It’s been more than a fad. Tournament boats that are stable and feature large casting areas and open deck space have been around for a while now and sales are still high. Considering their ability to sneak around oyster racks, sidle in close to jetties and tiptoe up to bridge pylons in search of fish on artificials, it’s no surprise that anglers continue to invest in these boats.
There is a flourishing fishing circuit around Oz where anglers meet to see who can catch the biggest bream on lures. Some of these guys win significant cash prizes for their efforts. Tournament-style boats are featured prominently in these events and if you’re in the market for a casting platform, check out the circus next time it comes to a town near you. Have a look at the myriad of craft and how they’re set up.
Bermuda boats, a division of the Mercury Marine Group, have a line-up of tournament boats and I had the pleasure of stepping into one on a recent trip to Melbourne. The boat was the 450 Ventura Tournament side console. Phill Jones from VFM and I met Andrew McLean, National Sales Manager of Bermuda Boats, at the St Kilda Marina for the evaluation.
It was a beautiful day with no wind and a temperature of twenty degrees. Andrew pushed the boat off the Dunbier trailer and I kicked the Mercury 50hp four-stroke in the guts. Picking Andrew up from the jetty, I guided the Bermuda through all the expensive, fantastic plastics with their huge cockpits and double fly bridges moored on the finger wharves. When I hit the open water I pushed the throttle down; the motor purred and the hull hissed on the dead flat water. My first thoughts were that the motor was too heavy for the boat as it was down at the rear, however, moving the pedestal seat to the front and plonking big Phill there put the boat back on an even keel.
In front is the standard bowsprit, bow roller and small split bow rails. An open Roto moulded polyethylene anchor well will hold around 50-80m of warp plus a sand pick and won’t scratch painted metal. A single cross bollard fastens the ground gear. Navigation lights are supplied as standard, as is a removable all-round rear white light on the starboard rear quarter. Nice wide coamings can take extra rod holders or be used as a place to sit if the two standard issue pedestal seats are occupied. The helm seat can be adjusted up and down as well as forward and back; seated vision was good over the little pygmy screen.
Standard analogue gauges are in front of the helmsman but there is still room for sounders and/or a GPS. A rubber covered switch panel looks after the electrics and I found the throttle quadrant at a nice level to operate comfortably. Over the top of the screen lies a rock solid grab rail and more rod storage can be incorporated in front of the side console. Two rear-mooring cleats and two transom handles come standard with the package, as do two rear-mounted rod holders.
Under the rear-casting platform are three hatches with recessed catches. One is for a standard 25L, removable fuel tank; one is for bilge pump and the other houses the single battery. Half-length pockets under the gunwale are big enough to hold life jackets and tackle boxes, but are not quite long enough for spinning rod storage. Two small rear grab rails complete the deck hardware. A small starboard side swim platform with a side grab rail is for access into the boat and the motor is mounted onto the transom with no well.
The front casting platform was 1603mm x 603mm, while the rear platform measured 1806mm x 503mm. Coaming height came in at a low 58cm which meant you had to be a bit careful when moving around. The cockpit space was 1902mm. Under floor flotation was polyurethane foam pumped in under pressure and the hull was drained by two large bungs. There is storage under the front platform for equipment such as extra anchors but be careful as it can get wet down there.
As I said earlier, it was like an ironing board out on Port Phillip Bay and the boat sped across the water doing 35mph at wide open throttle. The tachometer showed 5900rpm that meant the 13” propeller was well suited to the rig and didn’t let the engine over-rev. Showing a very economical 4000rpm, the Bermuda Ventura Tournament pushed along at 23mph with three hefty blokes aboard. While chopping up the water and crashing over the wake, the hull showed a touch of hardness, but I was impressed at how tightly you could corner under power. On the lean test, the boat showed little heel and its stability was evident – our movement around the boat caused very little rocking. In hard reverse, some water came over the shallow transom.
Although the 450 Ventura Tournament is rated to take up to 60hp, this would really make the hull hang low in the rear. I found the quiet running 50hp EFI black powerplant perfect for the job. Sitting up front with a rod in the hand, the foot pedal of a bow-mounted electric motor working speed and direction casting soft plastics or hard-bodied lures at structure would be a great way to pass the time in this boat. On those hot summer days, the optional bimini (which this boat had) can be folded down out the way or taken off completely.
After completing the test we ambled back to the marina. The Dunbier trailer was reversed down the ramp and Andrew skilfully guided the boat onto the Teflon skids.
As a BMT (boat, motor and trailer) package, the 450 Tournament has a drive away price that won’t burn a hole in the pocket and is well worth investigating if you are in the market for this style of platform.
The Bermuda 450 Ventura Tournament as tested with Dunbier Loader Series trailer with 13” wheels, Teflon skids, spare wheel, tie-downs, all registrations and safety pack for 4 people is $21,785.
Boat supplied by BL Marine 612-614 Plenty Road, Preston Victoria 3072. For further information phone (03) 9478 1420, fax (03) 9470 4638, or check out their website at www.blmarine.com.au.
Length - 4.5m
Freeboard depth - 60mm
Depth keel to gunwale - 1000mm
Beam - 2.02m
Max HP - 60HP
Max weight on transom - 115kg
Bottom thickness - 3mm
Topside thickness - 2mm
Hull weight - 270kg
Length on trailer - 5.6m
Height on trailer - 1.95m
Standard Inclusions -automotive paint, two bungs, transducer bracket, two rod holders, two pedestal seats, nav lights, bilge pump, cross bollard, carpeting, marlin board, two stern handles, two rear cleats.
Options -Torno cover, bimini, additional seat base, Navman sounder, GPS, radio.Reads: 1124