Haines Signature 543SF review


AN “allrounder” or “crossover” style boat is well worth considering if, like me, you enjoy a range of different fishing applications yet are restricted by budget and storage space to owning a single vessel.

Luckily, there are plenty of options available, ranging from various US imports – the Edgewater 188 is a great example of a typical American allrounder style boat – through to an array of Aussie-made models built in either pressed alloy, plate alloy or fibreglass.

The Haines Signature 543SF is one of the best known – and most popular – Aussie-made allrounder sportfishing vessels. Built on a proven hull, the 543SF comes standard in side console format (with a centre console as an option), boasts a large casting deck with plenty of stowage and fits the bill nicely as a boat that’s “not too big yet not too small”.

It’s no surprise, then, that the 543SF was high on my list when it came time to consider a new boat. I spent a good 12 months looking at a stack of different hulls from multiple manufacturers and talking with a range of other fishos – including long-time 543SF owner Scott Mitchell – about their boats and what they liked/didn’t like. A key priority was that whatever boat I ended up with needed to have decent offshore capability yet be effective as an estuary/impoundment sportfisher.

A clean, uncluttered layout, good storage, quality build and good performance with decent range were also important priorities. And it had to be a centre console. I can see the worth of a side console for estuary/impoundment work, I’m just not so keen on the SC layout for offshore fishing.

I kept coming back to the 543SF and ended up biting the bullet and ordering one through Sydney dealer Good Times Marine ( in CC format about 18 months ago.  I’ve now owned the boat for just over a year and have clocked up a tad over 100 hours on it, covering a mix of offshore, estuary and impoundment fishing in it.


As mentioned, my 543SF is a centre console version with a charcoal grey hull, white top decks and grey XDeck closed cell foam flooring. Forward of the console is the cast deck, which features five hatches – two “dry” hatches fitted with gas struts towards the bow, a large plumbed and insulated livewell/kill tank and a useful underfloor storage area with twin hatches immediately in front of the console. This storage area houses the twin batteries for the 80lb Motor Guide electric motor as well the deck wash pump plus has plenty of room for safety gear and other bits and pieces. Speakers for the JL Audio MM50 stereo head unit are flush mounted into this section of the cast deck where it steps down into the cockpit on either side of the console.

The bow features an anchor well with hatch matched with a stainless steel bow sprit plus a nifty mounting system for the electric. A seven-inch Raymarine Axiom Plus sounder, which is networked to the 12-inch Axiom Pro flush mounted in the console, is securely bracket mounted alongside the Motor Guide. The touch screen Axiom Plus is easily visible while fishing from anywhere on the cast deck.

I opted for a removable lean seat/pole to be positioned just behind the two main hatches. This is a simple yet highly efficient addition which is invaluable to rest on during long casting sessions or to brace against/hold onto when fishing from the bow in a bit of swell and chop. A very handy piece of kit.


The console itself is both stylish and functional. The 12-inch Raymarine takes pride of place in the centre of the console, offering excellent visibility and easy access via the touch screen or the controls. I went for the Axiom Pro as it offers a built in 1kW CHIRP sounder, meaning I don’t need to purchase a separate black box if I want to add a 1kW transducer to complement the standard RV100 and provide extra capability for deep water work. I’ve had Raymarine sounders on my past few boats and rate them highly. Key attributes of the Axioms include speedy processing power, crisp resolution and easily customisable screens.

A polyethylene windscreen is matched with a sturdy stainless steel grab rail. A row of switches and the controls for the Lectrotab trim tabs are mounted portside, the stainless “captain’s” wheel is amidships and the binnacle control for the Mercury 150 FourStroke is situated starboard.

A 12-volt socket came standard; I mounted a separate USB charger as well. This covers phone charging duties while the 12-volt plus is handy for a spotlight when navigating at night.

I’m about 183cm tall and I find the console and various controls to be a good match for my height. 

That said, the head unit for the JL Audio sound system plus a Simrad VHF radio are mounted a little inconveniently at around knee height on the lower section of the console. Below these electronic devices is a hatch providing access to a decent and relatively water proof storage space which houses the deep cycle house battery, a safety grab bag and a tool kit.

The top of the console hinges back, allowing access to switch panels and cables for the engine controls, electronics and steering. Given the 543SF is what you’d call a “premium boat”, the wiring under the hatch is disappointingly untidy.

Another minor gripe is the lack of a quality compass or even any drink holders as standard on the boat.

Behind the console is a padded bench seat arrangement with a removable back rest and rod holders. The seat is great to lean against when underway, providing plenty of support for myself and at least one crew. If I’m fishing three up, the third crew member can stand behind and hang onto the top of the back rest.

The seat is framed by a sturdy polished allow frame fixed into the deck floor. A hinged foot rest swings down, making sitting on the seat while trolling or cruising around pretty comfortable. A cooler slots in under the seat, and can be kept in place via a strap.

Another handy feature of the seat set-up is that it covers a sizeable storage box ideal for tackle, water bottles, sunscreen etc. You just lift back the seat for access. The storage box itself is a removable insert, making it easy to clean.

The transom features a raised half rear deck with a well for the engine. Two hatches either side provide access to the plumbed livebait tank (starboard) and the crank battery and battery switches (portside). A hatch in the front face of the transom deck provides access to the bilge, various pumps (including an auto bilge pump as standard) and the water separating filter.

Two stainless steel rod holders are fitted either side at the transom. I mounted a couple of Railblaza bases to the stainless grab rails positioned amidships on the gunwales. These are suitable only for light duty trolling. I would have liked to see at least two additional rod holders fitted as standard. This would enable effective downrigging plus the ability to troll more lures. On the plus side, the boat is fitted with four solid stainless steel fold up cleats.

The boat features two smallish but useful side pockets plus a very nifty rod storage system in the side coamings allowing for the safe horizontal stowage of up to eight rods in total. Two sets of stainless vertical rod holders at either side of the transom provide for additional rod storage.

After I’d owned the boat for about six months, I ordered a custom adjustable  bait board from Sunny Coast Bait Boards. Mounted in the centre of the rear casting deck, this high quality stainless bait board features two cup holders plus nicely angled rod holders and a decent cutting board. This particular add-on has significantly increased the usability of the boat, at least for the sort of fishing I like doing.


I opted for the max HP of 150, which I have not regretted. The 543SF matches up nicely to Suzuki’s popular 140 and I’ve seen quite a few fitted with the Suzuki 150. I went for the Merc 150 as I ran one on a previous boat and was impressed with the engine’s performance and reliability. At 207kg dry weight, the three litre four-cylinder Merc is about 30kg lighter than its Suzuki rival and provides plenty of get up and go. Swinging a 14.5 x 17 Enertia stainless prop, the Mercury pushes the 543SF to just under 40 knots flat out and cruises nicely at 25 knots consuming 24-25 litres of fuel. In CC format, the 543SF holds 150 litres of fuel – the CC models carry an additional 30l – providing plenty of range for offshore trips or multi-day camping trips out to my favourite cod impoundments.

As mentioned before, Signature’s 543 hull has a long pedigree. As well as the SF range, Signatures offers the hull in a cuddy cab format known as the 543F. After a year driving my centre console 543SF in a range of conditions from flat calm to pretty wild, I can with all honesty say this is a solid hull providing a smooth, stable and dry ride.

One of the key attributes of the hull for me is its quietness. There’s minimal “hull slap”, even in choppy conditions. The hull design, combined with its foam-filled fibreglass construction, provides for a degree of stealth, especially in shallow water. To my way of thinking, this definitely increases strike rates, especially with wary species in pressured waters.

I opted for a factory fitted false keel, which gives peace of mind when pulling up on to beaches, river banks and the shores of impoundments. It’s much cheaper to fix or replace the false keel than it is to get the hull repaired …

Just about all of my previous boats have been either pressed alloy “tinnies” or tough-as-nails plate hulls – I have to admit I was pretty nervous about going from plate alloy to fibreglass!

Apart from a few minor and easily fixed scratches, I haven’t had any issues as yet – that said, I’m certainly more cautious in the 543SF when pulling up on the shore or travelling through shallow water than I might have been when operating one of my old plate boats …


Wrap up
To date, I estimate usage of the 543 has been about 60 per cent estuary/impoundment and 40 per cent inshore/offshore. I’ve taken it out to the shelf targeting marlin, been on a few trips to western impoundments targeting cod, fished the inshore reefs for snapper and kings and have had plenty of fun chasing flatties, bream, EPs and bass in the local estuaries.

Fitted to a dual axle Dunbier SR5.7 gal trailer, the boat tows easily behind my diesel ute. I opted for a Boat Latch to be fitted to the trailer – this makes single handed launch and retrieve a breeze. 

The hull really makes this boat. Featuring Signature’s trademark Variable Deadrise, the foam filled hull boasts a beam of 2.13m, rides superbly and is a great fun to drive. More importantly, and as previously noted, it’s a quiet, stable and well laid out fishing platform equally suited to casting plastics for reef-dwelling reds at dawn as it is working a swimbait through snags for a cod or over a shallow sandbank for big flatties. And it’s more than capable of providing plenty of family fun as well – only recently I took my wife, daughter and her cousin out the front for a whale and dolphin watching session before heading back in to explore a few local beaches. My wife remarked how nicely the boat rode across the bay chop as we headed back to the ramp – high praise indeed!

All up, I’m pretty happy with the 543SF. It suits the sort of fishing I enjoy and provides plenty of flexibility and capacity to last me into the future. I’m looking forward to plenty of fishing adventures in my 543SF over the next few years!

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