Now that's something we have to see!
As bass and bream fishing become more popular in Australia, there is a call for homegrown specialised fishing platforms. The pros started it, now enthusiasts want a boat that is faster, more stable and sexier looking than their mates boats.
One of the newest bass boats on the market is the Labsport Extreme. Never heard of Labsport ? It's not surprising if you are not into competitive water ski racing. Labsport ski race boats have been around for about 20 years and are very successful in their class in the Sydney Bridge to Bridge and Southern 80 races. Labsport is a small firm located at Tarren Point in Sydney that's owned by brothers, Jeff and Bruce Stubbs.
How the boats got their name is rather sketchy. Bruce Stubbs said that when he and his brother started building ski boats they were looking for a name and after tossing a few around came up with Labsport. "No-one else had it as a brand name, so it stuck," he said.
It was the same when they named their first ski racer Fruit Squeeze. How that came about is a story for another time and probably best told around a bar with a group of mates downing some coldies.
Ski boat/bass boat
It's no surprise that the bass boat looks like a ski race boat, because that's what it is. The Stubbs have used the lower hull shape of their 18ft Ventilator and added a flush deck for fishing. Looking at the hull from the bow, it is easy to see why it's called a 'ventilator'.
The hull is almost trihedral and rides on a cushion of air. There are plenty of upright edges that keep it tracking in a straight line at speed. The faster it goes the smoother it gets. And with a 200hp Evinrude E-TECH, 2.6lt small-block bolted on the back this boat had some grunt.
At full throttle 5500rpm and about three-quarter trim out the GPS flashed up 57 knots (66mph). This 18-footer was tracking so well that I took my hands off the wheel and it just continued on straight ahead. I have driven some fast boats over the years, but I have never felt as safe as I did in this one at speed. The ride can only be described as outstanding.
It gets up on the plane in 4.1 seconds and sits there around 14 knots (16mph) at an easy 3000rpm. The boat likes to be trimmed to the speed. At 28 knots it only needed about a quarter trim out and at 42 knots half trim was fine.
Pull it around in a tight turn with a little trim in and it won't break out. Even an inexperienced driver would look good in this boat.
Admittedly, we tested it in smooth water, but that's what this boat is made for. Though once trimmed-in, it doesn't mind the rough stuff either. After launching it over the wash from a passing flybridge cruiser, I expected it to come down with a thump – it didn't, and the passengers appreciated it.
As with all serious bass boats the driver and his mate virtually sit on the floor with individual consoles in front of them. The driving position is almost an open-wheel racing car style with a race boat foot throttle, which all the bass boats are fitting now. With the lever-operated trim on the steering wheel column all the hand control is used for is to select the forward or reverse gear. On this boat a Lowrance LMS 337 was mounted in front of the driver and an X107 was set into the bow, but it will accommodate whatever electronics the owner favours.
I wondered what the stainless half-moon rail on either side was for until I went to get out of the seat and found it very useful. It's a handy addition and it looks good too.
Then I went looking for a footrest for my left foot. There wasn't any, and I found that even in a tight turn it wasn't needed, although it would have been nice to have.
The shape of the hull makes it very stable for casting or when reaching out to put a landing net under a fish. There were no sudden pitching surprises with two hefty blokes standing on one side.
There are all the usual storage compartments for rods, trolling motor, tackle boxes and all the other gear that seems to find its way onto this type of boat. The large kill tank, live tank and all the other gear is readily accessible. Even the three batteries (two are used for the trolling motor), and the oil bottle for the outboard are easy to get at.
The Labsport Extreme may be a workhorse but the finish is slick. The Stubbs brothers take pride in the fact that there is not a self-tapper in the boat anywhere. The finish is so good that one punter at the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show earlier this year asked if the boat came from the United States.
The Labsport Extreme is sure to attract attention at the boat ramp and it will certainly be a quick trip back for the weigh-in after a good day out.