REVIEW: Bayliner Element F18

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The F18 is designed as a “turn key package” to keep things simple.
The F18 is designed as a “turn key package” to keep things simple.

BAYLINER is back with a dedicated fishing boat – the Element F18. Mark Ward reports.

BAYLINER has been synonymous with building quality, family friendly boats. The company’s bowriders and ski boats have been hugely successful making Bayliner the world leader in pleasure boat sales. Bayliner is owned by the Brunswick Corporation, which is one of the largest marine corporations in the world. The Brunswick Corp owns brands such as Mercury, Boston Whaler, Sea Ray and Meridian Yachts to name just a few.

The Trophy was another boat built by the Brunswick Corp which in Australia was often mistakenly labelled as the Bayliner Trophy. In actual fact, Trophy was its own subsidiary of the Brunswick Corp but Bayliner Dealers in Australia were selling the Trophy to fishos who wanted a quality glass hull at the value for money that Bayliner was famous for. Unfortunately, global sales during the GFC dropped so much that the Brunswick Corp had to make some tough choices to survive and this meant that the Trophy was discontinued.

The unique “M” shape hull adds stability while keeping the boat dry in chop.
The unique “M” shape hull adds stability while keeping the boat dry in chop.

The good news is that the Bayliner Element range of boats are now in the fishing market. Make no mistake, the new Bayliner F18 resembles the old Trophy very little in appearance but is still an excellent fishing boat that represents great value for money. At a little over 50K with a 115 ponies bolted to the transom, the F18 is sure to appeal to as many anglers as the old Trophy did.

The Hull

Designed on the new Element M Hull, the F18 has the comfort of a glass hull with the stability of a pontoon. Todd Kay from Bayliner told Fisho the idea behind the hull design was for newcomers to boating to feel safe and confident at the helm. It had to be simple to operate, smooth, easy to maintain and give even the most timid of new boat owners the confidence to open the throttle.

The hull that Bayliner designed has a steep entry point as well as a type of double sponson that falls straight from the gunwales to provide stability. This is where the M shape comes from. It looks a little like the old Stessl Tri Hull that was popular a number of years back, but without looking like a modified shark-cat. With the Element in the water, the hull appears to have an oversized reverse chine extending forward, and at first glance, the Element doesn’t look too much different to any other hull on the water.

The only real giveaway is that the bow manages to retain the nice wide beam, giving plenty of space for a functional casting deck. Not having a traditional V shape and deadrise to the hull left some questions over the ride quality in the chop and swell but this was quickly put to rest. The boat and motor weighs in at over 700kgs so good hull design, fibreglass construction and weight all add up to an excellent ride in a boat that is only a little over 5.5 metres.

Layout

The Element F18 has a centre console configuration with big forward and aft casing decks. The helm has a two-man bench seat with another smaller bench in front of the console. Additional seating can be had by folding out the two sides of the rear casting deck. There is also the option of having a pedestal seat on the forward casting deck.

The F18 represents real value for money for a boat of this size and versatility.
The F18 represents real value for money for a boat of this size and versatility.

The console has the standard right handed control box with a big, old style five spoke steering wheel. Navigational light switches, accessory switch and even a horn is located in between the wheel and the control box. Speedo, rev gauge and fuel gauge can be found on the console which leaves room for a small sounder on the console space or leave this for a radio and mount a larger sounder/plotter on top. The console has a Perspex screen, good sized grab rail, dry storage, three rod holders each side and even a drink holder and stereo on the port side.

Storage is everywhere. Both bench seats have storage with the aft bench making a great esky. Three underfloor hatches on the bow provide plenty of storage with the option of having a single or dual battery system for a bow mounted electric motor if required. The rear casting deck can have two seats that fold out or can be opened in the opposite direction and be used for underfloor storage. Rods can be stored in the console that has six vertical rod holders or under the gunwale which has horizontal storage for two rods on each side. This is long enough to hold rods over seven feet and will keep a lot of the salt spray off the expensive fishing gear.

Additional standard features are a well-designed live-well that has an overflow pipe instead of an insert tube, a bung for drainage and a spray for adding aerated water to the tank. The bow is complete with a mounting location for an electric motor. The transom has a ladder and small boarding platform. The hull has six cleats for tying up, however there are no rear rod holders for trolling and no bait-board listed in the options.

Fishability

Ideally suited to bay fishing, estuary and inshore reefs, the F18 has a lot to offer. The front and rear casting deck as well as the electric motor bracket make it ideal for lure casting. Whether it’s bream you’re chasing or mackerel in the bays, the casting deck and stability of the M Hull make this boat ideal.

The only issue we have found with glass boats and bow mounted electric motors are foot pedals that slide all over the deck. The lack of carpet to give the pedal some purchase makes it hard so utilising the modern bow-mounts with their remote controls are a better option. Converting the bait tank to a live well can also see the Bayliner used in tournament fishing.

Family fishing and bait anglers could do with a bait board setup so this will have to be an aftermarket job. The lack or rear rod holders can also be fixed by adding a bait board as most these days come with at least two rod holders. The bait tank is a great addition, and as mentioned, it’s big enough to be used as a live well for tournaments or just for keeping the catch alive until it’s time to clean them. There is no kill tank for anglers chasing larger fish but the skipper’s seat doubles as an esky large enough to keep snapper and most other reef fish on ice.

The walk around design of the deck with its big casting platforms and open design makes it easy to work a fish around the boat without too many problems. Overall, a few key features are missing but it would still be a pleasure to fish from such a stable, open hull. The fact that it’s glass and not aluminium means that there will be no tinnie slap from the waves hitting the hull and if the weather does turn nasty, it’s a smoother ride back into port.

Bayliner’s Element F18 is a dedicated fishing boat, a departure from the company’s extensive leisure boat line up.
Bayliner’s Element F18 is a dedicated fishing boat, a departure from the company’s extensive leisure boat line up.

Overall

The 115hp with a Command Thrust Gearbox was a perfect match for the F18. The boat was capable of launching onto the plane with ease and had a cruising speed of 17 knots at an economical 3500 revs and a top speed of 30 knots. The hull trimmed out well and needed to be trimmed down to perform well in tight corners but overall, the performance was impressive and the F18 was very simple to operate from the helm.

Even in reverse, the hull did everything that it was asked and proved that Bayliner have designed a boat that anyone can drive. Its stability was exceptional and open, clean design made fishing easy. The only negatives were that she was missing a couple of rod holders and the option of a bait board is important for some but both are simple fixes.

More info at bayliner.com.au

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