Reviews

REVIEWED: XTREME 540 TOURNAMENT CLASSIC

Some boats are built to suit specific needs while others also reflect the owner’s personality. David Hodge reports on a barra boat that’s not out of the box.

IT’S not too long ago a four metre tinny and 15-20hp motor was the standard craft for chasing barra and 40km plus runs were the order of the day. Thanks to such long hauls, the roar of an old style two-stroke often echoed in eardrums hours after being cut. Nowadays, a 40km (or further) trip is nothing and with the current generation quieter four-stroke and DI two-stroke motors all that’s heard is whistling wind and travel times are cut to a fraction of what they were.

At the Barra Classic a couple of years ago Darwin Game Fishing Club screened a film presentation with footage taken over the past 25 years of this incredible competition. There were snippets of amazing fish captures including Col “Cords” Cordingly, the NT barra legend, pulling a beast over the side of a wallowing little tub. A few years ago, Cords’s boat was the first Xtreme craft I’d ever fished in. Apart from the honour of sharing a boat with him, the boat’s level of comfort was almost as special as the experience.

Soon after, I was invited to attend the Barra Classic with Ian Noble and Kevin Bochow on board another Xtreme – Cirrhosis of the River. Long runs from Banyan Farm to the bottom rock bar on the Daly River were eaten up in no time flat and my opinion of these boats over the next week became one of growing amazement. We nearly won that year, but nearly doesn’t count.

When the opportunity arose to fish with Garry Quinn of GS Marine (and Aaron Heath) in the 2007 Classic I was stoked to actually meet the man behind the boats and talk about how they were developed. Seeing as there was an Xtreme, Aqua Rat or Hydracraft – all models of the GS fleet – seemingly around every corner at the event, it was obvious they were becoming very well accepted in the market.

As we climbed aboard Quinnie’s boat, Flaming X-Rated, in 2007, the second largest of the Xtreme range at 5.5m, I just stood there shaking my head at its fishing room. With 175hp on the bum the power seemed endless too, although Garry managed to use most of it…

I remember thinking to myself “This is my dream boat” and my craft of choice, when and if, I got the chance to upgrade.

Garry and Sue of GS Marine donated an XM500C Xtreme boat and 90hp Suzuki package to the Darwin Game Fishing Club that same year as a sign of appreciation for the club’s efforts over preceding years. It was an incredible gesture and there were tears in the eyes of even some of the biggest, boofiest barra fishermen on hand who witnessed the presentation.  

2008 Classic toy

Shortly before the 2008 Classic a cheeky familiar voice on the end of the phone told me to prepare myself for “something special”. Quinnie had just finished his latest toy. It was hard to imagine anything better than Flaming X-Rated but as we pulled up at the GS Marine factory, Quinnie gave me a wink and said “come look at the new boat”. After picking my jaw up off the ground at the first sight of Flamente` Diablo I spent nearly an hour walking around the boat eyeing its details and mumbling “Oh my God…” over and over.

The boat at 5.4m was amazingly built from leftover factory materials and as a result is a bit of a one-off amongst the current Xtreme range, which features 480, 520, 550 models.

The cockpit of this new addition has to be seen to be believed. It features intricate carpet detail, polished alloy flames on every handle or fitting, tackle storage and rod lockers, neat console design and wait for it … spirit dispensers mounted into the sides of the control console – with backlit LEDs for added effect. It’s an amazing example of customisation and no one walks past without taking a second look or having a thorough investigation.

The seating is a side-by-side stern set up. This arrangement saw three of us sitting comfortably while travelling many kilometres each day during the Classic. With a remote controlled USB capable sound system mounted under the console with speakers under the seats, a mood could be set for the day – depending on the previous night’s entertainment the vibes could be racy or mellow. The most memorable trip for me was one afternoon after we’d had a good day. At a relaxing and easy 65kmh to 70kmh “slow” cruise speed, Dire Straits Brothers In Arms started on the stereo – a melody that soothes my soul. As we slipped smoothly around the winding Daly River, me with freshly poured Bundy rum in hand I remember thinking “life doesn’t get better than this”.

This was in stark contrast to my initial ride in Diablo. I still remember my backside trying to chew a hole through the seat as Quinny gave the throttle a few more revs as we overtook a slower boat. “Na, he’s not going to overtake this thing, is he?” I remember thinking.

It was soon apparent I had no cause for worry. I’d at least expected a little tail walk as we crossed the wake at speed, but never before have I been in a boat that did the manoeuvre as smoothly and well controlled.

There are many things to watch out for up north such as submerged rock bars and logs, cocky crocs, and big wakes from huge boats. Not once did I feel nervous or at risk as we glided through the river course in Quinny’s Xtreme.

Clever design

The boat’s sleek lines support a curvaceous transom complete with countersunk semi-circular boarding steps leading to a carpeted platform, which, once on board folds up to reveal the seats below and support for the seat backs. Over 20 full size tackle trays are concealed inside out of sight, but within easy reach. The majority of the foredeck rises on gas struts and there was no bowing or flexing underfoot – not even under my feet.

At first glance on the trailer, one might think that the hull would sit low in the water – lower than Flamin X-Rated anyway – but at rest or when trolling the sides are high enough to deter inquisitive bities.

The boat’s flush-mounted headlights look cool and allow for more fishing time especially when long runs are necessary to get to and from the fish and daylight is the only limiting factor. To give you an idea of the kind of quality of these boats GS Marine has taken out the Best Boat Under 6m award twice in the two years the Darwin Boat Show has run.

All in all it was a privilege to fish from Quinny’s boat, and as you can see by the accompanying pics it truly is, something special.         

XTREME 540 TOURNAMENT CLASSIC

Length: 5.4m
Beam: 2.2m
Hull thickness: 5mm bottom, 3mm sides
Weight: 540kgs approx. (hull only)
Power: Max. 200hp as reviewed 175hp
Fuel: 200 litres
Price: From $60,000 approx.
Contact: GS Marine (08) 8932 7300; www.gsmarine.com.au

What's your reaction?

Related Posts