IT’S NICE to see a few more centre consoles getting around the place these days. For a while it was bow rider after bow rider, and while they’re versatile and suit a lot of people they don’t quite cut it when it comes to a good workable fishing boat.
At 5m long, the Bluefin Ranger is a good size and you’d be surprised at the locations such a boat will take you. I had a 4.5m followed by a 5m centre console for around 10 years, and there weren’t too many places I didn’t go in them than I now go to in my 6.4m centre cab. If I didn’t have my family’s needs to consider, I’d be back in a 5m centre console in a flash!
With minimal internal structures and features, centre consoles are a reasonably lightweight, which has a number of benefits. The tow vehicle is the first advantage – there’s no need for a big six-cylinder and a healthy fuel card to get from A to B, and the same goes for powering up the boat. Engines from 60hp to 90hp will suit the 5.0m Ranger. These are economical to run and help keep the price down on the overall package.
Until you have a bigger heavier boat you don’t appreciate the beauty of being able to lift the drawbar or swing the trailer around to put it in place or slip it under cover. It’s a no-fuss exercise that you can do on your own.
Outside of the many little benefits of a centre console, you just can’t beat that all-round fishing room. With a bit of thought and a clever layout you can maintain that all-round room and have more than enough storage to keep your deck uncluttered.
The designers of the Bluefin Ranger have cleverly placed the centre console a little forward of centre. There is not much weight in the console itself, but put one person behind the wheel and another either side and all of a sudden there’s another 250kg. If you add up all this weight, plus the added gear that goes into a boat, you can end up with too much weight in the back half of the boat. This leads to smaller engines struggling to get the boat on the plane, and in a choppy sea while running at slower speeds the hull can porpoise, delivering a real pig of a ride.
The full length hull features the extended transom, or full-width pod, which helps with the additional buoyancy and support for the engine, further overcoming any tendency of the hull to be bow high.
The cables run out of here neat and tidy, allowing for ease of use on the duck board getting in and out of the boat.
The weight forward is a bonus in this case and frees up plenty of room behind this position for an esky come seat box with room still to move about.
The console still isn’t that far forward that you can’t put another box of one sort or another right in front of the centre console. It still doesn’t get in the way of anything, you have more storage with the benefit of a seat while travelling or sitting down with a line out.
It comes in handy too when fighting a big fish. The angler can sit down on this seat, rod pointed out front clear of any obstruction. The driver is at the wheel with a clear view of where the line and the angler are and then slowly track down on that fish. It works a treat - you’ve just got to find those big fish!
One of the biggest hang ups people have with centre consoles is that when it’s rough the wind blows back spray and you are going to get wet. All I can say is, buy a raincoat, yellow looks good in pictures. Seriously though, there is not a lot you can do about that and it doesn’t happen all the time or in every direction.
As far as the ride on the Ranger goes it wasn’t a rough day though we did have a play in some rough water around the Jumpinpin Bar. Stability was good in the wishy washy conditions and while there was some short step waves there wasn’t enough wind to blow any spray back onto us.
Running with a few of the waves we could keep the bow up and revs down using the trim on the engine so we didn’t push excessive water nor did I feel any tendency of the hull to want to broach.
At rest the stability was just as good and with three adults on board you could pretty well walk where ever you wanted to around the boat without throwing the others off balance, and that’s a big plus when it comes to fishing.
One of Evinrude’s new 75hp E - Tec outboard’s dressed the transom of the Ranger. These new fuel injected two stroke outboard’s offer better fuel economy, lower emissions and a lower noise level than many of the standard two stroke engines.
It’s probably the way to go on this particular boat as it offers some of the benefits associated with four stroke outboard’s but doesn’t carry the added cost and weight factor of the four stroke.
The engine certainly had no problems getting this girl underway and had more than enough speed. I did note that it wasn’t overly noisy nor was it fumy, both of which are advantageous.
There’s a 60 litre underfloor fuel tank which is fine for most day trips but I think even with the fuel savings of the E- Tec engine I’d look at carry a few smaller tanks or a larger optional underfloor tank.
There’s not a lot you can say about the layout of a centre console other than it should be neat and tidy and provide some storage both dry and general as standard.
Here we see room in the centre console at deck level and in the centre shelf along with a little room in the top section of the console.
Half length side pockets are provided with a little more room on the storage shelves along the transom depending on what engine you end up fitting to the boat. These are raised off the deck and you’d be surprised at the things that you can slip in these low areas.
Gaffs are perfect for fitting in here as are those shallow single tray tackle boxes. If you are worried about them slipping about try fixing a few little strips of velcro on the bottom side.
The rear seat box has a good deal of room and usually houses all the life jackets and those lovely yellow raincoats, although there are many more ways to utilise this space.
As much as it’s great to have as much open space as possible, the Summer sun can really pelt down and it is nice to have some shade. The fold down and removable bimini top on this one had a couple of stainless steel wire straps as the front and rear brace from the canopy down to the side rails. The same straps attached it down to the top of the windscreen on the centre console.
When tight the wires made the canopy exceptionally sturdy which impressed me as I’m well aware how wobbly some of these can be while motoring in the boat and while towing it behind the car. It’s the first I’ve seen like this and worthy of mention.
The boat is painted inside and outside down to the water line with carpet inside and a checker plate finish on the top side of the full width pod.
Overall the 5.0m Bluefin Ranger is a smart and well presented package. It has loads of room , handles well and isn’t going to bust the bank.
BMT package price as tested: $22,500 (includes rego and safety gear). Test boat supplied by Logan River Marine (ph: (07) 3287 4888, web: www.loganrivermarine.com).
Make/model - Bluefin 5.0m Ranger Centre Console
Length - 5.0m
Beam - 2.15m
Weight - 400kg (hull only)
Construction - pressed alloy
Bottom - 3mm
Sides - 2mm
Fuel - 60L underfloor
Max hp - 90
Flotation - underfloor
1) Bluefin’s new 5m centre console is ideal for working the bays and estuaries, as well as for some offshore work.
2) Evinrude’s new 75hp E-Tec engine is right on the ball for performance, power and economy.
3) Internal storage is always limited in a centre console. Here we see rear shelves with storage above and below and all that clear fishing room to move about.
4) With the centre console a little forward of centre you have ample room down the aft end of the boat while maintaining walking room down the sides of the console, and there’s still have more than enough room in the bow area.
5) Not a big bimini top, but enough shade to do the job – and you can’t even see those stainless straps front and rear.
6) There’s not much to a centre console and there doesn’t need to be.