Whether you are after jacks, barra or bass you'll get to the fishing action quicker with this stylish new Stessl 4.6 Bass Boss.
Each year it seems more fishos are heading north to try their hand at sport fishing for leaping barramundi and wily mangrove jacks. In the meantime we've got a booming impoundment scene going in South-East Queensland.
Put together these market trends are helping to drive a growing demand for specialized boats for inshore sport fishing.
So far tinnie punts have generally been the most popular choice for this market, however there's been a growing trend lately to some different hull types.
At the Stessl factory on the Gold Coast they've developed a real eye-catching range of inshore sport-fishing boats called Bass Boss. As the name suggests the boat draws some inspiration from American bass boats. However, these Aussie bass boats are not as extreme looking as their American counterparts.
The Bass Boss gives you a raised internal casting deck, but still with a bit of gunwale lip. Also there's a larger foot well to give you an added sense of security.
This design is definitely more in keeping with Aussie boating conditions, which are not always as calm or as safe as they get in America. You only have to think about our crocs in northern waters to think twice about an American flattop bass boat!
Not that this boat looks tame by any means. Alf Stessl has managed to achieve a boat that looks every bit as low and stylish as the Yankee bass boats. And max'd up with a big motor this baby can blast from one fishing spot to another in record time.
Alf's first efforts in this range were a 5.2m and 6m models, but this new 4.6m 'baby' is pitched at the average guy who wants a more normally priced boat.
It has all the stylish look of the bigger models, and the same deep bottom Vee for improved ride in choppy water.
Interestingly enough this model comes standard as a tiller-steer boat, but you can order an optional side steering console as we used in the test.
With the console fitted the boat looks a real boy-racer sports boat. The carpeted decks hide an amazing number of lockers that stow everything away from your packed lunch to your rods and tackle box.
In-floor storage obviously helps to keep the area clean for fishing, but more than that compartments are 'lockable' so you can stay overnight at caravan parks and motels without worrying about thieves doing your boat over.
The raised casting deck also means tons of room to cast away to your heart's content. You also get a good viewing angle into the water to watch your quarry and fight him right to sides of the boat.
Having the larger foot well also ensures you can step back into a more stable spot when required. For example, if the boat was suddenly being rocked by waves or a boat wash.
Alternatively you can simply relax in either of the pedestal seats while you wait for a bite. There is a choice of four floor slots so you're not short on places to sit.
No doubt this Bass Boss will find popularity with impoundment fishos, especially those involved in competitions. Being able to cover more water than the next guy is a distinct advantage. It is all the more reasons to buy a fast little boat like this that can sprint about at 40 knots.
That's darn fast on the water, but it lets you cover a heck of a lot of ground on calm inland waters. Admittedly it is not a boat for fuddy-duddies, but the young guys will love it.
The hull measures 4.6m exactly, not counting a very short bowsprit. Given there is no pod, and the hull is quite wide (2.3m) you get quite a lot of boat for your money.
Made from aluminium the hull has an unpainted bottom and a sharp bow entry for choppy waters. However, there's also a generous flare in the topsides to help boost casting deck space in the bow area.
The deep Vee is retained through to the stern so you end up with a 16-degree deadrise. There are also quite wide chine lips at the bows to help deflect spray.
A key feature of this design is the Trak Rails on the bottom. These mini-hulls add a bit of stability at rest, though only in a small way. They are probably better at cushioning the ride at speed, by trapping air and water across the bottom panels.
You have to give it to Alf Stessl for being so innovative and willing to try new ideas like the Trak Rail. In this case he's got the formula working pretty smooth, with smart styling as well.
I think many fishos are also going like the sporty profile and the smooth topsides that are a refreshing break from the usual clinker-topsides.
There's actually quite a bit of ski-boat about this boat, but that is OK. After all ski boats are designed for performance in flat water, and for being safe and secure at high speed.
The Vee bottom and lack of topside windage also ensures the boat will stick to the water at speeds and not become flighty and dangerous in its handling. The Yanks take the same approach with their bass boats and go even faster - 50 knots and more.
Looking at the Bass Boss closely we find a lot more sophistication than the average open tinnie. There are welded side decks, low side rails and a carpeted interior that looks very comfortable on the feet.
Stessl has done a pretty nice job on the cosmetics, spraying the topsides in a brilliant white polyurethane paint that's highlighted by blue decals and grey carpet.
The interior floor and casting deck is made from marine plywood over an aluminium framework. Given all this interior structure, hull framing and the extra strong 3mm gauge sides and bottom it is no wonder this boat is as tough as a tank.
And that's a good point to keep in mind when you tow the boat over Outback roads, or battling through some rough unexpected choppy water.
From the trailing view the 4.6 Bass Boss will also please the car owner. The compact size, and low profile, makes it a very easy boat to tow behind all but very small cars. The hull weighs in at 350kg, a touch up on most tinnies, but still not too bad.
We estimated the dry trail weight about 827kg, or upwards of 900kg by the time you add aboard 90-litres of fuel and some fishing gear. That's within the range of cars like the Mazda 626 that has a 920kg limit. It also falls within the range of a Subaru Liberty (1000kg) or Toyota Hilux (1800kg).
If you want to get to fishing spots quickly, this is the boat for you. Launching on the Gold Coast Broadwater it seemed to take us no more than 10 minutes to get way down the bay amongst the Mangroves.
Along the way we had fun exploring the many inlets that dot the waterway from the Gold Coast to Moreton Bay. We didn't go all the way, but far enough to see how well the Bass Boss fitted into this sort of environment.
The low, wide hull is very stable at trolling speed and brilliant for stand-up lure casting. The compact size also allows you to manoeuvre in close to the mangroves, while your mate flicks off some well-aimed casts.
All we really needed was a bow mount electric thruster to be in heaven.
I was a bit surprised the boat didn't have an electric fitted, but you could see they'd allowed space for one just behind the bowsprit.
We ran the boat at different speeds and water conditions to see how it would perform. This included a bit of bumpy stuff at the Seaway. Overall the results were impressive, including the ride over choppy water. I was also really surprised how dry the ride was for such a low-sided boat.
In flat water we were able to really open up the throttle and fly up the bay at 40 knots. That's the equivalent of doing 74 km/h on the road so you can see it really is hooting!
As a note of caution I suggest you don't get behind the wheel of this baby if you don't know what you're doing, or if you haven't got a clear run of smooth water. And if you've got high blood pressure - forget it!
Certainly for high-speed performance you need the driving console. It not only gives you greater control over the boat, but places your weight further for'ard to help balance the boat.
The console is a small unit, but big enough to squeeze in a sports steering wheel, recessed throttle, and motor gauges, 7-gang electric switch, compass, LCD sounder and 27MHz radio.
The throttle lever falls easily to hand, a good point to consider when you are traveling very quickly. Interestingly enough you don't get a windscreen, but that's in keeping with the principal of a clean-as-a-whistle fishing area.
The boat handles well, though I did notice a foil had been fitted to improve the hole-shot performance. Even so we got a bit of bow lift when we accelerate from a standing start.
Our performance figures with the 90hp were as follows:
3500 rpm 24 knots
4500 rpm 34 knots
5500 rpm 40 knots
That's heaps of performance and suggests that you could come back a notch to a 70hp two-stroke and still get pretty decent performance.
The 90hp two-stroke is definitely the way to go if you want to retain the red-blooded performance we got in this test.
An alternative way to travel would be to drop back to a tiller-steered, but smaller motor like a 70hp or 60hp. Such a rig would be slower, but still retain a sporty feel and obviously save you some dollars.
Another option would be a tiller-steered four-stroke, provided it wasn't too heavy. A Honda 50hp would do the trick in terms of transom weight.
The boat comes standard with a 90-litre, in-floor fuel tank so you will already get quite a big range from one fill-up. Obviously a four-stroke motor would stretch that capacity even further.
It is also good to see the battery protected within the stern locker. There's actually space for two batteries since you will need a second one for the electric pumps on the 'live' tanks.
The front end features a short bowsprit incorporating bow roller and cleat to hold the anchor on deck. A low split rail automatically feeds the anchor line into the roller.
The bow rail has a gap to allow an electric motor to be fitted. Meanwhile the handrails continue around the sides for extra crew safety, and as mounting points for clamp-on rod holders. You could also add a clamp-on cutting board, but that's unlikely if the boats used for lure and fly-fishing.
In keeping with the latter theme the casting deck is raised high in the boat so there's only about 20cm of freeboard. This casting deck incorporates several lockers including a large one to take life jackets, and a smaller one for the anchor. There's also a live well up for'ard.
Moving aft there's a long locker on the port side to take rods to 9ft. On the starboard side you get three lockers to keep personal gear dry.
Back aft there's a battery compartment and a live-bait tank in the starboard corner of the stern. As well you get a kill tank in the floor, also four floor slots for the two pedestal seats.
This Bass Boss provides loads of fishing space, including the stern area next to the motor well. However, the layout is best suited to a two-person crew so they will be able to enjoy plenty of space to cast without getting in each other's way.
The raised casting deck around the sides is not wide, but suffice to use for stand up casting. If the water is rough, you simply step back into the cockpit well.
In a pure fishing sense the tiller-steer version gives you the most interior room, but for ground covering you won't beat the console model matched to a powerful motor.
It goes almost without saying this is a very serious fishing platform. Also the standard package gives you quite a lot of fishing features, including the live-wells front and back. What you're dealer will add is electrics, pump system, clamp-on rod holders, Nav lights and safety gear.
Depending on your fishing style you might also splash out on an electric motor, and possibly an EPIRB if you were going into very remote areas. Keep in mind you may end up being out of range of your 27MHz radio or mobile phone. As a last resort, an EPIRB will raise help.
Stessl has produced a great little fishing package for the flat-water sport fisherman. This is a market that is still evolving in this country and a boat like the 4.6 Bass Boss will help to expand the market further.
This boat is going to make a few fishos reconsider their options. Those who are a bit fed up with coastal fishing results might well decide to buy this boat and try a new style of fishing. That is what the Stessl Bass Boss is all about.
No doubt fly and lure mad fishos will love this rig and be among the first to buy. However, I can see other mainstream fishos eyeing this boat off and thinking about giving it a go. It is sure going to give 'em something different to dream about!
Priced at around the twenty grand market the boat is still affordable, and with a bit of compromise you could get the package even cheaper. So if you are interested in this stylish new Stessl give one of the company's dealers a call. Then start practicing up those lure casts in the backyard!
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