US-based Crestliner Boats offer die-hard alloy fans a unique fishing boat with a few hidden surprises. By SCOTT THOMAS
BEROWRA Waters Wholesale, importers of other US boats such as Trophy and Bayliner, introduced the Crestliner Super Hawk to Australia during last year’s Sydney International Boat Show. Plenty were sold, but it was the reaction from customers which said it all about the design of these particular boats. Most people didn’t believe they were looking at an aluminium boat. That says a lot, I reckon, about the excellent finish and innovative interior layout not often produced in a “tinny”.
Sydney put on a wild and windy day for the boat test. The plan was to fish a few marker buoys and reefs inside Sydney Harbour with Boat Fishing writer Dan Trotter and the team from Berowra Waters Wholesale. If that didn’t work, we’d sneak outside Sydney Heads and chase one of the resident schools of Aussie salmon. Dan fished on board a NZ-built Fi-Glass boat (see his review in the December 2011 issue), while I remained on board the Super Hawk.
We cast plastics around Sydney's famous “wedding cakes”, hoping for an early season kingfish. Stability on the bow was excellent. The bow section featured two nifty fold-down seats, which can accommodate a couple of passengers or, in this case, can be tucked away for a clutter free casting deck. The stern features a similar design. The casting platform becomes a comfy upholstered lounge complete with drink holders.
Just the thing for a day with the family. If it’s versatility you’re after, this clever design should prove popular with your better half. The floors, casting decks, and inside walls are lined with carpet, which really helps to keep the noise down when moving around the boat. There’s also a bimini cover for extra shade. The test day was overcast and we were there to catch fish, so the bimini remained tucked away and the fold-out lounges hidden to expose the casting decks. It's incredible how the the Super Hawk could so easily be transformed from a family friendly bowrider into a serious fishing craft.
The bow was missing an anchor well, a common feature amongst US boats, although this is an optional extra available to Australian customers. There’s sufficient space up there for a bow mount electric and Crestliner has added a 12 volt plug at the bow. The Super Hawk would make an ideal bass or barra impoundment boat, where a bow mount electric would really come in handy. Likewise, the boat’s versatile design also lends itself to chasing a number of estuary species where an electric is also essential for creeping along shorelines and casting or trolling.
The kingies were absent around the marker buoys so we moved further towards the heads in search of salmon. A stiff southerly churned the water and while the Fi-Glass cuddy that accompanied us was designed for this sort of foul weather, I wasn’t so sure about the Crestliner.
Thankfully I was wrong. Not only did the boat ride very nicely in the bumpy conditions, it also stayed dry and was stable enough to cast lures at the school of topwater salmon along North Head, a very exposed piece of water in a strong southerly. While the boat performed exceptionally well in these conditions, the high casting platforms and lack of grab rails made me feel a little uneasy. However, for a boat capable of fishing a broad range of waters from shallow estuaries and impoundments to churned up open water, that’s not a bad compromise. There’s also the option to position a bow mounted seat for added security or comfort up front.
Moving towards the rear of the boat, there's a neat underfloor storage area between consoles, capable of holding five rigged rods up to 6’6” in length. There’s also further storage for rigged rods under the port side gunwale.
The two consoles provide good protection from the weather for driver and passenger. The consoles themselves provide heaps of storage with a lockable glove box and slide out drawer for keys, wallets, extra tackle, etc.
The helm featured a speedometer, tachometer, voltmeter, and trim gauges. The test boat featured an optional Lowrance HDS 7-inch sounder unit. However, the streamlined console restricted anything too large from being mounted there.
At the stern, the fold down lounge was tucked away, which gave way to a spacious carpeted casting platform. Behind this was a ski tow bar with rod holders fitted. The handy optional extra also doubled as a grab rail whilst fishing the rough water.
The Super Hawk also features two livewells. One is located on the bow, neatly hidden underneath the casting platform, the other slightly larger livewell is situated at the rear casting platform.
I was pleasantly surprised that not only does the Super Hawk mimic the smooth lines of a fibreglass boat, it’s also a soft riding and dry aluminum boat.
The boat gave a very solid feel through the chop on the test day. The Super Hawk features a 17 degree reverse chine hull design, which accounts for its smooth riding characteristics, yet doesn’t impede its stability at rest. The heavier than usual 590kg dry hull weight helped account for the “solid” ride. It's also quite dry. The consoles and walk-through door, combined with the bimini offer pretty good protection from spray when it does get messy out there.
The test boat featured a 90hp Mercury Optimax DFI two-stroke outboard, with a maximum rating of a 135 Optimax or 115 four-stroke. With two on board and conditions less than perfect we achieved a top speed of about 30 knots at 6000 RPM. In these conditions, the ideal cruising speed was about 18 knots and 4000 RPM. The Opti provided more than enough grunt.
Crestliner has been around since 1946 with a history of fibreglass boat production before moving to aluminium. So they know a thing or two about boat design. Boat Fishing caught up with Crestliner's product manager, Steve Rock, last year during the Australian unveiling of the Super Hawk. As Rock explained, the Yanks aren’t big on using alloy boats in the salt. However, the US has an extensive body of freshwater lakes and rivers, which provide a solid testing ground for their version of the humble “tinny”. So don’t think boats like the Super hawk are strictly for calm water. They suit our conditions nicely – fresh and saltwater.
Berowra Waters Wholesale import three models suited to Australian market: The 1650 Fish Hawk, 1600 Super Hawk and the 1700 Super Hawk, as tested.
While the Super Hawk is designed as an all-purpose fishing/family boat, the “all-purpose” tag does not detract from what is a practical fishing boat. The size, hull design, transforming casting decks, hidden livewells and generous tackle storage make this a versatile boat for anything from rivers and impoundments to inshore saltwater and estuary work.