Neither smoke nor flame can stop The Captain heading south on the deadly hume with the promise of a ride in the first Stabicraft 2250 Ultra Centrecab in the country — and the smell of free fishing gear in his nostrils. The Captain’s phone lit up at much the same time as the south-eastern corner of Australia was lit up with bushfires. On the other end was Ed Richardson, bossman at Richardson Marine in Warrnambool, Victoria. He had a question. “How soon can you guys get down here? I’ve got my hands on the first Stabicraft 2250 Ultra Centrecab in Oz.” The Captain sniffed the smoky breeze. “With all these bushfires around at the moment, Ed, I’m thinking we won’t be able to make it down.” But Big Ed knows how to throw a bit of burley in the water. “OK, how about I give you 60 seconds in the Tackle Shack to grab as much free fishing gear as you want?” “Ah, we’ll see you tomorrow.”
ATTACK AT THE TACKLE SHACK
The next morning, we poke our way through the smoke to our blacked-out 5.7L V8 RAM 1500 ride — and quickly fill the XOS tray to the brim with eskies, swags, camera gear and a few rods. Ten hours later, we’re muscling our way through the Maccas drive-through in Traralgon. It’s an all-American feeding frenzy in the fresh air of the Latrobe Valley — ironic, given the region is known for its giant smelters. The sun is setting over green pastures as we arrive at Richardson Marine, ready to take up the Tackle Shack challenge. It’s always been The Captain’s dream to go on a 60-second free-shopping spree and Ed’s tackle shop is the perfect place to do it. He carries all the top brands — we’re talking rods and reels worth $1000-plus, heaps of skirts and stickbaits worth $100 each, and some of the freshest bait in the land. With no Ed in sight, we explain the mission to shop manager Corey.
Strangely, he’s not too keen on the idea, but after listening to The Captain babble excitedly for five minutes without drawing breath, he caves and we hit the shop — hard. Sixty frenzied seconds later, the place looks like a bombsite and we’ve netted $5000 worth of gear. We’re shoving our ill-gotten booty into an already jam-packed RAM when Ed shows up, looking just a tad pissed off. “What the hell do you guys think you’re doing?” he booms across the car park. “Er, we did the 60-second challenge and this is what we grabbed,” we mumble. “No mate, I said I’d give you a $60 gift voucher,” Ed clarifies. Shit. It must have been the smoke in our ears.
JUST RAM IT
The RAM 1500 Laramie crew cab is the wolf cub of the RAM pack. But that doesn’t mean this 2.5-tonner doesn’t pack way more punch than most pickups out there. On this mission, The Captain was piloting an Express Black Pack stealth model — 20” black rims, black badging, black headlamps, black grille, black bumpers, black metallic paint. So cool, it should be wearing sunglasses. And the lockable/drainable storage system in the side rails of the tub double as eskies or fish storage. Inspired. Powered by 5.7 litres of V8 Hemi cranking out 300kW and 556Nm of torque, the Laramie has grunt galore, but it’s also a comfortable highway rig. The luxurious full-size cabin has heaps of legroom and storage, heated front seats and steering wheel, and all the travel tech runs through the UCONNECT touchscreen. The only sign there’s a beast under this bonnet is that unmistakable V8 rumble, which always gets heads turning.
On the highway, the eight-speed auto gearbox has us smooth cruising at low revs and isn’t as thirsty as you’d expect, sucking a respectable 15L per 100km. The big V8 only starts to growl when you drop the hammer, but with a 121L fuel tank, you don’t have to worry how far the nearest servo is. This baby pulls its weight. The Laramie has two towing options and The Captain tested the model with lower overall gearing. We managed to cram 500kg of cargo on board and still tow 3.5 tonnes like it was cardboard. At times, we forgot there was anything hanging off the rear. Seriously. On the tow, the 1500 boasts a few more nice touches. Tow/haul mode sharpens up the engine and transmission response for towing, and sway control comes standard, as do monster mirrors. The RAM 1500 sure does the business. And as The Captain discovered, despite its width, it’s not too shabby as a beach buggy, either.
NO GEAR, NO WORRIES
After the unfortunate misunderstanding at the Tackle Shack, all we end up with are a couple of bags of Ed’s signature shaved ice. “This stuff is so bloody good, one bag will last you the whole trip,” Ed explains, clearly trying to get us excited about our consolation prize. “It’s made with five per cent saltwater, so it stays freezing cold for much longer than servo ice.” Trying hard not to look too ungrateful, we dump the bags into the RamBox Cargo Management System. These are centrally lockable, wing-style storage tubs on either side of the tray. In one we’ve got fresh squid and pipis, and in the other a case of Furphy brews. Sorted. Oh, and if you’re wondering, the boxes are bunged so you can drain them out, should Richo’s miracle ice ever melt. Now all we need is a boat.
Ed’s never let us down in that department. He leads us over to his brand-new Stabicraft 2250 Ultra Centrecab demo. It’s got everything we need for a week touring the blustery but beautiful south-west Victorian coast. The 2250 is a relatively new release for Stabi and was conceived through social media feedback, believe it or not. Punters loved the bigger 2750 Centrecab, but wanted that same configuration in a scaled-down, more affordable package. After two years in design, voila! The 2250 was born.
SESSION WITH SCOTTY
As dawn cracks the following morning, we hitch up and head out of Port Fairy in convoy with Captain crewman Scotty Gray. The weather is absolutely shit house, so we stay in close and chase King George whiting. After around three hours and 300 wrasse, we finally get into the whiting, a snapper and even a couple of crays, plucked while free diving.
As usual, Scotty out fished us all. He knows this part of the country intimately and has a knack of always dropping the right rig with the right bait in the right spot.
The Captain has never seen someone call a fish as early as Scotty. We head back to the Port Fairy ramp pretty chuffed with our session before sliding the 2250 onto the trailer and hitting the pub.
The weather turns even nastier the next day, so we decide to bunker down at Gum Tree Caravan Park. It’s a top spot — super clean with heaps of parking for trailer boats, and Pete the owner always seems to know where the fish are biting. Just don’t bother asking him about his jewie hole — he’ll never spill the beans on that one. In the arvo, we decide to test out the RAM’s off-roadability on the local beaches.
She does it with ease, so we search for a quiet spot on the sand to crank up a bonfire. We scrape together enough ingredients out of the OtterBox esky to whip together tasty whiting tacos on the grill. What starts as an impromptu little beach session turns into an epic beach bash. We eat like kings, fish off the beach, drink a few Furphys and talk shit around the campfire, all the while keeping one eye on the tide.
With the weather on the mend, we continue west to the tuna capital of Victoria — actually, probably the tuna capital of Australia — Portland, where we’re chasing, er, flathead. On board for the trip are two young guns — Jonty, a mechanic on loan from Richo, and Lachy who’s a sparky. They’re a useful pair of blokes to have on a fishing trip. The fellas assure us the flatties have been hard on the chew and not to waste our time on tuna. Already starting to drool at the prospect of another beach cook-up, this time with flatty tails, The Captain puts up no resistance.
Launching at Portland ramp early, we hook a right out of the breakwater and run down the coast. The huge Portland wind turbines spinning in the morning light are a familiar sight to hopeful fishos in the Bass Strait briny. Cutting the gap between Point Danger and Lawrence Rocks, we’re smacked in the nose by 20 knots of wind. The 2250 just laps it up, deflecting the spray and sliding softly into the troughs. We bang into this slop for an hour — seems the boys had neglected to tell us the flatty grounds were in 100m of water off Cape Bridgewater. Hmmmmm. We’ve travelled less distance for marlin, so maybe these flat boys will be 3m long.
We drop the first baits down and like clockwork we’re into the flatties. The young guns breathe a sigh of relief. Over the course of an hour, we haul 20 of the tasty suckers into the 2250’s icebox — that’s dinner sorted.
With enough fillets on board to stock a fish ’n’ chip shop on a Sunday night, we decide on a new quarry — abalone. But we don’t have any dive gear. No problem. The boys get on the blower to their mate, Mason, who hand-delivers a wetsuit, mask and fins to Bridgewater, earning the heartfelt gratitude of The Captain, who’s once again drooling at this potential addition to the menu. Lachy suits up, jumps in and plucks a few black-lipped abs from the ice-blue water. Flathead and chips for dinner has just turned into fisherman’s basket.
As with all trips to south-west Victoria, the day we have to leave is when the good weather rolls around. Like clockwork, as soon as we pull the 2250 off the water for the last time, the clouds clear and the sun pops out. The Captain can’t resist one last session. Before returning the boat to Richo, we drop her in at Port Fairy and cruise out to Lady Julia Percy Island on the hunt for some kingies. The fish don’t play the game, but after all the shit weather, it’s cool to explore the island in glamour conditions.
As for the Stabicraft 2250, we’ve become so attached to this little baby that we’re looking for any excuse not to hand back the keys. The 2250 is a seriously versatile rig. We’ve fished for chinook salmon in an Oregon river aboard one, and they’re just as much at home in the American Northwest as they are off Portland in 100m of water with 20-knot winds in a 3m swell. Stabi has done an awesome job designing a boat that has a spacious walkaround while still offering a massive cab big enough for four XL dudes and a shitload of camera gear. That’s the thing about walkaround configurations — they really need to hit the 22ft mark to have a functional cabin and walkaround. But Stabi has a knack for getting the ergos spot-on — the 2250 is no different.
Features on Richo’s demo rig include a bangin’ Fusion sound system, trick Garmin setup with 1k/W transducer and radar, a vee-berth extension, deck wash and more lights than a Melbourne nightclub. The huge 300L fuel tank pairs nicely with the punchy 300HP Suzi and we had the foamfilled hull humming along at 40 knots. Once you’ve had a foam-filled hull, you’ll never go back because it takes so much of the noise and vibration out of the ride.
Tow weight is around the 2500kg mark, which means we hardly even notice she’s there behind the big RAM. As The Captain will tell anyone who’ll listen — and even a few who are actually trying to watch the footy on the TV above the bar — he loves the forward-raking windscreen and reckons a lot more trailer boats will adopt this configuration before too much bloody longer. Price-wise, you’d be gobsmacked to hear you can get this whole rig — truck and boat — for around $300,000, as tested. If you go for a base-level truck and standard Stabi, you could do it for around $210,000. That’s a bargain in The Captain’s log.
Touring the south-west coast was epic. For the most part, The Captain has only chased tuna and crayfish from ports along the Great Ocean Road, so it was awesome to explore more diverse country and catch different species for a change. And we couldn’t think of a better rig to do it from than the Stabicraft 2250 Ultra Centrecab.
1058 Raglan Parade, Warrnambool, Victoria.
(03) 5562 6373; www.richardsonmarine.com.au
345 Bluff Road, Invercargill, Southland, New Zealand.
+64 3 211 1828; www.stabicraft.com
WHERE TO STAY IN PORT FAIRY
Gum Tree Caravan Park
(03) 5568 1462