Project boat: tricking up a truck (Part 1)
  |  First Published: June 2003

CHOOSING a new boat can be difficult. You have to strive to get the motor, boat and trailer combination that best suits the majority of fishing that you do, while still fitting into a budget.

I enjoy a wide variety of fishing, from garfish to billfish. As well as the usual baitfishing and lure casting in the estuary and freshwater, I also regularly go gamefishing, sportsfishing and flyfishing. It was a tough ask to find a boat straight off the shelf that would suit my personal preferences, and it didn’t take me long to decide that I needed to find a hull and have it customised if I was going to satisfy the majority of my requirements.


When choosing the hull, I had several important factors in mind. First, it would have to be good value for money, as I had a budget and intended to stick to it. Second, the pounding that Moreton Bay and other waters can hand out in rough weather meant strength would be of utmost importance. At third, from being very seaworthy, my new boat would also need to be very stable at rest, which is extremely important when flyfishing and lure casting. Basically, I needed a boat that was big enough and strong enough to handle a lot of bay and offshore work yet small enough to be used in the estuaries and impoundments while still being manageable when on my own.

After weeks of looking around at marine dealers, boat shows and the local ramps I finally found the perfect hull to customise – the Stessl Heavy Duty Truck 4.65. The Truck was originally built as a big tinnie for commercial crabbers and net fishers, so I knew it would be built like the proverbial brick outhouse. With 3mm alloy bottom and sides it was engineered to handle the beating that can be handed out in unfavourable conditions. The 1.2-metre overall depth made it very seaworthy, and the 2.05-metre beam meant there was plenty of work room inside for a boat of this size. The track rails in the rear half of the hull add to the stability at rest as well as providing a much more comfortable ride.

One of the big selling features for me was that the boat was made by Stessl, a local company based on the Gold Coast. Dealing with a local manufacturer has many advantages. In the initial stages of planning the layout of the boat I was able to talk with Alf Stessl about the good and bad points of some of my ideas.

Nothing was too much trouble for the crew at Stessl; they were willing to make any adjustments to their standard designs that I wanted. Stessl is one of the most respected builders in the boating industry, and several friends of mine who have Stessls couldn’t be happier with their boats and the back-up service. It was also comforting to know that if I had a problem down the track they’d be there to help, and it wouldn’t be a major hassle getting the boat back to them for some adjustments. Stessl has two factories on the Gold Coast – one at Ernest, where they build the hulls, and the other at Molendinar, where they do all the fit-out and custom work.

The structural features of the Heavy Duty Truck make it one of the strongest boats of its size. It has 12 floor ribs at an average distance of 300mm apart as well as 10 side ribs. When you combine these features with 3mm plate sides and a 3mm pressed bottom (pressings 100mm apart), you have an extremely strong hull. There is both an inner and outer 6mm keel with a total height of 80mm. The bow is double welded (inside and out) and the gunwale is reinforced. The 3mm side decks are fully welded and not just cheaply tacked on, which plays a big role in the long-term durability of the hull. The rear transom brace is one piece and stretches from the port to starboard. It is 170mm high and 6mm thick in parts, which makes it superior to that of any other manufacturer.


The brand of motor was a very simple choice for me: it had to be a Yamaha! Having owned one before and having plenty of friends with Yammies, it wasn’t hard to work out that their reliability, performance and reputation was going to be hard to beat. The only decision was how many horsepower and whether to get a four-stroke or two-stroke.

The four-strokes are dearer than the two-strokes, but they also have many advantages. As I regularly chase tuna, especially on fly, quietness was a big consideration. You would barely know the four-stroke Yamahas were running when idling – a big advantage in most fishing situations.

The other four-stroke bonus is the fuel savings. With petrol prices going through the roof, and due to the fact that I often fish alone mid-week, I didn’t want to break the bank every time I went out. With an 80L under-floor fuel tank in the Truck, I knew long distances and big days on the water could be handled without the need for carrying extra fuel. This would be especially useful for extended trips around the Great Sandy Straits area.

I had initially decided on a 50hp but with only a few hundred dollars between the 50hp and the 60hp I would have been crazy not to go for the latter. Although there is a bit of weight difference, the larger motor would not have to be run as hard as the 50hp for the same performance. This would result in a longer motor life and there was always the extra grunt available if required.


There is no point having a great boat and motor and putting it on just any trailer that will carry it. A lot of people skimp on the trailer when they buy a boating package, and they usually regret it later down the track.

A lot of companies make trailers and just raise or lower the rollers until your boat sits on it. As the company’s name suggests, Special Trailers makes trailers to suit the specific hull design and use a combination of rollers and slides that will best support your boat. Some of the features that I was looking for in my trailer were totally submersible trailer lights, 13-inch wheels and tyres, click-up jockey wheel, spare tyre and overall strength. The guys at Special Trailers were able to provide me with exactly what I needed.


As I would be using my boat for a wide variety of fishing applications, including freshwater and estuary, I also wanted to put an electric motor on it. A bow mount was desirable and, as I’d had a Minn Kota RT412AP for the past seven years that has performed faultlessly, I decided on a Minn Kota Riptide RT55/AP/W to power my new boat.

This particular model has a foot control that allows hands-free positioning of the boat, which is particularly useful when casting lures or flies to snags or other structure. The autopilot feature allows you to set a course for a particular point and the compass in the motor head will adjust itself to keep you on the chosen path no matter how the wind swings the boat. This is great when trolling along a bank or other defined course. I use the autopilot feature on my current motor a lot when casting lures to bank-side structure. With the speed turned right down the boat will slowly travel along while you get a cast or two into each likely spot.

Steering the Minn Kota bow-mount is just a matter of putting pressure to the left or right of the foot-pad. The speed can also be adjusted on the foot pedal. A quick release plate means the electric can be easily taken off the boat when I’m doing offshore trips and won’t need it.

Next month I’ll discuss the layout of my new boat and why I chose to set things out the way I did. There are quite a few fishing-friendly features added in to make a day on the water that much more enjoyable.

Catch you then!

1) The Stessl Truck 4.65m hull is made extra strong with an increased number of ribs. The floor gussets are then added at each rib to support the floor.

2) The extra pressings in the bottom of the hull make it much stronger than other hulls.

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