‘Let’s go fishing’ is the latest catch cry for Modern Boating’s brilliant new Trophy 1703 centre console. Last year I made the trek up to South West Rocks for a spot of fishing but, to put it lightly, the fishing was crap. I didn’t catch much, but neither did anyone else, so at least I was among friends.
The opportunity to redeem myself came recently when Modern Boating editor, Ian Macrae, and Modern Fishing editor, Daniel Tillack, called to say I could take their flash new Trophy 1703 for an extended boat test/fishing trip.
The 1703 Trophy is a 17ft centre console and it’s my style of boat! This configuration is ideal for inshore sportfishing. It offers no restrictions when casting lures and flies, or when fighting big fish from anywhere on the boat.
Last year’s shellacking was certainly on my mind. Imagine if the boat arrives and it’s another two-week shutdown? No matter what, I was determined to catch some fish. Rain, hail or shine, I’d be out there.
The fishing was firing on all cylinders the week prior to the Trophy’s arrival. Marlin, cobia, wahoo and yellowfin tuna were all biting. But, bugger me! Three days before the Trophy arrived, there were only a handful of game fish caught by the entire local fleet.
Surprise, surprise, the first trip produced a big, fat zero. Six hours’ slow trolling live slimies off the Jail Grounds, for squat. Not a single run. No one caught anything. A change of plan was in order for the next session.
Maybe this time…
My good mate Jamie Robley joined me for the next trip. We had a tank full of circling ‘livies’ and set off towards Black Rock, looking for a few cobia or kingfish. Two boats were already working the area, drifting live baits down current and slow trolling back up before drifting down again. We didn’t see any fish caught but the anglers looked sheepish, so we slow trolled.
Jamie’s bait became very nervous. The rod tip bounced around and then it folded over as a decent fish scoffed the bait. It was a clean fight with plenty of power, but the fish stayed high in the water column. We called it for a ‘cobe’, and shortly after, 11kg of chocolate coloured cobia thrashed on the surface. He released the feisty cobe after a few pics and it swam off to fight another day. I was relieved; the duck was broken.
But the fishing was bloody slow and at this stage I would have been happy with a few undersized rat kings. I felt relieved again when we hit a patch of 4-6kg fish. We spent an hour or so on the kings before heading back to the Jail to feed out a few big ‘slimies’ and hunt for a billfish again. My patience wore out after four painfully slow hours.
Regroup and try again tomorrow!
Catching fish is the main reason many of us put to sea, but boating is also very enjoyable. It’s great out on the wide blue, powering over swells and savouring the wave-slicing ability of a good, seaworthy hull.
Unfortunately, my 4.5m tinnie offers no such luxuries. I pound in anything but flat seas and all onboard get thoroughly wet when quartering into the wind. So, to run around in a classy sportfishing rig like this 1703 Trophy was pure bliss, reinforcing my growing sentiments that fibreglass boats are the perfect choice for offshore fishing.
The lovely sound of slicing water as you motor along and the noticeable lack of hull noise at rest only helped make the decision to sell my tinny that much easier. The Trophy 1703 has inspired me to switch to fibreglass.
Performance & Handling
I’m not the most qualified person to rate a boat’s performance. But, as The Simpsons’ Monty Burns once said, “I’m no art critic, but I know what I hate”. You don’t have to be an expert on all things boating to know when a boat performs well. If they don’t broach in a following sea, plane cleanly with minimum fuss and if they don’t loosen your fillings on all but the calmest days, the odds are you’re in a pretty good rig.
And the 1703 Trophy is a gem. I’ve been in plenty of different boats, some absolute horrors and others quite amazing. The Trophy is up there for performance; especially considering it’s only a 5m boat. It has an American ‘flats’ boat look about it. It sits low on the water and has a fairly blunt nose that levels out quickly to surprisingly flat transom. There’s no super-sharp nose, or extreme deadrise here, but somehow Trophy have found a great balance between billiard table stability and wave slicing ability. This 17-footer has little trouble matching any top shelf offshore boats of a similar size.
The thought of running big outboards scares me and the 115 Mercury OptiMax bolted on the Trophy had ‘feed me’ written all over it. The first day I put in $50 of unleaded, which kicked the fuel gauge to just over halfway. I headed to Black Rock (15km from the ramp) and slow trolled livies for two hours. I then headed to Fish Rock, another 2km further out to sea, where I slow trolled for two hours. Then I fed out some skirted lures and went looking for wahoo. I dragged lures for another hour before shooting back to the Jail Grounds (12km back towards the river mouth) and slow trolling live slimies for another three-and-a-half hours. I had effectively fished most of the day, left the motor running the whole time, and still hadn’t come close to using the 40lt I’d put in! I was impressed.
As well as using bugger all fuel, the OptiMax’s running noise was quite good. Idling at the ramp, the boat sounded more like small car engine and only climbed a few decibels when pushed over 4000rpm. I could hold a normal conversation at all revs in between and only needed to raise my voice when I pushed the motor hard.
I first thought the 115hp OptiMax may have been too much power for the 5m Trophy but it’s a fair lump of boat 2.4m wide, with plenty of ‘glass making up the inner and outer skins.
Performance wise, the 115hp was spot on. At 3800rpm she purred along at nearly 50kph a great travelling speed out to sea. Flat out (around 5600rpm) she flew at 72kph, ensuring anything light and not tied down flew out of the boat! Jamie and I opened her up on one fairly calm day and hammered back from Fish Rock to the Jail. It was interesting doing 70kph at sea. Small rolling humps become launching pads and we had the Trophy airborne on several occasions. As Dale Kerrigan from The Castle says, “The faster you go, the more you see”. And with tongues hanging out, Jamie and I saw plenty during that short trip.
Sadly, all good things come to an end, and 16 days later the Trophy headed south again. But I’d seen the light. The tinnie was up for sale and the next boat will definitely be fibreglass. For economic reasons it may not be a Trophy, but if the next boat performs half as good as the 1703 did, it will be ideal for all my estuary and inshore work.
WORDS : PHIL BENNETT