Owning and fishing on a boat for 12 months gives a real insight into its behaviour as DALE JOHNSON reports. Pictures by PETE BYRON.
THE US-built Scout Boats are a fairly recent addition to Australia’s marine market and reports so far have been good. But how does one fare after a year of punishment? Having owned a Scout Sportfish 145 and put it through its paces for the past 12 months I now have a pretty good idea.
The first big test for my Sportfish came as soon as I picked it up, courtesy of the seven-hour drive from western Sydney to home on the NSW north coast. The lightweight Scout was a dream to tow behind a mid-sized 4WD I was driving at the time. I have since upgraded to a 100 Series Landcruiser and you don’t even know the boat is there.
The trailer the Sportfish sits on is a Dunbier sports model. Unfortunately, I found the standard small carpet covered skids didn’t allow the boat to glide freely on and off the trailer unless it was fully submerged, which limited launching options. Further, the black rubber rollers left unsightly black marks on the hull. After some experimentation, I chose to replace these items with longer Teflon impregnated skids and polyurethane rollers, which allowed the boat to slide on and off the trailer easier and didn’t mark the hull.
The Scout/Dunbier combination has been put to the test on the road over the past year, with regular trips ranging as far as Cairns to the north and Ulludulla to the south. The trailer’s wheels have rolled over more than 15,000kms of road, both tarred and unsealed, and the biggest incident so far has been a broken number plate bracket courtesy of a larger than average gutter.
Design & layout
As I do a lot of my fishing solo, I was pleased to find that the lightweight Scout hull was easy to launch and retrieve on my own. After only a few trips, however, I started to notice some small scratches appearing on the hull from when I had brought the nose of the boat up onto sand or gravel while parking the car. After a bit of shopping around, I came across a product known as Keelguard, a durable strip of polycore composite material that sticks to the front half of the boat’s keel with a strong 3M adhesive. Since attaching the Keelguard I’ve had no problems with the boat resting against the bottom and even after 12 months, the product is only showing minimal signs of wear.
At rest in the water the 145 is a very stable fishing platform, with space to fish three people comfortably. The casting platforms front and rear are large enough to fish two anglers on each and ideal for one. There is also enough space for a third angler to fish from the centre.
Seating is set up a bit different to most Aussie built designs, with a bench seat on the back deck, which is wide enough for three people. There is then a single seat in front of the console, which hides the live well underneath.
This design is ideal for fishing as it maximises deck space; as there are no free standing seats to negotiate, moving around the boat is easy. The only downside of this is not having back support when sitting on the bench seat – a small compromise if you consider the extra fishing space. The front seat does have a backrest however, so if you just need to relax in the middle of a long fishing session it’s a comfortable option.
The live well, although small, is still large enough to hold a few bass, bream or a heap of live bait and is plumbed with a Rule 500gph pump that keeps plenty of fresh water flowing through.
Another well thought out feature of the Sportfish is a self-draining deck. This is achieved by having two small drain holes in the rear corners of the deck, which can be plugged with bungs when not needed. This was very handy on a recent trip to Lake Monduran when we had five days of torrential rain. The drain hole bungs were left out and any water the boat caught simply drained away. It is also helpful for washing the boat both on and off the water as you can spray the whole boat with the hose, both inside and out.
Storage in the small Scout is quite sufficient, with plenty of space to keep safety gear permanently in place, as well as more than enough space for fishing gear. There is a small compartment within the console in which I keep a fire extinguisher and a small dry bag with a first aid kit, flares and other safety gear. Two large compartments that extend underneath the rear casting platform can also hold a lot of gear although access is via a small hatch and it can be difficult to reach items that slide right to the back. There is a small hatch in the centre of the rear platform which provides access to the bilge, fuel filter and starter battery. The fuel tank is permanently mounted under the front casting platform on the left with more storage on the right, which is where the second battery is mounted to run the electric motor. The 145 does not come standard with rod storage but there is enough space to mount triple upright rod holders on either side of the console. I also mounted a horizontal holder for another two rods on the inside of the starboard side gunwale.
The console itself holds a small Scout branded carbon fibre switch panel, for lights, live well pump and 500gph automatic bilge pump. I also mounted two RAM brackets for the sounder and GPS. These adjustable brackets mean the electronics can be moved for viewing from any position in the boat. I went for a large colour sounder and separate handheld GPS. I chose the handheld GPS as a safety feature as it can be ran off two AA batteries, so even if you have a sounder malfunction or lose power the GPS can be used to get out of trouble.
The electric motor I chose was a Minn Kota 55lb thrust Riptide, which has more than enough power to manoeuvre the boat, even in strong wind or current. It’s mounted using a Minn Kota puck style quick-release bracket; power is supplied through a heavy-duty plug. This leaves the deck uncluttered when the electric motor is mounted and completely clear when removed. The white Riptide and quick release bracket also match the colour of the hull, which was an added bonus.
Powering the Sportfish is a Yamaha 50hp oil-injected two-stroke outboard, which is maximum rated power for the hull. The lightweight outboard provides a lot of punch to the lightweight package. It came fitted standard with a Yamaha aluminium 14″ pitch propeller, which I swapped for a Solas aluminium 13″ pitch model. The smaller pitch prop gets the boat up onto the plane quicker and with less effort, with a minimal loss of top end speed. I stayed with an aluminium prop as they’re much cheaper than stainless and will potentially do far less damage to the engine if you hit a large log or rock bar.
For Australian estuary and impoundment conditions, the Scout Sportfish 145 has performed outstandingly well. I have had it in the upper freshwater reaches of our east coast river systems right down to coastal sand flats, knocked it around in the timber of some of our most popular impoundments and even pushed it through rough swells chasing snapper and pelagics around inshore reefs. Over the 12 months I’ve owned the Sportfish it’s passed every test with flying colours. Since ironing out the minor problems with the trailer, I haven’t found any faults with my Scout Sportfish 145. Its American styling and attention to detail perfectly suits our Australian conditions.
Thanks to Sportsfishing Boats Australia for supplying my Scout and for their excellent ongoing service.
For more information on Scout boats visit: www.sfba.com.au.