The Captain tackles northern NSW in one of the first Stabicraft 2750 centrecabs to hit Aussie shores.
Stabicraft recently put together a fully decked-out, custom 2750 Centrecab for gun Kiwi fisherman Matt Watson – you know, the crazy bloke that catches marlin from surfboards and giant tuna on handlines? Anyway, the boat was so well received, Stabi decided to put it into production. Northside Marine in Brisbane snapped one up straight away, then wired up a sounder and dropped on a pair of shiny new F150 Yammies. Looked like The Captain was heading to Queensland.
Matt Watson fishes bloody hard, so we were pretty confident that this 8.4m, full-walkaround beast was going to max out the fishability spectrometer. Just to be sure, we called up a snapback cap-wearing mate who fishes just as hard, Jason Hedges. Based in Kingscliff, northern NSW, Jase has caught more mackerel in his time than The Captain has had homemade dinners. These days he pings poppers over shallow reefs and hauls fat kingfish off deep-water pinnacles on jigs. He also guides for Nomad Sportfishing in his spare time, helping wealthy overseas anglers catch the giant GTs of their (wet) dreams. At the moment, Jase is looking for a boat to get back into the commercial/charter game, so we teed up a fish with him on Northside’s shiny new 2750.
As we lined up the Tweed River bar crossing, all we could see on the other side was whitecaps. Jase dropped the throttles on the 2750 and powered the big girl through the slop. The sharp entry into the water combined with the arrow pontoons meant she punched the spray out and away, while any water that landed on the windscreen or top of the cab drained neatly off to the flanks. It’s usually hard to measure stability while you’re underway, but you can always feel it in a Stabicraft. The boat runs flat across the water and doesn’t wallow on its sides at low speed. The 2750 can be fitted with trim tabs, but you’d probably only need them if you were hauling lots of people and gear extra-long distances. With the big fish bin in the cabin completely empty, we noticed some acoustics through the floor when steaming into a head sea. But it’s by no stretch of the imagination a loud ride – especially with the foam-injected pontoons. Speaking of the cabin, it’s not every day you see a centrecab that rocks a lock-up bi-folding door as standard. All four of us on board cruised out comfortable and dry within the cab.
After an unsuccessful bait-gathering session, we pointed the 2750 south towards a spot imaginatively named “9 Mile” in search of topwater action. Jase fired huge Cubera poppers over the shallow reef from the forward casting platform, while Bill Hull from Northside played it cool, ripping metal slices across the surface from the rear cockpit. Bill showed the young bucks how it was done, hooking up and subduing a chunky 4kg mack tuna. Not to be overshadowed, Jase grabbed the tuna and said, “Thanks Bill, that’ll make great bait,” before nonchalantly sliding the confused fish headfirst into the massive tuna tubes.
A lot of fishing innovation really has gone into this boat, particularly at the pointy end. To maximise the amount of flat fishing space, Stabi have designed a casting platform that extends along the bowsprit. This means you can’t actually see the anchor from the helm of the boat – a bit of a challenge for the skipper, but awesome for the casting crew. The bow rail is rolled in to give you something to lean against while you’re chugging big poppers or swimming shiny stickbaits, and the anchorwinch is tucked neatly below deck alongside storage hatches for ropes, spare lures, leader or any other bits and pieces you’d use up on the bow. The non-skid that Stabicraft runs on their gunwales also extends to the bow and feels great underfoot. It’s a shame the rest of the boat was left with raw checker plate, as we could’ve fried an egg on the floor at midday. In fairness, Stabicraft does offer tube floor matting or teak imitation cabin flooring as optional extras.
BLACKS & MACKS
After bagging a few more mack tuna, we were in the middle of a team meeting to decide our next plan of attack when someone yelled, “Marlin!” A free-jumping black was hightailing it across the surface less than 100m from the boat. Jase jumped into action setting a spread of lures and working the area. After no nibbles, we pulled the pin and went for round two on the livies. We filled the big 70L live well up with yakkas, but could only muster one slimy mackerel (marlin candy around these parts).
With the tide about to change, we cruised back to where we had spotted the marlin. The weather was so rough, the other boats had called it quits – but we were just getting started.
The change brought the reef to life. Huge bait balls had formed right on the surface, the birds were in a frenzy and manta rays were launching from the water 5m into the air. We drifted the reef edge for about five minutes before the little Tiagra 16 with the live slimy on it got an inquiry. Smack! The bait got aggressively bill-whacked by a little marlin, which then turned away uninterested – hadn’t his mum told him not to play with his food? We retrieved the slimy to find him looking like he’d been beaten to a pulp with a baseball bat.
With only yakkas left in the tank, we switched our efforts to Spanish mackerel. Jase brought out his neat pre-made rig bag and delicately removed his secret Spanish weapon: a wire rig with a circle hook, treble stinger and lumo skirt. We lined up another drift and sent the yakkas to work on the new rigs. It didn’t take long before the Tiagra 16 went off again, but this time it found another gear – this reel was about to take off. A heated battle dragged out before a fat 20kg Spanish mackerel was hoisted over the gunwales. We’re not sure what was more impressive, the fish or the fact that four blokes were all leaning over the same side of the boat at once and the 2750 didn’t budge.
After high fives all round, we struggled to cram the big mack into the esky. We inspected the underfloor fish bins and decided they were too big. You’d need 200L of ice to keep them cold for a day, but on the other hand, you could fill them with half a tonne of Spanish mackerel. The Captain’s not sure how practical this would be for a recreational fisho, but commercial blokes would be drooling over payload possibilities. You could fit anything from half a BCF store to a juvenile megalodon down there. Other features in the rear cockpit of the 2750 include the classic Stabicraft bait station.
Usually, the centralised compartment holds batteries, live bait tank and baitboard. We’re big fans of that set-up. This one was a little different – the live well has been moved to the port side of the transom, replaced by a big tackle drawer underneath the baitboard. It doesn’t look as tidy and we’re undecided whether it’s more or less practical. It looks like we’ll have to go fishing with Bill again!
Inside the cabin it feels like a US Army troop carrier. There are four inward-facing fold-down seats, which work well. For the skipper and first mate there are two Softrider pedestals – the most comfortable seats we’ve ever plonked our weary buttocks on in a Stabi – and with the addition of a bolster, they are also great for leaning against.
One of The Captain’s favourite Stabi features is the berth extension/cargo barrier, which comes standard on the 2750. This boat is just turn-key after fitting out the engines and electronics. The standard features list is almost three times longer than the options list!
However, The Captain would love to see some additional internal storage, especially those great cabin side pockets we’ve come to love in other models. And it did get mighty sweaty in the cabin, even with both windows cracked and the optional Maxwell roof hatch open. A 12V or USB powered fan would probably sort that in the interim, but a more permanent factoryfitted solution would be better.
TWINS GET THE GRINS
The Yamaha punched out a clean set of fours. At 4000RPM we were travelling at 40km/h and burning 40L/h combined – incredible numbers for an 8.4m rig. In fact, combined with the 500L fuel tank it can travel 500km, almost enough to get from Cooktown to the tip of Cape York in one whack. Although the F150XBs had plenty of poke and killer efficiency, if The Captain owned this ride he’d be going up to twin Yamaha F200XCAs, which are lighter and have fly-by-wire controls. That’s not even close to maxing out the hull though. You can strap on up to 500HP and still be streetlegal – yeehah!
After an awesome day on the water, we slid the boat back onto the trailer and pulled her out of the drink. It was such a bonus to be able to tow this boat with a stock Land Cruiser – there aren’t many 8.4m rigs you can do that with (be sure to check your maximum towing weights). Stabicraft have done an awesome job of bringing a commercial boat feel into the production boat category. It definitely has Matt Watson’s DNA all over it (not literally, we hope) and if Stabicraft asked The Captain or Jase to design a boat for them, we couldn’t have nailed it any better.