Polycraft’s 4.1 Metre Challenger adds a new choice for those considering an estuary and impoundment sportfishing platform
SECTION: boat tests
DURING the Forster BREAM tournament earlier this year I pre-fished with Bundaberg fishing guide Jason Medcalf aboard his Polycraft 4.1 Challenger.
On seeing the boat I had some reservations which vanished after a day aboard fishing. The Challenger handled well, was easy and comfortable to fish from and travel in and, when I heard the price, my interest picked up even more.
After Day 2 of the event was cancelled, I took up Jason’s offer to fish again, this time in 40-knot winds. We fished in that rotten weather and then drove home flat-stick into a decent chop and remained mostly dry and I decided to buy one!
I have just completed purchasing and fitting out a tiller-steered Challenger and couldn’t be happier.
The boats are made in the Polycraft factory in Bundaberg. Brad, Steve and the Polycraft team are most efficient and customer-focused and are fast securing dealers all over NSW. The Polycraft website at http://www.polycraft.com.au has plenty of information. I picked up my boat from Enterprise Marine at Narrabeen, where Chris and staff did a great job of setting everything up for me so when I made the trek into the city to pick it up, everything was ready to go. They supplied and fitted a 30hp Yamaha DMHL two-stroke.
I primarily purchased the boat to fish in the ABT tournaments and the 4.1 Challenger fitted the criteria well. It is big enough to comfortably fit two anglers but not too large to make tasks like fishing oyster racks and other confined areas a drama. The boats are very stable, tough (great around racks) and come with a casting platform above two 90-litre storage wells.
To say these boats are easy to work on is an understatement. As most of my mates will testify, I don’t fix things very well but the poly material meant standard tools did most jobs so even I was able to carry out some of the customising.
I fitted a Rule 3000 litre/hour (800gph) pump on the transom at water level, ran its hose up the side between the boat skins and through to the front left storage well to a PVC spray bar – instant 90-litre livewell! The well has had 10 bream swimming around happily for nine hours during testing. I drain this well through a PVC pipe under the floor through to the transom middle well, where water is removed by the boat’s float-switched bilge pump.
The lids to the front storage wells are quite large so I cut them in half, screwed the front halves down and then hinged the other halves. This made two lids that can be lifted easily and do not move around too much.
I extended the front casting platform 600mm to make room for my electric motor battery and other storage. The ribbing around the cockpit made for ideal support for the 20mm ply I used to create a hinged ‘piano lid’ storage box for a wonderfully large casting platform. I have rod holders allowing two rods to be stored along each side.
I chose a MotorGuide 54lb bow-mounted freshwater electric motor. The price made it hard to go past and with careful maintenance after saltwater use I have not had any hassles. I had little difficulty bolting the bracket to the bow, although the installation of an inspection hatch certainly made things easier. I ran the power cable between the bow storage wells to the battery via plug-in style connectors.
I have a further battery in the starboard transom well immediately below my driving position. This battery operates all the other electrics, such as navigation lights, bilge pumps and my Lowrance X85, which sits immediately below my hand as I operate the tiller. A six-gang switch panel is directly behind where I sit.
I used Polycraft’s heavy-duty marine carpet and the red goes well with the blue hull. Selley’s Quik Grip glued the carpet down and it hasn’t looked like moving.
Fishing from the boat has been a dream. There is room front and back for two anglers. All those who have fished with me have loved the room to move. The bow gunwale lip is about 100mm above the casting deck, meaning there is little chance of knocking anything overboard. The boat’s sides are reasonably high and because it is so stable, I have had little trouble reaching over to lift fish aboard or wash my hands. All in all, the boat suits its purpose perfectly.
I have been impressed with the motor’s performance. It is quiet at idle and at full speed the noise has not been a problem. The hull is quiet at all speeds because of the plastic material, hull shape and the two-skin construction.
The 30hp is an ideal motor for this boat if all your fishing is to be done with only one or two people. With two aboard and a full livewell, the boat starts to plane around quarter-throttle and at half-throttle to full it jumps out of the hole and planes easily. Dropping back to around quarter-throttle generally keeps the boat on the plane. The only time I have had difficulty planing is with four people and a full livewell. With some extra cash flow I would probably go up to a 40hp, which would well and truly push this boat along. The Challenger has room for 25-litre fuel tank either side of the transom but I am currently running a 22-litre tank and a 10-litre jerrycan.The Challenger’s handling is what initially attracted me. The shape of the hull, combined with the deep chines, make it exceptionally stable. To say these boats steer well is an understatement: Throughout testing there has been no evidence of hull slip while cornering and ‘cornering like it’s on rails’ sums it up perfectly.
The tiller steering means you have to work a bit harder than with the console and steering wheel and but one of these days I might pursue that option. Currently I love all the fishing room. In a chop the boat really comes into its own. The ride is as soft and dry as any on the market and I have yet to have water enter the boat over the transom.
The stability is a real plus. Bow and side rails make travelling in the boat safe and with the way the hull hugs corners at speed, the grab rails are frequently used in my boat. The construction means there is no need to worry about issues such as electrolysis or osmosis and the hulls have impact resistance higher than aluminium or fibreglass. Test boats are belted with sledgehammers in the factory so the manufacturers are confident of their strength.
Polycraft offers a four-year warranty and I don’t know how many other hulls on the market do this. and it’s amazing how easily these boats can be repaired. What could be a tough leak to patch in aluminium or fibreglass boats can be fixed anywhere with a lighter and some readily available plastic.
These boats are the focus of a lot of attention lately, and for good reason. They are well-priced, safe, adaptable and great quality, particularly for estuary and impoundment fishing. I am currently towing the boat with a four- cylinder 1.6-litre 4WD station wagon but I think something slightly bigger would be ideal.
If you are in the market for this style of boat, keep your mind open and have a test drive one of the new Polycraft 4.1 metre Challengers.
POLYCRAFT 4.1 CHALLENGER
Topside thickness 10mm
Weight (hull only)265 kg
ConstructionMarine grade, UV stabilised Polyethylene
Standard features: Include, bow rail, cleat, winch point, anchor well, storage/casting platform, drain bungs, rod holders (2), side hand rails, aluminium transom plate and non-skid floor.
Options: Include, canopies, carpet, seats, live bait tank and trailer.
Trailer: Unbraked RM 4.10 Challenger trailer, fully galvanised, 180kg mass, Teflon-lined steel centre and extra-long side skids.
Towing weight: 500kg with boat and trailer, another 100 kg for electric motor and batteries.
Length of rig5.85m
Cost as tested
54 Lb MotorGuide Freshwater$850
* Bilge pumps, hose, stainless screws, marine ply etc