With the best yellowfin tuna bite off the NSW east coast since The Captain could legally drink proof rum, we tee up a session with rock-steady Rod Findlay aboard his smooth new Grady-White Seafarer 228.
When it comes to yellowfin tuna bites off the east coast, Rod Findlay is a professor of pelagics. The bloke knows what they’re having for breakfast lunch and tea, knows the conditions they love to chow down in and has a long teledex of other blokes just as committed to hunting them as he is. Most people would know Rod and his salt-encrusted orange goatee from the flybridge of Murrifin — a 39ft (11.9m), custom-built, seafoam green game boat and notorious fish-catcher usually found at the Broken Bay Game Fishing Club. But The Captain’s crew won’t be sniffing diesel fumes today. We meet Rod at a Sydney Harbour boat ramp to check out his new V6-powered Grady- White Seafarer 228. The mission involves a sashimi platter of yellowfin tuna with a side of yellowtail kingfish. You’ll need soy sauce, wasabi and a large box of serviettes by the time you’ve finished this yarn.
“Morning fellas!” proclaims an excited Rod as he steps out of his Ford Ranger and begins removing the straps off his appropriately named Murriweeni — a family name his old man came up with in the mid-1970s. Rod scuttles up the dive ladder, slots in the outriggers and guides the key into the ignition in a well-practised routine. Before we can pull the camera out of its Pelican case, Rod has already backed the trailer down and is removing the safety chain. He then pirouettes onto the bow and begins reversing the boat off before The Captain can even mumble a half-arsed, “Er, need a hand there Rod?” You see, the Rodster is a man on a mission. He has a game-boat mindset and if you’ve ever fished on one, you probably know what we’re talking about. The crew works bloody hard from sun-up to sundown, ensuring the boat is immaculate and organised, the gear in perfect working order and the baits or lures swimming correctly. When the sun goes down and the rums come out, they show a similar commitment to lubricating their tonsils with spiced rum. But that’s another story.
Rod loads and stows our chunky camera away as quickly as he does everything else. The Captain wonders if he might actually be some kind of mutant Tetris experiment? As we cruise through seemingly endless four-knot zones, we get a chance to quiz Rod about his gameboat heritage and how Murrifin came to be. “Murrifin is our family vessel,” he says. “It’s owned by my mum, dad, brother and me and we built it from scratch at our family home in Bargo and launched it in 2001.” Asked how many marlin have been caught from her, Rod scratches his beard. “I wouldn’t know how to put a figure on that. It would have to be just under 1000.” We almost spill our hot chocolate over the immaculate white pompanette helm chair. After absorbing such Bradman-esque marlin numbers, we ask him “Game boat or trailerboat?” “When you’re in a 39ft, 1200HP diesel gamefishing boat you feel very serious,” Rod says. “The way you chase fish, the noise it makes. You get to take more mates, you sleep on it and it becomes very adventurous. Having said that, a trailerboat gives me the ability to go wherever the bite is. I can race up the coast and get straight on the fish, while game boats need to spend an extra day or two just getting there.”
GO FOR GOLD
Two hours pass chewing the fat until Rod pulls the Yammie fly-by-wire throttle down to trolling speed over the continental shelf. We try to stay out of his way as he meticulously sets a spread of skirts, divers and Profidgies. We’re surprised he has only one Tiagra in the line-up. “I bought this 50W off Tim Simpson at Complete Angler in Sydney when I was 14 and cleaning toilets — a pretty glamorous job,” Rod recalls. “It cost $825 and is still going strong.” Like a lot of fishos, Rod has been switching his game gear over to Talicas. “The Talicas are something we’ve started using this season after seeing Mike Bonnici and other successful fisherman running them,” he says. “They’ve got a great drag cam for bait fishing, which allows us to feed a bait to a marlin in a lot more controlled manner. They’re also great from a storage point of view, the smaller footprint allows you to have more in the boat.”
It’s almost lunchtime when the Tiagra outfit buckles over and line pours into the Pacific. After a few seconds, it stops as quickly as it started. “That would’ve been a massive fish!” Rod yells, inspecting the Halco Laser Pro lure now missing an entire hook and split ring. After licking our wounds it’s back to trolling. Just as The Captain’s crew are slipping into a Carlton Draught-induced slumber in the afternoon light, the Talicas start to scream. It’s a triple hook-up on smaller fish — yellowfin, no doubt. Rod muscles the first YFT to the boat with ease and to keep it “gaff hole-free” for its photo op, cracks it off on the prop. The next two fish aren’t so lucky, with the gaff head finding its mark perfectly in the shoulders. Next week’s dinner — at least — is sorted.
NO BAIT, MATE
Having ticked tuna off the list, it’s time to hunt kings in shallow water. We meet Rod again at the ramp on another chilly Sydney morning, but this time we manage to slow down his launch procedure enough to get a few images and video of his rig on the trailer. Rod seems agitated by the hold-up and it eventually emerges we really needed to be at the bait grounds at sunrise to get the slimy mackerel he was after. Finally on the mark, The Captain’s crew work the Sabiki rigs hard to make up for the delay, but it’s doughnuts, as Rod predicted. “I have a back-up plan, but you’re probably not going to like it,” he calls from the helm. “We can definitely get slimies just inside the continental shelf. The only problem is, I want to chase kings in close at Long Reef.”
With little option, we agree to a two-hour return trip to the shelf — to get bait. After the big journey east, the 228’s massive countered livewell is filled with string after string of slimies. We punch back to Long Reef, deploy the baits in 15m of water and within minutes, the Stella buckles. After an epic tussle, Rod’s got a 90cm kingie flapping on the deck. Box ticked. The session continues for a few hours and more kingies flop over the gunwales. We even throw some stickbaits from the bow, making our way around the walkaround — noting it’s the same configuration Grant Shorland adores so much for his bait-pitching to stripe marlin antics on the South Coast. The 228 proves how quickly she can convert from a serious game-fishing rig to inshore kingie killer with a 360-degree casting platform.
Rod picked up his 228 from the guys at Short Marine at The Spit on Sydney Harbour. Once ordered, it took just three months to be delivered and, after a few custom bits and pieces such as a bespoke baitboard were added, was on the water. Rod reckons the 228 is probably a little bigger than he first anticipated, but ticked too many of his boxes to ignore. “You’ve got a cabin big enough for a couple of adults to sleep in,” he says. “It’s got huge cockpit space, which is awesome for game fishing, and it’s trailerable with a Ford Ranger at only 2.4m wide and less than three tonne fully loaded.
The walkaround configuration can’t be beaten in The Captain’s books and Rod makes full use of his — whether casting to surface-feeding fish, jigging, launching and retrieving solo, or using it to store long items such as fish chiller bags or rods. When it comes to Grady hulls, you know by now The Captain is as much of a fan of their above-water aesthetics as of their below-water dynamics. The C Raymond Hunt design — what they call the SeaV2 — features a sharp entry at the bow, which gradually becomes a more moderate vee heading towards the stern. This gives you the best of both worlds — a soft ride in shitty seas, and stability, so you don’t feel like you’re sitting on a knife’s edge. Construction is timberfree, with foam between the hull and liner for less reverberation. The 228 specifically has a 20-degree deadrise at the transom, which Rod reckons is key to its awesome performance. “It feels like a much bigger boat out at sea,” he says. “It’s got a slow roll moment, so it’s very comfortable to troll in. When you’re travelling, it also feels like a big boat because it’s not a super-deep vee — it doesn’t tip into turns.” A big part of the boat’s awesome performance is the integrated outboard pod that extends the waterline length. It adds buoyancy aft to hold big donks, creates space at the transom to fish and is better for reversing. You could even fit a cage on it and jig from the platform, Kiwi-style.
And speaking of the engine room, Rod is running a single V6 Yamaha F300 with a four-blade prop to suit his style of fishing. This configuration gives him better fuel consumption, averaging around 1.5L per nautical mile, travelling and trolling. The four-blader also brought Rod’s cruise revs down to 3500RPM, which has him moving along at around 24 knots. Those numbers, paired with a 431L fuel tank, mean Rod can fish multiday tournaments without waiting around at the bowser. Rod’s an electrician by trade, with a small electrical contracting business. So when it comes to volts running through gadgets, he’s pretty cluey. On the 228, he’s got twin Simrad dash candy with an NSS9 evo3 and NSS12 evo3. They’re paired to an S5100 sonar module connected to a B275LHW transducer. This set-up produces insane results in deep water and Rod watches those screens like a hungry hawk on a fat-arse mouse.
The Captain also had his first opportunity to test out the new C-MAP Reveal charts. The detail around shallow offshore reef is super-good. “The added detail definitely helped us get onto the fish today,” Rod says. “We were able to follow shaded contours and stay along the edge all arvo.”
Rod’s done an awesome job setting up the 228. It feels like a mini game boat, with an unobstructed view all over the boat. If you’re thinking of dropping big dollars on a flybridge, you’d be mad not to go for a spin on a 228 first. It has all the benefits of a big boat in a sub-three tonne towable package. You run a tight ship Rod. The Captain salutes you and your mint 228. But maybe next time, instead of a trip to the shelf for slimies, let’s just buy some frozen squid from the Fishing Station?