Michael Guest profiles a plate boat that certainly lives up to its brand name.
THE boat featured here is owned by my mate Garry Sweeney. Garry’s a guy who’s done a lot of fishing right across the board, from bass to marlin and everything in between. His enthusiasm is shared by sons Josh and Sam – not surprisingly – having grown up in a family where practising with a baitcaster in the backyard after homework was the norm. Being raised on a diet of fishing has seen both boys develop into excellent fishos in their own right. An apprenticeship in one kilo ANSA fishing – along with a few records – helped refine their skills.
Up until recently, Garry fished out of a 1990 model 5.2m Quintrex Pro Fisher centre console he’d bought when it was only three months old. Complete with 60hp Mariner – later upgraded to a 75hp Mercury – this set up was responsible for more than its fair share of successful outings including a trip to Broome in 1994 where 19 sailfish were caught during a 6 kilo tournament. When it was time for a change, Garry decided on a new centre console and after taking all important issues into consideration, opted for a Fisher 600 centre console. Garry needed a boat that could handle shallow coastal bar crossings, be safe and comfortable and ergonomically well designed. It also needed to be versatile and adaptable – whether chasing reds on plastics in shallow water or trolling 37kg outfits for big blue marlin out over the shelf. The Fisher was ordered on Garry’s 50th birthday – not a bad present!
Design & layout
A five month build time ensued for the new boat, which included some custom features Garry had specified. The builders were happy to make these personalised changes as long as they didn’t alter the structural integrity of the boat. A bigger kill tank was formed and plumbed to double as a huge live-bait tank suitable for those big slimies that make such great marlin baits.
Other changes included an overhead console for radios and a shortened hard top to reduce the aft overhang. An extra rocket launcher above the rear workstation to house another six rods was also added.
The new boat has a flat plate – instead of chequer-plate – floor; Garry had been impressed with a 3-4mm non-slip rubber flooring I’ve installed in my boat and followed suit with his new Fisher. In his words, “a magnificent idea”.
A few extra storage compartments, cargo nets attached to the underside of the hard top for PFDs and the rest of the boat is standard Fisher fit-out. I must say after having fished in the boat the quality of welding and attention to detail is excellent.
The boat has a 23.5 degree deadrise and a 5mm plate bottom, which has kept Garry very happy with a nice soft ride while still retaining the strength to take coastal bar crossings head on. Self-draining decks and a raised floor level provide improvements over Garry’s previous boat, as are its trim tabs (optional extra).
Deep water sounding is a must for the game fishing and offshore jigging this boat is used for and for the purpose a Furuno sounder and one-kilowatt transducer are fitted.
The owner-added 5.5m outriggers (mounted to the hard top) and slimy tubes – a smaller version of tuna tubes for small mackerel – are some of the most important add-ons on the Sweeney Fisher. A full set of clears too are welcome additions and keep the occupants dry on long trips across the sea – Garry and the boys have never been so spoilt.
After looking at all the power options available, the owner chose a Suzuki 175hp four-stroke outboard. The Fisher 600 is rated to 200hp but with a top speed of 38 knots provided by the current engine, only extra calm, flat conditions would see the need for any more speed. The Suzuki has proven economical to run which has impressed Garry greatly.
Interestingly, behind the helm steering wheel is a 200 litre icebox topped with a padded seat and is a good example of using available space.
Garry owned an 80 series Toyota Landcruiser turbo before buying the new boat so towing power was taken care of – he just had to find somewhere to store the boat! He decided to build a new shed to put it in, on the proviso that Sam (18) and Josh (22) Ð as they now had a great new boat to fish out of Ð would help the old man put a new shed up. A Sea-link multi-roller trailer cradles the new boat and has so far passed the test.
For the real acid test on any fishing boat you need to go fishing. First trip out Garry and the boys left their home port of Port Stephens to return after successfully catching some great fish including a king of 12 kilos on a soft plastic. The Fisher passed with flying colours.
Since that initial trip the boat has been part of some awesome fishing, a gamefishing “grand slam” so far the highlight – a black, blue and striped marlin were all caught from the Fisher on the same day. The family team has also managed a large sailfish wide off South West Rocks for four of the billfish family already so far.
I asked Garry if he had his time over again would he make any changes to the new vessel. With the standard fuel tank being 180 litres, he says he would like to increase that to 240 and he would narrow up the bait prep station by 200mm. All in all a couple of minor points in the scheme of things.
I only hope when I turn 50 my birthday present looks a lot like Garry’s.