A lot of people ask why we started The Captain. We usually tell them it’s because “We’re really passionate about fishing and boating” or “We love telling interesting stories about legends of the sea”. Now both those points might be true, but they’re not the real reason. The real reason we started The Captain was because we didn’t have a boat, and we were hangin’ to get out for a fish. So it came as a great delight when an email popped into The Captain’s mailbox from Connor Burke, inviting us on board his fully kitted-out Stabicraft 1850 Frontier called Work Horse. With a name like that, it was only fitting that we lined up the boat test on Melbourne Cup Day.
The starting gate was Bayview boat ramp on Sydney’s Pittwater, the thoroughbred was a beautiful black 1850 Frontier and the jockeys were Connor and his old man, Steve. From the gates, the racetrack looked in tip-top condition — not a ripple on the surface. However, we’d got a hot tip from the bookie (aka Seabreeze) that the track would deteriorate when we rounded the heads. They weren’t wrong, either; there was a 3m sea with a 20-knot breeze blowing the tops off. The 1850 Frontier lapped it up. The 4m camera boat, on the other hand, not so much. We aborted the offshore mission and instead decided to pester the local bream population inshore.
BACK TO BASICS
We cruised back into sheltered waters and deployed the Minn Kota. The weed beds around Pittwater usually hold plenty of squid and on the off chance we bumped into some hoodlum kings, it couldn’t hurt to have a few live baits. After securing a handful of cephalopods, we cruised over to the bream honey hole and burleyed up harder than Captain Quint on the hunt for Jaws. The bream came in thick and fast, and within a couple of hours we’d filled the 1850’s 66L live well with a collection of tasty yellowfin bream. The kings, however, wouldn’t play ball. It didn’t matter, though. We all had smiles on our dials after an epic little back-to-basics bream session.
The great thing about the 1850 Frontier is its fish factor. The centre console configuration matched with classic Stabicraft stability makes this rig the ultimate fishing platform. There’s also a great casting deck at the bow, which runs all the way back to the front of the centre console. Personally, I’d love some SeaDek or tube flooring up there for a bit of extra grip underfoot, as that checker plate can get seriously slippery when covered in tuna blood. Connor runs his twin Minn Kota batteries underneath the casting platform, but there’s still plenty of room for additional storage. He also dropped in foam mats, which dampened the acoustics of the hull and stopped his gear from sliding around. Speaking of gear, storage space can often be an issue with centre consoles. Connor and Steve say it’s not a problem, as aside from the casting platform, you’ve also got a massive 105L esky that doubles as the seat box, three sealed storage hatches inside the console and side pockets long enough for a 2m rod or speargun.
Apart from the lack of a Supercab hardtop, the 1850 Frontier has the same Stabicraft DNA throughout. It features all of The Captain’s favourites: the epic bait station configuration, kick-down transom seats and massive gunwales. In the electronics department, Connor runs a Lowrance HDS-9 Gen3 sounder on the dash and a Lowrance HDS 5x on the front of the console for easy viewing when pinging lures from the casting deck.
In the outboard department, Connor is running a Suzuki 115HP four-stroke. He says, “The Suzi goes like a dream and pushes the boat along really nicely”. We couldn’t agree more. The 1850 is a rocket ship and seriously fun to drive. Outboard reliability and hull predictability were a big part of Connor’s decision to go with the Suzi/Stabi combo. He says it’s an incredibly safe boat and that he’s never been in anything more surefooted in a trailing sea.
There’s really no such thing as a dry centre console under 12m — and the 1850 is no exception. In the right wind, you’ll get the occasional bit of spray, but that’s the price you pay for optimum fishability and sexy as fug aesthetics. Speaking of looks, it did take Connor a little while to see the 1850 as more of a beauty than a beast, “When I first saw a Stabicraft, I thought it was ugly, but they really grow on you. I now reckon my 1850 is a beautiful boat”. Connor and Steve plan to travel up north in the 1850 in search of a metre-long barra. The Captain wishes them all the best and can’t think of a better boat to be chasing such quarry. I guess we’ll just keep waiting by the mailbox for our invitation to arrive, eh Connor? Connor? Hello… Connor?
10 PROS AND 5 CONS OF CENTRE CONSOLE OWNERSHIP
Lets face it, there are centre consoles and then there are the huge American centre consoles with 1000HP-plus hanging off the rear. So for argument’s sake, before we get into the pros and cons of centre console ownership, let’s eliminate anything over the 7m mark and talk about what’s hot and what’s not when it comes to The Captain’s favourite configuration: the centre console.
• YOU LOOK COOL. Yes, it has to be said that it’s the nearest thing you’ll get to feeling like you’re driving an AC Cobra on the water.
• GREAT FOR FISHING. When it comes to landing a big tuna that’s taking you under, over and around the boat, the optimum configuration is a centre console. You could even do a dance around the maypole if you had some bells and sticks to clap.
• EASY TO LAUNCH ON YOUR OWN. Takes the pressure off looking like a noob at the ramp when you’re fishing solo.
• GREAT ATTITUDE ON THE WATER. This is where the science comes in. With the configuration balanced in the middle, centre consoles should (if properly designed) perform better on the water. All your weight distribution is evenly spread and added to that, there is no cabin to make the boat top-heavy.
• EASY TO ANCHOR SOLO. There are no cabins to climb over or hatches to squeeze through (which, judging by the size of some fisherman we’ve seen could end up being a job for the fire brigade).
• VISIBILITY ON THE WATER. If you’re an average fisherman, that extra bit of visibility might just give you the slight advantage over your average fisherman mates.
• LIGHTER. Yes, indeed, less is more (cash in your wallet) when you’re burning up fuel dragging a boat up the Eastern Seaboard.
• FUN FACTOR. It seems that a lot of boat owners who progress up the ranks still long for their first centre console. It’s the wind and salt spray in their face that reminds them they’re still alive.
• MORE LINES IN THE WATER. If your mates are as hard as you are, well then it’s easier for a few to fish at the same time. Just gotta make sure you have three friends, though.
• YOU LOOK LIKE A PRO. Only real men go out to the shelf in a centre console. Stick two torpedoes on the side and you’ll be hunting down battleships in your spare time.
• WETTER THAN AN OCTOPUS’ GARDEN. Yes, there are two schools of thought here. Not the driest boat you’ll ride in, but at least you don’t have to scrub off caked tuna blood at the end of the day — the journey home in a stiff nor-easter will do the job nicely.
• SEATING CAN BE A BIT LIMITED IN A CENTRE CONSOLE. Not so bad down the stern, but some poor bugger is going to be sitting up the front. Unless you want to exfoliate, you’ll need a full-face helmet for protection.
• STORAGE AND SECURITY. Not so great when you go to pay for your petrol and come back to find your Ian Miller flick stick missing.
• SALTY GEAR. Dry bags are your best friends on a centre console — put them on your list of things to buy. While you’re at Whitworths also invest in some Inox spray to keep your sounders and wiring in tip top shape.
• ROD STORAGE. Without a cabin or hardtop rocket launchers, you’ll usually find yourself tripping over fishing rods all day.