MOST of the boat tests you read are focused on shiny new models just out of the factory. As any boat owner knows, getting your craft to the stage where it starts to feel comfortable and fully functional usually takes a little longer.
In April last year I took delivery of a new Hooker 5.9m Fisherman, custom fitted to suit my guiding operation. Few manufacturers of fibreglass craft offer the option of having the interior layout fitted out to your particular specifications, but John Margetts of Hooker was able to build the specialist craft I required.
Based in Cairns, John and his staff have been building boats for commercial fishers for some years so they understand the concept of a hull being designed to undertake a specific task, be it a platform for catching live trout or line fishing for mackerel. Being too busy to inspect the boat during construction, I was very impressed with the result of my very basic layout drawings. The hull was spot-on!
A year later and some 250 days on the water since, the Hooker has certainly done the job it was designed to do and done it very well. The hull is comfortable, soft riding and just loves to get up and go in rough water. Clients regularly comment on the way it handles the choppy stuff.
The interior layout has proved very functional. Large casting platforms at bow and stern, along with an icebox top in front of the console, means that three anglers can cast lures in relative safety while I manipulate the outboard or electric motor from the console area.
The low console means less likelihood of interference with casts but provides enough bulk to allow fitting of electronics and a large lure storage cabinet. I’ve now fitted two large lure cabinets to the boat so I don’t have to carry the space-invading mega-sized tackle box that accompanies most guides.
With a couple of flyfishers aboard, the boat requires a minimum of fly line snag proofing as it has no exposed cleats or other appendages on the foredeck (the anchor rope cleat is under floor). A cast net thrown over the top of the outboard is all that’s needed to keep the stern deck free.
Fuel consumption from the 70hp two-stroke Yamaha works out at approximately a litre per nautical mile at 21kt, a very economical rate considering the boat is almost 6m long. A 70 nautical mile run north to the Skardon River loaded with fuel, drinking water, ice, camping gear and supplies for four days resulted in a consumption of 72 litres of fuel fully loaded, then 70 litres unloaded on the return journey. That’s a great indication of how minimally a load effects the Hooker’s performance.
The search for the ‘perfect’ boat is about as elusive as the quest for the ‘perfect’ woman! The Hooker is a bit wetter than my previous craft but I can live with that. The layout could benefit from a couple of minor changes but they provide the perfect excuse to build another one sometime!
So a year down the track, I’m very happy to spend most of my days in a Hooker boat.
Electric motors are virtually a necessity if you are lure- or fly-casting in mangrove areas. When used in conjunction with tide and wind, an electric gives you the added advantage of a stealthy and unobtrusive approach to exploring these wonderfully rich areas.
When fitting the Hooker 5.9 Fisherman with an electric motor, I wanted to keep things as simple as possible so I opted for a bow mounted remote-controlled saltwater unit that provided maximum thrust from a single 12V battery. The 55lb thrust, Minn Kota RT55/AP, looked to have the necessary pedigree.
Almost a year later, the RT55 has proved ideal for the job, in spite of the size of the boat and constant use in a saltwater environment. The motor will run all day on a single deep-cycle battery, provided the tide and wind are used carefully.
I usually control the motor from the normal outboard steering position, a place that keeps me out of the way of casting clients but in control of both means of propulsion. If a lure becomes snagged upcurrent, it’s a simple matter to run the Yamaha up to the offending branch if the drift is too much for proficient use of the electric.
The detachable bow mount allows easy removal of the electric when tripping offshore or fishing up the rivers with livebaits. I’ve bumped more than the occasional snag or rock but the carbon fibre shaft and plastic propeller have survived with only a minimum of damage.
The Hooker/Yamaha/Minn Kota combination has certainly worked out to my satisfaction!
1) One year down the track, the Hooker 5.9m Fisherman has definitely proven its worth.Reads: 1972