Tuesday, March 5, 2024

“F” for Fishing

Reviewed: Haines Signiture 543F

Wayne Kampe reports on a new Haines Signature cuddy cab that has been designed to perform as a fisherman’s fishing boat.

Haines Signature of Wacol, Brisbane, has been turning out excellent fishing boats for decades. With ongoing R&D that sees a small modification here, another subtle change there, the company’s range just seems to offer more features to make boating a pleasure with each passing year.

The compact but big for its size 543 F (F for Fishing) is a great example of what the Haines team offer: it’s a fisherman’s fishing boat in every sense of the word and one of 11 craft in the “F” range which extend from the 460F to the mighty 675F.   

At 5.53m in length, the 543F is a size that many anglers find just right when towing and storage issues are considered. Yet, this well built rig will fish off shore with the greatest of ease thanks to ample freeboard, protection for occupants afforded by the quite large cuddy cabin and windscreen, plus a ride that ensures comfort under way in virtually all sensible sea conditions.

Cockpit size, too, is large enough for four or five anglers to work in harmony and those same anglers are going to find very little lacking in the way of useful features to make fishing a real pleasure.

Design & layout
Up front the winch compatible anchor locker is big enough to cater for sufficient warp for deep offshore drops and sports a lock down hatch. A strong bow rail is featured, plus a bowsprit long enough to keep the super smooth gel coat unmarked by the pick. Anchor access, incidentally, is via the large forward deck hatch from within the cabin although I’d say many offshore fishos will take the power winch option.  

Cabin entry is straightforward; there’s a large doorway in front of the passenger’s seat and once inside the cabin there’s ample head and leg room,  plenty of light thanks to large windows, and high degrees of comfort courtesy of full length well padded back rest shelves and deep, supportive cushioning on the twin bunks. If necessary, the cushions can be removed for a wash thanks to zippers on their undersides.

A Porta Potti (fitted to the reviewed craft) was a very sensible option for a boat that also offers terrific family boating potential as well.

Haines Signature doesn’t do things by halves and the craft’s (optional) three-piece armoured glass windscreen – in combination with the optional rod holder equipped bimini – affords plenty of weather protection for both skipper and first mate while seated on the strongly made pedestal bucket seats. The passenger will also enjoy the convenience of dual storage shelves, grab handle and bunk end footrest, while the driver is treated to a drink holder plus a really good command style driving position courtesy of excellent support and visibility levels atop the slide adjustable seat.

Instruments are tastefully laid out on a hinged binnacle – with carbon inserts – which can be quickly unfastened and moved outwards if there’s a need to look at the wiring loom or fuse panels of the craft.

The compact and easily monitored two section dash on the test rig sported a speedo, Suzuki multi-function tachometer,  fuel gauge, Richie compass and Suzuki trim gauge uppermost, and a  Humminbird 787C sounder set into the lower section with ignition switch to starboard.   

The craft’s sports style wheel plus an array of switches for various functions, as well as a marine radio, were set lower again but still within easy reach and all able to be quickly accessed by the skipper. I found it a very neat and user friendly set up.
Fishing room aplenty
For a craft of this size the Signature 543F offers a lot of useful fishing area aft of the forward seating. Four, maybe five, anglers would easily work here even in tough offshore conditions. Footing is assured thanks to full clip-in carpet, which offers the option of removal for washing after a big day on the water.

While there’s further seating across the transom for up to three, this well padded bench style seat hinges down to make more fishing room when required.


The Signature’s cockpit features good depth and a very functional layout; the dash binnacle hinges forward for easy access to wiring and electrics behind. 

As I mentioned earlier, it’s the subtle touches that make this craft so good. Features abound in the grab rail equipped cockpit. Depth is around the thigh, which makes for secure and confident work offshore. Along with paired rod holders to complement the six on the bimini, additional features include two metre long rod rack equipped side pockets, paired tackle drawers aft, and a plumbed live bait well set into the transom to starboard.

Also featured was a very well designed bait prep station with paired rod holders, drink holders, a dedicated bait container for  ready to use bait, plus a hinged polyethylene cutting board.  Both
cutting board and bait container were equipped with lock down straps.

The 543F is rated for engines from 100 to 140hp. Given the great performance from the 115 Suzuki four-stroke on the transom I’d say the craft would scream along with a 140 on it.

The Signature 543F planed at eight knots at 3000rpm; brilliant, really, given that we were travelling into a fair amount of chop for the review’s test runs and had three persons plus a near full 130 litre fuel tank under the floor. At 4000rpm the GPS was showing a speed of 22 knots, 5000rpm recorded 27knots with WOT of 6000 rpm seeing 35.3 knots.

The ride was exactly what I’ve come to expect from Haines Signatures. Chop between half and three quarters of a metre was ironed out while the occasional large wash from passing craft was easily handled without any water or spray coming aboard. Stability was exceptional.

Fit and finish was typically good. The lustrous  hull gel coat was outstanding, with the contrasting central style line quite eye catching. Inside I noted that all stitching lined up, while padding was superb with tasteful contrasting colour sections to brighten larger areas.

In a nutshell, this is a fisherman’s fishing boat. It’s all there, features ready for use.

Rated for up to seven, the 543 F would also make a great family for mum, dad and the kids given the quality of ride, handling
and features.

Length: 5.53m

Beam: 2.13m

Weight: 600kg (hull only)

Deadrise: 21-33 degrees  

Fuel: 130 litres

Power: 100-140hp

Towing: Family six; med.4WD  

Price: From $43,300; as reviewed $50,700.

More information: www.haines-marine.com.au


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