Fishing from small boats is a well-established Kiwi tradition. It is also, it appears, one that is rather favoured by our friends across the Tasman.
In fact, if the latest evidence is any indication, they may be a step or two ahead in the quest to get as much fishing value as possible from the smallest possible hull.
The new Signature 485SF Sportsfisher from the Haines Group started life as a 4.85-metre open dory style of vessel. How it was presented for Propeller magazine's Australian correspondent Barry Tyler is something else again. Apparently, Haines joint CEO, Greg Haines, had given the group's service manager, Gordon Triplett, licence to dress the boat as far as his imagination would allow. Triplett's imagination, it seems, stretches quite a long way.
The result is a boat set up for the most extreme forms of fishing, including chasing fish likely to be at least as long as its hull.
The base from which Triplett began was originally designed as a no-frills entry-level open dory, complete with tiller steering.
Built in GRP, it featured the standard Signature SVDH variable deadrise hull but was otherwise unremarkable.
What makes this model special is a set of modular "optional extras" that can be easily added, allowing fishers to customise the boat for their style.
Triplett was also keen to show that there is no need to specialise; one can set up this small hull for every style of fishing: from bass to game.
Obviously one has to be sensible. The hull is, after all, well under 5 metres long. Nevertheless, given fair to moderate conditions (and a willing fish), Triplett has no doubt that he will use this company demonstrator to land a marlin this summer.
While some Kiwis who end up buying a 485SF will try to chase the big stuff, most will prefer to focus on our inshore species. For these, the small 485 has been superbly set up.
The basic boat comes with a pedestal seat, open transom and a small anchor locker in the bow. However, as Triplett so graphically demonstrated, there is plenty of room for improvement. Using that modular system, the bow locker is transformed into something significantly larger and capable of taking a good size chain/rope. Also added was a for'ard casting platform, an aerator pump and an auxiliary battery.
Integrated into the aft face of this forward moulding is a large twin compartment live-well module. A bow rail is another option, with the bonus of being sturdy enough to provide a mount for the largest electric motor currently available.
At the rear, another modular casting deck has been added, this one in the form of a raised full-beam rear platform. Of course, the first rule when designing small craft is to leave no centimetre of space unused and the Haines team clearly know what they are doing in this regard. Within this aft platform are separate lockers for battery storage, auxiliary fuel tank storage and wet gear storage.
There is an innovative centre locker module, too. This one contains a tackle box and a front face that folds up to form a small table. There is also a sophisticated bait station set high above the outboard.
If this is all starting to sound like a cluttered mess on such a small boat, surprisingly it is not. These lockers and stowage areas are sturdy affairs, designed to be stood and walked upon. When in fishing mode, they provide platforms, not impediments. This means it is easy to move quickly around the boat rather than negotiating an obstacle course.
The tiller steering is gone, replaced by a compact central console helm with Perspex windscreen, and a dash large enough for a 12-inch display screen and all the necessary instrumentation. The VHF and stereo, along with the controls for the 90hp Suzuki, are recessed into the skipper's side of the console.
Other features include a moulded underfloor locker, ideal for stowing refreshments or the catch; an optional 120-litre underfloor tank and an impressively large side locker able to take 3-metre-plus rods, gaffs, tagging poles and tackle.
In its standard form, the 485 is usually fitted with a 50-60hp outboard. However, as this demonstrator will be fishing a fair distance offshore in its quest for big game, Haines have gone with a 90hp instead. As the company are also the Australasian agents for Suzuki the choice of outboard was pretty obvious: in this case it is Suzuki's DOHC 16-valve, in-line 4-cylinder, 1502cc DF90A, running a stainless steel Suzuki 14' x 19' propeller.
According to Tyler this proves more than adequate for a GRP hull which, depending on the final fit out, clocks in at 700-1100kgs (and usually between 750 and 800kgs).
"Whether at speed, cruising or at a good trolling speed, the hull appeared most willing and accurate in its tracking ability," he reports. "Certainly the estuary chop we encountered was a walk in the park."
The 485 is clearly a versatile beast, available from as little as A$19,000 and as much (as pictured and described here) as A$60,000. (Although the 485 will be available in New Zealand, it wasn't possible to get definitive pricing before going to press). Apparently, the average "deluxe" version goes for around A$40,000.
Whether even the most ardent fishers will be prepared to spend that sort of money on a 4.85 metre boat is clearly debatable.
However, as an example of what is possible with a willing boss and an intensely focused imagination it is simply superb; I can't wait to see it again, dwarfed by its first large marlin.
Deadrise: 21-33 degrees SVDH
Hull construction: GRP, RIVALE closed moulded technology
Trailerable weight: 700 -1100 dependent on fit-out
Fuel capacity: 120-litre (optional)
Priced from: A$19,990
Price of normal deluxe rig: A$40,000
Price as tested: A$60,000
Want to know more?
Check out the Haines Signature 485SF boat test in the December/January issue of Propeller magazine.