SCOTT THOMAS checks out a small boat with a lot to offer for fishos seeking versatility – the new Haines Signature 502 RF.
FIVE metres doesn’t always equal a small boat. Well, that’s what I was hoping as we followed The Haines Group’s larger Traveller TF 200 (see August 2011 Boat Fishing) out through the Gold Coast's Seaway in search of a few snapper, or maybe a mack tuna or two. As it turned out, besides the surge through the Seaway, the seas were dead flat and heading offshore in a smallish boat presented few issues. However, the Haines Group’s new 502 RF does certainly seem to offer big boat performance in a small neat package.
Fishing World colleague Mick Fletoridis was onboard the Traveller with The Haines Group’s Greg Haines and Nikki Winter. The Haines Group’s Stuart Smith was onboard the 502RF with me. As Mick already outlined in August Boat Fishing, the perfect conditions didn’t equate to perfect fishing and the swarms of mack tuna we saw the previous day had completely vanished.
Even so, we tried trolling and dropping soft plastics down, which allowed for a decent appraisal of the boat’s fishability at sea.
Runabout Fisherman The Haines group offers three boat brands in its line up with Traveller, Seafarer and Signature, with the latter the “prestige” brand for those wanting the best from a boat in performance and design. The “RF” refers to “Runabout Fisherman” with The Haines Group designing the new model with versatility in mind. The cabin has been brought forward to allow plenty of fishing deck space extending back to the transom. While this is a fishing magazine, a “family friendly” boat could mean the difference to accessing those well guarded finances from the missus! Unlike many boat brands on the market, mostly imports, who try too hard to offer family and fishing features, THG has left the 502’s simplicity, space, shelter and ride comfort as its main family friendly attributes. In other words, no giant lounges or unnecessary add-on gadgets that get in the way of the real reason you bought the boat: to go fishing. It’s a simple, yet practical boat with heaps of space for a few mates to fish comfortably.
The test boat featured a 90hp Suzuki A series. The new A series 90 features Lean Burn technology, which according to the brochures, offers great fuel savings by allowing the engine to run on a more efficient mixture through the use of a lean air-fuel ratio. Another handy feature of these outboards is tilt limiter, a simple, but handy feature which allows you to customise where the outboard will stop tilting and can save bait boards, etc, from getting squashed by a tilting motor.
The transom has a door and step down ladder for making entering and exiting the boat much easier, on and off the water.
The transom also features a roomy livewell which also doubled on test day as a ice box. For the family fisho, there’s a fold-down seat which tucks away nicely and would comfortably seat a couple people. There’s also a couple of useful Tallon mounts towards the transom. Tallon, which are fitted across The Haines Group boat ranges are a handy flush mount for attaching a range of accessories including drink holders, bait boards, lights, etc. It’s a great way Haines has kept the gunwales relatively clutter free while still offering a choice of accessories when you need them. Under the gunwales there’s plenty of space in the parcel shelves and a handy built-in fish measuring ruler nearby.
Good stability and a generous amount of freeboard adds to the boat’s fishability and would lend itself to light offshore work chasing snapper, kings, etc. Of course, it would also be equally at home inside the estuary.
There’s ample space around the helm. Swivelling seats allow both driver and passengers to turn around and face the transom while fishing, if they wish. However, I found the swivelling helm seat could easily knock the throttle. The test boat dash featured a Garmin 4515 sounder and gauges including fuel, tacho, speed, and trim/tilt. The dash had sufficient space on offer for more electronics or a larger sounder unit.
Opposite the helm in front of the passenger seat there’s a deep glove box for putting valuables, which also doubles as an insulated ice box. For more storage, Haines has added a shallow storage bin under the floor between passenger and helm seats.
Further forward towards the bow, the walkthrough windscreen allows access to the anchor well and there's more storage inside the bow.
Smooth riding The Haines Group’s Signature is the company’s premium brand and this 502 reflected the company’s promise in both ride and overall finish. It was a fun, sporty and dry boat to drive. Hard turns at speed were too easy and good fun in the mild sea. The patented Signature Variable Deadrise Hull goes from 21 to 33 degrees, which equates to a seriously smooth ride and surprisingly good stability. Haines says its SVDH technology helps in lifting the boat onto the plane and keeps it there at lower speeds, which results in fuel savings at lower speeds. On the subject of speeds, the 90hp Suzuki gave a good account of itself with a comfortable cruising speed of 24 knots at 4500 RPM and WOT at 31 knots and 6000 RPM. The maximum power rating is 115hp if you’re looking for more speed. For a 5-metre boat, the 502RF really gives a good account of itself. ¦