JBS 5.5 Centre Console Review

Issue: October 2003
Manufacturer: JBS

JBS boats deliver some of the most thoroughly thought out “yet still able to be customised” interiors in the fishing boat business. But the good news is this boat builder has come up with a hull that irons out the bumps on choppy water usually associated with plate aluminium hulls. This is achieved by a unique forefoot design utilising shaped strips of metal to form a fine angle at the bow that slices through surface chop instead of meeting it with those trademark plate hull bangs and bumps. 

But not only does this hull ride well, the test boat had a centre console design that was without doubt one of the best the Modern Boating team has ever seen. Can you imagine travelling along in a centre console boat that doesn’t seem to have some imaginary person standing off the bow throwing buckets of water in your face ? Well, that’s how it is with the JBS 5.5. And it makes this boat an exception to several rules most dedicated fishos can happily live without. Since Cliff Joshua founded JBS, the man responsible for envisaging and creating the hull form that does away with the bumps, the company has expanded a little. 

JBS was always a small operation accurately described as ’boutique’ boat builders, but now they have moved into new premises, which allow them to expand production and more importantly to clientele, drastically reduce build times. Cliff’s son Malcolm now runs JBS in the best traditions of the good Queensland family boating dynasty they qualify to be these days. Cliff came along on the day to run our camera boat during our photo shoot and I’m delighted to report to his many friends and acquaintances in the fishing and boating communities that Cliff ‘is’ enjoying his retirement and that his quirky sense of humour is as pin sharp as ever. 

While there’s been a changing of the guard at JBS, clients still deal directly with the builder of their boat and are able to directly input their thoughts throughout its design and construction. It’s also worth noting that JBS have devoted a lot of attention to ensuring their hulls meet or exceed quality control standards expected in the new millennium. Not that there ever was any doubt in JBS’ case, but today there are certain procedures involved in providing reassurances yesterday’s world took for granted. Plate aluminium boats sit in an ultra competitive market sector in Queensland and it reflects well on all concerned that we have some brilliant marques among the builders. 

However, few can offer quite the personal attention JBS have made their trademark. And then of course, none of them have JBS’ unique forefoot, or the soft-riding characteristics it creates. While to a large extent a test on a custombuilt boat is somewhat irrelevant, because your reputation is only as good as the last boat you built, so a close inspection of this one is quite relevant. The hull we’ve tested on several occasions in these pages and comments about this 5.5m centre console’s ride and handling come from the time we spent out on the Jumpin Bar during the photo session. It was a poignant reminder of just how much softer, than the average plate aluminium hull, a JBS hull rides. The last 5.5 JBS we tested ‘ it was configured with a centre cabin ‘ was powered by an 115hp motor by a family intending to use it for social skiing. 

This boat had a 90hp oil injected twostroke Tohatsu bolted to its transom; however, any interest in comparing top speeds and so on were dashed by the handheld GPS used for Modern Boating speed tests being absent without leave (AWOL) for the day. Back to a seat-of-the-pants judgment of performance. This is sufficient for our fishing magazine stable mate Modern Fishing, but below par by Modern Boating’s standards, but what could we do. Allowing that a centre console represents a substantial weight saving over the added superstructure needed for a centre cabin configuration of otherwise identical hulls, with three adults onboard the hull felt well balanced against the power output of the three cylinder in-line Tohatsu motor. 

The test boat’s owners had chosen a fairly standard JBS centre console layout. This includes a full 360-degree walk-around with leg support all the way around the boat. Aft, a shelf beneath the motor well is raised above the deck to keep those all important batteries above any water making its way towards the scuppers. Yes, the deck is fully self-draining. In the bow, this boat’s owners specified a raised section immediately aft of the anchor well. It functions as an extra high casting platform and provides extra storage space. Storage is normally always in short supply in centre console boats, but that is definitely not the case with this 5.5m vessel. 

There are two under floor storage compartments, one forward of the console, the other aft, plus the two shelves inside the console itself. There’s also side pockets ‘ designed not to interfere with leg support ‘ along the cockpit sides and more storage space on each side of the battery box on the shelf under the transom. Then, there’s a huge locker beneath the pair of bucket seats sheltered behind the console. This open aft and contained all the life jackets in a place where they could be quickly and easily accessed in the event they were needed in a hurry. 

A workstation above the motor and a transom door through the portside of the stern, complete a fairly standard ultra fishing friendly environment this kind of plate boat is famous for. Nevertheless, in this boat there are two areas where JBS took ‘standard’ and turned it into an art form. The first is the berley pot. It is sited on the starboard side of the stern and has been worked into the transom platform so neatly that you need to look twice to realise the berley pot is actually there. It’s finished off with a flush, hinged cover, which completes the neatest berley arrangement the team have ever seen. 

Then there’s the console. It’s 1200mm wide and still leaves plenty of room to move down each side. The centre console has a shade canopy and a windscreen. What wasn’t fitted for the photo shoot is the clipin clear panel that fills the space between the windscreen and bimini to complete the weather protection. If you’re after a boat with all the options of layout a centre console offers and total weather protection, the JBS 5.5 Centre Console maybe just the boat for you. A dry centre console, we still can’t believe it.

So, how much will it cost you to park one in your driveway ? 

Boat, motor, trailer packages start from around $30,000.

Words by Warren Steptoe