First Time in the Sea Jay

This flash new sportfishing rig is sure to open up new fishing opportunities for a variety of popular targets including bream, bass, jewfish and trout, writes JIM HARNWELL.

IN recent years I’ve become increasingly interested in estuary and impoundment fishing. A good day with my mate Wes Murphy in his estuary boat resulted in me deciding to get myself a boat suitable for this sort of work. But what boat would be best?

There are plenty of aluminium and fibreglass boats in the sub 5m mark that are ideal for serious estuary/impoundment sportfishing.

I looked around at a number of impressive boats but in the end I purchased a Sea Jay 4.65 Discovery Sports. Bundaberg-based Sea Jay is a quiet achiever in the boat building game, producing a big range of well built pressed and plate alloy boats with excellent design and specification features, all at reasonable prices. More than a few marine industry players whose opinions I respect suggested Sea Jay when I began looking around for a new boat.

I chose the side console 4.65 Discovery Sports as it was an ideal size for the work I wanted to do – estuary and impoundment lure fishing plus the occasional foray into Jervis Bay chasing squid around the foreshores and jigging sessions on good days out the front.

I’m also keen to do road trips to the Snowy lakes south from my home base and north to cod country and maybe even up to the barra dams.

The boat came standard with front and rear casting platforms, boasted plenty of open deck space and is more than suitable for solo fishing trips, plus sessions with friends and family.

Design & fit-out
I didn’t opt for any upgrades other than SeaStar hydraulic steering when I ordered my Sea Jay. The boat, which is constructed of 3mm pressed alloy bottom and 2mm sides and is foam filled for flotation, came standard with pretty much all the features I wanted – plumbed bait tank, bilge pump, nav lights, carpeted floor, front and rear storage and so on. I had it painted a rich blue and white to match the Fisho Bar Crusher. The side console is relatively compact with a six-gang switch panel mounted starboard and room on the top for a Humminbird 898c sounder/GPS. I haven’t had much to do with down and side imaging technology but I have to say that my preliminary use of this hi-tech sonar leads me to think that it’s cool stuff. A detailed report on the Humminbird will be published in an upcoming edition – suffice to say here that it offers a unique view of fishy habitat. It will take a bit of time to get used to what the Humminbird’s down and side imaging technology reveals, and to learn how to use this info to its maximum efficiency, but my first impressions of this unit are very positive. It’s amazing technology and will doubtless change the way I fish.

Up at the bow is a Minn Kota 55lb Terrova ST Riptide electric motor. Electrics are standard items on any half-way decent estuary boat these days and the advantages they offer keen sportfishermen have been well documented. As my previous project boats have been offshore models, I’ve never really had much to do with electrics. Obviously I’ve fished in boats fitted with bow mounts on many occasions and there’s no doubting that the stealth and manoeuvrability associated with these essential tools helps make a day on the water more enjoyable and productive.

The Terrova, which is operated by a remote control device about the size of a matchbox, features Auto Pilot and seems to power the Sea Jay very efficiently. Bigger electrics, most of which are 24 volt models, are available, but I figured the 55lb 12-volt Terrova would be more than enough for the Sea Jay. I’m hoping to soon upgrade the Terrova to Minn Kota’s revolutionary i-Pilot system, which uses GPS technology to automatically navigate and position the boat. From what I’ve heard, i-Pilot is amazing so I can’t wait to try it.

I purchased an M Power Ultimate UL-100 battery to power the Minn Kota. This state-of-the-art 100 amp hour AGM battery is designed to operate as both a deep cycle and starter battery. I’ll use it almost exclusively to power the Terrova but it’s good to know it can also be used as a start battery as well. The Ultimate UL-100 will be maintained and charged by an eight stage charging unit, the CTEK Multi XS 4003, which will be connected whenever the boat’s not in use. Although modern batteries like the Ultimate UL-100 lose very little power, even when not used for long periods, it’s good practice to keep them maintained and at peak charge via a quality charger like the CTEK.  

Yammie 70
The Sea Jay is rated to engines up to 80hp and 180 kilos. The impressive new 70hp Yamaha four-stroke – which comes in at 120kg, just 1kg heavier than Yammie’s popular 60hp model – was the logical choice. I was lucky enough to attend the official launch of these new engines last year and was instantly impressed with the diminutive size, lightness and responsiveness of these hi-tech little donks.  So I ordered one for the new boat.

The F70 shares the same displacement and stroke of the long-established F60 – it’s an in-line 996cc four cylinder four-stroke – and achieves its remarkable lightness – it weighs less than all other four strokes and DI two-strokes in the 70-75hp class currently on the market – by clever engineering which uses four valves per cylinder activated by a single overhead camshaft. According to Yamaha, the 16-valve design allows the engine to “draw fuel and air in and push exhaust out” very efficiently. The new engine also utilises a lower reduction gear box than the standard F60C and utilises the same propeller as Yammie’s V4 two-strokes; this helps with pushing heavier loads and faster out-of-the-hole performance.

This efficiency and increased performance is evident on the water. The 70, as fitted with a stock standard alloy Yamaha prop, pushed the Sea Jay, which weighs in at about 372 kilos, plus three beefy blokes (me, Fisho writer Sami Omari and Wesbo) up on the plane with no discernible effort, and reached a max speed of just under 30 knots.

I haven’t as yet got the Yamaha LAN gauges set up properly, nor have I done any official fuel/speed tests (I’ll wait for the engine to get a few hours on it and loosen up) but I noted approximate fuel use of around 25 litres an hour at max RPM of 6300 and 29 knots. At idle and low speeds fuel use was well in the single digits and at a nice cruise of 20 knots I recorded about 15lph.

The Sea Jay’s underfloor tank holds 65 litres of fuel so there should be ample range for any fishing I’m likely to do. I’ll provide detailed and accurate fuel/speed reports in an upcoming edition. All up, however, the little Yammie seems to be a very impressive example of modern four-stroke technology. The trademark quietness of a four-stroke is matched with zippy performance, impressive weight reductions and what looks to be outstanding fuel economy. I noted some vibration in the engine just out of idle, which causes an annoying rattle to emanate from the wiring and steering loom at the transom. This will drive me nuts when slow trolling so it’s something I’ll need to have a look at.

Alloy trailer
I was planning on fitting the Sea Jay on a standard gal trailer from one or other of the big trailer makers when a chance conversation with Anthony Gelfius, MD of Boab Boats, resulted in me ordering an alloy model. Anthony and his team recently joined forces with Paul Hart to form a company known as Pro Alloy. Pro Alloy builds all the Amara boats that Boab uses for its hire fleet and also specialises in alloy trailers. I tested one of Boab’s Kimberley models last year and was extremely impressed with the aluminium trailer this solid plate alloy boat sat on so I jumped at the chance to get one built up for the Sea Jay. Alloy trailers are becoming more and more popular these days – they are much lighter than gal steel and obviously don’t have the corrosion issues commonly associated with standard trailers.

The single axle Pro Alloy trailer the Sea Jay sits on weighs just 170kg, meaning total tow weight is about 660kgs, well under the 750kg limit for unbraked trailers. The drive on/drive off trailer features heavy duty alloy construction with gal axle and wheels. It has an array of centre rollers for the keel and side skids for support, meaning the boat is easy to load on and off.

A strap at the transom, plus a turnbuckle arrangement at the bow, allows the boat to be securely bedded down on the trailer.

A welded alloy walkway assists greatly if winching the boat on – no balancing precariously on struts while trying to hitch the boat up!

The lights are all LED and the trailer features quality Titan and Durahub components. It came complete with a spare wheel – an essential item, in my opinion – and is easy to tow and reverse.

Sum up
All up, I’m pretty excited with this Sea Jay/Yamaha/Pro Alloy project boat package. The first trip out in the Shoalhaven River just a few days before I sat down to write this saw us score a number of EPs and bass on Jackall Chubbies and I’m planning a return visit to the river next week. I reckon this new little boat will open up a lot of exciting fishing opportunities, both locally and in other areas. I obviously still love my offshore fishing, but I have to say I’m really looking forward to getting into some serious estuary sportfishing as well.

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