REVIEWED: HAINES HUNTER 525 PROWLER
The Haines Hunter 525 Prowler offers all the benefits of an open boat design with the ride quality of a much bigger vessel. JIM HARNWELL reports.
A QUICK scroll through the Fisho archives, which date back to the old Australian Angler days of the late 1960s and ’70s, reveals that the centre console design has long been a favourite with keen sportfishermen. The reason is simple: centre consoles offer unsurpassed fishability. If you’ve ever fished out of a centre console you’ll know what I mean. The freedom offered by this design is ideal for those of us who enjoy “active” fishing involving casting lures, jigging and popping. And if you hook up to a big fish the ability to follow it around the boat is a major advantage. So why aren’t all fishing boats centre consoles? Well, the big disadvantage of this design is that they tend to be wet and they generally offer only limited storage.
While centre consoles were dominant back in the early days of Australian sportfishing, runabout, half cabin, cuddy cabin and centre cabin designs have become more popular in recent years, especially in the southern states where cooler conditions often mean anglers prefer at least some form of shelter.
But centre consoles continue to record good sales and recent improvements in hull designs, together with a trend towards boats that cover both inshore and offshore fishing requirements, has seen something of a resurgence in this diehard design. The boat featured over these pages is a classic example of the modern centre console. Based on a proven hull, the Haines Hunter 525 Prowler, which was launched at the Melbourne Boat Show earlier this year, offers all the benefits of an open boat design with the ride quality of a much bigger vessel.
Boat Fishing tested the 525 on Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay. Conditions were unpleasant – cold, breezy and with intermittent rain showers. The bay was chopped up and messy and the breeze blowing across the water was coming straight up from the South Pole. I’d stupidly forgotten to bring wet weather gear – the last thing I wanted to do was roar around getting wet and cold in a centre console.
The first 10 minutes in the Prowler saw me take a very conservative approach, playing with the trim, gingerly throttling back when approaching any sign of chop or swell and generally doing all I could to avoid getting wet. After a welcome absence of any spray to speak of, even when I misjudged a wave or two, I began to feel more confident. By the end of the test run I was blasting across the chop with the Yammie 115 four-stroke on the transom running at almost full noise.
Most boat tests you read will have the reviewer enthusiastically claiming the boat in question was dry and performed impeccably. A lot of these so-called “tests” take place in calm conditions when just about any boat will perform well. I can honestly say I drove the Prowler just about as hard as I could sensibly do in fairly average conditions and came away both dry and impressed. The deep vee heavily straked fibreglass hull tracked well and provided a solid, predictable ride. Pushed into the half to 1m head seas, the Prowler landed stern first, pushing spray well out to the sides. A bit of negative trim saw the nose slice smoothly into the chop like a much bigger, heavier boat. At rest, beam on in the chop, stability was good, either down at the transom, amidships or up at the bow. I’d have no problems drifting across a snapper reef casting plastics in a bit of a swell in this boat.
So by the end of all this I was pleasantly surprised with the performance of this well-designed little sportfisher. Some more time spent cruising around and poking about got me thinking about the opportunities this boat represents. Primarily designed as an offshore fishing boat, the 525 would also double as a highly effective multi-purpose inshore weapon. With an optional electric motor mounted at the bow (I’d be fitting a 24-volt system in order to get the best performance), I can see plenty of bream/bass/barra guys going for a boat like this. The test was staged in open water and so I can’t comment with any authority on the hull’s shallow water performance. You’d have to think, however, that it would be able to access relatively shallow water. I’ve been in similar, slightly smaller, fibreglass centre consoles and found that these boats could fish water around the 300mm depth range. So you’d reckon the Prowler would be a viable platform in most of the flats and shallow water fisheries liable to be fished by Aussie anglers.
Unlike the purpose designed go fast platforms currently popular with comp anglers, the 525 isn’t a one trick pony. This capable and efficient hull would certainly allow for just about all estuary/freshwater work as well as inshore snapper and kingie luring and general bait and bottom fishing. A bonus is that trips further out are more than possible (on reasonable days anyway) if you fancy targeting species like mackerel, tuna and billfish.
In order to provide peace of mind during offshore jaunts, the boat comes standard with Haines Hunter’s “Safety Matrix System”. This involves a foam filled hull (for flotation, improved ride and reduction in hull noise), fully glassed stringers (for strength and maximum hull integrity) and a seven-year structural warranty (which is pretty bloody good!).
The boat was fitted with a Yamaha 115hp four-stroke, the max horsepower rating. Performance was blistering, as you’d expect, and you’d save a few bucks yet wouldn’t lose too much top end speed if you opted for a four-stroke or DI two-stroke in the 90hp class.
The test boat was a top-of-the-line production with a flash looking but very expensive CAD cut cork floor and a sizable ’glass console with curved windscreen and front dickie seat. Room for the latest generation of mega-sized sounder/GPS screens was available atop the console with thru-mounted radios also easily installed. A decent amount of storage was located underneath the dickie seat’s padded cushion. Further storage was available via insulated wells in the hull under the seat. You could use these wells for fish storage but it’d be a bit of a pain accessing them. A kill tank in the floor on the rear deck would probably have been a better option. Personally speaking, I would get rid of the dickie seat (in order to have more fishing room on the front deck). The guys at Haines Hunter said they were pretty flexible re customer requirements for this boat – console designs, casting decks, seating arrangements and so on can all be customised.
The boat holds 125 litres of fuel via an underfloor tank located amidships. Livewells are fitted each side of the transom and sporty stainless rails give the bow a nicely aggressive look. I didn’t really like how the battery was exposed at the transom – I’d prefer this to be infilled with hatches – but the Haines Hunter guys explained at the open transom provided easy access to the bilge area. Again, this could doubtless be customised.
These minor criticisms aside, the Haines Hunter Prowler 525 is a far cry from the rough-as-guts centre consoles of yesteryear. Excellent hull design and construction, as well as the high level fit-out, accessories and options that are typical of all Haines Hunter boats, has resulted in a sportfisher that rides as good as it looks and yet offers the convenience and overall fishability that is the hallmark of the centre console concept. On really windy days you’d doubtless get wet – that will happen in any centre console – but the benefits offered by the 525 Prowler will more than likely offset a bit of spray.
Haines Hunter 525 Prowler
POWER: Max. rating 115hp; recommended rating 90hp
FUEL: 125 litres
PRICE: From $36,999; available as tested $44,899
Contact: Haines Hunter on 1300 42 46 37 or check out haineshunter.com.au.
THE Sydney International Boat Show kicks off this Thursday at the combined venues of...