The 4800 Wildfisher from Queensland-based alloy boatbuilder TABS is aptly named. Conceived for the tournament bream, bass and barra trails, she’s the kind of sultry temptress those tournament guys leave home for — and before I even enticed her into the water, I knew I was in for a wild ride.
She didn’t say much at first. She just sat there exuding a quiet confidence, her ample rear pointing down the boat ramp at Lake Eildon’s Jerusalem Creek (Vic), her customised tandem trailer glistening in the dappled light of a crisp autumn morning.
It’s easy to go OTT with a rig like this; it’s unashamedly sexy but in a tough, athletic sort of way. I looked her up and down, taking in every little detail. The fine yet aggressive rake of the entry, the full-length chines and the generous waterline beam all promised much. I ogled and felt like I was cheating; you see, I have a rather similar rig at home — a fairly svelte side-console also set up as an inshore lure-casting platform. The Wildfisher’s chaperone for the day, James — from TABS dealer Regal Marine — invited me over for a closer look as he peeled back the towing cover to reveal a simple yet well-sorted interior. What a tease…
Now let’s establish one thing right from the get go — this is no family-friendly, take-your-grandfather-out-to-drown-a-prawn kind of a boat, although there’s more than enough storage to hide his Zimmer frame and oxygen bottle. The Wildfisher is a battle-hardened fish extraction device designed to get you from point A to B with minimal fuss and in plenty of time to make your meeting with all those bream, bass or barra, and still be home in time for the weigh-in.
To that end, TABS hasn’t strayed too far from what is generally considered your typical “bass boat” architecture, which isn’t surprising considering the market it’s pitched at. A high-set forward casting deck that could easily accommodate up to three anglers conceals vast storage underfoot. I took particular notice of the fixed sub-flooring in all of the storage compartments, which prevent loose items from finding their way into the dark recesses of the hull.
The obligatory aerated tournament livewell comes standard and is flanked by four generous hatches, giving access to the cave below. Also standard is a bow-mounted electric motor bracket, currently fitted with a tiller-steered Watersnake. A carpeted rod locker capable of swallowing my 7ft 2in spin sticks flowed down the port side while an unpretentious yet generously-sized side-console took up residence to starboard.
A token windscreen perched on the console served to provide more protection than an initial glance might suggest. The driver sits low with arms outstretched, similar to jumping behind the wheel of a sports car. Everything fell well to hand although I would probably have chosen to bracket-mount the Humminbird side-imaging combo atop the console in my direct line of vision, rather than flush-mounting it to the left of the steering wheel.
Behind me, a similarly high-set rear deck provided yet another option for the lure-casting angler and even more storage for the crap… err, sorry, essentials, that most of us lug around. I caressed the throttle and turned the key. The motor barked eagerly and belched a puff of smoke. What the..?
Okay, time out! I peeped under the cowl cover to satisfy my curiosity and I was surprised by what I found. The young girl had an old soul — a 135hp, 1998-era carburetted Mercury two-stroke V6, to be precise. Sensing my confusion, James reassured me that this was not the engine the rig would be sold with. Rather, this engine was installed so as to provide a reference for potential customers.
By now, any sign of smoke had vanished and the motor had settled to a smooth idle. I putted out of the 5kt zone and into the main body of the lake. It was lunch time and the light zephyr that had welcomed us on arrival had now developed some real teeth. “This’ll test her,” I thought, pointing the nose into the wind while flattening the throttle. She planed in around three seconds, then just kept going and going and… well, you get the idea. The stiff breeze froze the grin on my face and bugs collided with my eyeballs (which hurts, I might add). The old outboard kept revving until the tacho ran out of increments and through bleary eyes I saw 48.6kts (90kmh) on the GPS. Throughout, the hull remained neutral and didn’t want to bite me, although I gave it plenty of excuses to.
I note that she didn’t just exhibit excellent manners in a straight line, either. Full-lock turns at 43.2kts (80kmh) saw the Wildfisher simply slide into it, washing off precious little speed in the process. When my passenger almost ended up in my lap, I learnt a valuable lesson: passengers aren’t always mind readers and they need a heads-up if you’re planning on arsing about. Turns at low speed did result in some cavitation, but dropping the engine one bolt hole should give it a bit more bite.
Let me clarify something now before I’m branded as yet another hoon pushing a boat to extremes. I’ve fished the tournament bream circuit and when the siren goes or your number is called, you haul out of there to hopefully get to your chosen spot before the other guy does. The quicker a boat can get on the plane, the more control you’ll have over it before you hit the inevitable wash left behind by previous competitors.
As for the Wildfisher, while I remained stumped by the choice of engine presented, I was left to ponder how much better it might have been with a cutting-edge four-stroke or direct-injection two-stroke at the blunt end.
HANDLING AND RIDE
While our rapid progress wasn’t altogether unexpected considering the lump of American iron spinning the prop, what did surprise me was how soft and quiet the overall ride was. I checked the spec sheets again. Yep, I was right: the hull only sported a mere 12° deadrise. So how come it rode so well?
Chatting with James later over a most excellent meat pie from the local bakery, he went through the finer details of the Wildfisher’s design. TABS reserves a construction technique called “PHD” or Plate Hull Design for its full-plate boats with 4mm and 5mm hulls. The designers start with Survey-grade 5083 DNV-certified high-tensile alloy and weld the stringers and bearers directly to this bottom sheet. They then reinforce the impact zone at entry and pack the voids with foam. Okay, so my eyes glazed over too. I’m generally a sceptic when it comes to acronyms but what did resonate was that all that stuff they said they did, actually worked and worked well.
Like many affairs, this one was brief but it left a lasting impression. As I propped the boat back onto its trailer a nagging thought gnawed at what I laughingly consider my brain. Does the world really need another hyper-powered bass boat? Maybe not, but the Wildfisher stands on its own merits and if you’re a bass brawler, trout toter, bream brasher or squid squirter, this one deserves to make your short-list. TABS reckons its moniker stands for Tough Aussie Boats. After this wild fling, I’m not doubting the company’s sincerity.
On the plane...
Loads of underfloor storage
Dedicated rod locker
Stable at rest
Bulkhead-mounted isolator switch
Fairly idiot proof
Relatively dry for a low-slung steamroller
Dragging the chain...
Dealer-fitted 1998-era carby Mercury 135
Passenger grabrails would be welcomed
Couldn’t remove all the bugs from my teeth
Price as tested: $42,900 (plus new 135 Mercury OptiMax)
Options fitted: Tandem customised Dunbier trailer, Watersnake bow-mount electric motor, Uniden 27Mhz marine radio, boarding ladder, rod locker, plumbed livewell
Priced from: $37,900 (with 90hp Mercury OptiMax) and single-axle trailer
Type: Bass-style fishing boat
Material: Plate-aluminium (4mm bottoms; 3mm sides)
Rec. HP: 115
Max. HP: 150
Make/model: 135hp Mercury OptiMax (recommended engine, not tested)
Type: Direct-injection two-stroke V6
Gear ratio: 2.00:1
Propeller: 21in Vengeance
MANUFACTURED BY TABS BOATS
2 Activity Crescent
Ernest, Qld, 4214
Tel: (07) 5594 6333
514 Canterbury Road
Vermont, Vic, 3133
Tel: (03) 9874 4624
Story: Angelo San Giorgio Photos: John Willis & Alison Kuiter
Source: TrailerBoat #282
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