The Australian Anglersâ€™ Journal
Even at Coffs Harbour’s dreadful boat ramp, the Southern X 650HT is a snack to launch and retrieve — drive off, drive on.
The FishLife Team have been enjoying getting to know their new project boat. Scott Amon offers his thoughts on its performance so far.
n FishLife #10, I introduced you to our new Southern X 650HT project boat. I ran through its layout, specifications and initial impressions, but hadn’t yet ventured offshore fishing, which is what this big rig was designed and kitted out for. It’s now been run wide quite a few times, so I can add significantly to those early impressions. Most of the relevant statistical information has been covered, but I can now explain in more practical terms how all those stats equate to practical offshore fishing and boating. I must say that my initial impressions of the rig and its size were that it was going to be a bit cumbersome to tow, launch and retrieve. I was totally wrong. Despite it being a big trailerboat, it towed surprisingly well, sitting rock solid on the big imported alloy trailer that Southern X Boats decided to cradle it on. And the drive off/on trailer setup worked as it should — even
at the notoriously surge-affected Coffs Harbour boat ramp. The first run offshore was based around putting a feed of fish on the table, which, in my opinion is what grass roots offshore fishing is all about. It was right in that seasonal transition and often-difficult fishing period of spring. For the first few trips we stuck to our tried and tested offshore reefs in 30f. We fished baited dropper rigs and, while catching nothing spectacular, did manage a good feed of plate sized snapper, the odd pearl perch and teraglin, before heading off for a sand flathead drift. Here we scratched up half a dozen or more big offshore sandies. Along with securing a much-enjoyed feed or two of fish, I finally got to ‘feel’ the Southern X 650HT out on the ocean. It was certainly a sure-footed boat on a sea with a mixed-direction medium swell, both on the move and at rest. The flooding keel was an obvious reason for
the outstanding stability at rest, and the 19° hull deadrise and generous chines sliced cleanly through the uneven ocean and pushed the water well away from the vessel. On our return home, we faced 15kts of wind on the front quarter and it pushed a fair amount of spray back onto the windscreen and hardtop, but of course we stayed dry as a bone under that expansive roof. Visibility was a bit of an issue without a windscreen wiper though, but a coating of Rain-X on the screen for the next trip had the water beading nicely. A few good friends with a lifetime of offshore trailerboat experience came for a ride, and all commented that it was the best riding alloy trailerboat they had ever been on. My feelings were the same. I understand that this is a very big call, but there was unanimous agreement on it. The hull landed softly and quietly most of the time, only ever delivering a firmer landing when
Loads of clean, workable deck with wide gunwales for comfortable seating and generous storage shelves underneath. 118
Coen works his first 2014 Spanish mackerel to the boat from an uncluttered cockpit. Note the EvaKool icebox at the ready to drop mackerel into, and the other troll rods stored out of the way in the side shelving.
a deep trough was experienced between waves, and this only at speed. The other outstanding attribute was the boat’s stability at rest — it is seriously rock solid, no doubt due to the flooding keel concept that fills with sea water when stationary, then empties once underway. Speaking of speed, the sweet spot for the Evinrude 150 E-Tec and 650HT hull in most offshore conditions was 3600rpm, which saw us travelling at about 20kts and consuming 25l/hr of fuel. I’d suggest that is pretty economical for such a large rig. Finally summer came around and our beloved spotted and Spanish mackerel turned up on cue around Christmas. My son Coen was home on his university break, so we wasted no time in picking a good day and heading out for a crack at a ‘spotty’ or ‘bar-ee’ — as Spanish are known locally. We chose to slow-troll live slimy mackerel and pike around the inshore reefs, as it is such a simple and relaxing way to fish. The live bait tank is positioned in the step of the step-through transom space. It’s not as big as I would like, but with good circulation from a Rule pump it kept 15 or so slimy mackerel alive quite well. After securing our live baits at Kitted out with the state of the art SIMRAD NSS 12, the unit provides plenty of screen real estate and technological innovation to ensure you can find fishing’s needle in the haystack!
Park Beach Bommie, we shot off to the Moonee mackerel grounds north of Coffs Harbour. Nose-rigged on single strand stainless 15kg wire with a treble stinger hook in the tail for good measure, our two baits were set at staggered distances behind the boat. Baits rigged this way need be trolled at under 2kts or they spin and die quickly. Thankfully, with the Evinrude just in gear and ticking over silently at 500rpm, we poked along at about 1.3-1.8kts — just perfect. With the baits set and a methodical troll pattern established to cover the reef, we had time to get a good feel for the layout of the cockpit. A set of Springfield helm seats allowed for locking rotation — just what is required when navigating
and watching baits or lures at the same time. And I must say that the copiously wide (30cm) gunwales made for gloriously comfortable positions to rest your backside on while rigging or watching the baits — certainly superior to what’s found on most boats, which are not even half that width! Our first strike took a while in coming, but 90 minutes later the ratchet finally rattled and the rod tip pulled down to a nice arc. Coen took the rod and after a few speedy runs and a bit of dancing around the big cockpit, we gaffed and then deposited a nice spotty mackerel in the EvaKool fish box. Another spotty hit an hour or so later, and we called it a morning.
The swim platform/duck board and walk-through-transom allowed great access to the water for underwater shots — this time a spotty.
We followed up the following week with another morning mackerel session. Bait was difficult to find in close this time around, so we shot out a little wider to North East Trag, as we’d heard reports that slimies were there. Navico had supplied us with a Simrad NSS-12 Sonar/GPS chart plotter, whereas I’d only previously run Lowrance units. I’d downloaded all of my waypoints onto an SD card and transferred them across to the Simrad and hoped it would all work. It certainly did, because our waypoints put us straight onto the main reef and the first two bait jig drops produced full strings of slimy mackerel. I must add here that this touch screen Simrad is a step up on any marine electronics
that I have used before (more on the unit in an upcoming issue). To cut to the chase, we fished a few shallow reefs to the south this time and scored two nice spotties around the 6kg mark, and then a Spanish mackerel of 10kg. All of these fish fought well on 10kg braid overhead outfits and gave us somewhat of a run-around the cockpit. As hoped, the swim platform/marlin board with walk-through transom access proved perfect for getting underwater shots. The EvaKool B125 fitted neatly across the middle of the boat hard up against the transom, while still allowing room for an angler either side. This was important, as we like to swing mackerel straight over the transom
The evil eye of a Spanish mackerel; great sportfish and great on the plate.
Those dentures are just a part of why we like to get mackerel straight into an ice box! The other being the sharp single and treble stinger hooks used on our mackerel traces.
First mackerel for the FishLife project boat. A nicely conditioned spotty.
and into the fish box to prevent any potential injury from hooks and gnashing teeth. All in all, the performance, comfort and fishability of the entire rig was most impressive. As with all boats though, there are a few minor aspects that could be improved upon. Firstly, I would opt for sliding side windows for the hardtop to provide more air flow. On that same note, forward-opening hatches in the hardtop roof would also push cool air onto the skipper and passengers standing at the helm
and dash. This won’t be an issue in winter, but on a hot summer’s day it does get a little stuffy in there. The set-up of our model has an anchor well that is accessed from inside the cabin via a large hatch that opens the cabin and anchor well at the same time. I would far prefer to have separate hatches for both the cabin and the anchor well. So the Scott Robson-designed Southern X 650HT has gone very close to delivering on all
A happy Amon Jr with an average Coffs Harbour Spanish mackerel. 124
fronts — as close as any boat could go I think. However, we’ve only really put it through its paces on a couple of basic fishing styles and techniques, when there are many more to come. We’ll keep you posted as to how it performs for various other piscatorial pursuits.
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