Not all that surprisingly, my road to becoming the editor of this magazine began with me bouncing around in a small fishing boat out on Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay. Apart from teaching me the basics of fishing yes, in those days there were plenty of big snapper on the inshore reefs and monster kings out around The Rip to train on, it taught me a lot about boat handling. My first real baptism of fire came while fishing for snapper one night on a shallow reef two miles wide of Sandringham. Back then, weather forecasts weren’t as comprehensive as they are today and it was a complete surprise when the weather went from good to atrocious in 30 minutes. It started as a gentle breeze; then, in what seemed like only minutes, a southerly buster ripped up the Bay, turning it into a maelstrom of white water and wind driven waves.
I’d been out in some rough seas before, but nothing like this. Then the rain hit and the blackout was so complete I couldn’t even see the city lights let alone tell where north, south, east, or west was, I was running blind. An 18ft open boat powered by a small single-engine diesel wasn’t the ideal vessel to be out on in the situation. But then I caught a quick glimpse of the city lights and at least knew which way to head. So with my fishing buddy watching our wake, to ensure we were running in a straight line, and the sea in our backs we banged, crashed and literally surfed our way safely back to shore. Now I get to run boats in all sorts of conditions for a living, but unless I just want to go fishing, then with my luck, I know the weather will turn bad the conditions are normally fine, because we have to plan it that way to get good photos.
But on the morning of this test the weather was more than fine it was almost becalmed. There we were in 23 feet of fully blown bluewater fishing rig, racing down a glassy Parramatta River towards what would probably be an equally glassy Sydney Harbour. What I would have done to have had this little beauty under me that night all those years ago on Port Phillip Bay. The Trophy Pro 2352 truly is a boat that’s been designed and built by people who fish. The only things missing from this standard boat, by way of fishing accessories, were a transom bait station and a set of outrigger poles. The 2352’s got the lot, but more on that later, So how did this baby handle. Leaving the ramp and idling slowly downstream I became immediately aware of an idiosyncrasy of this excellent planing hull.
It has a tendency to wander off line at slow speeds. This happens because when the hull is travelling at dead slow, the water flowing along the heavily defined and slightly downturned strakes tries to push the hull to the point of least resistance. It’s not really a problem, it just means constant helm corrections, but once the hull’s moving along above 6 knots you can almost take you hands of the wheel the boat tracks that straight. Earlier I mentioned the pronounced downturned strakes. These, combined with the wide flat chines and heavily flared bow, deliver an extremely stable and dry ride. That dry in fact that during the Modern Boating test we didn’t even get a drop of water on the windscreen or in the forward cockpit.
Even if we had, the Trophy’s self-draining system would have channelled the water towards the main cockpit drains, where extra large scuppers release the water overboard. Every opportunity has been taken to keep the boat dry, even the cup holders have drainage holes. But back to her performance. Our fears that Sydney Harbour would be a millpond for this test were quickly quashed once we passed under the Harbour Bridge. Sure there was no wind chop, but in the area in front of the Opera House and Circular Quay, where we were trying to do the photo shoot, it was like being in a washing machine. The smaller camera boat had slowed to a crawl to handle the conditions. Ferries darted in every which way throwing their near metre-high washes in all directions; water taxis and other pleasure craft joined the fray; large pressure waves caused by the incoming tide pushing against flood-like waters from heavy overnight rain flowing down the Parramatta River were also stirring things up; not to mention the wakes from what seemed like a steady stream of ships heading up river.
And what of the Trophy ? She loved it. Nothing seemed to faze this boat. Flat strap through ferry wakes, no problems. This exceptionaly strong, reinforced and hence, weighty hull, sliced through the water like a hot knife through butter. The wide chines also steadied the boat in tight turns when she was hit side-on by waves. The only thing we couldn’t check out was her handling in a following sea. But that sharp entry, big strakes and a 20-degree deadrise indicate this would be a hard hull to broach. On the performance side of the house, the 2352 was powered by a 260hp MerCruiser 5lt MPI V8 and we recorded the following speed to RPM readings on the Modern Boating GPS: 5 knots at 1000rpm; 15.1 knots at 2500rpm; 20.1 knots at 25.1; 30 knots at 4000rpm; and 34 knots at 4500rpm.
There was still a little left in the tank, but because this was the first time the boat had been on the water and the first time the motor had been run, we didn’t want to push it to the limit. I said it earlier and I say it again, I wish I’d had this boat under me on the fateful day on Port Phillip Bay, the rough water handling characteristics of this hull are excellent and I’d have no compunction about running the Trophy Pro out to the Shelf at all. There is no denying this is one serious fishing boat, but it’s also a boat the enables two people to overnight onboard in relative comfort. The 2352 Walkaround features a large cockpit; live bait well; carry-on ice chest; and enough interior amenities to qualify as a dream fishing and cruising machine.
OK, so it might not suit any homophobic fishos out there, but the large vee-berth with infill cushions converts into a large double bed that can easily accommodate two burley fishos curled up in sleeping bags. There’s also a micro galley cabinet with alcohol stove, sink and storage, a portable toilet and a removable table that fits between the vee-berths. This lockable cabin has good head height, while rod racks and under bunk storage keeps gear organised. Out in the cockpit proper, the helm station has a fibreglass canopy that features a solid stainless steel frame with built-in grab rails and a four-rod rocket launcher style rod rack. There is a tempered glass hatch covering a large storage bin above the skipper’s head and a well-organised dash.
The test boat didn’t have an electronics package fitted, but there was plenty of open dash area to accommodate a GPS/ Chartplotter/sounder unit, radios and compass. Full engine instrumentation comes as standard. The driver and navigator’s bucket seats are mounted on pedestals with storage bin bases and both are fully adjustable. There were small aft-facing seats on the rear of these seat bin bases, which would be ideal places to sit and watch the lure spread from. The helm station features a large diameter, fivespoke stainless steel wheel. Walkways around the centre cabin are wide enough to allow easy access and the padded gunwales are thigh high and comfortable to brace against. There are six stainless steel rod holders slotted into the tops of the gunwales, removable quarter seats in the transom corners and the only real minus in the cockpit is the intrusion of the V8 engine box.
A narrow transom door accesses the marlin board above the sterndrive leg and trim tabs, while a grab handle will aid boarding from the water. Up front there is room to mount a suitable anchor windlass. The anchor locker is extremely deep and will hold more than enough rope and chain, but the opening hatch is a little narrow to allow a decent reef pick to be stored in there. We recommend fitting bowrail tubing to hold these anchors. In summation, the Trophy Pro 2352 was an impressive boat and not just from a fisherman’s perspective. The only additions the test boat required to make it a truly superb fishing machine would be a good electronic’s package, the choice of which is obviously up to her new owner.
The only real down side was the engine box intruding into the rear cockpit, but there was still more than enough usable fishing room. Personally, I’d be going for the outboard version with a big four-stroke as the main power plant, but only to regain the extra cockpit space taken up by the test boat’s engine box. The Trophy Pro 2352 is just on the maximum trailable size and we were able to tow her without drama behind a Mitsubishi Pajero Exceed V6. So how much will it cost to park one of these excellent boats on your front lawn? Around $99,000. And if you?re listening Mr Bayliner, I want one.
Words by Ian Macrae and Photos by Ian Macrae and Stephen Cooney