Chasing a mass of churning fish and screeching seagulls across the open ocean or up an estuary, throwing lures or flies at the chaotic melee, is one of the best things in life.
After an instantaneous hook-up, seeing thin line rooster-tailing across the water at Mach 2 is mind-blowing. Pelagics like salmon, tailor, kingfish and tuna give the sport fisher some adrenalin-pumping action when these fish gather in large numbers.
When a fish is pinned, anglers need to work in all directions and an open boat allows a 360° fight without having to cope with cuddies, rocket launchers, biminis and all sorts of other obstructions.
Open fishing boats attract every fisho’s eye at boat shows, especially if they are all tricked up with a feast of electronics and sport rods sticking out like porcupine quills. This former niche market has now blossomed with many anglers opting for an open platform that can hunt down pelagic fish in bays, estuaries and on the close, open ocean.
Heaps of room is needed on such a boat as casts are fast and furious while the school is breaking. Stability is also a factor as anglers dash from side to side to cast and fight their quarry.
Seaworthiness to overcome the persistent, east coast chop in open water is a vital consideration – no one likes that horrible slam that can loosen teeth and unhinge vertebrae. Boat builders soon realised there is a strong market for this type of boat and have come up with a range of sizes and interior designs to try to satisfy the sports fisho.
One of the most attractive vessels for this type of work is the Blue Fin Barracuda 4.5 and I was eager for a spin up the Parramatta River to see how this side-console sports fisher would perform. Clamped to the full engine pod was a 50hp two-stroke Yamaha spinning a 12” prop.
Although the Blue Fin Barracuda is rated to 60hp, the 50 Yammy ‘oiler’ seemed perfectly matched to the hull and I would suggest a bigger engine only if you like getting to places quickly or carry heavy payloads.
Kevin and Glen from Independent Outboard Services were my companions for the morning so we would have a better idea how the boat would cope with three hefty Alpha males aboard.
Three-millimetre bottom and 3mm sides sure give the boat strength and density and this was most noticeable as we thrashed through the chop which is so prevalent in the Harbour. There was no slam and little bow lift from this sleek tournament machine as we took waves head on.
The side console leaves plenty of deck space for action and with a seat up forward and another for the driver, the cockpit had the feel of a 5.2-metre vessel.
Visibility was excellent through the small wrap-around screen and, seated or standing, I had a commanding view of what was happening around me. I usually run through features on a boat before I comment on how she performs. This month, just for something different, I’ll let you know my thoughts before we get down to the nitty gritty of what’s included.
From a standing start when applying full throttle there was minimum bow lift. This surprised me a little because most of the weight is towards the stern. With a passenger sitting on the forward casting platform, lift is non-existent.
Large welded chine lips sheet spray downwards and we didn’t encounter any water in the boat, even with the wind abeam. Hard power turns produced just a little lean and the boat stuck to the water like glue, with no e\evidence of slip.
Ventilation (the prop sucking in air) can be a problem if the motor is set too high or low but Independent Outboards had done a great job putting this rig together. With the three of us leaning over one side, the boat did dip but water was still around 40cm to 50cm from the gunwales.
When stationary, even with people moving around the boat, standing was not a problem. The sharp deadrise at the bow flattens out to just a few degrees at the stern so the compromise is a slight lack of performance in bouncy water but stability at rest comes to the fore.
In full reverse, the motor pan was well above water level and the pod platforms pushed water away from the stern.
At 5200rpm the boat slid across the water at a tad under 50kmh (31mph) according to Yamaha’s digital instrumentation. There was no sign of chine-walking at speed and I felt in control at all times.
So what you get for your buck?
Up forward is a small sprit with incorporated bow roller. A plastic, self-draining well will hold a small anchor and around 100 metres of warp. Low-set, solid, split bow rails can be used to tie off at a wharf and there is a big, strong cross bollard behind the anchor well to secure the ground gear.
With 960mm x 1620mm of room, the forward casting platform has oodles of space with no toe-stubbing hardware on the floor. Two recessed hatches in the platform are for dry storage and there is one seat position hole.
The deck is covered in marine carpet and there was no springiness underfoot.
Yamaha does a great job with its engine management system with two digital readouts which supply speed, revs, trim, fuel, engine hours, volts, trip log, time, low oil and overheat warnings. Also included in the Independent package is the Humminbird Piranha Max 15 sounder, which never stopped telling me how much water was underneath my bum.
Electrics are controlled by a waterproof, fused, four-gang switch panel and it pleased me to see that navigation lights, including a take-down all-round white light, come in the package.
Steering, due to the short cable run, was very light and the wheel needed only about three-quarters of a turn to go to full lock.
We ended up sitting side by side, with young Glen parking on the wide coaming. However, there are four seat positions with recessed spigots around the floor. Small quarter rear grab rails, plus transom rails, are included as are two rear cleats and two plastic rod holders.
Quarter-length raised side pockets are for fishing junk and don’t impede on the tootsies when fishing tight up against the side. The fuel filler and single breather are on the port side with the filler cap terminating flush on the coaming.
The chequerplate pod acts as boarding platforms and there is a raised plate welded on the transom below the waterline for transducers, bait pumps, paddle wheels and the like.
Forward of the transom there is a water-separating fuel filter and primer bulb. The filter is a must for below-deck fuel where condensation may build up over time.
A bilge pump comes as standard and there’s plenty of room to port near the stern for another battery.
We slid the boat back on the Dunbier trailer at the Wharf Road ramp in West Ryde and tied her down ready for the journey back home.
Yes, I was impressed with the layout and how she performed. Having a plate bottom and 3mm sides makes a seaworthy boat that will take the hard knocks sport fishing dishes out around oyster leases, jetties, bridges, and heavy timber.
Blue Fin boats all have a great finish with special attention to detail and the Barracuda was no exception. The Yamaha two-stroke was nearly as quiet as a four-stroke and had plenty of power when needed.
It’s a nice rig and well worth a look if sports fishing is your cup of tea.
|Weight (hull only)||375kg|
|Transom height||long shaft|
Full pod; 60-litre underfloor tank; back & front rails; bow sprit & roller; front casting platform; 2 front hatches; side pockets; 4 seat positions; 2 upholstered pedestal seats; nav lights; 2 rear cleats; 2 rod holders; bilge pump; Water-separating fuel filter; Humminbird Piranha Max 15 sounder; 27meg two-way radio; underfloor flotation; paint & decals.
Bimini top; twin battery set-up; extra seats; esky with padded lid; rod storage; transom ladder.
Price as tested including a Dunbier Galpak trailer with white 13” wheels, fold-away jockey wheel, spare wheel, all boat and trailer regos, safety gear for four people and on-water instruction - $21,500.
Boat supplied by Independent Outboard Service, 59 Holbeche Road, Arndell Park (Blacktown), NSW 2148. Ph 02 9672 1922; fax 02 9672 1076Reads: 1246