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Reviewed: STABICRAFT 1720 MWS

SCOTT THOMAS checks out the latest addition from NZ-based Stabicraft – the 1720 Matt Watson Signature centre console.

Until recently, Stabicraft’s presence in Australia has mostly been dominated by its line-up of offshore designed Supercabs. These Kiwi-made rigid pontoon boats have a deserved reputation as efficient and safe offshore fishing craft for Australian waters. While Stabicraft’s range of centre consoles have been around for a while, the new 1720 Matt Watson Signature (MWS) will no doubt lift the profile of these open boats, particularly in the warmer northern states. Fisho readers, by now, should be familiar with the Stabicraft brand and its safe rigid pontoon build. Stabicraft came up with this concept more than 20 years ago and has continued to refine it to improve overall performance and looks. The Generation 111 pontoon on the 1720 MWS looks slicker and performs noticeably better than the previous design.

Stabicraft invited me to its headquarters in the deep south town of Invercargill on New Zealand’s South Island. There I spent a few days testing and fishing from both the 1720 MWS and 2150 Super Cab (see August 2010 Boat Fishing for review).

Who is Matt Watson? For those unfamiliar with the name, and that’s not many, he’s a fishing icon in New Zealand. His program, The Ultimate Fishing Show, has a cult following. He’s a charismatic presenter and does some pretty crazy things in the pursuit of fish. It’s fair to say Stabicraft’s 1720 MWS shares the same extreme style as Watson.

Ocean to the lakes
The plan was a day’s fishing New Zealand’s Foveaux Strait while testing both the Centre Console and Supercab’s performance in these notoriously rough seas. The fishing was slow and the seas were uncharacteristically flat. However, the day spent fishing various locations and shooting a few photos was enough to get an idea of its excellent rough water capabilities. We even caught a few blue cod. The fellas at Stabicraft told me a piece of rag with hook attached would catch boat loads of these dumb fish … Not on this day!
From Invercargill we towed the boat through New Zealand’s stunning mountains towards the lakes in the Otago region, ending up in Queenstown.

With a towing weight of 950kg, the two-wheel drive Holden Rodeo easily towed it up and down the steep inclines and slippery boat ramps.

Optioned up, this centre console is a serious fishing boat, which for its size really offers a lot in a small package. The transom was fitted with a clear window bait tank. There’s also plenty of space for storage in the transom, which can be accessed through two hatches. The cutting board comes standard and features Tallon fittings for easily attaching additional accessories such as drinkholders. A neat feature I found on the cutting board was the absence of a lip – it’s flush. Sliding a filleting knife along and beyond the cutting board is no problem. It won’t get hung up on an unnecessary metal edge. The board itself is removable for cleaning or replacing.

The floor was decked out in a rubber tubing material, which comes as an option on this boat. It’s a good product which is soft and offers additional grip and keeps things cool underfoot in hot weather.

The console offered just enough room to protect two people, but at a squeeze. It featured a Lowrance HDS five-inch sounder, Fusion stereo, marine radio, 12-volt plugs, tacho and trim gauges and all the usual switches. The electronics are optional and there’s plenty of space to configure them as you choose on the console.

I’m not usually a fan of T-Tops for the potential lost fishing space and the fear of breaking rods while casting, however, I didn’t have a problem with this one and really appreciated the attached grab rails and protection from the weather. There’s a seat in front of the console with storage underneath. Sitting here feels very secure courtesy of the T-top and grab rails – it almost feels like you’re sitting in a cage!

Beyond the forward fishing area is a small raised platform with dry storage underneath. The door is supported by gas struts. The casting platform itself is quite narrow.

Another feature worth noting is the wide gunwales – great in bumpy conditions, handy for sitting on and the parcel shelves below offer heaps of storage. The shelves also featured the same rubber tube matting as the floor.

Stabicraft’s G111 pontoon design looks slightly different and offers a smoother and drier ride than the previous G11 design. This is thanks to a redesigned chine. The G111 buoyancy tube, being less round, also offers more internal beam.

Stabicraft supplies its boats to a number of rescue and commercial operations worldwide. In choppy conditions, these are the boats of choice. As I said in the 2150 Supercab review, being situated on such a notorious coastline has taught Stabicraft a thing or two about building a seaworthy boat. But what about dryness in a centre console? I found the new chine design offered a very dry ride on Queenstown’s choppy lake; the above average freeboard also helped keep things dry.

With a 90hp Evinrude E-TEC on the back, ideal cruising speed was about 20 knots and 4000rpm. WOT produced a top speed of 32 knots at 5100rpm. The 90hp is the maximum rated for this boat with Stabicraft recommending a 75hp as standard.

Hard turns at this speed weren’t a problem – the hull design just seems to stick.

Overall, this was an awesomely specced boat. It’s easy to see that a lot of thought has gone both into the hull’s design and additional options, which makes it an ideal boat for inshore or freshwater sportfishing. I’m pretty sure Top End fishos will also take a lot of notice of this model.


Length: 5.25m
Beam: 2.0m
Weight: 950kg (towing)
FUEL: 100 litres
Price: Suggested retail starting from $47,905. As tested approx $60,000
Contact: 1800 178 224;

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