The thrill of the chase

Crestliner tinnies are designed for active anglers who prefer to hunt fish, writes David Lockwood.

Crestliner tinnies are designed for active anglers who prefer to hunt fish, writes David Lockwood.

Tinnies have a long history in this country. But until now we've dismissed the American-made renditions for their lack of muscle and their unsuitability for towing off the beaten track, traversing challenging waterways and stashing away with a carefree attitude at the end of the day.

But in a case of selling coal to Newcastle, American giant Crestliner is converting Australians to its aluminium boats. It's not without good cause, mind you, as Aussie anglers increasingly adopt American fishing techniques and their purpose-built fishing boats.

Crestliner's boats come in three variants: walk-through, dual-console and side-console layouts.

Falling under the wing of marine multinational Brunswick Corporation, Crestliners are the subject of considerable evaluation before they arrive in Australia. Evidently, buyers appreciate the backing.

We took to Berowra Waters to test the mettle of the 14 Kodiak, the smallest model in the side-console range, and an entry-level fishing rig selling for $23,990 at the time of testing.

The smart-looking tinnie had a black hull, flat floor, casting platforms and built-in storage.

An electric-start Mercury 40-horsepower four-stroke outboard with BigFoot gear case provides turnkey boating, while a simple Dunbier single-axle trailer means any car can tow this lightweight rig.

About the only thing left wanting were some fish-finding electronics to fill the void on the dash. But with the dollar the way it is, they too have come back in price. Less than $500 will buy a smart fish-finder; we'd consider a marine radio as well. For trolling, some aftermarket rod holders wouldn't go astray, and you'll need a decent tackle box loaded with lures and some flick sticks tucked away.

Designed for active boaters, the 14 Kodiak isn't something upon which you sit with rod in hand waiting for the fish to come to you. In keeping with today's lure-fishing craze, it's a boat that you use to hunt down the catch. The option of a bow-mounted electric motor will add to your stealthy approach.

We tested the casting platforms while drifting over the sand flats in the mangrove-lined upper reaches. As part of the factory-fitted Northwest Package, there was grippy vinyl flooring in lieu of carpet underfoot. Suffice to say, standing on the forward casting platform proved sure-footed.

A catacomb of storage exists under the floor, including a dedicated spot for the anchor rope with a feed going forward to the under-bow shelf. The twin side-storage bins are ideal for safety gear, while a transverse plumbed live well lets you keep the catch in top nick. It's fed by a dedicated pump and has an aerator function.

There's also an underfloor storage well for rods up to two metres in length mid-cockpit. This way, you can have your fishing boat without the clutter typically found on board traditional tinnies.

The transom arrangement is different, with U-shaped fixed seating including a small transverse casting platform under which the remote 25-litre fuel tank and battery reside. The side box sections of the seating contain foam that, along with underfloor foam up front, creates level flotation if you're swamped.

If you prefer to sit and fish, the twin pedestal seats can be relocated fore and aft. You can order a leaning post for the bow for more casual stand-and-cast support, too. Either way, the wide hull has a welcome amount of freeboard and stability.

The side console is a highlight. It sports a Batmobile-like windscreen; a spread of toggle switches for the live well pump, lights and accessories; plus a slot for personal effects and a 12-volt outlet to charge the mobile phone.

Turn the key and the four-stroke Mercury doesn't so much burst into life as purr quietly. The oversized BigFoot gear case helps with acceleration and grip in tight turns, creating a nimble boat.

A cruise speed of 17-20 knots at 4000-4500rpm was clocked on my hand-held GPS, while top speed came in at 24.1 knots. All the while, the fine hull cleaves the waves for a very agreeable ride on flat water. The hull bottom is two millimetres and there are 2.5-millimetre sides, which is lighter gauge than local makes but it didn't sound, err, tinny.

Rather than be the dill waiting on the end of the line, this flat-water sports-fishing boat will keep you busy chasing fish. A couple of flathead in the tank and, at today's prices for fillets, you'll cover the cost of your fuel burn.

See crestliner.com.au.

David.lockwood@bigpond.com

MAKING WAVES

Marine13 winners

The recent international marina, business-to-business and safety conference in Sydney has been hailed a success. Marine13 concluded with an air of optimism for the challenged marine industry worldwide. The focus was on new technologies to capitalise on the changed pleasure-boat market and industry-led initiatives. Marinas were lauded and awarded, with Soldiers Point in Port Stephens coming out tops.

National survey

"The most ambitious recreational-boating survey ever undertaken in Australia" was released at Marine13 by the Boating Industries Alliance Australia and the Marina Industries Association. It will adopt research techniques from the Michigan State University-based Recreational Marine Research Centre. The new national survey will use a monthly online diary to gauge boater habits and behaviours. Register now at australiaboatingsurvey.com.

Lifejacket lore

Some of the world's most-prominent boating safety organisations attended Marine13. Collectively, they vowed to promote lifejacket use and prevent death by drowning. Representatives from Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand and Britain agreed to adopt the International Lifejacket Wear Principles. Drowning is the most-common factor in all fatal boating incidents, but four out of five victims were reportedly not wearing a lifejacket.

Anchoring bans

Boaters have been anchoring in Sydney Harbour for more than 200 years, but now there's an issue. NSW Fisheries has been proposing anchoring restrictions in Manly Cove and off Quarantine Beach to protect seagrass. It claims to have photographic evidence from lobby group Eco Divers of anchor damage. Meantime, increased fast-ferry movements in North Harbour, pollution and stormwater go unchecked. The Boat Owners' Association adds that Fisheries is using a reduction in the cover of the non-threatened Zostera species of seagrass in Rose Bay to make a case for the restrictions. It's been a shambolic process and could push boaters dangerously far from shore to sate lobby groups.

Riviera Festival

Riviera's latest 565 SUV will make its world boat-show debut amid an impressive $15 million on-water display at the Riviera Festival of Boating, May 23-26, during the Sanctuary Cove boat show.

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