IAN MACRAE inspects a new fully-imported American centre console
One of the best things about buying an American-built sportfishing boat is that straight out of the box, they arrive here ready to fish. And that’s exactly what we did during this test went fishing.
Our plan was to head up to Long Reef, a couple of nautical miles north of Sydney Heads, where the still relatively cool spring water temperatures might be hiding a decent snapper or two. Little did we know that en-route we’d encounter massive schools of Australian salmon?great fighters?smashing baitfish on the surface and sign-posted by hundreds of swirling birds. As well as catching a few salmon on the way, when we got to the reef we also bagged some snapper, kingfish, sergeant baker and pike on soft plastics. But enough about the fishing, what did the session tell us about the boat.
Meet the Campion
Imported by Blakes Marine at McGraths Hill in Sydney’s west, Campion Boats are relatively new to our shores, but they have already chalked up a name for themselves. Each boat is beautifully finished and good value for money. Take this Explorer 602 Centre Console for example; at $59,990 she’s a top buy.
As a sportfishing boat, my first impression?as she slid gracefully onto the beach at our pick up point at The Spit?was ‘first rate’. It wasn’t until we actually fished from her that we discovered a few minor flaws in her persona, as you do with all production-built boats, but there was nothing to really put us off. Just little things that a bit of re-tooling would rectify.
Performance & handling
Out on the water at dawn the seas were kind, but all that would change as the sun climbed higher. Powered by an exceptionally smooth and quiet Evinrude 150hp E-TEC two-stroke, the Campion’s ‘Apex Hull’ rocketed the boat onto the plane in seconds. She trimmed effortlessly and settled down to a comfortable cruise speed of around 56km/h at 4200rpm.
This was the first time I have spent much time on any boat powered by an E-TEC outboard and I have to admit to being truly impressed. This extremely quiet 150hp two-stroke had plenty of power to propel the 6.7m centre console to a top speed of 74km/h.
And, according to my co-pilot on the day, Dan Burgess (of the Two Dans Fishing DVD series fame), who has been using an E-TEC engine for more than 12 months, these babies use “bugger all oil”. This, and the fact that these E-TECs need no scheduled servicing for the first three years, or 300 engine hours (whichever comes first), and they’re returning excellent fuel economy figures.
On the day, as the wind and chop built, the Explorer was able to maintain her 56km/h cruise speed, although the ride was nowhere near as soft. The hull’s chines are carried well forward and are reasonably aggressive, but increasing the chine width would improve her rough-water handling. Also, because the boat’s beam is fairly narrow (2.34m), increasing the chines’ width and ‘downturn’ slightly would turn a reasonable choppy water ride into a top ride. The hull would travel on a cushion of air and this would help the hull land level and more softly after coming off a wave.
Under way the quite heavy flare in the bow deflected water and spray well away from the boat, but as the wind across the bow increased, so did the amount of spray blown back inboard. It’s an effect common to all centre consoles, but surprisingly both of us could duck behind the console’s windscreen when required to avoid a soaking.
At rest the hull settled into the water well and remained quite stable. Two anglers can stand on the same side of the boat without it listing too much.
The 602’s layout is good and nothing a fisho could need for a day on the water has been left out. The dash layout is good and all the instruments are clearly visible. The helm’s positioned at the right height, as are the throttle/gear controls, but the heavily upholstered pedestal driver and navigator’s seats don’t have bolster cushions. Standing to drive is made difficult because the width of the helm/navigator’s seat-base cramps your feet against the front of the footrest. You also can’t sit back against the seat’s backrest while driving, because the seats aren’t on slides and they’re positioned too far back.
The door to access the centre console’s mini cabin is a bit squeezy, but the amount of space once you are inside is considerable.
There’s plenty of room to use the ‘loo comfortably and this area is great for storage.
Even though this boat is rated for seven, from a purely fishing perspective it’s a three-person boat?two anglers at the transom and the third in the bow. It’s also quite easy to move 360 degrees around the centre console when fighting a fish if required. Remove the bow cushion and the bow locker lid makes a good casting platform. If this were my boat I’d convert the area to be suitable for this purpose all of the time.
There are also matching ‘bin’ lockers on each side in front of the bow locker, which are great when cruising around, but useless when fishing. They reduce the usable fishing space in this area by a third.
The Campion Explorer 602 Centre Console is an excellent value-for-money fishing boat, with all the good gear to let anglers tackle most forms of sportfishing. Yes, she does suffer from a few minor problems with the driver/navigator’s seat set-up, but these would be easily fixed by mounting each seat on a slide.
When it comes to power I was blown away by just how quiet, smooth and responsive the 150hp E-TEC was. I’ll be studying and comparing the fuel usage figures closely.