gunwales and a raised transom, then raised the front casting deck accordingly.
A neat fold-down, full-width bench seat increases the rear casting deck (a feature becoming more popular on tournament boats) and accommodates two anglers nicely.
The prototype was fitted with a plumbed bait tank but needed to have a larger lid on it to be used as a livewell to hold bream or bass.
Plenty of storage compartments have been added, with built-in tackle boxes giving the set up a professional look.
The MotorGuide bow-mount electric back in the Adventure Marine showroom had ample space to be attached to the bow and the lean-on pedestal seat was positioned nicely for comfortable fishing.
The only down side I can see with this set-up is the narrow nature of the front casting deck because of the extra gunwale width taken up by the pontoons.
Fishing two anglers up front while casting between oyster racks would not be possible with the seat in place and two would fish shoulder-to-shoulder with the seat removed.
However, in most fishing situations one angler is on the front deck and one down the back anyway, so it is not a big issue.
The fine entry of this boat is why it handles the sea so well and the great stability is a product of these pontoons, so the consumer would have to weigh up these pros and cons as with any other vessel.
Underfloor storage on the casting deck was ample for a boat of this size with heaps of room for lifejackets, anchors and other gear involved in a day’s fishing. And there was still enough room to house the electric motor’s battery.
Rear storage easily took care of the fuel tank and cranking battery with space to spare.
To top it all off, open pocket storage in the gunwales is available the full circumference of the front casting deck, ensuring nothing falls over the side.
The test model was painted in a teal colour which looked a treat – a unique colour to match a unique hull shape.
The side console worked well for such a small boat with plenty of leg room for the average adult. I am not a big fan of side consoles in small boats as a rule but this one did not intrude much on space and seemed to tie in nicely with the set-up.
All the necessary gauges were unobstructed and the depth sounder was comfortably positioned to operate while under way.
The test boat was not fitted out with rod storage holders because Rob believes that is a personal touch and that the location needs to be decided by the purchaser. I know where he is coming from there: I have had my boat for a year now and I still don’t know how I want my rods stored!
Browsing the www.stabicraft.com Kiwi website, I noticed they state rod lockers as an optional extra. It would be interesting to see how they incorporate it into this little package.
If you are in the market for a beaut little alloy tournament boat that will stand out from the pack and will take on the elements when the going gets rough, do yourself a favour and give Rob and Renee Hooke a call at Adventure Marine.
The Stabi Craft 389 Frontier is worth serious consideration.
For the angler looking for a bigger tournament boat, the Frontier series also comes in larger sizes so I am sure a larger custom boat could also be catered for.
|Approx towing weight||390kg (basic model)|
Internal beam 1.4m
|Max safe loading||4 adults|
|Overall towing length||5.3m|
Standard in test boat: 2 PFDs, anchor rope and chain, 2 oars, boat rego, raised gunwales, raised transom, raised decking, painted hull, plumbed live bait tank, upholstery, carpet and seats, 3 storage hatches with tackle boxes, hydraulic steering and side console, registered Dunbier CL4.2-10 trailer with swing-up jockey wheel, tie down strap, Evinrude E-Tec 40hp motor.
Package price as tested: $26727Reads: 1755