A boat specially designed to appeal to softbait fishers is enjoying early local success.

The switch to softbaits has been the big fishing story of the last decade. Seminars on how to use the artificial baits pack out boat shows and retail showrooms; the baits and the special rods, reels and line needed to use them effectively have driven sales in an otherwise depressed market.

It should therefore come as no surprise that a leading boat manufacturer has designed and built a vessel specifically for those who like to go softbait fishing.

Stabicraft Marine, arguably the most successful New Zealand aluminium boat manufacturer, released their 1750 Frontier model at the Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show in Auckland in May. Since then, they have been surprised by the amount of interest and sales it has generated.

Sean McColl, Australasian sales manager for the Invercargill-based company, says the new model is unashamedly riding the wave of soft baiting popularity. "The Stabicraft 1750 Frontier is appealing to those who want an open and clutter-free layout in a centre console with true stability and rough water capability," he says. "It was specially designed with fishing, particularly soft bait fishing, in mind.

"We targeted a specific price point and style of use [soft baiting] and manufactured a boat from there."

McColl says the company is particularly proud of the value the 1750 Frontier offers.

"With any of the major engine brands' 70-75hp outboards on the transom, a customer can drive away with a boat, motor and trailer package for less than $40,000.

"This is something we feel the market was demanding and our numerous early sales reflect this."

McColl believes that one of the reasons for the 1750 Frontier's early success is that soft bait fishing is often at its most productive in the shallower waters around rocks and reefs. "The 1750's all-alloy construction makes the craft more robust and resistant to damage when targeting these gullies and the areas around rocky headlands."

McColl says it features a slimmer "Gil Pontoon" design that gives the vessel plenty of freeboard and an increased internal beam for more usable space.

"The turned down chines also mean those onboard will have a dry, soft ride," he says. "Internally, the wide walk-around floor and practical transom optimise fishing space and give 360-degree casting capabilities."

McColl says plenty of storage space has been a key design aspect of the new model, with storage shelves along both sides of the cockpit and a dry storage locker under the helm console and in the padded 105-litre chilly bin seat. "Additional features include high gunwales for greater confidence moving around the boat, a flat non-trip floor, coaming grab handles for passengers when under way, six rod holders, a bilge pump and anchor well."

Buyers can also choose options such as a live bait tank, front console seat, hydraulic steering, paint and graphics. "Like all Stabicrafts, safety is again a key feature with the 1750 Frontier," says McColl.

The 1750 Frontier is due to follow its New Zealand debut with repeat performances at the Sydney International Boat Show on July 28-August 1 and at the Brisbane Boat Show on August 25-28. McColl and Stabicraft will no doubt be hoping that it proves as popular on that side of the Tasman as it already has over here.

1750 Frontier
LOA: 5.25 metres

External beam: 2.15m

Internal beam: 1.55m

Deadrise: 17.5 degrees

Dry hull weight: 425kg

Tow weight: 825kg (approx)

Recommended horsepower: 75hp

Maximum horsepower: 90hp

Base boat, motor, trailer package: $40,000 (approx)