The Captain’s crew heads to the Daly River in the Northern Territory to rendezvous with Paul Williams, the proud owner of a GS Marine prototype centre console fitted with a Lowrance and Simrad combo – and a massive Merc donk hanging out the back.
Ah, the fishing tournament. A time when fishos clad themselves in ill-fitting, brightly coloured, UPF15+ shirts designed to attract sponsors and scare away women. A time when rods and reels are polished like fine swords in preparation for battle. A time when blood is spilt and Bundy is drunk hard and often. Egos are on the line and rigs are on display. Paul Williams fits the bill perfectly. He’s at the 22nd Barra Nationals in his GS Marine 6.5m Hydracraft CC. It would be rude not to send a raiding party to check it out.
DASH UP THE DALY
The Captain’s crew finds Paul mooching anxiously around a rickety old marina that’s been invaded by aluminum centre consoles. It could be a scene from Vikings – although instead of swords and arrows these warriors wield short, stiff graphite rods and cast Gold Bombers. Paul escorts us onto his rig, a well-worn battle axe that’s seen many tours of duty. As a tribute to its fine service, he’s fitted it with a brand spanking new, white 350HP Verado. The rig is set up Territory-style, with the console almost in the bilge and a big casting deck up front. “There are a few tricks you can’t see,” chuckles Paul. “We installed insulation from an engine room under the front hatch to keep the twin fibreglass eskies cool.” With a nose for such matters, we figure that’s where he stores his Bundy bounty.
Fanging down the Daly, colourful shirts flapping wildly, Paul explains that GS Marine (now Xtreme Marine Darwin) built this boat for him as a prototype back in the early 2000s. The configuration is based on the needs of commercial guides with a few tweaks requested by Paul. A maritime lecturer at Charles Darwin University, he’s got more than a few clues about marine design. One major change was to rearrange the bow to provide a more aggressive entry into the water.
Paul’s rig oozes commercial class. It has a 6mm bottom, 4mm sides and 4mm floor. It also carries an impressive 330L of fuel for long-range raiding missions up the river. Weapon storage is everywhere, with more hatches and hidey-holes than a Norseman’s longship. There’s a massive live-bait tank, which Paul uses to store barra alive and well. He keeps them hostage while the bite is hot. When the action slows, he can take his time to measure, photograph and release the captives.
Mercury is the power plant of choice for Paul’s baby. In the past 14 years, she’s had three different Mercs tickle her transom – a 225HP Optimax, a 250HP Verado and now a 350HP Verado in “Cold Fusion” white fitted with a jacking plate. Smitten, Paul reckons it’s beautifully smooth and could tear down an English bridge with the amount of torque it produces. Interestingly, his fuel economy has improved after the changeover to the bigger donk. Although the engine block is the same, the new technology inside is where all the magic happens.
Paul runs a 24V MotorGuide Xi5 pumping out 80lb of thrust. He set his up with twin lithium batteries half the weight of lead acid batteries. They are charged up by the alternator when the house and motor batteries are topped up. He uses a Pro Charge DC-DC battery charger, which means no messing around with plugs and extension leads after a day on the water.
BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
The digital arsenal features the new Simrad NSS9 evo3 and the Lowrance HDS-9 Carbon. You seldom see two different electronic brands on the same boat, but there’s a method in this madness. Paul runs the two Simrads on the console for his StructureScan and charts when underway, while the forward-facing Lowrance talks to the MotorGuide autopilot. Together, the system networks to create seamless integration between the units, electric motor and the outboard with Mercury VesselView Link. Best of all, the sounder is always in sight no matter where you’re standing on the boat – so any hiding barra will be quickly marked and targeted for a major bombing assault.
Paul doesn’t use traditional sonar any more. It’s all about StructureScan 3D as he mainly fishes in shallow water. The DownScan and SideScan give a much clearer picture, to the point where he can actually count the number of barra sitting on a snag or mark fish sitting 40m on either side of the boat.
After a pretty quiet session on the barra, we fly back to base at a speed the Viking gods could only dream of, our manly beards sailing at horizontal angles while the mangroves shoot past in a blur. We say our farewells, leaving Paul’s crew to return to their barra battles. They end up catching some cracking fish and snag 16th place out of 62 boats. Nice work, lads. The Captain salutes you.