A run in choppy water in the TABS Bullshark P420 was all I needed to finalize the decision to move our old 3.8m tinny on to a less arduous lifestyle than we'd been giving her.
The TABS punt style craft impressed me with it's sweet ride, great freeboard, rock like stability and above all ample work room. After looking at the impressively strong construction of the craft at the TABS factory, the cheque book was opened and an order placed for a Bullshark P420 to come home on a Swiftco SB 12SK trailer, complete with walkway.
With the boat and trailer organized the engine and important accessories came next.
Again, experience within the industry shaped my decision. Engine ratings for the P420 are from 25 to 40hp but as I'm a conservative sort of old fellow (I don't get my jollies from racing others to fishing spots) I settled on a 25hp as the engine for the Kampe Bullshark.
Denise and I sat down and did up a short listings of possible motors.
Anticipating the Bullshark will be used a lot in shallow water areas of barra impoundments I wanted an engine with power trim and tilt. My first priority was to avoid some of the scary bumps and thumps we'd experienced with the old boat and it's manual tilt engine.
Next came the all important low emission requirements, projected long life and maximum fuel efficiency for those long runs up into the backwaters of impoundments such as Monduran and Awoonga. On past trips to Monduran Dam there were several occasions when we'd need to run into Gin Gin to get more fuel for the Mercury 15 two stroke even though we had taken what I thought would be a sufficient reserve supply.
My stipulation that the motor should have minimal emissions meant the list was narrowed down fairly quickly. I liked both the Suzuki and Honda four stroke engines – 538cc capacity and 552cc capacity respectively – for their inherent quietness and smoothness. But both of these engines carried with them ongoing service costs, and as an E-Tec owner (I've owned three 90s) this would be an unaccustomed expense.
I had been impressed with the performance of the new twin cylinder Evinrude E-Tec 25 576cc when the engine was released last year, so I guess I was subconsciously using it as a yardstick in my assessments of likely contenders.
I had recently been aboard a TABS P400 (little brother to the P420) with three well proportioned blokes, while a 25hp E-Tec pushed it to a speed of 43km/h in chop and up onto the plane in only a couple of boat lengths. Given that these solidly constructed TABS punts are designed to trade some weight for ride quality the demonstration impressed me greatly.
Assessing that sort of performance and aligning it with the E-Tec no service interval during the factory three year warranty period saw me reaching for the cheque book again to order the 25hp trim/tilt Electric Start E-Tec.
The new E-Tec 25 has the standard low profile styling that characterizes their larger engines. Other features include
E-Tec instant starting (the 25hp and 30hp also feature manual start), smokeless performance and enjoyable levels of quietness throughout the entire rev range.
User friendliness is also a big plus. The height adjustable, fully folding, tiller arm of the 25hp features a super slick gear shift, an idle control knob to adjust trolling speed and trim button at the extremity of the twist grip for trim as you go operation. Ergonomically, the engine was the ideal distance between the tiller handle and rear seats, making the craft a pleasure to drive.
The gearshift is also worthy of a mention – the tiller arm gear lever can be snicked in and out of gear without the slightest noise or jarring. Full marks to BRP. They have also done a great job isolating engine vibes (always a feature of twin cylinder engines) from the tiller handle.
The powerful 576cc 25hp E-Tec is a two stroke featuring direct fuel injection. The motor consistently hums to life at the touch of the start button and runs without any hint of oil smoke. And it has real grunt, in very impressive quantities.
Three aboard will see the Bullshark P420 planing at 12.2km/h without excessive and annoying bow lift. A burst of throttle to a smooth cruising speed saw the craft leap forward to 34.4km/h on the GPS. The noise levels were still low enough to talk normally without shouting. A burst of WOT recorded 46.6km/h, which was fast enough for me.
The E-Tec has terrific mid range power and twisting the throttle grip at cruising speed will see the rig fairly leaping forward to top speed.
The Bullshark's ride equalled performance. For a hull with only a small amount of Vee aft the ride was surprisingly gentle, due no doubt to the excellent bow design. Jumping over our wash in Maroon Dam saw impact as a series of minor bumps without undue noise. There was also instant tiller response and easy turning courtesy of the prominent under hull pressings and large keel of the punt.
Trim response is also very good, the slight touch of the tiller arm button bringing instant adjustment. The P420 planes rapidly with full down trim and once out of the hole a little up trim sees fast speeds.
The Bullshark was also noticeably vibration free thanks to its all welded construction, and there are no tack welds in the rig. At rest, and with two up front while fishing, the craft was steady as a rock and even two on one side caused virtually no lean whatsoever.
But, above all, the E-Tec 25hp engine has been the right choice. I love those instant starts at the touch of the button and the sheer grunt of the thing. To say I'm pleased with it would be an understatement - over the moon might be more correct.
I've been a Lowrance enthusiast since owning my first Galeforce 4.8m centre console back in 2003. I have nothing but praise for the three units I've owned but, given our penchant to be fishing at the back of the big dams at times of low or nil light, we also wanted a GPS unit to facilitate the run home.
The logical move was to purchase a sounder GPS combination so we chose the Lowrance LMS-522c IGPS for the job. The old craft had been set up with an X87 black and white unit but the definition of that LMS-522c in bright daylight certainly makes the outlay worthwhile.
I find the unit is particularly user friendly with the option of full sonar and full GPS or joint sonar and GPS operation as an alternative.
I run mine in auto sensitivity mode but usually reduce sensitivity, which is a two touch operation, a little if impoundment fishing. Fishing at the 'Pin for whiting I would not alter the sensitivity one iota but dams are a different matter as they always seem to have lots of suspended matter in the water column, which can interfere with readings.
Only experience will indicate if there is a need to filter out unwanted clutter or material effecting a sounder's reading. Of course the best way to get that experience is to use the unit in as many situations as possible. In short: go fishing!
Installation of the GPS was rather special. TABS had supplied a cake, a sort of mini console, which my marine mechanic son, Scott, mounted on the starboard gunwale at just the right distance ahead of the skipper's seat. To allow easy access to the bank of switches he set up for various functions within the craft such as the bilge pump, master sounder, electric motor switches, and running lights. The sounder was attached to the cake but not directly, as you will see.
To maximize the effectiveness of the Lowrance LMS-522c we also purchased a brilliant multi directional RAM bracket. For those unfamiliar with these units think of a shaft with a clamp mid way that will ensure complete rigidity of installation. But as it has a ball joint at either end, it can be swivelled in any direction or even horizontal as well. There's a mounting point on the base of the RAM, another on top on which we mounted the sounder's bracket.
Scott fixed the base of the RAM bracket to the side of the cake. This allows the LMS-522c equipped RAM to then be set up in any attitude, any direction, and locked at the touch of it's large elongated knob. When we move to the front to cast I simply loosen the knob and turn the sounder around to the front while working the foot control for the Water Snake 50 SWDR.
After the excellent run we had with the 44lb thrust bow mount Watersnake on our old faithful craft, we stuck with the brand. For the Bullshark we ordered a foot control operated 54lb thrust bow mount SWDR54/48lb motor (with dedicated quick release bracket). It was installed on the mounting pad on the P420 Bullshark's port bow. The 54 Watersnake, incidentally, operates from a single 12V battery which exactly fitted my requirements.
The 54lb thrust bow mount is a real goer, pushing the hull at 6.6km/h at full throttle. There is instant, quiet response to operator input courtesy of the power wheel speed activator on the foot control unit. It also features dual tabs each side to activate the turning mechanism. A gentle touch brings instant turning, which is again very user friendly.
I found that after very little practice I could use the set up without even a glance downwards; which is handy when fly or lure casting.
The Watersnake's three blade propeller is of a weedless design. The flexible shaft is easy to deploy and lift thanks to good balance plus there's an adjustable collar that will see just the right amount of the shaft in the water for best results. In all, the Watersnake is trouble free and user-friendly.
So that covers the engine and accessories of the new boat – look out fish, here we come! One thing's for certain: there's no Bull about this Shark.
For information on dealers stocking these craft best give TABS boats a ring on (07) 55946333 or fax (07) 55947188.Reads: 6311