It wasn’t too many years ago that the first Victorian-built 550 Evolutions started heading out from Patterson River and on to Port Phillip Bay. In no time flat, the word spread about just how good these boats were. What’s more, they had been made first and foremost as fishing boats that could handle the ordinary conditions that these southern waters can dish out.
What started as a dream drawn on a garage wall is now a reality – but to this day the original plan of the first Evolution 550 is still on the wall of Paul Junginger’s garage. ‘Junga’, as he is better known, of PM Marine, wanted the ultimate 5.5m cuddy cab specifically designed as the perfect fishing craft. In designing the Evolution 550, he not only designed one of the best bay boats going around but also a serious offshore trailer boat.
Because everyone has different needs, there are two models in the Evolution 550 range, starting with the basic Gold model, then moving up to the Platinum series. Structurally, they are the same hull but with different optional features, so you can be sure of a boat to suit your budget.
With the boat resting on the tough-as-nails Easy Tow trailer, you quickly get an idea of what makes the Evolution 550 so good. With a centreline hull measurement of 5.5m and measuring 6.2m from the tip of the bowsprit to the back of the pod, the 550 Evolution is definitely a ‘big small boat’. It is extremely strong, too, thanks in no small part to the fact that they are made of hand-laid fibreglass. That way you can be sure they have strength and even thickness throughout the 820kg dry weight hull.
From the stern, the first thing you notice is the beam of the hull. The 2.49m beam at the transom carries to the waterline so you will struggle to find a wider boat in its size.
At the waterline the 550 gets its stability from the huge full-length reverse chines. At the back they help to stop the rock-and-roll factor when travelling or anchored in rough conditions, while towards the bow they deflect spray.
Add to this the 21° deadrise. When you combine the two you end up with a hull that has fantastic hole shot and rough-water performance.
Smaller points that make this boat include the full-length running strakes, which keep the boat on the plane at slower speeds and give the hull plenty of purchase on the water in tight turns. What you end up with is a pretty crazy boat that will leave you smiling.
The outboard sits on a smallish pod with the engine well-positioned so that you can still easily fish around it while the forward end of the outboard doesn’t eat into the transom space.
All Evolution boats are sold with 115hp or 150hp Evinrude E-Tec engines as standard, and for good reason. With their technology they are so fuel efficient they may as well be four-strokes, yet provide two-stroke hole shots and top-end speed that will have your cheeks flapping. The E-Tecs are lighter overall than four-strokes so you end up with the perfect engine for this boat.
Fitted with a 150hp E-Tec spinning a 17” propeller, the 550 is a proverbial rocket. It pops up on the plane at 2000rpm, cruises comfortably at 3500rpm and hits top speed of 50 knots (93kmh) at 5800rpm.
Designed first and foremost for fishing, the internal layout of the Evo 550 is perfect. The flat transom has an internal width of 2.1m, which allows full use of the rear of the boat. Inside the transom there is a series of hatches, one housing a tackle drawer on the starboard side. The middle cupboards hides single or twin batteries, oil tank, and battery switches, while an empty storage cupboard on the port side is ideal for incidental bits and pieces. There is also a handy oil filler port on the transom to make filling the oil bottle a simple task.
Padding along the top of the transom, and on the sides (optional) makes life a little more comfortable when bracing yourself in rough conditions.
Along the gunwales are full-length side pockets that can easily accommodate several rods or gaffs, and are now one-piece and fully moulded with no timber. This is a great move because all side pockets do tend to hold some moisture at different times.
One of the major features that immediately appealed when I first saw the 550 several years back was the way all the side pockets and the transom have a small gap between them and the floor, giving you a secure toe-hold the full way around the cockpit sides, which really helps you to brace yourself.
The extra-wide gunwales house four angled, stainless steel rod holders and there is a pair of straight holders on the transom (these double up as mounts for the moulded bait board or extra rod holders).
Due to the fuel economy of the Evinrude E-tec outboards, the 550 Evolution has recently modified the under-floor layout, beginning with full fibreglass stringers. The fuel tank has also been converted from 200L to 150L. The storage hatch/kill tank that holds a fish box is still the same but the smaller fuel tank has made way for an underfloor 50L icebox between the driver and passenger seats and well insulated by the foam-filled hull. It is ideal for food, drinks or bait.
For those anglers who want fuel capacity rather than the icebox, you can still have the 200L tank as an option.
The floor has also undergone major developments and is now no longer carpeted as standard. It is a one-piece moulded system that has all rounded edges to prevent water, bait and gunk sitting in corners. There is now a slight fall in the floor to the drain holes in the transom so that water will drain even when the boat sits dead flat on the trailer.
The cabin layout has been kept simple yet functional, with sturdy and very comfortable padded bucket seats from one of the best in the business, Raeline. They sit atop a variety of optional seat boxes. The 550 Platinum model comes standard with a storage seat box on the driver’s side, while the passenger seat sits on a neat storage/live bait tank.
The angled dash is user-friendly with moulded sections for the relevant gauges. There is also ample space for a GPS/sounder to be flush-mounted in the dash.
Whether seated or standing the helm area, the skipper has a comfortable ride in this very responsive craft. The passenger is also well catered for with a grab rail on the top of the dash. The optional extra grabrail around the windscreen is a good idea because being able to hold your arms forward adds extra support.
The cabin and bunk layout is easily accessible, with plenty of headroom to actually get into it whether it’s for a lie down or to access to the anchor well. The bunks also have storage under the cushions, as well as the option of a bunk infill, which is good option if planning on having a serious sleep.
The stainless work is all done by the boys at PD Marine, with genuine 316 stainless steel used on rocket launchers and snapper racks. There is also a multitude of optional extras, including the must-have stress-free anchor winch.
In my mind this is without doubt one of the best trailerboats on the market in its size range. I strongly suggest you get out for a ride in one.
Dry Weight: 820kg
Engine Options: Evinrude E-tec 115-150hp