For anglers in Australia who love to fish the estuaries and big lakes with the electric motor down or fish the ocean waters for bigger fish like tuna, snapper and kingfish, there are not many options on the market. And if you add in fibreglass to the equation, the number of serious contenders drops further.
This was the serious dilemma that faced Fishing Monthly Group employee Travis Davies. He was looking to upgrade his bream tournament rig to a boat that could safely handle some offshore fishing. And being based in south east Queensland, Travis had snapper, marlin, kingfish and mulloway on his mind, along with his estuary favourites of bream, trevally and flathead.
With the introduction of Skeeter boats to Australia a few years ago, mainly to cater to the booming tournament angler, a door was opened to get a look at some of Skeeter’s dedicated bay boats. In fact Skeeter has a Bay Boat Series. These Boats range from 20-24’ and there are six boats in the series!
Designed for American waters, as an Aussie you could be justified in asking a few questions. Will they suit Australian conditions? Can I test one? Can I see one? How do they run? The answers to all these questions were “I don’t know”, as Skeeter Australia had only imported one Bay Boat and it was a 24’ model. So the research begun by asking American owners which model suited which application and by putting three and five together to make six, the model chosen was a ZX20 Bay Boat.
After the big decision is made on which hull, buyers then get to choose colours for the deck, hull and seats. You can add options, remove standard parts, whatever makes you happy. This means you really get to personalise your boat and have it set up the way you want.
That’s all that comes from the States though. Your motor, sounder, electric motor, trailer and other electronics are all Australian supplied and fitted. Three months later your boat is here. In this time you have ordered all additional parts for your boat and as soon as it lands everything is fitted!
The accessory-less boat was delivered to the local boat dealership on an Ezy Tow trailer. These trailers go under all Skeeter boats and are one of the best trailers available in the country. Like the boat, they are painted the way you want and complement the boat. Choosing a motor is easy: Just go the maximum for the hull and on this hull it’s 150hp.
A couple more weeks and the Skeeter ZX20 Bay was delivered, tested and the correct propeller fitted. It was fishing time!
I’ve fished from Trav’s Skeeter a few times and every time I step aboard I am impressed. It’s a well thought-out rig ideally set up for the type of fishing he likes: Dropping plastics down to reef ooglies that pull hard, chucking poppers at fish that pull even harder, trolling skirted lures and switch-baiting for billfish, and the usual round of everyday breaming and flattie chasing.
The front casting deck is large enough for two anglers to go at it side by side and the rear platform can accommodate another angler. Being a centre console, big hook-ups are not a problem because the lucky angler can work 360° around the boat. Once you’re off the front deck, the deep gunwales allow a degree of safety when something bigger than you is attempting to pull you over the side. There are strategically placed stainless grab rails that almost magically appear in the right spot if everything looks like going pear-shaped.
The grab rails on the centre console gave me a bit of security battling a small mulloway in the Gold Coast Seaway in a 2m swell, with the standard 1m bow waves from pro boats, charter boats and pleasure craft combining to make it an interesting experience – and yes, I did get seasick and was dropped off on Wavebreak Island!
The only thing I would be careful of is fish slime. The decks are not carpeted so slimy fish like mulloway and big GTs leave a telltale slippery patch. If it’s cleaned straight away this is not a problem and it’s a mistake you make only once.
The rig cruises at a comfy 48 knots (90kmh) at just under 6000rpm, thanks to the 150hp Mercury supercharged Verado. This outboard and the Skeeter’s hull design mean this rig can go from dead stop to full plane in less than three seconds.
Travelling through wind chop inshore is not a problem. You hardly feel these small waves as the bow slices effortlessly through them. But this boat is not built for inshore work, even though it’s great for that, it’s a big ‘bay’ boat and that means it’s perfect for places like Moreton Bay, Sydney Harbour or Botany Bay and Port Phillip and Western Port.
So how does it deal with bigger swell? I hate offshore swells; they simply make me seasick.
While there is still a fair bit of rock and roll in the Skeeter at drift in swells over 1m, at no time do you feel unsafe. On a recent trip up to the Breaksea Spit (north of Fraser Island) the Skeeter handled the swell beautifully, allowing three anglers to cast big poppers all day at big GTs.
The Skeeter carves through head seas and comes out the other side with minimal water entering the cockpit. Like all open boats, though, a quartering swell and strong wind push some spray into the cockpit, but surprisingly little. In a following sea, the ZX20 is an absolute dream, tracking straight and true without any tendency to veer, bury or broach. In swell less than 1m you can open up this baby and fly across the tops of the swells. Just make sure all your tackle is stored safely before you open her up!
Storage in the Skeeter ZX20 includes one big unit up forward with rod lockers either side of the casting deck to keep your precious fishing tools safe.
The rear deck has two storage tanks: One is a livewell capable of holding over 100L, the other is just more storage room. There is a lockable glove box to keep phones, wallets, maps and car keys dry and the front of the console is fitted with a live well of over 100L that generally serves as a cooler bin for drinks, food and fish kept for the table.
The console has switches and controls for all lights, live bait tanks and more, leaving space for Travis’ Lowrance HDS-8 GPS combo unit.
Inside the console is the boat’s systems room, with easy access to all the wiring, the engine crank battery and two 130AH deep-cycles to power the Minn Kota up forward. Also in here is Travis’s C-tek on board charger. This is a waterproof unit but the console is waterproof anyway but, as Trav put it, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
There are four rod holders moulded down each side of the console to look after combos when they’re rigged and ready to go and there are also six rod holders in the back of the leaning post/seat, which reduces to four if you fit the backrest.
The ZX20 has been fitted out for marlin fishing with Reelax Enterprises fitting two rod holders each side so lures can be trolled from four rods. Trav tells me he usually trolls three rods and has one rigged with a live bait ready to switch-bait if the situation arises.
Everything seems to be where you’d expect it to be, including handy accessories like the livewell pumps, bilge, and deck wash. With that fish slime, the deck wash is a must!
If you’re into more than bream or bass and love to jaunt offshore to chase bigger fish, the Skeeter bay boats are well worth checking out. There is a little more legwork to do to get everything organised, but the final product makes the effort well worth while.
The Skeeter ZX20 Bay comes from the US through Skeeter Australia (02 9753 3837). All other extras fitted are completed in Australia. It normally takes eight to 12 weeks for the boat to arrive from the US but if you love high performance and quality, it will be worth it.
Starting price for a Skeeter ZX20 Bay with 115hp outboard is $49,990. Visit www.skeeterboats.com.au to check out the entire range and start designing your own.
|Length on trailer:||7.80m|
|Fitted:||150hp Mercury Verado|
|Sounder/GPS:||Lowrance HDS-8 combo|
There are many people and companies that helped put this boat together and without them it wouldn’t have happened. Skeeter Boats, Mercury Marine, Lowrance (Navico), Minn Kota (BLA), Reelax Enterprises, Battery World Slacks Creek, C Tek Chargers and Bayline Marine Covers.