How to

Are you game?

SMALL trailerable boats, as opposed to large flybridge cruisers, offer a number of distinct advantages. Firstly, and most importantly, they’re reasonably affordable to buy and operate. Depending on size, make and accessories, many offshore capable boats are well within reach of the average game fishing enthusiast. After the initial purchase, the day-to-day running cost of modern four and direct injection two-strokes is significantly more affordable than running a large diesel powered cruiser. In the right boat, a day on the water with the fuel bill split between a few mates means affordable gamefishing fun.

Ease of transport is another advantage of small trailerable boats. Even larger trailer boats can be towed by a decent 4WD. The advantage here is that fishos are able to track the movements of gamefish and chase them up and down the coast. For example, if the SBTs are on off Bermagui, hook up the boat, and catch some fish. Road trips up and down the coast catching everything from mackerel and wahoo, marlin, and various tunas are possible. There’s a growing trend towards customising small game boats with high-tech marine electronics and specialised accessories. But where do you start? Let’s take a look at which type of boats suit this style of fishing as well as the basic game fishing accessories you’ll need for the job.

Which boat?

Choosing the right boat largely comes down to personal preference (and budget). However, there are a few important considerations. Fibreglass or aluminium? There are pros and cons of each, but both work well and are capable of tackling offshore game fish. Fisho’s David Green agrees it doesn’t matter whether you choose ‘glass or alloy. What matters, according to Greeny, is that the boat is seaworthy and safe. Many keen game fishos operate small open centre consoles down to 4.5m. While these boats are capable of catching big fish in the right conditions, it’s important to understand their limitations and play it safe. Greeny says whether you choose a half cabin or centre console configuration, you will need an open clear deck area to work with and some “high infrastructure” such as a rocket launcher to store rods.

Experienced small boat gamefisher and Fisho writer Chris Cleaver prefers open centre consoles for their mobility and vision for spotting tell-tale signs of action. The downside, according to Cleaver, is the lack of protection from the elements that a centre console offers. Cleaver’s a fan of fibreglass for its soft ride and prefers a boat with high sides to help while fighting fish and setting lures in rough weather.


Fisho writer Greg Finney agrees high sides are an important attribute of a serious game fishing boat and adds stability as another factor worth considering. Finney says while centre consoles are effective, he prefers a cabin boat for the protection it offers. Fuel range is another important consideration. Finney suggests 80-100 litres as a minimum requirement for a 150hp outboard. He says 150 litres is preferred if you’re running a 200hp donk. Cleaver agrees and always takes a spare jerry can when heading over the shelf. He also says driving the boat at moderate speeds will save loads of fuel.

Essential equipment

Good rod holders and marine electronics (sounder/GPS) are essential items you can’t do without. It’s also crucial you understand how to use the equipment. Greeny says it’s important to have a a good spread of correctly angled rod holders “so you can troll multiple lines in clear water”. Technological improvements in marine electronics have come along in leaps and bounds.

Greg Finney says a quality sounder with a 1kW transducer and GPS for marking fish is essential equipment. Technology such as CHIRP, which dramatically improves deep water clarity, is making identifying deepwater fish easier than ever. Most small game boats will run a large 12-inch sounder, so it’s important when choosing a boat to check how much dash space is available. A larger sounder won’t cost too much more and is convenient for splitting screens between your sonar/GPS or gauges. A livebait tank is another essential piece of equipment. Thankfully, most boat manufacturers these days are installing plumbed livewells, even in small boats.

Pimp your boat

This is where it gets fun! After you’ve chosen the essential add-ons, there’s a long list of game fishing equipment to turn your small boat into a serious offshore gamefishing machine. Outriggers are the first choice for many small boat gamefishos. Many offshore cabin boats above 5.5m are equipped with outriggers and there has also been a trend towards installing outriggers on small centre consoles. Fitting a set of outriggers will ensure you always have a good spread of lures or baits.

Chris Cleaver says while outriggers are not essential, they do help for skipbaiting and offer a wider spread for lure trolling. He suggests that spreader holders that go straight into existing rod holders are a good alternative if your budget doesn’t allow for ‘riggers. Greeny also says outriggers aren’t totally essential “but highly desirable to increase the width of your trolling spread”.

More and more trailerboats are using tuna tubes these days

Downriggers are another option. Like outriggers, they also have the advantage of being removed when not in use. Many gamefish species are found down deep so installing a downrigger and knowing how to use it can sometimes mean the difference between a fish-less day and a productive trip offshore. Tuna or slimy tubes are another addition many small game boat owners are installing these days. Tuna/slimy tubes are plumbed vertical tubes usually installed on the external walls of the transom. They’re designed to keep baits – even those rigged up – alive and ready for instant use. If you’re looking to save a few bucks, check online for detailed plans on how to make your own tubes. If that’s too hard, there are some good off-the-shelf options available.


As already mentioned, running a small game fishing boat comes with inherent risks. While boats as small as 4.5m have been used to successfully target gamefish such as marlin, tuna and more, common sense is vital. Knowing your boat’s capabilities is important; don’t head out offshore if conditions aren’t suitable.

Greg Finney suggests logging on with a volunteer coast rescue service before heading offshore. Once offshore, keep the base station informed as to your whereabouts at all times. Finney also says to check the weather before heading out and don’t fish out wide in anything stronger than 20 knot wind. “You shouldn’t be afraid to don the lifejacket if things do get rough. It won’t do its job stowed under a hatch!” Finney says.

Chris Cleaver advises to always assess conditions and be wary of weather warnings, especially when travelling beyond the shelf. He suggests having an action plan in case something adverse happens, and to ensure that at least two crew members know how to operate the boat if another is down.

Needless to say, a well-stocked first aid kit and essential safety equipment such as lifejackets, EPIRB, marine radio, charts, flares, etc, should be on-board at all times. Ditto with a comprehensive tool kit with essentials such as spare fuses. Check your state maritime safety authority for details on local safety equipment requirements. Most small boats fish best and are safest with between two and four people onboard. While fishing solo is achievable, it’s a serious challenge. Smaller centre consoles fish well with three (or less) people onboard while larger cabin boats can accommodate four without getting too crowded.

Are you game?

Choosing and setting up a small trailerable game boat can be great fun. There’s a range of boat options to suit many budgets and an extensive list of optional extras to make fishing a breeze. The best advice is to ensure you have the essentials and choose wisely before installing the extras. With Australia’s year round access to productive game fishing waters, having access to these offshore fishing grounds without spending a fortune is an achievable luxury for many of us to enjoy.

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