Sink your teeth into some serious fishing with this top-notch platform.
It’s unfortunate that so many of the Sea Jays you see up north are the grubby survivors of a life of hard knocks. But it’s a testament to the popularity and build-quality of these Aussie-built aluminium runabouts, centre and side consoles, cuddy cabs and bowriders.
Based at Bundaberg in Queensland, Sea Jay really deserves these well overdue accolades and here’s why. Its 465 Viper is a great piece of work enhanced by lateral thinking. Check out her handy rod storage and the bench seat that’ll accommodate three and folds away to become a stern casting deck.
The Sea Jay 465 Viper’s looks speak for themselves. She’s a top looking boat and while many would call her a ‘tournament’ boat, plenty of keen fishos who never go anywhere near a comp are happy to use this type of boat for day to day fishing.
The Viper does have the mandatory tournament-style live well under the bow casting deck and, funnily enough, it was the only aspect of this boat I wasn’t rapt about. (The well has a lip to control slopping water, but it didn’t do so very well during the test).
On the seating front, Sea Jay has done a fine job of engineering a concept often seen in American ‘flats’ boats. The seat’s ‘back’ is in two separated sections that fold down either independently or together to become the stern casting deck. When ‘up’ it becomes comfortable seating for three. But because it’s in two pieces, the section comprising the helm seat can be left up to drive the boat while leaving the rest of the casting space useable.
It works exceptionally well, except perhaps for 170cm fishos like me, because the wheel was so far away from the seat I couldn’t lean back comfortably at the helm. Taller readers will wonder what I’m complaining about, while those of my height or shorter, will quickly agree. Hopefully it’s possible to relocate the steering wheel closer to the seat with appropriate spacers or the likes.
Rod storage comprises a ‘nest’ of rod holders that’ll accommodate rods standing vertically in the centre of the boat beside the console. People who fish where there’s lots of overhanging shrubbery may not approve, but apart from that, the system is a vast improvement on those so-called ‘rod lockers’, which admittedly do stow rods out of the way, but also keep several thousand bucks worth of your favourite gear rubbing together in a heap.
The Viper’s ‘rod nest’ is a pretty good system because it keeps every rod in the boat accessible. You do watch out when casting, but with the rods in the centre of the boat, both casting decks have plenty of room on either side. I thought the set-up was workable.
Ahead of that live-well under the bow deck is a cavernous storage area. The anchor well and flush hatches are in front of that. No toe snatching hinges protrude from the carpeted deck and the mooring bollard is inside the anchor well where it belongs.
There’s more storage beneath the stern-casting deck and Sea Jay’s ‘Ultimate Edge’ hull includes a full height aft bulkhead to keep surface chop outside where it belongs.
Feel like Casey Stoner. The side-console is a work of art and is probably the hottest bit of kit in the whole boat and believe me, you feel like Casey Stoner every time you drive a Viper. Quite seriously, the boat’s a stack of fun to run around in and handles remarkably well for a fairly conventional moderate deadrise aluminium hull.
As moderate deadrise aluminium hulls with slightly turned down chines go, the Viper is one of the better examples of the genre I’ve tested. It has the excellent ‘at rest’ stability, essential when two or three people stand on the casting decks. It also turns well enough to ensure fast trips through a winding channel stay fun. Tight turns find it reluctant to break into the propeller ventilation, which is common with other brands of aluminium boats.
With an 80hp Yamaha EFI four-stroke on the back, the Viper didn’t hang around, reaching speeds of more than 30 knots. But the 55lb-thrust Minn Kota Rip Tide electric on the bow does the job equally well while fishing. I doubt many Vipers will go fishing without one.
There are a few aluminium boats like the 465 Viper around now, but this Sea Jay is definitely among the best of the bunch. And remember you don’t have to be a tournament fisho to enjoy this Viper.
WORDS : WARREN STEPTOE