TESTED: EVOLUTION 600 APEX EXTREME HARDTOP REVIEW
The Evolution 600 Apex Extreme hardtop may just represent the peak of the famed manufacturer’s design abilities. So far, at least.
You have to give it to the guys at Evolution, they just never sit still. Who would have thought nearly a decade ago that this fledgling company would have evolved (sorry) into its successful place in the Australian trailerboat fishing market? The name Evolution was certainly the right choice, and its latest offering is already enjoying great success.
One thing you can definitely say about Evolution is that the company listens to the market and responds to its demands, all without being too sensitive about its product. It’s no secret the common criticism of the manufacturer’s original 600 model was along the lines of, "great fishing boat, but very hard into a head sea", so the company set about changes.
It’s not easy to build the perfect boat; in fact, it is pretty much impossible. However, Evolution head Paul Junginger ("Junga" to all), his family, and his staff are all dedicated to constant improvement, and are taking the industry’s comments on board in the constant search for that perfect boating Holy Grail.
While many competitors are reducing costs to try and contend in a difficult market, Evolution has increased market share with a firm belief that premium customers are willing to pay for quality and functional design. Evolution reports that, to date, around 60 of the 600s have been sold, which is a very respectable number in today’s landscape.
It’s this kind of belief that has helped Evolution become so successful since it made its debut 10 years ago. In that time the manufacturer has developed a strong following throughout the country, backed by a service network
There is little doubt the Evolution development team listens to market feedback, but at the same time the designers actually get out there and do it for themselves, and the company’s motto, "Designed by fishermen for fishermen", definitely rings true. The only argument there is that fisherwomen love them, too.
Hardtops have been extremely popular in all climates. Modern designs have evolved from basic single-sided fibreglass planks on poles to today’s fully-formed rigs that incorporate functional stainless steel accessories, communication centres and even a base for a tuna tower, outriggers and radar aerials.
The attributes of the new Evolution 600 Apex Extreme hardtop have already been recognised by some of our most popular fishing identities, and they are happy to speak of their endorsements (see breakouts). In fact, some even had a hand in the design.
There are a number of things you should know about this all-new package, but chief among them is the hull design, which is probably the biggest change to the new Evolution.
This new hull has had its shoulders reduced, which means the large and aggressive chines and strakes have been cut back to reduce the impact into a head sea. The company has also changed the entry flare back to the chine, making for a softer, drier entry.
Otherwise, there have been relatively few changes and the hull retains all of the qualities you would expect from Evolution, particularly excellent stability.
The new rig has also brought about changes to the deck, where there have been a number of subtle improvements in hardware, as well as refinements to the side / dive door that allow for easier operation.
THE HARD WAY
Most of us in the industry know people who have been hounding Evolution to develop a hardtop for years. It may have taken some time, but good things do indeed come to those who wait.
This new hardtop is a fully-moulded, yet surprisingly lightweight two-piece construct with finished surfaces inside and out. The interior is finished in black gelcoat to help reduce glare and the mouldings incorporate a central communications centre for radios, sound systems, etc., as well as suitable mountings for rocket launchers, aerials, outriggers, shot guns, spotlights and navigation lights.
The hardtop’s solid stainless steel frame and construction is strong enough to stand on and actually has a non-skid finish on top for a tuna tower. How handy.
There is also a stainless steel ladder incorporated into the frame on each side of the hardtop, and forward access around the sides is safe and easy with the wide walkway and grab handles on the roof.
One of the best things about hardtops is the first-rate protection they offer from the elements, and this is a highlight of the 600 Apex Extreme. This quality hardtop also gives a real feeling of security when on the water, and with radar becoming increasingly popular in trailerboats, it also provides a strong mounting position for bulky aerials.
The new 600 Apex Extreme has been crafted via hand-laid construction, incorporating premium materials, woven fibreglass and reinforcing sandwich for ultimate strength. Glass windscreens, fibreglass floors and rigid foam-filled fibreglass stringers all help to ensure longevity.
Looking at the images in this test, and having had any experiences with these boats in the past, you may ask why Evolutions are always so big. Well, the simple answer is that Junga is trained to measure a boat the old way — from the pointy end to the blunt part, or bow to stern. Anyway, in the case of the 600 Apex Extreme, the overall length, including the bowsprit, is 6.5m and it has a maximum allowable towing beam of 2.49m (wide-load restrictions apply to anything wider than 2.5m in most states).
It’s important to remember Junga’s way of measuring because most manufacturers now measure the overall length of their boats, so if you want to compare the 600 Apex Extreme to similar rigs, it should be done with those branded "650", or 6.5m
The overall beauty of the Evolution 600 Apex Extreme is the comprehensive, tailored packaging. The Evinrude E-Tec 200HO provides balanced power and is the start of the "big blocks" and interacts very well with the Lowrance electronics.
"Everything talks to each other," Junga explained.
The new package also includes a 320L fuel tank as standard, and comes with Evolution’s seven-year structural warranty to provide many years of worry-free boating.
As it turns out, there are loads of marine industry identities that own, and often fish out of, Evolution 600s. Those in the industry who are on board include our own columnist and TV personality Al McGlashan, Lee Rayner and Andrew Clark of channel 31’s Adventure Bound TV show, and Trevor and Lynette Hogan from the extremely popular Launchingway boat ramp in Victoria’s Port Phillip Bay (which may just be the country’s busiest).
So enough of my ramblings; check out the testimonials in the breakout boxes to see what these marine personalities think of this cracking new hardtop..
EVOLUTION APEX EXTREME PACKAGE
The standard package for the Apex packs in a lot of fruit: 200HO E-Tec upgrade; tandem steel trailer; registration; rocket launcher; hardtop, front and side clears; AM / FM CD; 27MHz radio; VHF radio; HDS-10 dual frequency 1kW transducer; pedestal box with access; pedestal box with tackle drawers; pair of five-spot vertical rod racks; snapper rack; anchor winch with rope and chain; berley bucket; spot lights; LED lighting side pockets; red / white cockpit lights; white cabin light; plumbed live bait tank deck wash; plumbed toilet; rear step; step ladder; side door; sliding door; twin batteries; upholstered side pockets; boat catch; offshore safety equipment.
WHAT THESE GUYS SAID
LEE RAYNER AND ANDREW CLARK
We recently upgraded to the new Apex from Evolution Boats. With an improved hull design, this new model rides even better than those previously, particularly into heavy chop. The hardtop gives the cabin the feel of a game boat and the opportunity to mount accessories like radar antenna on the roof.
We have found it capable of handling just about any fishing situation, whether in a small estuary or 30 miles offshore. It’s truly the ultimate all-round trailerboat.
The old saying goes, "if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it", however, Evolution works more on the saying, "it ain’t broke, but let’s tweak it". It’s this thinking that sees Evolutions always getting better and better, with constant upgrades and modifications that make them what I believe to be one of the best fishing boats on the Australian market. And my third Evo, the current 6m Extreme, is no exception.
— Andrew Clark and Lee Rayner
Spending around 200 days on the water each year, I have fished out of just about every trailerboat on the market.
For me, it’s not about the money, but rather the best boat for the job, and I can honestly say that the Evolution 6m has the best fishability of any boat I have ever fished. To be fair, I am a little bit biased because I did play a role in the design, but Paul (Junga) did exactly what I wanted. We have since pulled in record-sized tuna, countless marlin and piles of kings.
The first boat was great, but it did bang a little bit, so Paul instantly started to modify the hull, dramatically improving the ride.
The only thing I really need is a hardtop — which was designed right after I picked it up — but that was the best excuse to buy my third Evolution, which is going to be handed over at this year’s Sydney Boat Show.
— Al McGlashan
TREVOR AND LYNETTE HOGAN
Firstly, we were after adaptability to our family’s needs — we don’t just want a fishing boat. Having teenagers, our family also enjoys snorkelling, knee boarding, do-nutting, wakeboarding and travelling to other destinations. We are mainly based in our beautiful Port Phillip Bay (Vic), but travel to Portland, Western Port, or wherever, and we like with the mobility of the 600.
Trevor’s a big bloke, and so are plenty of our friends, and the Evo’s got lots of space at the back for preparation and fishing. In some boats you can be standing on top of each other.
Trev and his friend Al McGlashan particularly appreciated the side door, especially for hauling in the 125kg tuna they once caught in Port Fairy, but it just makes loading, unloading and boarding so easy.
I particularly wanted a freshwater shower, although I’m not too sure yet where Junga is putting it.
Generally, when we go out in the boat we make it an all-day event and take our portable barbecue to cook up a storm. The amount of space at the back of the boat, namely storage and the large cabin, allows us to easily accommodate for a great day out.
It is of the utmost importance to not only be safe on the water, but to also be comfortable, and the Evolution dots the "I"s and crosses the "T"s, in my opinion. — Lynette Hogan
EVOLUTION 600 APEX EXTREME
Price as tested: $126,000
Options fitted: None (the Apex comes fully loaded – see breakout above)
Price from: You can "untick" some of the option boxes to bring the $126,000 price down (but why would you?)
Type: Deep-vee monohull
Weight BMT: 2700kg (wet)
Rec. HP: 175-250
Max. HP: 250
Water: Optional bladder
Make/model: Evinrude E-Tec 200HO
Type: Loop-charged V6 90° E-Tec direct injection
Gear ratio: 1.85:1
Propeller: 19in Viper
MANUFACTURED & SUPPLIED BY
4 / 254 Canterbury Road
Tel: (03) 9738 0085
Originally published in TrailerBoat #295, May/April 2013.