Snapper slayer Tony McLeod is contemplating his next 6m rig. A call from the captain to test a Tournament 2000 Bluewater came at just the right time.
Mick and I are your typical southern fishermen. We work in semi-important blue-collar jobs, drive Land Cruisers and watch AFL footy until the snapper arrive in October. Then we hitch up our well-worn 6m runabouts, pile in the pillies and head out in the bay before work. But the plan changed this year. Mick (moonlighting as a drone operator) got a phone call from The Captain’s crew. They wanted help testing and filming some boats – and they needed a rock-steady crew to pick up and skipper a large, hardtop runabout. It was a Tournament 2000 Bluewater fitted with a new lightweight 200HP Suzuki four-stroke. The plan was to hunt southern bluefin tuna from Portland and Port Fairy. Hell, it was a no-brainer; snapper season could wait another week.
Our third crewman was John Hoyne. He loves his fishing, but he’s not that good at it. Fortunately for us, his special skill is matching crisp pale ales to any occasion.
CLASS (’GLASS) ACT
We caught up with The Captain’s crew at Geelong Marine World. The Tournament looked sleek and stylish with angular lines and large panes of swept-back glass. The smell of freshly laid fibreglass wafted out of the hard-topped cabin. Running an admiring hand over the sides, we came to some impressively wide chines. Someone reckoned the hull shape originated from the old Mustang hulls – and the Haines boys had extended the chines for a more stable ride. The guys from the dealership fitted up trailer plugs and excited us with fishing reports, although the weather report was far less exciting. “Looks like those wide chines might come in handy,” I mused. No matter, we hitched up, Mick put on his favourite Dire Straits CD and we pointed west in search of shimmering blue flanks.
BASS STRAIGHT BOOGIE
Arriving at Portland harbour, we noticed only three trailers in the car park. Had the squally seas put off anglers or had the tuna gone off the bite? It didn’t take long to find out. Sloppy 2.5m seas with 25kt winds whipping the tops off the waves greeted us as we nosed out the harbour heading for St Lawrence Rocks – and beyond into Bass Strait – if the Tournament would oblige us.
I opened up the throttle on the lightweight 200HP Suzuki and the hull locked in like a slot car, riding gently atop the sloppy sea. The extra-wide chines worked nicely to keep the boat up and out of the water rather than ploughing through it and creating a wall of unwanted salt water. We came off some big waves, and waited for a “bang” that never happened. The helm position on the Tournament is set back at midships offering a soft riding position and feeling of control. The relatively narrow hull (2.34m beam) is quiet yet firm through the water. The hull features a full fibreglass construction and foam-filled glass stringers. There’s no storage below deck due in part to the glass lay-up, but there was ample storage for drones, pale ales and rusty Halcos in the eskies below the seat frames. The hardtop configuration does eat into the fishing deck space, but in weather conditions like this nobody was complaining. Hopefully that would change when we hooked up. Just so we were ready, we did a trial run on the transom-mounted marlin door.
LET’S GET WET
The south-westerly sea was bashing us hard, but the hardtop was in its element – keeping the elements out and leaving the crew dry, warm and comfortable, three abreast across the dash assembly. It was interesting watching Mick as green waves came over the top. He normally runs a 6m alloy runabout, and he instinctively ducked, waiting for the wave to burst through the clears, drenching the helmsman. But it never came. The only thing more we could ask of the hardtop was a decent windscreen wiper, to make maximum use of the expansive glass. Another neat feature on the Tournament is the sliding lockable cabin. I’m a Collingwood six-footer (for non AFL fans, it refers to someone who is not quite six foot, yet plays like one) and there was plenty of room for Bass Strait siestas while waiting for the Tiagras to go off.
We trolled patterns out wide, keeping an ear out on the VHF for the hot bite, shadowing birds, eating sangers, occasionally sampling John’s pale ales and testing the sleeping configuration of the Tournament. We couldn’t mark anything – there was a great big bare patch where a 12” sounder would be mounted, but this was her first test run and the sounder hadn’t been installed. Mick launched the drone, which was later chased by a huge gannet in an aerial battle where Mick’s piloting eventually won the day. Mick is known as a bit of Red Baron for his aggressive drone piloting, but unfortunately he wouldn’t be so lucky when he tangled with the shotgun rigger on the Seafarer Vagabond we were shooting. Such is Mick’s nature, he shrugged his shoulders and pulled out the back-up drone. The Captain’s crew later placated him with a pair of schmick Makos and bag of lures to soften the pain.
The Tournament hull was served beautifully by the lightweight 200HP Suzuki. Mick and I thought four-stroke technology had peaked (we both run older model four-strokes), but this outboard takes it to another level. She pushed the 960kg hull weight effortlessly at any rev range, with a gorgeous roar but no bad vibrations. We had to double-check the fuel bill at the end of the day – using just over 100 litres.
Unfortunately, the barrels didn’t bite, but I didn’t come just for that. Nor did I come for John’s superb pale ales, although they were very pleasing. Nope, I came because I’m contemplating my next boat. Compared to my Cruisecraft 625 Explorer, the Tournament tracks straighter and firmer, lands softer and sticks to the water longer. You really feel part of this boat.
The forward cabin and roomy hardtop also compare favourably, but the fishing deck space on the Cruisecraft is much bigger. A hardtop is definitely on my list of must-haves. A firm lid on your rig will also get an approving nod from your other half as you make spurious claims about safety for the kids. What’s more, this rig comes in under two tonne – and about $90K fitted out with what you really want.