Reviewed: Formosa 520 Sea Rod Half Cab

Having previously reviewed the Sea-Rod 520 hull in the side console configuration, I was looking forward to seeing how the same hull performed in a half cabin set-up.

The sexy graphics and robust plate build of the Formosa has made them popular amongst anglers looking for a quality no-frills fishing boat that can be customised to their needs as well as a boat that isn’t going to break the bank.

The Brisbane-based manufacturer has been building boats for 15 years and its been interesting watching Formosa grow and develop its range of hulls that now include the Tomahawk, Barra Pro, and of course, the popular Sea Rod.

What separates the Sea Rod’s hull from the competition is the ballast design feature. There are four ballast chambers that spread the weight while the hull is at rest and when combined with a 120mm wide reverse chine, it becomes one of the most stable boats on the market.

Having a heavier hull that sits lower in the water cuts a lot of the swell roll and makes the hull a less susceptible to pitching as you move around the deck.

Once the boat is propelled forward, the water in the ballast is drained almost instantly with no noticeable interruption to the performance.

The stringer system of the hull consists of longitudinal stringers wielded directly to the 4mm plate bottom with a subfloor to support a carpeted marine grade ply deck.

We would all like to see a full aluminium deck but this is expensive and even somewhat impractical so overall, the hull design and build is exceptional.

Lay Out
The 520 Sea Rod half-cabin was surprisingly spacious for a boat of this size.

The half cabin is barely large enough to sleep in and I would put this boat in the cuddy-cab class but it still functions very well.

There is nothing new or innovative about the interior design – instead it’s a neat, no frills, solid hull. The welds are faultless and are full welds along the gunwales and cabin. Even when sneaking a peek into the various little nooks, the welds are still neat and finish is very tidy.

The helm is comfortable and there is plenty of space to create your own dash depending on the electronics package you choose.

The buckets seats were a great fit and the control box positioned nicely making it very nice to operate.

Switches and gauges were also easily visible and while the console of the test boat seemed a little bare compared to most these days, it was still very neat and functional and keep in mind the finished dash will end up representing the owner and the choice of engine, gauges and electronics.

The first mate also has bucket seating and glove box style storage for wallets, keys and phones.

The windscreen and clears were also very functional and an improvement on the split windscreen design that the Formosa half cabs were originally designed with.

Underfloor fuel is 115 litres and with the new lean fuel burn feature on the Suzuki four strokes, there’s plenty of fuel for a day’s fishing the reef or a day with the family.

The deck was spacious enough to allow some serious fishing and the bait board, which is fitted with a live bait tank, was just the right size and has all that is needed to cube or berley up offshore or just prepare baits.

With a couple of rod holders down each gunwale and rod holders on the bait board, the Sea Rod had everything that was needed from a fishing platform with options such as kill tank, auxiliary motor mount, rod locker and tackle storage in the side pockets that round it out to be a very functional fishing deck.

The hull has a beam of 2.4m with plenty of free board so playing in a fish would be no problem. Getting around the hull isn’t too difficult, but generally speaking, you are stuck fishing around the transom.

Access to the anchor is quick and easy through a very large port in the cabin so setting up a quick release anchor with a buoy would be simple and make fishing for gamefish a real option.

Powering the Formosa was the 90hp Suzuki DF90A four stroke which proved to be a great option. There’s also the option, if more ponies are required, to power up to a 115hp.

The 90hp four stoke had no problem launching the 520 Sea Rod out of the hole and with two big guys on board, it did everything it needed to do effortlessly.

In smooth water I was able to get the hull to plane at 2000 RPM and 7knots. In a swell it will take a little more speed to avoid dropping off the plane but this was a good achievement for a plate half cabin with a dry weight of over 700kgs.

A nice economical cruising speed of 18 knots could be obtained at 4200 revs but she opened up to 30 knots at full noise which was 5200 RPM.

The hull’s cornering and reversing capabilities were excellent. The trim had to be reduced to get the most out of the hull in a tight turn but certainly nothing to complain about. It was no formula one car but still, it performed exactly as you’d expect from a hull of the size.

The Sea Rod has a deadrise of 17 degrees and when combined with a sharp entry point and good hull design, it performed very well in the chop, being heavy enough to plough through without any bouncing or that annoying “tinnie slap”.

Overall, the Formosa 520 Sea Rod is one of the more stable boats at rest in its class due to its ballast system and its performance and fishability is excellent.

While it has a number of great features, apart from the hull design, there is nothing new or innovative but it is a no fuss, very well priced, solidly built hull that has proved very popular for exactly that reason.

The standard package from Coastal Powerboats on the Gold Coast includes Lowrance sounder, Bimini, VHF Radio, marine battery, Dunbier trailer, regos and safety pack.

At $38 990 for the standard package with 90hp Suzuki four stroke or $43 335 as tested, the Sea Rod is fantastic value for money.

LENGTH: 5.2m
BEAM: 2.4m
DEADRISE: 17 degrees
WEIGHT: Dry Weight 660kgs and towing weight of approx. 1250kgs
FUEL: 115lts
POWER: Max 115hp as tested 90hp
PRICE: From $38 990 as tested $43 335
CONTACTS: Coastal Power Boats (07) 55 680 904

This story was originally published in the Fishing World February 2014 issue.


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