The Haines family are one of the boating industry’s great innovators. And they didn’t reach their position of prominence by being unreceptive to marine trends when developing new models. In the case of their Signature 530 they saw that the rival Quintrex Freedom Sport had identified a market niche for a bowrider that converted to a sportfisher, becoming the tinnie manufacturer’s biggest selling model. It encouraged them to take a similar path. That’s not to say they copied the Freedom Sport. As long-time builders of outstanding bowriders, they ensured the 530BR presented a different interpretation of the convertible bowrider/sportfisher concept.
Instead of standing toe-to-toe with the utilitarian benefits of an aluminium hull, Signature has employed ‘glass construction to great effect. The 530 goes where tinnies, no matter how good, will never tread. If pinned in a corner, I’d have to say that a 530BR loses a few points in a pure fishing comparison to its aluminium rival. But then the standard of finish, its good looks, soft passage over choppy water and what I can only describe as its ‘sporty’ demeanor score heavily in their own right. The 530BR’s performance is a defining and a deciding factor in its character.
Lots of families enjoy their skiing and are happy to compromise the fishing aspects. It comes down to the buyer – where do YOUR preferences lie ? Converting the bow area from seating to casting platform is a matter of removing the seat cushions, retrieving the in-fill panel from the underfloor storage well, and dropping it into place. The panel’s surface has moulded non slip and is quite barefoot friendly, though some may prefer the extra comfort of marine carpet. There is storage under the bow seating/casting deck, one of which in the test boat held a big deep cycle battery for the bow-mounted Minn Kota electric. Having a remote foot control meant the boat could be manoeuvred hands-free while casting.
A few words of advice based on my own experience of electric motors may be in order about now. If interested in a 530BR, don’t shortcut the budget when looking at electric motors. This is a big, heavy boat that catches plenty of wind and it’s going to take lots of thrust to keep it under control in anything more than dead calm conditions. I’d suggest that something like a Minn Kota ‘Riptide’ 65lb thrust model would be a realistic choice. That’s around two grand’s worth – thus my comments about budget. A smaller electric might move it around but you’ll struggle to control the boat and concentrate on the fishing. Also, continually working the motor will not only compromise fishing time, it will quickly dispatch available battery capacity.
Two batteries is the norm for boats running big electric motors. Aside from the one in the bow for the Minn Kota, the 530BR had a smaller one in a transom well to start the 130hp Yamaha. The other transom well could serve as a bait well, or even be plumbed as a livewell if desired. A ‘glove box’ in front of our test 530BR’s passenger seat kept ice and drinks chilled on the day but was hardly big enough to ice down the fish we all like to catch. Still on the fishing aspect and jumping over the sporty and comfortable helm seating position, the 530 BR’s aft seating is one very comfortable lounge. When lifted out this reveals a storage space about the right size and shape for water skis.
Right there is the division of intent in this boat. The bow deck (once converted) is for fishing; aft of there the 530 BR is all sports runabout. It wouldn’t take a lot of effort to fabricate a stern casting platform, which could drop in to place instead of the aft lounge if desired. But as it comes, the bow is where you fish. The Freedom Sport shows that there’s nothing wrong with the sentiment, though it’s a shame in some ways that the aft lounge doesn’t leave a clear cockpit. If it did you’d have a layout similar to Cruise Craft’s excellent Lure, only in a larger heavier hull even more capable of handling choppy water.
Obviously Haines Signature see a market niche for a boat like this and I for one agree with them – I know lots of people who like to fish but enjoy a spunky boat which is pure fun to scream around in. On bays, estuaries, and indeed some of our big, windy freshwater lakes, that’s where this boat’s trademark variable deadrise hull soon makes itself apparent. One of the real advantages of a fibreglass hull is its relative quietness over the water. And the bow seating tends to damp out further hull noise, thanks to the bulkheads that support the seats and casting platform. So scooting around the Southport Broadwater, where we spent our time in the 530 BR, was to put it mildly a different experience than offered by the average fishing boat.
Seated low in a plush bucket seat, stretched out to the Momo steering wheel (standard fitment) and with music piping from the CD player (also standard) I scarcely noticed potential bangs and bumps. I’m not sure how fish might handle the base from the twin marine speakers reverberating through the hull though. Maybe it should switch off automatically when the rods come out. Which brings us squarely against this boat’s bias towards the social side of its character. Where do the rods go ? A pair of rod holders set in the covering board is all the rod storage provided. I guess a baitcaster or single-handed spin rod or two would fit into the upholstered side pockets behind the helm seating, but I’d be reluctant to cram several hundred bucks worth of my pet Loomises haphazardly in there. It’s an issue those of us with a pedigreed (not to mention expensive) stable of fishing tackle would have to resolve if besotted with this spunky bowrider’s other assets.
Price as test, including Mackay PU5000T tandem axle braked trailer, Minn Kota Electric outboard and Raytheon sounder, was $41,435. In base form with a single axle trailer and Yamaha 130 it starts at $31,800.
Words by Warren Steptoe