Ally Craft have come up with a real winner in their smart little Reel Mate. This craft combines a decent size, practicality and a good degree of fishability into a well-performing package at modest cost.
This rig can fish two or three adults with ease, or a couple of youngsters with Mum and Dad, and comes on a trailer for under $8700 – a very modest outlay for a useful little fishing boat.
The Reel Mate is a tinny with a difference.
While it's undeniably an entry-level fishing craft for people on a limited budget, it has features that we don't usually see in a boat at this price.
Up front, there's a low but good-sized bow rail for easy work at the ramp. An anchor well and large cleat are set into the strong foredeck; both are easily reached from the front seat.
The Reel Mate also comes with a handy extra: At the rear of the foredeck there's a small carpeted platform that combines with the front seat to provide an extra-wide seat or a handy casting platform if desired.
There is also a hatch built into this carpeted platform with storage below a most unusual feature in a boat of this style. Things get even better aft of the front seat and storage area.
The Reel Mate is set up with a useful area of carpeted, flat floor between front and rear seats. In a small tinny such as this, a carpeted floor is indeed a luxury making it just that bit easier to stand to fish, retrieve crab pots and such. It's pretty handy being able to keep your feet off the cold floor in Winter, too.
Iceboxes and gear crates could also sit there with ease, even in choppy going.
On each side is a useful side pocket for smaller items. I liked these; they were big enough to be useful but not so intrusive to crack your shins on them.
Right aft there's a wide thwart (flotation below, same as the front thwart) for the skipper to sit on while at the tiller of the 30hp Suzuki. Again, grab rails are featured aft, along with strong corner gussets to ensure maximum rigidity of the hull.
A tote tank of fuel was stored aft of the thwart.
The 4.25 Reel Mate has a great layout with a few bonuses thrown in: It has ample cross ribs to ensure as much rigidity in the 2mm sides and 3mm bottom as possible. There's a small degree of vee in the hull's aft section to help soften the ride and, the well-formed bow entry reduces wave impact.
The double bow eye, internal keel, aft boarding platform with grab rail and the fuel tank rack kep the value-packed features coming. The Reel Mate is a friend indeed!
Engines from 30hp to 40hp are recommended for the Reel Mate. The test craft had a 30hp Suzuki two-stroke on the transom, which was more than adequate. It would only be in heavy load situations, such as plenty of crab pots with three adults aboard, that I'd opt for the 40hp.
The 30hp planed at 7.6 knots (14.2kmh), cruised very well at 14 knots (26kmh) and opened up to 21 knots (38.4kmh) at full noise.
The Suzuki kicked into life at first pull on the handle and idled very quietly, given that it was a two-stroke engine rather than one of the company’s renowned four-strokes.
It was also quite smoke-free and didn't seem to be making much noise at any stage of proceedings.
I found that the Reel Mate had a good ride for a small tinny. It tracked very well, turned responsively and had no tendency to torque-steer. As we belted over a few washes created by other craft, there was a bit of impact but nothing excessive or likely to jar the fillings from the teeth.
Driven sensibly, the Reel Mate won't knock occupants about and, as long as the wind is not blowing from abeam, , the ride will be dry. The hull's excellent freeboard for size plus good design mean displaced water is pushed well aft and to the side.
Stability is a strong point. In a craft going to be used for sheltered-water fishing, crabbing and the like, it is certainly comforting to know that one can stand up with ease. The 1.97m beam and large pressed strakes in the 3mm alloy bottom combine strongly to ensure a good degree of grip on the water at rest.
The Ally Craft 4.25 Reel Mate and 30hp engine were an excellent combination of practicality, performance and budget pricing. While the Reel Mate is a no-frills, entry-level craft, it does offer features which set it well apart from others in this highly competitive lower end of the market.
An owner handy with a few power tools could set up the craft with extra custom touches (it lacks rod holders in standard form) and be very happy with the purchase.
From Blakes Marine at Mulgrave, a 30hp CV Yamaha two-stroke, a Seatrail trailer, 4.25 Reel Mate with registrations and safety gear for four people comes in at the princely sum of $8699, and if that's not a bargain I don’t know what is!
|Construction:||Pressed alloy, 3mm bottom, 2mm sides|
|Power ratings:||30-40hp outboards|
|Engine fitted:||30hp Suzuki two-stroke manual start|
|Person rating:||4 persons|
|Towing:||Four-cylinder sedan or wagon|