IN THE last three issues of QFM I’ve outlined my reasons for opting for a 5.5m Gale Force centre console, plus the special fishing-friendly features I’ve built into it. The centre console rig is an entirely open boat, to assist in my flyfishing pursuits, but still suited to virtually any other form of angling. The deep vee hull with its big reverse chines really gets a grip on the water, even when moving along at idle speed, so we can stand up the front on the casting platform and have a go at fish in quite choppy conditions – a great bonus.
The Offshore is powered by a 90hp Evinrude E-Tec two-stroke outboard, which is a vast improvement on a standard two-stroke. It’s cutting edge, with features such as minimal oil usage, staggering economy, a three-year unconditional warranty, three-year service intervals, and no break-in period. A look at overall weight figures of 90hp four-stroke engines shows that the E-Tec, at 138kg, has a great weight advantage.
This outboard has been simply magnificent. I have never seen the engine take more than a second to start; as soon as you hear the starter motor engage the next thing is the sound of the engine firing. It’s as quick as that. I like to cruise at 4000rpm at 42km/h, although 3000rpm is still very sweet and sees us moving at around 32.5km/h. Top speed, if and when required, is a nifty 72km/h at 5200rpm.
Fuel economy when cruising at 4000rpm is excellent. When chasing tuna we usually launch at Wellington Point and head for the Moreton sand hills in the distance. On three recent excursions, with between four and five hours of running around after the elusive longtails, I topped up for less than $18. A cheap fishing trip? You tell me!
The economy is more noticeable in another way, too. Both my current 550 Offshore and my old 4.8 Gale Force have an 80-litre fuel tank. Both craft have taken me offshore fishing at Iluka during our New Year holidays, and after a morning’s fishing in the 4.8, with its carburetted 70 two-stroke on the transom, I had to head for the bowser before to the next trip. Not so with the 550 Offshore’s 90 E-Tec. We fished for two mornings running before I had to go to town for fuel.
Evinrude refers to the E-Tec’s engine note as a ‘signature sound’. While it’s not as quiet as a four-stroke at idle, it certainly is as quiet as a four-stroke when the engine is starting to work. At 4000rpm the engine is as quiet, or even quieter, than most four-strokes I’ve been involved with. At 4000rpm and moving at 42km/h the engine is so quiet it’s almost unbelievable; you can easily have a normal conversation without having to shout.
At 4500rpm and above, the E-Tec 90 is still quieter than a four-stroke. I was out reviewing a boat recently with a four-stroke on the transom, and I came ashore hoarse from shouting over the engine after a prolonged cruising stint with the engine at good speed. This has never been the case with the E-Tec.
I have been very surprised at just how little notice the Moreton Bay tuna take of the new boat. I’m sure the E-Tec’s quiet burble at idle, which is how we approach for a shot with the fly, has contributed to this. However, I believe the hull’s blue paint job below the water line must have a lot to do with the fact that we’re getting so close to the fish. So close, in fact, that I have actually removed my Minn Kota electric motor from the bow (until the bass start up for us) because my son Scotty – a left handed caster – kept fouling his fly line on the retracted motor whenever the action got red hot and he prepared to un-cork one of his line-burning casts from up on the casting platform.
We’ve had tuna actually swim under the boat while chasing baitfish – something that never happened when we fished from the other boat, which had an all-white hull.
So far we’ve had a far greater success rate on the Moreton Bay tuna with the new boat, and it will be interesting to see how the season progresses for us. May was a big month last year, that’s for sure.
We’ve even had great success on the mack tuna on the fly. Anyone who has chased mack tuna with long rod will acknowledge that these are tricky fish. They surface for seconds with a flourish and a great show of birds, and then they just fade away and then swim in circles before coming up for another quick slash. It’s necessary to second guess them in order to get close enough for a try. We have given up trying to work out where they will show next. Instead, we simply idle straight into the action – and in a lot of cases we’ve scored a hook up on a fish before they even realize we are there.
In all, I’m more than just happy with the performance of the new Gale Force and E-Tec – I’m ecstatic!
1) Denise Kampe with a 10.5kg longtail tuna taken from the Gale Force 550 Offshore in Moreton Bay.Reads: 2860