WHEN a fishing guide selects a new boat, it’s well worth checking out what they finally settle on. These guys are on the water daily and place far greater demands on their rigs than the average recreational angler.
When Dave Donald, of Dave Donald Sportfishing in Weipa, told me he was in the market for a new boat, I was very interested. Dave has been a prominent guide and writer for many years and has fished all around the Queensland coast. He told me he was looking for a boat that would handle long distances, over often choppy water, while still keeping clients comfortable. For this reason, his choice of a Hooker Dory was no surprise.
Hooker boats are made by John Margetts in Cairns and have proven extremely popular with professional fishermen, who put extreme demands on their equipment. ‘Flog them to death’ is probably a better explanation! You can be sure that any boat that can survive that sort of pounding will certainly handle recreational use.
Since starting production over four years ago, John has gradually moved into the recreational market, more through demand than design, and this market now makes up about 75% of his orders. Besides the fantastic ride, the other big selling point for Hooker boats is they come out of the factory capable of passing 2C Survey. This means that should you manage to fill it with water or turn turtle, the Hooker will keep you afloat until help arrives. Dave's purpose-built Fisherman is surveyed in 2C for six persons.
The fully hand-laid hull has woven rovings and Klegecell foam in the floors and transom, which provides built-in floatation, and anglers don't have to worry about rot either, as no timber is used in construction.
The layout of Dave's 5.9 Fisherman is pure function, with forward and rear casting platforms and a centre console with a seat in front which triples as an esky and a central casting platform. The layout comfortably allows three anglers to flick lures without having to dodge nasty little projectiles attempting to become the latest fashion in body piercing.
The forward top deck has a large self-draining anchor well with a hinged lid, and the cross bollard is inside the well to reduce the number of protrusions on the top deck, as Dave's boat is designed to cater for fly fishos. He is going to fit a jam cleat on the starboard side of the bow roller for anchoring, as this will not get caught up on fly lines. The standard Fisherman comes with a cross bollard on the foredeck. Keep in mind that Dave's boat is customised, and the standard Fisherman also has a larger console and shorter casting platforms.
The forward casting platform is a step down from the top deck, but both can be used for casting. I found I alternated between the two, depending on the need for elevation and the state of the sea. When it was calm I preferred to be up on the top deck, but when it was a bit rocky-rolly I liked the added security of the larger and lower casting platform.
The platform has three compartments – the rear two with flush-mounted hinged lids, which reveal very large storage compartments, and a smaller front storage compartment, which has a slightly raised, moulded hatch. Dave is considering replacing the raised hatch with a flush-mounted one to maintain a single flat surface, which would be more user friendly.
The rear edge of the platform has an alloy strip for added protection, which I really like, but Dave is looking at replacing with a rubber strip to reduce the wear on rods when they are left leaning against it (punters aren't as careful with other people’s gear).
I was impressed with the way the inside of the gunwale is cut away on both casting platforms, and the way the carpeted floor is carried back out to the hull. This creates a great storage shelf for the likes of high-use items such as needle-nose pliers and leader, which can be stowed out of the way but within easy reach.
The front mounted Minn Kota Rip Tide electric thruster is designed for saltwater use, with stainless steel components and special anti-corrosive paint. Dave is absolutely thrilled at how well it pulls the Hooker around and the simplicity of operation with the foot control, which leaves his hands free to keep up with client demands.
The starboard side has a five-slot fly rod holder. The mounts, by necessity, are too far apart for flick sticks, but these can be stored by placing the butts on the top of the forward casting platform and using the front bracket to hold them in position. Dave is fitting more under-gunwale rod holders on the port side to store bait casters. There is also a six-shot rocket launcher on the back of the bait board for rod storage.
The centre seat/esky is fully insulated and has a hinged lid that opens to the front. Dave has a padded vinyl seat on order, which will velcro onto the top for easy removal when the seat is used for casting.
Dave, local Fishtalk identity Lance ‘Jonah’ Jarrett and I spent a fantastic day on the water chasing all things piscatorial, and Lance and I played tag team between the front and centre casting platforms. The front position was the premier location, but the centre seat was a very good second. The seat will comfortably hold three, and four at a pinch. When the going is smooth it’s the ideal place for passengers, and when it’s rough passengers can choose between standing either side of the console or sitting on the rear casting platform. Two vinyl padded seats, which have velcro attachments, are on order and can be moved around the boat when fishing (usually one front and one back.).
The console is small yet super functional, with a BLA five-tray tackle box built into the port side. Dave is so impressed with this setup that he is going to install another one in the front of the rear casting platform and do away with his portable tackle box. Dave had made a pivoting lean-seat, which lets him take the weight off his feet while maintaining elevation when underway. Dave has learned over the years that sighting fish on the move is more effective from a standing/elevated position. Carpet around the base of the lean-seat stops aching feet, as Dave goes barefoot when on the water.
The low-profile perspex screen keeps spray (not that there was much) off the very impressive Humminbird Legend 3005 sounder and Navman Tracker 500i. These are two top notch pieces of electronics, with the black and white high pixel display of the Legend reminiscent of a paper chart plotter in fineness of detail. It shows the fish in very distinct arches, and there is no chance of mistaking suspended objects for fish.
The feature I liked best on the Navman Tracker 500i was the constant readout of economy, measured in nautical miles per litre. The average readout for the Fisherman was around one litre per nautical mile (1.85km per litre). There was very little difference (down to the hundredths of a litre) in fuel economy between sitting on 4700rpm and 5200rpm, which is interesting as many people feel that you chew more juice the faster you go. The fuel consumption for distance travelled (which is the real indicator of economy, not the litres per hour usually referred to) is very similar, in this boat anyway. A GME Electron GX 548 VHF marine radio inside the console and a four switch panel, finish off the electronics.
The only change I would make to the console is to have the passenger grab rail higher. While they were OK in height for the vertically challenged (like myself), I think a six-footer would have to stoop to hold on. The grab rails are already positioned on the top edge of the console, so they would need to be bent up to accommodate those with their nose in the stratosphere.
The self-draining floor does get a bit of water on it, which comes back through the scuppers, but I took up a set of screw-in scuppers for Dave. He’ll fit them during a lay-day, and this will keep the floor completely dry when required.
The Hooker Fisherman has eight through-gunwale rod holders, with the rear two in trolling position. The holders are positioned so the rods sit outside the low profile grab rail, which runs almost the full length of the sides. Dave was a bit concerned about how this would work, with the rail appearing to be in the way, but has found it to be excellent.
The massive rear casting platform contains two storage hatches on the front and a huge live bait tank (it easily held a legal-sized Spanish mackerel) to port at the rear, which is matched by another storage compartment for battery and the like, to starboard.
A huge alloy bait board and rod holder is positioned at perfect filleting height over the motor. A transom mounted berley bucket is still on order.
Dave has chosen a 70hp Yamaha two-stroke for his power unit, which is proving quite adequate, but he is toying with the idea of going up to a 90hp or even a 100hp four-stoke when he replaces his motor. Dave, as a full-time guide, keeps a motor for about a year then turns them over to minimize downtime. I was curious as to why he didn't go for a four-stroke and he replied that the reliability factor was still not as good as a two-stroke, from his experience.
The 70hp Yamaha pushed the Fisherman along at a steady cruising speed of 20 knots at 4700rpm, which gave the best combination of time taken to travel the often large distances and fuel economy. In the two days that we fished we travelled up to an hour non-stop between fishing stops, with many runs in excess of 30 minutes, so the importance of economy and passenger comfort are paramount on Dave's list of criteria.
With four up, at 3500rpm it produced 20km/h (11kt, 13mph), 4000rpm, 26km/h (14kt, 16mph), 4500rpm, 33km/h (18kt, 21mph), 5000rpm, 39km/h (21kt, 24mph) 5500rpm, 44km/h (24kt, 28mph) and topped out doing 50km/h (27kt, 31mph).
The ride was exceptionally comfortable and very dry. We got wet once when running hard with a heavy following sea, but other than that there were only a couple of bits of spray to bother us during two full days on the water in up to 15 knots. Judging by Dave's reaction when a bit of spray got him, he doesn't like getting wet – or probably more to the point, he doesn't like getting his clients wet.
The workmanship throughout the Hooker is top class, with a finish to match, and I really liked the outside paint job, which has a maroon collar with the rest of the hull white. The casting platforms are carpeted for comfort and grip while the main cockpit is gel coated for easy cleaning.
The Hooker 5.9 Fisherman has certainly won two fans, myself and Dave Donald, and having the big thumbs up from a man of Dave's experience is as good an endorsement as a boat builder can get.
The boat, motor and trailer were supplied by Bill's Marine in Cairns. For further information on Hooker boats contact Bill's Marine in Cairns on (07) 4051 6733 or John Margetts at Hooker Boats in Cairns on (07) 4035 1157 to find out about your nearest dealer.
Length – 5.9m
Length on trailer – 7.2m
Beam – 1.85m
Height on trailer – 1.8m to top of console screen, 1.95m to top of bait board
Weight (hull only) – 475kg approx.
Max hp – 115
1) The Hooker 5.9 Fisherman heading up one of the many Weipa estuaries.
2) The compact console with bum seat, five tray tackle box and electronics.
3) Lure casters can work safely from three positions without the fear of wearing a lure as jewellery.
4) The layout of the forward casting platform. Note the cut-away on both sides, which allows gear to be stowed out of the road but within easy reach.
5) The bait board is set at perfect filleting height and has a six-shot rod holder at the back.